5 Travel Tips to Help You Breeze Through Customs at the Airport

February 19, 2015

Approaching the Customs Officer at the airport may cause many of us to feel a little bit anxious – even though we have nothing to hide and have done nothing remotely illegal or even improper!  If you’re honest and declare all you need to, there really is no cause to feel any apprehension.  Here are 5 travel tips to help you squelch that unnecessary edgy feeling and let you breeze through Customs at the airport:

1. Apply for a Global Entry card.  Check the Customs and Border Protection site for information on how to apply for one of these cards which will expedite your wait time in the Customs line at the airport.  You can fill out the application online through the site.  Once you have submitted your application, together with the $100 non-refundable fee, the process to determine if you qualify for a card is very thorough.  Customs Border Protection will perform a background check for any criminal or suspicious activity on your record, you will be interviewed by a Customs Border Protection officer and your photo and fingerprints will be taken.  If you do qualify and are given a Global Entry card, be sure you read and are aware of all of the stipulations and regulations you are required to follow in order to retain this privilege as it may be revoked at any time.

2. Keep all of your receipts for any purchases you made while traveling outside the country.  Add them up before you get to the airport and store them with your passport or in some other safe spot that you can access easily.  You may not be asked to show them, but it’s better to have them readily available to hand over to the Customs Officer if required.  Use a TSA lock on your luggage when traveling to/from the United States.  This lock will keep your personal items secure yet will allow TSA agents to unlock it with a master key and inspect your checked travel gear if they so choose.

3. Declare everything.  Ensure that your receipts for items purchased equal the dollar value you report on your Customs Declaration card.  Far better to pay duty and taxes if you have gone over your allowance than to be found with items you haven’t claimed.  It’s really NOT worth taking a chance on – the CBP agents are thoroughly trained to spot discrepancies and to read body language. Even something as simple as a chicken and lettuce sandwich or a piece of fruit that you have packed to enjoy on the plane – declare it!

4. Check the TSA website to see what items you can and cannot pack in your travel gear.  This is an extensive list of what definitely is not allowed in your luggage. Another webpage you also may want to check for food items you may or not bring into the county is at the Customs and Border Protection site – Travelers Bringing Food into the US for Personal Use .

5. Don’t joke with the Customs Officer.  He/she is there to perform a very important and serious duty – to keep the country safe and to ensure that weapons (and other prohibited items), terrorists and criminals do not enter the country.   Each of us has the responsibility to do our part in keeping our country safe by knowing AND obeying all the rules when we travel internationally.

Written by Emma Ghattas