We all like to take a memento or souvenir home with us to remind us, in the years to come, of a great vacation. If it was a beach holiday then that may include taking a seashell or two home with you. But can you take seashells on a plane?
In general, you can bring seashells though the TSA security checkpoint at the airport and onto a plane with you in either your carry on bag or your checked bags. This is particularly true if flying domestically within the USA but you will need to ensure that that if taking them into the US, or another country, that they meet the regulations regarding their import as some shells are protected.
The following guide should help you when it comes to traveling with seashells.
Can you take seashells through airport security
There are no restrictions on taking seashells through a security checkpoint at the airport in the US. They can be left in your carry on 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 quite small and light there is really no restriction on the quantity you can take through airport security either.
The TSA offer a very good service on Twitter where you can ask a specific question about whether you can take something through the 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:
Can you take seashells in your carry on?
There are no restrictions on taking seashells through a security checkpoint at the airport, provided they are empty so do not still contain the sea creature.
They can be left in your carry on when the bag goes through the x-ray machine so you do not need to remove them and place them in a tray.
Can you take seashells in your checked bags?
You can carry seashells in your checked bags without restriction. Remember thought that if taking them through Customs you will need to declare them – see below.
Can you bring seashells through Customs?
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 in their 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 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 complication, you must make sure the shells are as clean as possible and do not contain any dirt, which 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 make a final determination as to 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.
If you are traveling to another country and want to take any seashells on a plane with you then you should check with the relevant authority before taking them in.
Is it legal to take seashells from a beach?
It can be illegal to take seashells from beaches in some countries of the world, even in the US under certain circumstances. For example, taking Conch shells that are 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 then you may be denying a hermit crab its next home when it outgrows its current one.
You certainly 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, that 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 bring seashells back to the US from Mexico, however they must be completely clean and from not only any sea life but also sand or soil too.
It seems it may be illegal to take some forms of seashell out of Mexico by the Mexican government, such as Conch shells. So the best advice is leave them where they are.
Can you take coral on a plane?
As well as taking seashells on a plane some are also keen to take coral home with them.
Generally, even taking dead coral away from a beach is illegal and live coral should certainly be left where it is. Particularly in certain areas 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 do collect any and try to take it on a plane.
Can you take sand on a plane?
Sand from a beach is something that some people like to take home with them after a memorable vacation, particularly a special one such as a honeymoon. But you should be aware that in some places it is actually illegal. Examples are Hawaiian beaches and some in Europe.
Obviously 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?
Sand dollars are not shells but are actually flat, burrowing members of the sea urchin family. When they die their remains are roughly round with a 5 pointed design on them. You should only take those that are obviously dead ie. are hard and white.
You will be able to take sand dollars on a plane with you in either your carry on or checked bags but make sure that you pack them carefully with plenty of padding as they are quite delicate.
You should have no problems taking seashells on a plane with you when traveling in your carry on bag or your checked baggage but please consider the factors above such as Customs restrictions before you do.
Having said that, if you care about the environment at all then you are better to take a photo home with you than sand, coral or seashells.
Have a good and stress free flight.