Carrying souvenirs with you during your trip and packing them in your suitcase can be annoying, but it might be a better option than sending them home. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to save suitcase space for gifts and souvenirs or send them home.
Type and value
If you buy fragile or high-value items such as glassware, jewelry, or artwork while traveling, you will need to carefully consider how you will bring them home. If your keepsakes are small enough to fit, properly wrapped, in your carry-on bag, that’s probably your safest and most economical option. If your items are larger, you will need to decide whether it will be safer to ship them home or pack them in your checked luggage.
Carrying an empty souvenir bag is no longer the affordable option it used to be. Today, many airlines charge for each checked or overweight bag, and cruise lines and tour operators limit the number of bags you can bring. Check your airline, cruise line, or tour operator’s website to find out what baggage policies apply to your particular trip. Next, research the shipping costs for the types of souvenirs you plan to purchase. In addition to your local post office, you may want to consider private companies, such as DHL, FedEx, UPS, or Airborne Express.
In some countries, private shipping companies offer a reliable and personal English-speaking service; Offex de España is an example of this type of company.
Be sure to look at your itinerary and determine if you will have free time and transportation available to go to a post office or shipping office during your trip.
Shipping policies vary from country to country. In the US, boxes used for mailing should only be sealed with the proper tape, but you cannot ship items in boxes previously used for storing alcoholic beverages unless you hide all references to those beverages. In India, items must be packed in cloth. Other countries require that all packages be wrapped in brown paper. You can bring the appropriate shipping items with you, packed in your checked luggage, to save money; You can also find a shipping service office that can sell you those supplies and even wrap your package properly.
If you plan to take your keepsakes with you, you may need packing supplies, such as bubble wrap, self-sealing bags for liquid items, or even a box. Flatten the boxes and place them in the bottom of your suitcase. Bring a couple of plastic bags and use them along with your clothing to wrap fragile items.
Customs Duties and Taxes
Customs duties and taxes vary from country to country. If you plan to buy a few expensive items or a lot of inexpensive souvenirs, you may want to familiarize yourself with your country’s tax and customs duty exemption requirements before you leave home. If you send your souvenirs home, you may still be responsible for customs duties and taxes on newly purchased items, and the personal exemption amounts may be different for items shipped by mail and items transported by hand.
If you think you can send your souvenirs home instead of packing them in your suitcase, take some time to review the postal regulations in your destination country. Find out how your package should be wrapped and glued and take a look at the different types of international shipping available. You may even want to learn some mail-related vocabulary in the local language so that you can request the forms and services you will need.
Reliability of the postal service / shipping company
As you do your pre-trip research, take a look at the information available on the postal service and private shipping companies in your destination country. Unfortunately, not all mail systems are efficient, and in some countries, valuable items sent by mail never reach their recipients. In this situation, you are better off using a private shipping company, such as DHL, or take your souvenirs home in your suitcase. Travel forums and travel guides often include information on delivery times and the possibility of theft in a specific country’s postal system.
Choosing a shipping method that records your package and provides a unique tracking number can sometimes, but not always, keep your package safe.
The bottom line
No method of packaging or shipping is foolproof. You may decide to keep your memories with you, only to have them stolen from your checked baggage or carry-on bag at the airport. Or, you may decide to mail them and later learn that your package fell off a forklift and was destroyed. You can avoid a lot of trouble if you think about the problem of the package or mail before the departure date. Planning ahead and doing your research will help you find the best way to bring your memories home.