Tag: packing

Understanding What You Can Bring Home from Italy

10 February 2024

Returning From Your Visit to Italy

A quick guide to what you can bring home, going through US Customs & even how to keep your wine safe


The process of going through US Customs & Border Protection, US citizen or not, can be stressful. For vacationers coming back home to the states it’s an emphatic vacation’s over reminder. With a little preparation, though, it doesn’t have to be too painful–and there’s even a few ways to expedite the process as well. 

A couple of weeks ago I covered what you need in order to enter Italy, now and in the future. Now I will help you to understand what you can, and cannot, bring back from Italy (or from most countries, for that matter) so that you can be prepared for the moment you get the US Customs Declaration form…or more importantly you know what you shouldn’t bother to buy overseas in the first place.

After I cover going through US Customs, I’ll highlight the Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler Programs, which are like the Express Checkout Lanes for US Citizens returning from abroad. The pricing is surprisingly affordable, especially considering the application/fee is good for 5 years.

I’ll finish up the blog discussing one of my (not so private) fears: Opening a suitcase and finding my beautiful bottle of Italian wine in pieces, having turned my clothes purple. Personal experience may or may not have played a part in how I came up with my suggestions for how to best travel with your wine. (Whoever said rolled newspaper is a great insulator is full of it, by the way.)

So, without further ado, here is your quick guide to navigating US Customs, and what you can bring home with you from Italy…or from any other foreign country.


Going Through U.S. Customs

What You Should Expect & What You Should Know


Sign Directing Travelers Entering the US


  • All travelers entering the US, including citizens, must pass through US Customs & Border Control if they are arriving from a foreign country. There really isn’t any exceptions to the process, though US Government & Military personnel have slightly different rules & regs. The only alternative option for individuals is to take advantage of the Trusted Traveler Programs offered by DHS. I discuss each of those programs in the next section of the blog.
  • Each individual is required to complete a Declarations form, officially known as Declaration Form 6059B. You will fill it out in its entirety and provide it to US Customs upon your arrival & interview. (You can see a photo of the form at the end of this section).
  • Each traveler may bring back up to $800 in goods with them. Basically that includes everything you have with you upon your arrival in the US that you didn’t have when you originally departed it. 
  • The US has some of the world’s strictest policies when it comes to bringing in certain foods. Not Allowed: Meat, Poultry, Eggs & “Liquid” Dairy. Certain cooked and pre-packaged foods might be okay (think like Slim Jim beef jerky), but its not even worth trying, honestly.
  • Other foods Not Allowed are fresh fruits, vegetables and raw nuts. Canned fruit & cooked/candied nuts are probably okay but, to me, watching US Customs confiscate your canned peaches just doesn’t seem worth it
  • Spices, chocolates and candies? Allowed. So is most seafood, which I found surprising. I was behind a woman that had a fresh octopus bagged and checked-in her suitcase. Seriously. Mind: Blown.
  • Of course Italian cheese is world-renowned. The good news is that many types of cheese can be brought home, as long as they: 1) are sealed/vacuum packaged (most cheese shops in Italy will do this for you upon request) 2) not liquid/runny–aka no Cottage or Ricotta and 3) do not contain any meat (like bacon). A friend of mine has a good write up here
  • There are different rules for individuals bringing home goods under that $800 mark versus people bringing home a mass amount of a singular product for resale in the US. That’s when duties, taxes and all sorts of questions arise. In this blog you can assume I am speaking strictly about personal use laws and restrictions. 
  • Although strict, it also doesn’t mean immovable when it comes to restrictions. Customs agents are sensitive to an individual’s specific dietary needs, and to dairy allowances & formula for infants, for example. Just don’t try and hide anything–It won’t end well. Be straightforward.
  • You can bring wine back! 1 Liter per person is allowed duty-free, though as long as you are honest and upfront about the extra wine being for your personal use Customs will not tax it (if they do, its probably a couple bucks each bottle). Also, Remember: 21 and up. Regardless if you were able to purchase the wine as a 20 year-old in another country the US laws on alcohol stand. 
  • Wine, specifically, must be stowed with your luggage, as it cannot be carried on (due to TSA liquid restrictions). I offer some suggestions for how to best pack and protect your grape treasure below. You want to have a gameplan for your return trip; kind of like bringing an extra suitcase expecting to buy a bunch of souvenirs. Having to purchase luggage at an airport at the last minute never worked out well for anyone’s wallet.
  • Tell. The. Truth. full stop.
  • When it comes to authority, almost by default humans have a tendency to become protective and secretive when it comes to “our stuff“. Avoid this urge. It is always best to be 100% honest and upfront with US Customs. These are people who have seen & heard every lie, half-truth and packing trick. Its not even worth it, honestly…the fines/penalties for lying on Declarations forms outweigh any benefit, and chances are you are lying about something they wouldn’t have even cared or bothered with anyway! US Customs & Border Patrol agents have little interest in confiscating a gift and ruining the end of your trip.

