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Trip Doctor: How to Bring Back Food Souvenirs

food souvenirs

Q: I love to bring food back from my trips abroad. What are the restrictions? —Alexander Bauman, Lexington, Mass.

A: The lure of forbidden fruit is strong—as is the authority of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to confiscate it once you hit American soil. Why so stringent? The agency cites the example of a Mediterranean fruit fly outbreak in California in the 1980’s that cost the state and federal government $100 million to contain. It started with a single traveler bringing in a piece of contaminated food. Add to that the threats of hoof-and-mouth and mad cow disease, avian and swine flu, and exotic beetle infestations, which can devastate livestock and crops, and you get a sense of why caution is necessary.

That said, there are still plenty of foods that you can carry home from your travels. You just need to be aware of the rules, which can be tricky—and fluid. Restrictions change as disease outbreaks occur. Look for updates on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service websites. And always declare your food: trying to bring in undeclared prohibited items can result in a fine of $300 for a first offense and more for repeat offenders.

Cheese and Milk Products: Hard and soft, pasteurized and unpasteurized cheeses are generally acceptable—that includes everything from Camembert and Brie to feta and mozzarella, even in brine. Nonsolid cheeses, such as ricotta and cottage cheese, pose problems, unless you’re a registered importer. Yogurt and butter are unrestricted.

Meat and Seafood: Unfortunately, almost anything containing meat products is off limits. This includes most fresh and refrigerated meats, cured and dried ones (salami, sausage, and prosciutto, sigh), and even dried soups and bouillons. (Some pork products are allowable from Spain and Italy, but—before you grab that chorizo—require official certification from the country’s health inspectors.) Pâté and foie gras in unopened hermetically sealed containers can usually be brought into the country. At press time, beef and pork products were allowable from Australia, Canada, Fiji, Iceland, and New Zealand with proof of origin (such as a grocery-store receipt or a label indicating where they came from). Seafood, including fresh, dried, canned, and smoked fish, is generally permitted.

Fruits and Vegetables: You need an official permit for most fresh fruit and vegetables, though Canadian produce is generally exempt, once again, with proof of origin. (Check the USDA’s Fruits and Vegetables Import Requirements Database to see what can be carried onto U.S. soil.) Dried fruits, herbs, and spices (except seed-based ones) are by and large okay.

Pantry Items: Good news: oils, vinegars, mustards, canned or jarred meatless sauces, pickles, honey (without honeycombs), jams, baked goods, noodles, roasted nuts, candy, and chocolate are all basically unrestricted.

Alcohol: Anything less than a liter is generally permitted duty-free. Thanks to the 21st Amendment, it’s up to each state to determine how much alcohol you can carry. Most states limit you to a “reasonable” amount for personal use. If you’re from a control state, however, check with the local alcohol board to see if there are restrictions. Utah, for example, sets a two-liter limit. For the record: absinthe (anything bearing the brand name Absinthe, containing thujone, or decorated with artwork “project[ing] images of hallucinogenic, psychotropic, or mind-altering effects”) is not allowed in the States.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Video by Philip Toledano

Trip Doctor: Aloft Pioneers Apple TV Pilot Program

hotel entertainment

If you're prone to downloading the entire seasons of Breaking Bad onto your iPad before a trip, this will be welcome news: Aloft, Starwood's intrepidly tech-savvy brand, is testing the in-room entertainment system of tomorrow, with Apple TV as its anchor.

In every Aloft room, you'll find a Jack Pack, which plugs into your laptop or mobile devices and projects the content onto your in-room HDTV. Now with AppleTV, guests can use their TV in a huge variety of ways: As a stereo system for music, a medium for editing photos, or perhaps most useful, a big screen for streaming Netflix or iTunes movies.

Read More

The Doctor Recommends: Must Reads for the Week Ending March 15, 2013

"Modern life has become a three- and often four- or five-meal-a-day restaurant habit," Michael Wolff writes in the UK edition of GQ. "Of course the ultimate status is not to know someone, but to be known, for the restaurant to want you." (Matt Haber)

And in London, Vanity Fair's Nicholas Shaxson wonders who lives in One Hyde Park. (M.H.)

Photographer Gabriele Galimberti captured kids from around the world with their most prized possessions. The takeaway: Boys really love cars and the little girl from Zambia with the sunglass collection is a star. (M.H.)

