Travel And Gifts: What You Need To Know

When it comes to gift-giving, holidays and special occasions can present challenges for travelers. Whether you’re bringing presents to friends or relatives, visiting Christmas Markets in Europe for holiday gifts, or buying birthday presents abroad, it’s important to know customs and security regulations.  

Customs and security regulations can be complicated and can vary by the destination you’re visiting.  While it’s always wise to check with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Customs Service in advance of your trip, below are some guidelines to help ease the way.

Domestic Travel And Departing the U.S. by Plane

  • Don’t wrap gifts, as they may be subject to inspection, whether in your checked luggage or your carry-on bag.  Instead, consider bringing gift paper with you, and wrapping gifts at your destination.
  • Other items, such as liquids, snow globes, and sporting equipment, are subject to TSA restrictions.
For more information see related article, What Can I Carry On A Plane?

Re-entering the U.S.: What You Can and Can’t Bring In

Food items 
  • Baked goods, condiments, honey and coffee are generally admitted into the U.S.  
  • Meat products are not allowed
  • Avoid bringing rice into the U.S., as it may harbor insects.  
Christmas Wreaths
Handcrafted wreathes of straw or hay are prohibited, as they may harbor insects or diseases.  However, if the wreath is constructed of palm fronds it may be allowed to enter the U.S. following an inspection, to assure it is free of mites.

Cultural Artifacts & Antiques
Many countries have laws prohibiting the export of cultural, archeological and/or antique items.  The U.S. has import restrictions as well (for more information, see  Always be sure to carry documentation such as receipts or export permits for any antiquities or art purchased abroad.  Also, be sure to check export regulations at your destination.  

What to Know about U.S. Customs

When carrying gifts back as accompanying baggage, remember that you are allowed a personal, duty-free exemption.  
  • In general, the exemption is $800 per person once in a 30-day period.  However, it can range from $200 - $1,600, depending on the country visited.  Except for travel to Mexico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, your stay must be at least 48 hours to qualify for the overseas exemption.  
  • You may still qualify for a $200 duty-free exemption if your international travel is within a 30 day period, or less than 48 hours.
  • Families traveling together can pool their foreign-bought items by filing a joint declaration
  • One liter of alcohol is allowed duty-free, although you may bring back more
  • Products from certain countries that have trade agreements with the U.S. may be duty free or taxed at a lower rate 
For more information on U.S. customs and duty, visit

Gifts You Receive:

Any gifts you receive – whether for your own personal use or to give to others – must be declared and included as part of your personal exemption.  

Sending Gifts to Others from Abroad

In general, you can mail gifts back to the U.S. worth up to $100 per person, per day, duty and tax free.  You can also mail gifts to more than one person at a location.  However, to stay within the duty-free allowance, each item within the mailed or shipped package must be individually wrapped and addressed; and the total of items addressed to each person must be under $100 per day. For more details, visit

When mailing items, it’s also a good idea to pay with a credit card, if possible.  That way, if something goes wrong, you may have recourse for a refund or replacement through your credit card company.


US Travel Insurance Association (UStiA)
UStiA is a national association of insurance carriers, third-party administrators, insurance agencies and related businesses involved in the development, administration and marketing of travel insurance and travel assistance products.