US Customs Form 6059B 

  • customs-declaration-6059b

  • Form 6059B US Customs ThumbNail



Be Sure to Check Out My Custom Amazon Recommendations Specific to this Blog! Personally Selected Items to Help Keep Your IDs, Passports, Travel Documents & More Safe During Your Travels!

You can also check out all the rest of my Amazon recommendations!


Trusted Traveler Programs

Homeland Security does offer a few ways to expedite your US Customs wait


Homeland Security's Trusted Traveler Programs


There is no escaping one undeniable fact: It is impossible to absolutely, 100% know all the intracies of the rules & regulations as you prepare for US Customs. That’s sort of the nature of the beast with a bureaucracy; you’ve got the strict laws of TSA, the always evolving restrictions from the USDA (they are always monitoring worldwide food borne illnesses and such), the complexities of the FDA and even the ATF setting standards…and that’s all before the IRS and State Department gets a say.

It underscores my last bulletpoint–just be honest and transparent and you should be okay.

While obviously experienced travelers may be more comfortable with going through US Customs, there are options for those who wish to expedite the process. Anyone who travels frequently, or anyone who wants to, for that matter, should check out the Trusted Traveler program operated by the Department of Homeland Security.

If you’ve been to an airport recently you’ve probably seen one in action. You know when you are in that long winding line, waiting for TSA to look at your ID and inspect your fancy shoes? Ever notice the people who seem like they are VIP status, going straight through off to the side? That’s the TSA Pre-Check, which is exactly like it sounds. It’s a “skip the waiting in line” pass for approved individuals. It costs roughly $80 and saves you some time & headaches. Like all the Programs, enrollment is good for 5 years.

Then there is Global Entry. The easiest way to describe Global Entry? It is the US Customs version of TSA Pre-Check. It’s basically a “skip the line” for Customs. Being enrolled in Global Entry also automatically enrolls you in TSA Pre-Check, so you don’t have to apply and pay for both. Global Entry eliminates you having to physically complete and submit your Declarations forms and paperwork; instead of waiting in line to meet with a US Customs worker  you can actually use a self-serve kiosk and skip the line entirely. Many of these kiosks are quite 22nd Century, if you will, with security features like facial-rec built right in.

Global Entry is obviously a little more expensive than TSA Pre-Check, but considering it includes both at $100 its practically a bargain. It can take up to 6 months to process your application, so signing up doesn’t do much for someone traveling very soon, but its a worthwhile endeavor for a lot of people–if you travel internationally once a year, even, I think its worth it.

Also, unlike TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry applies to individuals traveling via land and sea, as opposed to Pre-Check, which is air travel only.

A couple other programs to note, that don’t apply to Italy specifically, are the NEXUS and SENTRI programs.

NEXUS deals with travel to and from Canad only. Like Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check, it promises quicker border crossings for pedestrians, vehicles and sea travel, along with air travel between a US and Canadian city (NEXUS includes access to TSA Pre-Check in these incidences). It’s $50.

I should note that NEXUS differs from the “Enhanced IDs” available to those living in New York, Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota and Washington. Those are kind of your “US – Canada Passport”. NEXUS lets you skip the line to show said Enhanced ID.

The final program to note, SENTRI, is for US/Canada and Mexico. It is $122, and is similar to NEXUS except it does not include travel via sea. Not exactly sure why, but it is what it is.



Traveling with your Italian Wine

A couple of suggestions and products to consider
for protecting your vino


It’s kind of the nightmare scenario, right? You come home from your fantastic, amazing vacation to Italy, and open up your suitcase, prepared to study the bottle label one more time, or maybe uncork a bottle ‘cuz you’re so giddy with anticipation…only to see that despite wrapping the bottles in every hotel towel you managed to swipe your entire suitcase, all your luggage, is colored burgundy. It doesnt matter if it was turbulence or the burly baggage handler…your dreams are dashed.