Over at Capital New York, filmmaker Minty Grover looks back at Little Syria, a forgotten lower westside neighborhood of old New York City. (M.H.)

Just in time for the second season finale of HBO's Girls, NewYork.com's Megan L. Wood offers this guide to some of the show's locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. (M.H.)

Food trucks are so last year. Bloomberg Businessweek's Patrick Clark prepares us for... Food scooters? (M.H.)

If you're not fatigued by over-sharing your life on Facebook and Twitter, this little gadget—a SXSW debut—promises to capture all the special moments you may not realize you're having… by automatically taking photos every 30 seconds. We can't help think it's a great way to catch candid portraits of locals abroad—which is always an awkward pursuit. Jenna Worthman reports at the New York Times' Bits blog. (Nikki Ekstein)

Would you stay at a Whole Foods-themed resort? The ubiquitous health food chain is brewing plans to open a wellness retreat near their Austin, TX headquarters, USA Today's Bruce Horovitz reports (N.E.)

Cruise Conference Update: European River Cruises

A-ROSA cruise 

If you've tried to book a river cruise this summer in Europe, you know that it's close to Mission Impossible. But representatives of A-ROSA Cruises at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference want you to know that they're offering a new luxury alternative that does have availability—largely because few people know about it.

The line itself isn't new; its been operating in Germany for a decade. But beginning this year, the company is dedicating specific sailings to the North American market, with a contemporary cruising product that focuses on fine cuisine and features active excursions (think: biking and kayaking), light decor, a large spa and gym with panoramic views. Cabins measure 156 square feet—smaller than on some ships, but larger than on others. And yes, on these sailings, the language is English.

The cruises traverse the Rhone, Soane, Danube and Rhine rivers for 7 to 14 nights, depending on the sailing. The line is waiving single supplements for a substantive number of cabins each sailing, said A-ROSA's U.S. representative Marilyn Conroy. Pricing includes airfare, all excursions, airport transfers and open bar. Prices start at $4,802 per person from New York, Miami, and Los Angeles.

 Jane WoolridgeJane Wooldridge is T+L's cruise editor.

 

 

Photo courtesy of A-ROSA Cruises

Cruise Conference Update: New Destinations for Azamara Club

Azamara Quest

Azamara Club Cruises took advantage of the cruise industry's annual Miami conference to show off its recently refurbished Azamara Quest. Like sister ship Azamara Journey, the 694-passenger Quest was drydocked for the first time since 2007 for a freshening. 

The decor in both public rooms and staterooms retains the casually elegant country club feel, with a few new Deco-inspired leather chairs and a slightly smaller casino. There's also a new caviar-and-Champagne bar and a chef's table in the steakhouse. 

But the biggest changes for Azamara passengers won't be on board but in the ports they visit, said Azamara president Larry Pimentel. The brand's focus is on offering unusual "bucket list'' destinations such as Vietnam's Halong Bay, world celebrations like Monaco's Grand Prix, and private experiences otherwise unavailable. Among those is a visit by night to Italy's Verrazano Castle with a surprise concert. The two-ship line will also go to 41 new ports this year.

Says Pimentel: "We create the 'Wow' factor by using the destination as 'Wow.' " 

 Jane WoolridgeJane Wooldridge is T+L's Cruise Editor.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises

Trip Doctor: World Economic Forum Releases 2013 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index

The World Economic Forum just released its 2013 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index, a report that evaluates 140 destinations across the world based on safety and security, environmental sustainability, and cultural and natural resources, among other "pillars" of tourism.

Among the findings:


° Switzerland is the best overall place in the world for tourism.

° In a further blow to its floundering travel industry, Egypt ranks last for safety and security, behind Yemen (139) and Pakistan (137). Kenya is ranked no. 135. Finland, meanwhile, is the safest place to travel.

° Sweden, Switzerland, and Finland take the top three spots for environmental sustainability. Oil-rich Kuwait comes in last.

° Brazil, Australia, and the United States are the best destinations for natural resources. Sorry, Rihanna, Barbados ranks near the bottom at no. 133 in this category. Haiti brings up the rear.

° Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States are the top five places for cultural resources, edging out contenders France (8), Greece (25) and Italy (7). South Korea (no. 10) is the only other non-European country to break the top ten in this category. (Thank you, PSY?) In last place: Burundi.

