Monday, December 3, 2007

Perfume for the Occasion: Traveling

It is December and the upcoming holiday season means that many of us will be traveling, either to be reunited with family and friends or to escape from the daily grind at some different locale, in hopes to recharge our batteries before the new year starts. This month’s Perfume for the Occasion then, appropriately focuses on travel and the special regulations regarding liquids on airplanes. I live in Europe and as such I will focus on the regulations either pertaining to traveling within the continent (mostly relevant to EU countries) or to countries complying with EU rules, such as Japan, Australia, Singapore, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland, as well as to rules regarding flights originally departing from the EU for a destination outside the continent (such as the US, which is of most interest since it has the strictest rules). (for more on flights departing from the US, or traveling within the States, please visit For the Love of Perfume).

So, it seems traveling has long lost its sparkling veneer of luxury for good. That which used to carry the stamp of high-living and leisure many decades ago has now regressed to being an annoyance at best, but most often, I regret to say, something that the average traveler rightly dreads. As if the high cuts that have brought this industry to an era of decadence were not enough, the new security regulations are making flying a detestable experience. Entering an airport nowadays practically means giving up your human rights: allowing yourself to be subjected to abject rudeness, intimidated, manhandled, groped, grunted at, mistreated... until finally, after having relinquished every last drop of dignity to some vague, faceless oppressor, you may enter your plane, powerless, dazed and confused along with the rest of the cattle. I digress: the anger of the frequent traveler, you see. Alright then, back to the topic du jour. What about our favorite luxury, perfume? Are we still allowed to buy it at the duty free? May we still bring some of our own on board? Read on.

When it comes to your own fragrances that you want to bring with you while traveling, no restrictions apply to the amount of liquids that you can store in your check-in luggage. This also applies to travelers whose destination is the USA. Feel free to bring as many bottles of whatever quantity you wish, but for the sake of your clothes, shoes and of course your precious perfume, do bubble wrap them securely to ensure that they will arrive intact. Having said that, I personally hesitate to do this myself, especially with glass containers, as anyone who has looked outside the windows of a terminal to watch the personnel put luggage in the hull of a plane knows that this is not done in the gentlest of manner - quite the opposite in fact. It is a risk I am conscious of every time I pack perfume in my luggage.

What I do prefer doing instead is to decant perfumes in smaller containers and take those in my hand luggage. Certain restrictions apply to liquids carried in hand luggage: Everything must be stored in transparent, re-sealable bags, whose capacity does not exceed 1 liter (1000ml). You may carry up to five of those bags, but the contents of each cannot exceed 100 ml. That means, that if you have a perfume bottle that is more than 100 ml, you cannot carry it in one of those bags. You may carry several decants in each bag, provided that the total liquid volume does not exceed the 100 ml per bag. To clarify: You may carry up to 500 ml of liquids in your hand luggage, provided that it is placed in transparent re-sealable bags and provided that the contents of each bag do not exceed 100 ml each. It goes without saying that you do not need to decant the perfumes in separate containers as long as you do not exceed these limits. I mentioned decanting because it is a handy way to limit weight and to put one’s mind at ease that no matter what happens, the full bottle is safe at home! These rules apply everywhere in the EU, but both US citizens traveling back home and EU citizens either traveling to the USA or having a transit stop at the USA will have trouble when they reach the States. What does this mean? Let’s say you are a US citizen that visited, say, Paris, and bought some perfume. The re-sealable bag rules mentioned above will keep your perfume safe while in EU airports but NOT so once you reach US soil. When traveling to the US or when having to stop for transit at the US, you are only allowed to have one re-sealable bag in your hand luggage and the contents cannot exceed 3 ounces! (88 ml) The only thing you can do is put any perfume in your check-in luggage or limit yourself in order to comply with these regulations. If you have access to your check-in luggage during transit, you may follow EU regulations until you reach US soil and then put everything in your check-in luggage during transit, but I fail to see the reason why this footnote is even added to the rules, considering luggage is unloaded by certified personnel and immediately placed in the next aircraft. I suppose a disgruntled perfumista might raise enough hell to gain access to their luggage instead of seeing their favorite bottle being thrown in the trash right before their eyes, but not only is it unlikely, it would also probably mean missing a flight at best, or being detained at worst.