This makes me think of the Bob’s Burgers episode where one of the kids breaks mom Linda’s wine bottle, and she sops it up with a dirty rag…only to then, in desperation, wring out a few drops onto her tongue. Oh I am literally LOL’ing at the thought.  

Oh…how we wine lovers can relate to that feeling, eh?

There’s hundreds of products you can find online, but trust me, they are not all the same.

If you plan to bring more than a bottle or two home…or, hell, even if you plan to bring one bottle home…I got your back. 

Like with every blog I post here, I’ve created a small list of Amazon Recommendations in my Storefront. Unlike, for example, my “Fur Babies Travel Too” blog and recommendations, there are only a few items in this one. But check em out if you need some packing ideas or inspiration!

Please Note: As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualified purchases. 



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20 Travel Essentials for a Stress-free Trip

12 October 2023

20 Travel Essentials
For a Stress-Free Trip

Whether it’s traveling on a long international flight to Europe, boarding a city-sized cruise ship in port or embarking on a train excursion through the mountainside, there’s a couple of things that remain constant–travel, especially internationally, can be incredibly stressful & anxiety filled. And often times quite uncomfortable.

No one is safe from the infinite number of minor annoyances & aggravations that seem to seek out those traveling from afar. Newbie or a travel veteran, it sometimes can seem like they’re inescapable. Maybe it’s using your favorite hoodie as a pillow for your cross-country flight, only to realize it didn’t come off the plane with you. Maybe its realizing that your luggage seems identical to four other sets going around the carousel, only…wait, that’s not your luggage, is it? 

There’s a lot of maybes with travel. I mean, in packing a suitcase alone you are trying to predict what you will need or want in seven days, 2,000 miles from home! How crazy is that? So yes, of course, traveling can be quite stressful and often needlessly expensive. But the payoff…oh the payoff is way worth it.

With that in mind, below are 20 Travel Essentials You Need for your next out-of-town adventure. These are items that, individually or collectively, can help mitigate some of that travel stress & anxiety, increasing your comfort & saving you a few bucks along the way. 

You can see all of these items-and morein my full Essentials: Stress-free Travel & Comfort list on Amazon.


Please Note: This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you on any purchases made after clicking/following a link to my Amazon shop. I only promote products/services that I use & love myself. Thanks for supporting my blog 🙂


1. Motion-Sickness Prep

There’s only two times that I’ve felt the dizziness, nausea and general unease commonly referred to as motion sickness. The first occurrence was during my first cruise ship experience, which is quite common for those rarely venturing off the “dry land”. And despite dozens of times flying throughout the continental US, the second occurrence was on an initial long international flight from NYC to Europe. It can sneak up on you sometimes. I’m not a big user of OTC meds, so I was looking for an alternative to Dramamine. Despite initial hesitation–sometimes its hard to believe something seemingly so simple actually works–I was impressed with 369 Life Motion Sickness Patches. The best part is you can use them with no side effects, making them a preventative measure worth taking. 

View on Amazon


2. Jet-Lag Relief

While motion sickness doesn’t effect everyone equally, and sometimes not at all, Jet Lag isn’t picky and, to some degree or another, effects everyone. The human body has an inner clock, and without boring you (I’ll let Mayo Clinic-or just Wikipedia– do that), that inner clock gets all sorts of messed up when traveling long distances. Miers Homeopathic Jet Lag Remedy & Boiron Jet Lag Relief Kit are two of the more well regarded jet-lag relief options on the market.

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3. Flight Organization

In a way you could probably group #3 and #4 together, under some sort of “OMG that’s so obvious, why didn’t I think of that?!” category heading. This particular item, Airline Pockets “Tray Table Cover & Seat Organizer”, ironically reminds me of something that used to be a standard for the little back-of-the-seat pockets, right next to the “Your seat is a life preserver” cards (man are those terrifying to a first time flyer). I’m talking about the Skymall  of course! Those magazine-style galleries of Seen on TV products. Miss those. 