The whole list can be found at the World Economic Forum's official website.

Have a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Three More Carnival Ships in Trouble

File this under the Department of Not Again: Carnival Cruise Lines has had problems with not one but three of its ships in the last week alone—this just a month after the Carnival Triumph limped into port in Mobile, Alabama after a highly publicized four nights at sea without power, air conditioning, and functioning toilets.

Early this week, as the Miami Herald reports, Carnival Dream reported problems with an onboard generator (which allegedly led to some plumbing issues) while docked in St. Maarten. The cruise line canceled the remainder of the trip and is flying passengers back home rather than risk sailing back to Cape Canaveral without a back-up generator.

And now the Legend ship, reporting mechanical problems with its propulsion system, is skipping a scheduled stop at Grand Cayman Island to get back to port in Tampa. And new information emerged about a steering problem on Carnival Elation the week before; the company said it had asked a tugboat to accompany it as it left port in New Orleans in an excess of caution.

No passengers or crew members were hurt during any of these incidents. And there reportedly was little passenger inconvenience, unlike the situation a month ago when a fire aboard the Carnival Triumph left passengers adrift for days without power. Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of the beleaguered cruise company, announced on Wednesday a comprehensive maintenance review of Carnival’s entire fleet, news he hopes will calm the rough waters his company has hit in 2013. The Triumph is scheduled to be out of service through mid-April; the Dream has cancelled at least one sailing.

The bright side for travelers: Deals may be on the horizon.

 

Jane WoolridgeJane Wooldridge is T+L's Cruise Editor.

 

 

Trip Doctor Series: Villa of the Week (Argentina)

Casa Carlos Calvo

It’s finally here! (We know you’ve been waiting for it.) The second installment of our series whisks you down to Argentina’ s alluring capital. For our complete list of top-notch agents and Standout Properties, check out T+L’s Global Guide to Villa Rentals in the March issue.

THE URBAN OASIS
Casa Carlos Calvo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
$142 per night, per room
The Details: Base yourself out of this recently renovated 1860 residence in the lively, history-rich San Telmo neighborhood, with white-on-white interiors, 15-foot-high ceilings, enormous French doors, Belle Epoque chandeliers, and even a rooftop pool. The clincher: San Telmo’s famous antiques market and La Brigada, one of the city’s top parrillas, are just a short walk away.
The Agent: Oasis Collections; 631/731-1677; oasiscollections.com.

Jennifer FlowersJennifer Flowers is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.

 

Photo courtesy of Casa Carlos Calvo

Tech Thursday: Free Airport Parking, Courtesy of FlightCar

FlightCar

Certain things can only work on the West Coast—take, for instance, FlightCar, a new San Francisco-based startup that lets you loan out your car while it's parked at the airport. The concept is a win-win in theory: travelers get their expensive parking tab subsidized by approved renters, who get a better deal (and maybe even a nicer car) in return.

The program has recently piloted at SFO, with expansion plans in the works. And so far, the selection of cars is promising, ranging from a 2005 BMW 3 Series to a 2008 Honda Accord on a trial search (both would cost $46 a day to rent—compared to $150 for similar models at Hertz or Enterprise).

Read More

Cruise Conference Update: A Glimpse into the Cruising Future

cruisejpg

More glimpses of the future, from Cruise Shipping Miami:

° Scenic Cruises offers four new European river itineraries and new ship, The Jewel, with balconies that can be enclosed for weather protection. In April it will also launch the first new river cruising ship in Russia in memory from the company. The $10 million remake was set on an existing barge hull.

° The new Hong Kong cruise terminal designed by Sir Norman Foster and set on the site of the old Kai Tak airport features a public green space atop the terminal. The first ship berth becomes operational in June. When it's completed in about 15 months, it will be able to handle four megaliners at once.

° Along with the year-round ship it is taking to the Galapagos this year, Silversea is adding a Northwest Passage cruise aboard its existing expedition ship, Silver Explorer. Bookings are going fast, reported the line. Compagnie du Ponant, which is also launched a Northwest Passage cruise, said the sailing sold out in four days.

 

Jane WoolridgeJane Wooldridge is T+L's cruise editor.

 

 

Photo by istockphoto

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