When planning group travel such as for an executive meeting or travel incentive, the job of a meeting planner can be a challenge.  It’s not just selecting the venue and all the plans that go into coordinating the event itself.  It can be the little details that can make or break the event.  One such obstacle: airport security.

Of course your travelers are likely well-versed not to bring firearms or weapons, they may even be aware of what can or can’t be packed in carry-on luggage versus bags they check.  However, if you want to avoid a disastrous experience you may want to consider more than airport basics.  Here are a few additional considerations:

Medications

Medications and international travel can be tricky, not to mention they can pose risks for travelers.  Some medications and/or their ingredients are banned in certain countries. While some medications can be purchased over-the-counter in the United States, the same medication can result in arrest in another country. Other medications may require a doctor’s prescription but are outlawed in another which could not only pose serious legal issues for travelers, but also medication complications.  For example:

  • In Japan, for example, a 25 milligram tablet of Tylenol PM, because it exceeds Japan’s 10 milligram maximum amount for diphenhydramine in a tablet. Medications containing methamphetamine or amphetamine are also prohibited, and can lead to arrest. Vicks inhalers should also be left at home, as they are regarded as illicit stimulants.
  • In Zambia, Benadryl, since its active ingredient (diphenhydramine) is banned.
  • Codeine, an ingredient found in the painkiller Co-codamol, is banned in both Thailand and the UAE.
  • Egypt, meanwhile, bans tramadol painkillers.
  • France and Germany have banned the diabetes medication Actos.

What can meeting planners do?

  • Provide phone numbers of resources for travelers that must use medications. Inform travelers of the serious consequences of international travel and medications that aren’t approved in various countries.
  • A week before traveling, do a check-in and provide a sign-off for all travelers confirming that they have verified that the medications they are traveling with are approved and “legal” within the destination they are traveling to.
  • Be sure travelers label, pack and document all medications – including vitamins and supplements. Ideally, these should be in original containers.
    (Pro tip: Many travelers are unaware that they can ask doctors for travel size or samples of medications! Encourage them to ask.)
  • Travelers who require prescriptions should have a valid, paper prescription, in case of emergency (e.g. medication is lost or stolen) that can be filled. This prescription should cover just a few days, such as the length of their travel.
  • Travelers should ask their doctor to provide a letter (on official letterhead) listing the medications that they take and the reasons they were prescribed. This should accompany medication product inserts. These product information inserts are important, because airport security will be checking the active ingredients in your medications.

Souvenirs

Trying to bring something into another country is one thing—trying to take something out of that country is another matter entirely. Many travelers want to return home with a souvenir, but there are things that won’t be allowed back in the States. For example:

  • Germany’s Kinder Surprise eggs are banned in the US, so if you try bringing one back to America you’ll receive a hefty $2,500 fine—per egg!
  • Some countries sell clothes made with dog or cat fur, and products made with fur from these animals can get you a fine of $3,000 or more.
  • Leather goods – in some countries it can be difficult to define from what animal the “leather” came from.
  • Almost any product made with ivory (unless it’s ivory from warthog) will have applicable restrictions and prohibitions.
  • Knockoffs and counterfeit items will be seized at the border, and you may also face a heavy fine. Counterfeit and pirated brand-name products are often sold to unsuspecting tourists, especially in some Chinese cities.
  • Authenticity of the items can be difficult to access such as with jewelry and artwork. Use caution!

What can meeting planners do?

  • Before travel, be sure your travelers are aware of the souvenir basics – if any part of the souvenir appears as if it contains elements (e.g. bones, teeth, hide/fur, tusks, etc.) that it could at some point in its lifecycle to have tasted, smelled, or touched you, don’t buy it.
  • Souvenirs are not import/export or duty free. Travelers should be aware that they should be prepared to claim these items at customs and should have a receipt and/or purchase information available when asked.
  • Unique items made by locals can provide a memorable option for travelers which is where your experience and expertise as a meeting planner can shine! An outing to pre-approved local establishments for souvenir hunting, as well as a chance to absorb some local culture will go a long way.  Alternately, identifying various locations throughout your travel as “souvenir-friendly” shops can help your travelers find the perfect gift to take home to loved ones – or as a keepsake.

Welcome gift packages which contain souvenirs may be another option for meeting planners to explore.  Smaller souvenirs can also be a fun way to introduce each day’s activities (and serve as a reminder/keepsake for travelers to take home).  For example, perhaps hand-carved wooden, animal ornaments make for a perfect introduction for a safari.  Or a boxed corkscrew set for a day’s outing to an Italian vineyard; the ideas are endless!

Food and Drink

International travelers should also be careful when it comes to food and drink. But here’s the cardinal rule: every food item you bring back to the US must be declared. Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $10,000. Some foods and beverages, or the ingredients found therein, may not be allowed, so a failure to declare your foodstuffs is a big deal. For example:

  • Haggis, cannot be brought back to the US. If you’re into sheep organs shoved into a sheep stomach, this may be disappointing. However, the US has banned any imported goods containing sheep’s lung.
  • Interestingly enough, soup mixes and bouillons also cannot be brought back to the US.
  • Many meat products are forbidden because of the risk of bringing animal disease, so most salami, sausage, prosciutto, and some hams won’t be allowed. Bush meat made from African animals will also be forbidden, as well as many Mexican pork products.
  • Caviar can count as importing wildlife. And while there are kinds allowed, it’s best to avoid all together.
  • Transporting fruits and vegetables is also risky business. Produce could be contaminated with a pest or disease that would cause an outbreak upon arrival. This isn’t just for traveling between the US and other countries either. Transporting fruits, from California to another state, for example, can also be an issue.
  • Alcoholic beverages brings up another matter as well. The US requires absinthe to be ‘thujone free’, and many other countries don’t have the same restriction in place. The labeling itself is also a factor—the term ‘absinthe’ cannot be the brand name, and the term ‘absinthe’ can’t stand alone on the label.

What can meeting planners do?

  • Travelers are hungry and get hungry. It’s important, especially for those who have medical conditions which may require frequent meals or snacks to know you understand and you have “snack stations” available as part of your overall event planning.
  • Get your travelers to leave the fruits, vegetables, meat snacks, jerky, mixes, and other things at home.
  • Advise travelers who may have special dietary or nutritional needs to work with medical providers and/or contact you for any additional help. This may require shipping items directly to the hotel, sourcing alternative items at the destination, etc. Make sure that in this circumstance your traveler understands your job is to help them connect with resources, not intrude on their medical condition, and it becomes their job to work with the resources you provide.
  • If a traveler wants to purchase items such as alcohol or fruit, most reputable suppliers can ship direct. Consider setting up arrangements with vendors along the way who can work with your travelers.

Conclusion

International travel should be an enjoyable, rewarding experience, not a trip ruined by airport security blunders. Well prepared meeting planners can help prevent airport issues through foresight and communication with travelers.  While there will bound to be delays in any airport, and especially with international travel, helping to avoid the big problems will surely expedite your travelers through customs and on to their next adventure!

Are you planning an executive meeting or travel incentive?  Contact Gavel International to learn more about how we help meeting planners.