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  • 3cpock

  • 3bpocket


4. Who Needs Tvs in the Headrests?

Yes, at first glance, the Perilogics Universal Airplane Phone Holder seems like a Skymall-worthy product, probably right next to the previous item on this list. But that would be disingenuous–and probably a little bit of a slight to both products. Like the Pocket Organizer/Tray Table Cover, this phone holder is something that seems so simple…yet necessary, in a weird way. Its obviously practical use during a flight might not be enough to get you to click ‘buy’, but its ability to contort & transform depending on the situation is well worth its inexpensive price (under $13/prime members). 

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  • 555phone2

  • 555pjon


5. Wrinkle-Free, Happy Me

True story: For a long time I had a small “travel” iron that I had stolen borrowed from my mom. I proceeded to take it on several trips, usually of the short weekend variety. It was handy, though I didn’t overwork it much…until one fateful morning in Ohio I had an awesome sweater with a weird clumpy wrinkle on it. I thus realized that: a) irons get extremely hot b) they also leak c) don’t have much for fancy functions-like alarms d) get really hot. I had to say it twice–because it literally burnt a smoldering hole right through not just my sweater but the hotel’s comforter, as it tipped over when I wasn’t looking. Moral of the story: Steamers like the NTAYDZSW Handheld Garment Steamer (yeah, that’s the co. name) are total difference makers. It has everything you need.

Bonus Pick: The Nesugar G3 Steamer doesn’t have some of the extra attachments, but it is lighter & heats up quicker. If I’m being sexist–this is the one for you, gents. 

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6. The Weight Game

Breaking news: Airlines will find a way to charge you for seemingly everything in their endless quest to keep the industry profitable. Some costs are hard to avoid, and some are just plain worth it–but then there are fees like “overweight baggage” that are avoidable, with simple solutions. The Etekcity Luggage Scale is pocket sized and capable of measuring up to 110 pounds (and even tell you the temperature). A luxury item? Maybe. Does the ten bucks save you five, ten times as much in the long run? It just might. 

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7. So Smart & So Clean

While I’d love to have a list chock full of new & exciting gadgets or accessories for travel, the reality is you can’t have a list of “essentials” without a few, well, essentials. Thus I give you: Tide Travel Sink Packets, quite possibly one the world’s inventions that made you say “You could make detergent into a little pod but it took how long to create this??” 

Now that I told you about the obvious option, let me highlight SinkSuds Travel Detergent. Similar in usage to Tide, SinkSuds is highly recommended for delicate fabrics but versatile enough for general use. 

Bonus Item: Tide’s Instant Stain Remover (pen sized for travel). 

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8. Travel Smart, Pack Smarter

As previously mentioned, airlines are known to find creative ways to increase revenues. There is no more blatant example than the checked-bag vs. carry-on bag fees. Packing has never been more of a cost-savings endeavor, and there a whole industry of luggage built upon this. The Lumesner Carry-On Travel Backpack isn’t just a TSA/Airline compliant backpack–it’s a suitcase in its own right, complete with packing cubes, USB cable, anti-theft lock and more. Stylish enough for business trips, with an array of colors to choose from, you will never want another backpack..err carry-on bag…err suitcase ever again.

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  • 8abag

  • 8bag


9. Adapt Anywhere

A lot of people aren’t aware of this–I wasn’t, neither, the first time I traveled to Europe–but electrical outlets are not internationally universal. Of course, now with cell phones, tablets, cameras, laptops, etc. being not just luxury items but absolute necessities when traveling, this has become more than a routine annoyance for millions of travelers. It’s big business, too, for hotels & airport gift shops, where the markup for adapters is insane. There are region-specific adapters like the Meta-Ant European Travel Adapter, but if you travel even semi-frequently you won’t find anything better than the Ceptics World Travel Adapter Kit.

Bonus: Ceptics also has a World Travel Power Strip Adapter for those who may need extra surge protection and such. 

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10. Keep Your Valuables Close

One of the stresses of traveling, especially internationally and far from home, is the idea of keeping things like IDs, money, valuables, etc. safe while in unfamiliar terrain. While the name may elicit an initial giggle, the various practical ways to use the Zero Grid Hidden Bra Wallet makes it a useful investment. And because apparently guys may feel uneasy purchasing a “hidden bra wallet”, I’ll also offer you the StashBandz Unisex Pocket Belt.

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11. The Do-It-All Pillow

Not much explanation needed. There’s a lot of different types of Travel Pillows, but where does one start when trying to choose? For my money, there’s three things important to me: Comfort, Ease of Travel & Functional Usage. The Dot & Dot Twist Memory Foam Pillow combines all three in a perfectly simplistic way. Its ergonomic, maleable to various shapes & uses, and, oh, yeah–comfortable. Say goodbye to the days of those nasty 6 inch bacteria trap airplane “pillows”.

