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How to Deal With Duty Free in Light of Liquid Restrictions

Have you found yourself browsing the aisles of an airport duty-free store recently? Were you drawn in by the elaborate displays, the chance to ditch the last of a currency, or the promise of a tax-free deal?

Whether you’re a duty-free die-hard or a window shopper, the liquid ban has complicated the process of bringing that bottle of Scotch or new perfume home with you. If you’ve ever been left wondering if you can travel with these liquids, or what to do if you have to change planes, you’re not alone.

The simplest duty-free rule of thumb is that you should be fine if you’re flying direct and non-stop. In this best case scenario, you buy, you board, you arrive, Aruban Rum or expensive cologne tucked safely in your carry-on.

But what about those multi-leg journeys? The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) won’t let you through security with liquids in excess of 3.4 ounces, so if you want to keep that new purchase, you’ll need to know what to do. Here’s a quick primer:

  • When leaving your international destination, you should be able to carry on your duty-free items.
  • When you arrive in the U.S., you’ll get your checked luggage back to go through customs. This is key: Before you recheck your bag, be sure to transfer any liquid, gel, or aerosol duty-free items to your checked luggage. When you buy, be sure you’ve got enough space in your checked bags to fit your purchases.

If you’re only traveling with carry-ons, and you have to make a connection in the U.S., you’re out of luck on the duty-free front. However, you can console yourself with this: Some experts think that duty-free may not be a good deal anyway, so it’s unlikely you’re missing out on an amazing value.

The TSA has more details about traveling with duty-free items to and from the U.S.

What about you? Do you swear by duty free shopping, or have you sworn off it? Have you had trouble getting items through to your destination, or do you manage it easily?

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