What You CAN'T Bring Home as a Souvenir

1. Natural Items

So the government can get a little intense, but bringing home a vial of sand or a beautiful shell from your vacay might actually be seized since they’re considered natural elements. Other things you cannot bring into the country are:

African bush meat (meat made from African wild animals) WHAT?
Uncured animal hide drums (particularly from Haiti) WHY?
Fresh, dried, or canned meat or meat products of any kind or products that contain meat like soup. (Well, that answers the animal hide drum question.)
Fruit, all.
Vegetables, all.
Flowers, all.
Soil and every single plant or plant product including hand made items made with straw. (Sheesh.) Check out the USDA’s Plant, Organism, and Soil Permits page.
Whalebone, ivory, skins, fur, or tortoiseshell jewelry (because you’re living in 1950 and give zero cares about the world).
Any item containing dog or cat fur. DID YOU KNOW THIS? I DID NOT. There’s a Dog and Cat Protection Act! Neat!

What food is actually okay to bring back?
Processed food in unopened packages. Things like spices, coffee, tea, vinegars, honey, and oil.

2. Goods from Embargoed Countries

So, no items at all from Cuba, Iran, Burma (Myanmar), or Sudan. Before you plan to go to these countries, you might want to just check on sanctions.

There may also be restrictions of goods and merchandise from the following:

Western Balkans; Belarus, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq (for cultural property), Liberia (Former Regime of Charles Taylor), Sierra Leone, Syria, Zimbabwe, and Persons Undermining the Sovereignty of Lebanon or its Democratic Processes and Institutions.

3. Drug Paraphernalia

Don’t bringing home drug paraphernalia that is not prescribed for an actual medical disorder. Just don’t.

4. Medication

Pretty easy to remember. Take the medicine you’ll need. No more, no less. I mean, if you haven’t seen the movie Dallas Buyers Club then give that a watch.

Be sure to:

  • Declare all drugs and medicine to border patrol.

  • Carry medication in their original containers, with your name on it! YOUR NAME.

  • Carry only the quantity of such substances that a person with that condition would normally carry for his/her personal use

  • Carry a prescription or a written statement from your licensed American doctor that your medicine is being used under supervision, and that they are necessary.

Only medications that can be legally prescribed in the United States may be imported. Need more info? Check out the FDA’s Drug page.

5. Absinthe

Importing absinthe is prohibited. That means it’s got to be “thujone free” the term “absinthe” can not be the brand name, the term “absinthe” can not stand alone on the label, and the artwork/graphics can not “project images” of hallucinogenic, psychotropic, or mind-altering effects.

Obviously, you have to be 21 to bring back alcohol. Y’all. Looking for a list of what you can bring back for your specific state? Click here. Keep it under a case so you won’t raise any red flags.

6. Kinder Surprise Eggs

Eat ‘em all on the plane. Made illegal in the US in 2012, you could be fined a few thousand dollars trying to smuggle them in. Kinder Joy is OK, just not the Surprise ones with plastic toys inside.

7. Designer Fakes

Look, it’s pretty easy to pick up a counterfeit Prad-o wallet or Louise Vuitton bag for personal use while on vacation. You can bring it back into the U.S. for personal use, but if you come home with a bunch of items that you’re going to sell, that’s bad news bears. Just don’t.