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12-13. Thirsty First Aid

This can be filed in one of these packing categories: 1) Things you never think you’ll need, until you need them or 2) Things you think you should pack, but it’s impossible to pack everything. Simple first-aid readiness is something everyone should probably pack for international travel, isn’t it? But like most people I’m guilty of oversight too. Right until I find myself calling a hotel front desk pleading for a band-aid because I can’t use a travel iron correctly. 

“Bonus” (#13, actually): I’m calling this a “bonus”, because its more for camping trips and adventures into the unknown, like the Australian Outback, Yosemite or Staten Island (I’m hilarious, I know). but the LifeStraw might be the coolest gadget you never knew you wanted or needed.

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Please Note: As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualified purchases. 


14. Keep Cool, Keep Lit

A few facts about international traveling: 1) at some point you are going to find yourself on a plane, sweating, screaming at the air vent to start blowing 2) air-conditioning isn’t a common thing in much of the world 3) at some point you will drop your hotel card-key late at night and find yourself re-tracing your steps, trying to get the flashlight on your phone to work. Well,  Do-I-Have-A-Product-For-You! Haha. In all seriousness though, little multi-function things like the JISULIFE 3-in-1 Handheld Mini-Fan can be literally figuratively life savers.

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15. Waterproof isn’t Waterproof

If there’s one thing that drives me nuts about cell phone companies…okay, there’s probably millions, lets be honest, as much as I use mine…it’s the whole fallacy of our phones being “waterproof”. They love to promote this notion that the days of drying your phone in rice or setting it in front of a fan on high are over, but the reality is that “Water-Resistant” is definitely not Waterproof. The ProCase Waterproof Phone Pouch isn’t a revolutionary idea, and it won’t change your life. But what it will do is let you take some kick-ass photos and videos underwater. No more spending $20 for a cheap waterproof disposable camera! If you’re going on a cruise, or somewhere tropical…even if you’re going to a random Holiday Inn that has a swimming pool…it’s a pretty cool.

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You can see all of these items-and morein my full Essentials: Stress-free Travel & Comfort list on Amazon.


16. TSA’s Got Nothing on You

I’ll keep this short and sweet: You could go to the store and needlessly spend a bunch of money for “travel sized” items, you know, the little 1/5th size bottles that somehow cost the same price as the normal sized ones. Or you could buy the Tocelffe 18 pack Toiletries Travel Bottles.

Bonus: Seems like a good spot to recommend the Steripod Clip-On Toothbrush Holder with Essential Oils. Works better than shoving your toothbrush down the side pocket with your socks, especially when you didn’t bring enough Tide Packs for the return trip and the socks are smelly.

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17. The Pocket-Sized Lock

In this kind of new era of Airbnb and rentals, security concerns are increasingly valid. Yes, there are some complex solutions on the market–but some are just plain obtrusive, most are ridiculously cost inefficient. AceMining Portable Door Lock is small (literally fits in your pocket) and adaptable to pretty much all door types. Its an inexpensive solution to a burgeoning issue, and to be blunt, worth it for the peace of mind alone.

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18. Lockup the Luggage

There isn’t anything particularly amazing or groundbreaking about a luggage lock. However, the Sure Lock TSA  is operating on a whole different level. Stainless steel, its heavy, durable–with a lifetime warranty to boot. It also has an indicator to let you know if TSA has inspected the contents–each lock has a code recognized by the TSA, CATSA, and other security agencies. This code allows them to identify the appropriate secure tool to use.

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19. Save the Planet!

Okay, maayyybe using a SPECIAL MADE Collapsible Water Bottle doesn’t necessarily equate to saving the planet. But it does save you from constantly purchasing bottled water on a day to day basis. And specifically as it relates to travel, the convenience of always having a water bottle handy to fill up at drinking fountains, rest stops and even on the way out of restaurants can’t be overstated. Plus, I mean, its a water bottle that collapses like flattened Coke can. How cool is that?! 

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Please make sure to check out my full Essentials: Stress-free Travel & Comfort list on Amazon. There are almost Eighty additional items that didn’t make this 18 item cut!


Please note that Amazon links provided are built via my personal Amazon Influencer Storefront


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