Souvenir Packing Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Spiked leaf agave plants

Some of my souvenir packing lessons were learned the hard way through blood, sweat and tears. (Okay, no blood was really shed.) I’m sharing my story with you in the hope that you won’t have to go through your own “war story.”

Once upon a time, long ago….

“Breakability, Weight, Size” or “What you buy may break your back…. Or your spirit”

Heading to Cancun, Mexico for the second time at the age of 23, I had my shopping list handy:

  • Mezcal Tequila (“with the worm straight from Mexico” for a friend)
  • Cuervo Tequila
  • Kahlúa (large bottle)
  • Onyx chess set (for a wedding gift)
  • Onyx chess set (for me)

people rushing in an airport

Here’s the picture-  I’m changing planes in Chicago O’Hare on a tight connection between two gates nowhere near each other. (Rhetorical question:  Why are connecting gates never nearby each other??)  All souvenirs are in a carry-on duffel bag.  A HEAVY duffel bag that I am carrying as I BRISKLY walk between gates.  The weight would have been bad enough on my shoulder, but I was lugging it with the strap on a sunburned shoulder. Ouch!! I was battling tears from the pain, frustration and worry about missing my flight.

Onyx chess sets with 14” x 14” boards and bottles of liquids are both heavy and breakable. All of that took up a lot of space…. Filling my carry-on duffel bag.  It’s best to put breakables in your carry-on so that baggage handlers don’t play “toss & drop” with your new stuff.  As this was long before the TSA limit of a quart-size bag of liquids in no larger than 3.4 ounce containers, carrying three bottles rather than risking them breaking and ruining everything in my checked-in bag made sense.

Broken brown bottle


I wisely used my “dirty clothes” to wrap around everything. Thankfully nothing broke- including my duffel bag!

Because of the low cost for the tequila and Kahlua, I saved money despite having to pay our Customs Duty tax because of exceeding the free Customs’ limit.  At that time, I was happy about the savings.  But in the long run, the lessons learned were:


Never buy alcohol that I can buy at home

The hassle just wasn’t worth it.  And had a bottle broken or the weight busted my luggage, it may have cost me more than the savings. If it’s a something unique to a region that I liked during a rum excursion, great!


Don’t pack more than I can handle

Clearly, 3 bottles plus 2 large onyx chess sets along with whatever else I was carrying was more than I could handle on connecting flights.


Think about the logistics

Think the whole thing through…. From planning to purchasing to getting it home. Consider paying to have things shipped home if you are buying from a legitimate store which can do that (and use your credit card for the purchase) or figure out how you’ll bring it home with you even if that means a willingness to pay for excess baggage.

Don’t let your great vacation be marred by a miserable experience you created at the end which you’ll remember in 30 years.

Happy Traveling!

Connie's signature

You may also like...