Coming Home

We hope you had a nice trip. Wait, you're still at home? Oh, yeah, right it's the Internet and we're all still here. Well, since we are all still here, a couple of things to think about when your trip is ending.

Immigration

Coming home to the U.S. means passing through U.S. Immigration at the airport. If you and your family are American Citizens with your American passports, then immigration is real straightforward. Welcome back.

Customs

Customs is next. Remember how when looking into medical and health issues you had to find out what the host country customs was going to allow you to bring in? On our side of the ocean U.S. Customs is responsible for the same thing. The nice folks at Customs are there to make sure we don't accidentally bring something back that might be harmful. They also collect duties"€-like a tax"€-on certain items people wish to bring into the U.S. Keep in mind that the limits on what you can bring in duty-free are different for American Citizens and non-American Citizens.

The absolute easiest and best way to learn what you can and cannot bring back into the U.S. is to visit U.S. Customs on-line and read their booklet Know Before You Go.

I think most people will have no troubles with Customs. In fact, the only time my family ever had even a moment's pause at Customs was coming back from Europe once looking a bit grungy. The inspector was concerned that we might have foreign soil worked into our boots and clothes. He asked if we had been on any farms, and we said truthfully no. He took a quick peek inside the suitcases and we were on our way. I remember being sent on our way, dirty and embarrassed, but on our way nonetheless.

Sticky issues arise if you bringing in plants, animals, very expensive items (i.e., a new Rolex) or amounts of money over $10,000.

If you are thinking about bringing back something alive besides yourselves, check with the nice people at the U.S. Department of Agriculture beforehand, or call 800-545-USDA.

However you get in touch with the Department of Agriculture folks, you'll want to request Program Aid No. 1083, Traveler's Tips on Bringing Food, Plant and Animal Products into the United States.

I must add that the booklet makes for some interesting reading all by itself. Did you know, for example, that dried and preserved insects from Hawaii can be imported into the U.S. Mainland (page 8)? Or that many types of flower bulbs are OK, but not watsonia bulbs from Uruguay (page 7)? Truffles and shamrocks (page 6) are also approved as long as they are free of soil.

Ok, OK, I'll get on with it but really that booklet has got some good stuff in it, one of those things where all your life you remain ignorant of a subject only to discover at some point that there are people who think about that same subject every day.

Back to the real point, to sum up, unless your children are heavily into gold speculation, or you won the lottery while in Spain, the whole thing will pass by in a flash and you'll be in the airport parking lot looking for the car before you know it.