How to: Score great decorating finds on vacation
One of the perks of traveling is finding wonderful keepsakes that can't be purchased back home. Getting them home, though? That can be another story altogether! Between rapidly shrinking overall baggage allotments and restrictions on what can go into your carry-on bags, toting home post-vacay trinkets is not the easy task it once was. Fortunately, it can be done: it just requires a bit more finesse and advance planning. Here are some of our tips.
1 Start with smart shopping
The first step, and path of least resistance is to shop smart. Avoid things that:
• Are hard to wrap (breakables or awkwardly shaped items
• Take up too much space (big house wares, furniture)
• Can't go in your carry-on due to security restrictions (liqueurs over 3 oz*/90 mL* in size)
• May contravene the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international treaty created to crack down on the trafficking of endangered flora and fauna. Avoid reptile leathers, shell products, fur and other items unless you know for a fact they come from species not prohibited under CITES;
2 Pack like a pro
Once you've snagged some great gifts to bring home, make sure you've got enough room in your luggage to transport them. Here are some tips and tricks for accomplishing this feat:
• Pack lightly so your second suitcase can be almost empty.
• Bring some old clothes you don't mind leaving behind. Wear them, then leave them by the trash in your hotel room to indicate they've been left behind intentionally; they may be of use to someone else.
• Cut back on extraneous packing materials. Use your clothing to cushion items. For instance, protect a wooden salad bowl from scratching by wrapping it inside a T-shirt; reclaim some of the space it displaces in your bag by cradling other garments inside the bowl itself.
• Remember that liquids exceeding three fluid ounces (approximately 90 mL) aren't permitted in your carry-on bag, so stash them in your checked baggage. Even if you buy liquor in the airport departure lounge gift shop or duty-free shop, àpres security checkpoint, you'll lose it if you need to pass through security again at a connecting airport.
• Don't be afraid to jam-pack your “personal” bag (this is the one bag in addition to your carry-on case). On a recent trip to Belize, I was able to fit my purse, laptop and a carved wooden platter into a LuluLemon shopping bag. In consideration to other patrons, this bag should go under the seat in front of you, not in the overhead bin where it's a cumbersome fit.)
3 Consider shipping it
Even the most cautious of shoppers can find themselves in a bind at times: you went looking for a ceramic vase and fell in love with a wooden stool. Or you went to a market in search of cushion covers and saw the area rug of your dreams. Now what?
Shipping internationally carries certain inherent risks.
• Your product could arrive damaged;
• A shady vendor could agree to ship an item – and, banking on your never being able to track him down again – simply not ship it;
• In places where the postal system isn't as heavily scrutinized as in North America, your parcel may simply disappear in transit
If your package is manageable and easily shippable, simply wrap it securely yourself (your hotel can help you), and get it couriered from your closest FedEx or UPS office. This is usually a safer and more efficient method than using the post office.
If the item is too big for you to package, you should pay the vendor to ship it to your home address via freight. Feel free to oversee him as he wraps it up: Hey, it's your new ceramic stool – you have the right to know it's properly cushioned against any possible damage. Also make sure both your phone number and email address are on the air bill. P.S.: Insurance averages 50 cents to $1.50 per $100 of value, so you have no excuse not to opt in.
But if your vendor is giving off fly-by-night vibes and you still really, really want the item in question, go DIY on the delivery. Contact your embassy or the local tourism bureau for their recommended freight carriers and proceed from there. Again, buy insurance.
Don't forget to declare your purchases on a Form E24 Personal Exemption CBSA Declaration when you return to Canada. And keep a copy: without one you'll have to pay duty again when you claim your parcel.
You can bring home up to $750 worth of goods after being out of the country for seven days or more. After that, you may be charged GST, PST (in some cases), as well as duties, which vary by product and its country of manufacture. Luxury items may be hit with additional excise duties and tax.
4 Surprise: you may want to just buy it in Canada
It may sound disingenuous, but in big cities with great shopping (and even nationally via e-tail), there are a great many importers who may carry what you're looking to bring home. Due to their wholesale partnerships and ability to buy in quantity, in many cases it may cost you the same or less to simply buy certain mementoes in Canada after your trip.
It's not unlike what many sport fishermen and -women have been doing for years in the name of conservation: recording their catch, releasing it, then having a reproduction trophy made from composite, thus protecting fish stocks. For larger souvenirs like furniture, this may be the way to souvenir shop.
*Airport security regulations in the US dictate the 3-ounce rule (which is roughly 90 mL). Canadian law says 100 mL (3.4 ounces), but if traveling through an American gateway city, adhere to the US regulations.