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Nancy Parode

Duty-Free Shopping and TSA Regulations

By June 19, 2009

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Airport duty-free shops sell all kinds of products, everything from cigars to perfume to stuffed toys. And liquor, of course. I was surprised on my last trip by the difficulties some of my fellow passengers experienced with their duty-free items - I don't buy much at duty-free shops - not on our first flight, but on our connecting flight.

It's easy to buy perfume and liquor at a duty-free shop. The cashier seals your purchase in a special bag and you can carry it onto the airplane. If you're taking a nonstop flight home, everything's fine. The difficulty comes when you have to change planes. Those TSA regulations - you know, no liquids in containers larger than three fluid ounces - still apply.

If you're planning to do some duty-free shopping on your next international trip, take a minute to read our information about flying with duty-free liquid items. You might want to take a look at our space-saving packing tips, too, just in case you find a stupendous bargain at the duty-free shop.

June 29, 2009 at 5:35 am
(1) Pam says:

A few months ago I flew home from San Juan, Puerto Rico. After clearing security, I noticed a Duty-free liquor shop near my departure gate. I also noticed that many passengers were buying liquor to take aboard the plane (in the special sealed bag described in the article). I asked, and was told that San Juan was possibly the only airport where Americans flying to American destinations could purchase duty-free liquor to carry on the plane. Now, I did take a non-stop flight home, but even if I had to change planes, I don’t see why I couldn’t have brought that package aboard the next plane, as long as I did not have to go through security again. I’m wondering if similar conditions might exist in Hawaii or Alaskan airports, since they are also separate from the U.S. mainland?

June 29, 2009 at 5:38 am
(2) Pam says:

I forgot to mention that I bought 2 bottles of very good Puerto Rican rum for about $11 each! Full liter bottles, not the 750 ml bottles that we usually see in our liquor stores.

August 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm
(3) gee says:

is it true that purchases at a duty free shop is only allowable on your way “out”? no purchases can be made on your way home?

August 12, 2012 at 12:44 am
(4) Nancy says:

it is the other way around. You can only shop duty free on your way home. Remember that if you buy wine or spirits and you have a connecting flight in the US (or to the US from Canada), you will have to comply with TSA requirements on that second flight…which means you’ll need to put those items in your checked baggage once you’ve cleared customs and then re-check those bags.

March 7, 2013 at 11:56 am
(5) Bob says:

Pretty stupid rule. Particularly the way baggage is tossed around now days. We were caught with that a couple of days ago. I have brought back liquid refreshment on at least half of my 27 trips overseas the last several years and this is the first time that has been enforced. What about wine from California vineyards in their special boxes? Seems like I saw a “few” of those when I came back from there 2 years ago.

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