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first time dealing with customs

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Federal Way...
Level Contributor
315 posts
5 reviews
first time dealing with customs

my wife and I are both U.S. citizens, we will have our passports, but other than being questioned by the customs agent (I'm guessing) is there anything else I should expect or know ? Is there an exit tax for us here in the States?

Declare what we have purchased and are bringing back. I got that.(might pack a shipping box and see about shipping our purchases back to us)

My wife will be checking 1 bag, and I'm pretty sure I can get away with using a very small amount in that bag. My carry on usually lasts me on most trips.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Thanks in advance


aka: tariss

Erie, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
726 posts
7 reviews
1. Re: first time dealing with customs

You are worrying about something that is a small matter. Your declarations form will spell out how much alcohol and cigarettes you can bring back, per person, duty free. The rest will probably be simple souvenirs, which you can just write in the total amount. Perhaps you go a little crazy and buy a nice piece of jewelry, which costs a nice bit of coin. Then, to be within the law, you will have to declare it. Whether the customs agent wants to charge you duty on it is up to them. I have personally never spent that much money in Mexico for it to be an issue. However, the notion that you are going to ship your stuff back is not a good idea. My brother in law lives in Mexico and never ships anything if he can avoid it. It takes forever to arrive in the States, if it ever arrives at all. You would do well to pack a collapsible duffle bag (like you might take to the gym) in your carry on as a back up. If you acquire so much stuff while in Mexico that you need another bag AND you bring back alcohol, wrap is securely and put it, and the other non fragile souvenirs in your hard or sturdy luggage and check it at the airport for $25 or so. Use your soft duffle bag for everything else that doesn’t fit and carry it on to the plane as your hand luggage. You will definitely be paying less than shipping it home and you know it will get home with you. Have fun when the time comes!

Fort Worth, Texas
Destination Expert
for Cancun
Level Contributor
4,738 posts
5 reviews
2. Re: first time dealing with customs

I was Curious what you might be shipping back in that box? This Thread reminds me of the movie blow W johnnie depp.

Anyhow your taxes are paid for w your plane ticket purchase.

Federal Way...
Level Contributor
315 posts
5 reviews
3. Re: first time dealing with customs

The box idea was just that. I highly doubt either my wife or I will purchase much of anything save a few trinkets.


Puyallup, Washington
Level Contributor
209 posts
1 review
4. Re: first time dealing with customs

Hi Dave,

We're neighbors (Puyallup). Customs coming back into US is not a big deal. You just list the amount of goods you are bringing back on your immigration form and you can't bring any type of meat (I think produce is also included) back to the states. We learned the hard way when we had some sandwiches with lunch meat in our carry on we brought on the plane with us we forgot about until we were going through customs, but it ended up not a big deal after we got sent over to the "special" area and our luggage was scanned a 2nd time and we were asked and answered some additional questions by a customs agent we were fine. I wouldn't send anything back from Mexico, it would be better to pack it in your carry on and check the bag it on your way back.

Enjoy your stay in Mexico! We caught the Cancun/Riviera Maya bug in 2008 and haven't had the desire to go anywhere else tropical since. It's beautiful, the water and beaches are some of the best we've ever seen and the people are so welcoming! We're taking another trip at the end of August.

Federal Way...
Level Contributor
315 posts
5 reviews
5. Re: first time dealing with customs

Thanks Irocket. And hello neighbor!

I didn't think customs was that big of a deal unless you're not being truthful, or trying something illegal. (think Locked Up Abroad)

I'm hoping that my wife will enjoy the trip enough to want to return. She purchased a hotel type time share and is pushing to take a trip (via her email "special offer") to Palm Springs. I think after our EPM trip she will regret the $$ spent on PS)

Looks like we will miss you in Cancun/RM by 5 weeks or so.

Ontario, Canada
Level Contributor
1,779 posts
4 reviews
6. Re: first time dealing with customs

On your arrival into Mexico you need to pass Mexican Immigration and Customs. On the plane enroute to MX you'll fill out an Immigration Card top and bottom halves and upon arrival they keep one half and give you the other half. You need to keep that and present it when you leave Mexico, the last time we were there the airline retreived that half of the form.

On your return the customs you need to clear will be US customs at the first US airport you arrive at after departing Cancun.

Edited: 9:39 am, July 25, 2013
Erie, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
726 posts
7 reviews
7. Re: first time dealing with customs

NoSnow brings up a very good point. The form that you fill out on the plane on your way into Mexico is separated into two parts as you go through immigration. One half of it is returned to you and which you must present to the airline when you check in on your way home. I always tuck mine right into the cover of my Passport so that I don’t lose it. I have read that there is a fine if you do lose it, but can’t verify that from personal experience.

San Antonio, Texas
Level Contributor
4,839 posts
2 reviews
8. Re: first time dealing with customs

Skip the box and shipping idea. It's cost prohibitive among other things. Pack what you buy in your suitcase. We've brought back several hand painted sinks in our carry ons.

Edited: 10:07 am, July 25, 2013
Level Contributor
6,524 posts
190 reviews
9. Re: first time dealing with customs

Hello! I'm another neighbor down here in Oregon.,

Pack a pen in your wife's purse to fill out the forms. They never give you one and its a pain asking and waiting for others to use a pen that's being passed down the line. You will need your passport out while you do this as it asks your vessel, # of flight, how long you're there, what's your reason, are you bringing this or that into the country, how many traveling with you etc. it's a very short form, but if you don't fill out all the "blanks" they will let you know! Often times people miss one or two blanks because they are so small.

Don't ship back. If you think you might buy any breakables (ceramic pieces, liquor) which have to go in your suitcase, pack some bubble-wrap. If you don't have that, use your clothes. or... If you packed your own pillow, you could use that as padded protection as well.

If you hit the red light when you push it, don't worry. It only takes a few minutes of your time.

Side note: pack all valuables... ie; money, jewelry, phones/cameras and chargers, medicines= all in carry-on. Never in checked-on luggage.

Poughkeepsie, NY
Level Contributor
516 posts
120 reviews
10. Re: first time dealing with customs


Excellent advice. Hit the nail right on the head. One last question to anyone ( although I will not be doing it ): How many quarts of booze are you allowed to bring back, and what is the dollar amount of " purchases" you are allowed back to the USA, without incurring a tax? Thanks.