Buying perfume at airports is, fortunately, a much easier affair altogether. Liquids bought at airports are almost completely exempt from the restrictions! (Money talks...) For the countries complying with EU regulations (see first paragraph), things are easy. You can buy whatever quantity of liquid items you wish, without any problems as long as the products are sealed in tamper-evident bags. You need not worry about these bags, since all airport shops complying with the rules will do the sealing for you. This is the only restriction and of course, it goes without saying, you may not open these bags while you are still traveling. (if they have been opened, it means they have been ‘tampered’ with and are considered dangerous thereafter) These bags may be taken on board without any problems. If you are coming to the EU (or to an EU-regulation-compliant country) from an airport that does not comply with the rules and your purchases are not sealed in a tamper-evident bag, you are in danger of having your purchases confiscated. If you are bound to the US from Europe the above not apply. On non-stop flights bound for the US, the purchases will be allowed through the checkpoint, only if they meet US regulations. (for more information on those, please see Tamara’s entry) If you are bound for the US and have a connecting flight, duty free items will NOT be permitted through checkpoints. Your best bet is to ask for your luggage to NOT be checked-in automatically for the next flight and to pick them up in order to pack the products inside before you reach the next checkpoint to board the following flight. This is tricky, because if you have a short transit you run the risk of missing your next flight. I only advise this course of action if you have at least two hours between flights at your disposal.

Complicated, unpleasant, tiresome: just a few of the words that describe these rules. I wish all of us traveling during the holidays the strength and calmness needed to create a peaceful inner nirvana that will help us go through this ordeal relatively untouched. Let’s just keep the final destination and goal in mind, whether that is the warm hug that hopefully awaits us at the Arrivals Hall or the fabulous new-ness that will make us forget all about work and worries for a few days.

You ready for the holidays?
It’s all I can think about :)



Unknown said...

Divina thank you so much for posting this. In January I will be traveling to France to visit family and well I have been wondering about what to do with my perfume. And now I am stuck with the big question of wondering which fragrances to take with me.

ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...

Oh how I wish we could enjoy the freedoms you do with duty-free items! I for one am not willing to take the risk of having my checked luggage arrive later than I do by requesting that I put my duty-free item in it. So, I will never enjoy the cost saving of purchasing duty-free. :(

Wonderful piece Divina. You and I have certainly had more than our fair share of traveling hassles. I am so thankful to know of the EU guidelines!

I am really excited that December and the holidays are upon us!! :-)


tmp00 said...

Thanks for this-

I wish we could all just get together on these stupid regulations..

Anonymous said...

Dear Divina,
Thank you so much for this - I am so looking forward to my holidays and your information is extremely useful. I don't usually take fragrances in bottles in my luggage: what I do is choose some little samples (which I hoard!)put tham in my case, and sometimes treat myself at the airport... By the way, I read that you're going to New York. I went on a surprise holiday there in April, and thought it was the most wonderful city in the world. We had open tickets and nearly stayed longer - I am still boring anyone who'll listen about it. I know you'll feel the same... Here's to holidays, despite nasty service in airports!!
Warmest wishes,

Divina said...

Jen, I'll confess: I didn't taky ANY fragrances with me when I went to France! There is so much to try, I didn't dare waste any skin space with any of my own perfumes!

Divina said...

More hassles than I care to think about indeed! I've actually broken down and cried once at Munich airport! I know you understand since you travel so much as well, T.

Divina said...

Tom, you can say that again! I don't understand why they do not make it easy for everyone and adopt international rules followed by everyone. It is all so confusing and complicated the way it is.

Divina said...

Linda, I am SOOOO looking forward to it! I had been resisting this trip, even though I want it so much.. I am afraid the airport rules are only half of the hassle travelers endure. For this New York trip I will have to get a brand new passport with retina scans and everything. This SCARES the sh*t out of me. But I do so want to see this wonderful city - it is worth it.