Can You Take Seashells on a Plane? Coral, Sand and Sand Dollars



We all like to take a memento or souvenir home to remind us of a great vacation in the years to come. If it was a beach holiday, that may include taking a seashell or two home with you.

But can you bring sea shells on a plane?

The following guide should help you when it comes to traveling with seashells.

Can You Bring Seashells on a Plane

The Quick Answer: Can you bring shells on a plane? You can bring seashells through the TSA security checkpoint at the airport and onto a plane in either carry on bags or checked bags, particularly if flying domestically within the USA. But if flying internationally you will need to ensure that they meet the regulations regarding their import as some shells are protected.


Can you take seashells through airport security in carry on

There are no specific TSA seashells rules on taking seashells through a security checkpoint at the airport in the US. They can be left in your carry on baggage when the bag goes through the X-ray machine, so you do not need to remove them and place them in a tray.

As seashells are generally relatively small and light, there is no restriction on the quantity you can take through airport security.

@AskTSA Service

The Transportation Security Administration /(TSA) offers a very good service on Twitter. You can ask a specific question about whether you can take something through the airport security checkpoint, and they will respond quickly.

This is an example response by the TSA to a passenger’s question regarding can you bring seashells on a plane in carry on baggage:

can you take seashells on a plane

Can you take sea shells in your checked bags?

You can pack seashells in your checked bags without restriction. Remember that if taking them through Customs, you must declare them – see below.

can you bring shells on a plane

Can you take sea shells on a plane – international flights

While you can bring sea shells on a plane during international travel, it’s essential to ensure that they are free of organic matter, not from protected species, and packed in a way that complies with TSA guidelines and your destination country’s customs regulations.

Travelers should be aware that certain types of sea shells may be protected under international conservation laws, such as those outlined by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Verifying that the shells you intend to bring are not from endangered or protected marine species is essential.

Can you bring seashells through U.S. Customs?

If you are wondering can you travel with seashells internationally, then, firstly, you should declare any seashells you may have when entering the US from outside.

The United States Department of Agriculture website states the following on its page International Traveler: Souvenirs

Seashells. Although many varieties of seashells collected from saltwater beaches are enterable without restriction, certain countries limit the collection, sale, and export of shells and shell products. The importation or exportation of certain species of seashells (e.g., queen conch and nautilus) from some countries are restricted under international agreements.  For more information on the status of seashells, coral, and a wide variety of other items you may find offered for sale in gift shops overseas, please review the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) web pages Tips traveling to the Caribbean and Caribbean Traveler’s Guide Brochure: Buyer’s Beware

USDA does restrict/regulate the entry of land snails/shells and many species of freshwater snails/shells, because many foreign snail species are considered to be invasive pests that could cause harm to U.S. agriculture and the environment.

The United States Government, through the USDA, also states the following in its article “Can I bring sea shells from another country into the United States?

USDA does not require a permit to bring saltwater sea shells into the country because, if cleaned properly, they do not pose a significant pest or disease threat to agriculture.

To avoid complications, you must ensure the shells are as clean as possible and do not contain any dirt that can carry microorganisms. Also, you should declare the shells at customs.

A Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection officer will inspect the item[s] and determine the admissibility of the shells. More information about the Customs declaration process is available at United States CBP or by calling 1-877-227-5511.

When traveling internationally from the US, other customs regulations come into play. Different countries may have their own rules regarding importing natural items, including sea shells. Some countries may have restrictions or require a declaration upon arrival. Failing to comply with these regulations can result in fines or confiscation of the shells.

Is it legal to take seashells from a beach?

can you bring seashells through customs

Under certain circumstances, taking seashells from beaches in some countries, even in the US, can be illegal. For example, taking a Conch shell that is still alive (have the creature inside) is illegal in Florida.

Even if it is legal to take them, perhaps you should ask yourself, “Is it morally or environmentally right.” Even if you take an empty shell, you may deny a hermit crab its next home when it outgrows its current one.

You shouldn’t collect live shell creatures from the sea and remove the animal to take the shell home as a souvenir. The same goes for breaking off pieces of coral to take home.

You should also realize that even if you don’t collect them yourself but buy them in a shop instead, most of these shells are harvested from the seabed to sell to tourists with the animal still inside, which is killed and removed. Please don’t support this trade.

Can you bring seashells on a plane from Mexico?

You can take seashells back to the US from Mexico, however, they must be completely clean from not only any sea life but also sand or soil too.

Can you bring conch shells on a plane? It seems it may be illegal to take some forms of seashells out of Mexico by the Mexican government, such as Queen Conch shells. The best advice is to leave the conch shells where they are.

can you bring conch shells on a plane
Better to leave Conch Shells behind

Can you bring dead coral on a plane?

Some are also keen to take coral on a plane and take it home.

Generally, even taking dead coral away from a beach is illegal and live coral should undoubtedly be left where it is. Particularly in some regions of the world (such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia), it is protected, and you can find yourself in a great deal of trouble if you collect any and try to take it on a plane.

Can you bring sand on a plane?

Sand from a beach is something that some people like to take home with them after a memorable vacation, notably a special one such as a honeymoon.

But you should be aware that in some places, it is illegal. Examples are Hawaiian beaches and some in Europe.

We are not talking about a little sand still stuck on your beach shoes but perhaps a bottle or bottles of sand.

Can you take sand dollars on a plane?

can you take sand dollars on a plane

Sand dollars are not shells but are part of flat, burrowing members of the sea urchin family. When they die, their remains are roughly round with a 5-pointed design. You should only take those that are dead ie. are hard and white.

You can take sand dollars on a plane with you in either your carry on bags or checked bags, but make sure that you pack them carefully with plenty of padding as they are pretty delicate.


Can you take sea shells on a plane? – yes, but please consider the factors above, such as Customs restrictions, before you do.

Having said that, if you care about the environment at all, you are better to take a photo home with you than sand, coral or sea shells.

Have a good and stress-free flight.

can you travel with seashells internationally

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