Flying the friendly skies with fresh fruit in your bag
Sure, you can buy Florida oranges in your hometown grocery store. But those juicy oranges make a healthier and cheaper souvenir from an Orlando vacation than a set of Mickey Mouse ears, so it would be a shame to have to toss them out at airport security. You shouldn't encounter any problems bringing fruit with you on domestic flights, but certain countries discourage visitors from bringing any foreign produce onto their shores.
Q: What are the rules about fruit on domestic flights?
A: If you've flown lately, you may know that the TSA has rules and limitations about pretty much everything. In this case, the rules work in your favor because the TSA generally doesn't prohibit passengers from bringing fruit onto planes. For most itineraries, you can pack whole or dried fruit in either your carry-on or checked baggage without issues arising.
The TSA might raise an issue if any fruit-based item in your carry-on – like strawberry jelly or fruit mixed with gelatin – could qualify as a liquid or gel. In that case, the food would have to follow the TSA's 3-1-1 rule for carry-on luggage, which limits you to not more than one 1-quart bag of containers not larger than 3.4 ounces each.
There are exceptions, however. Hawaii has strict regulations about importing plant material, including fruit. You must fill out a form declaring any fruit that you plan to take off the plane and present that fruit for inspection. Many types of fruit will pass inspection with no problem, but some things (including citrus fruit from Florida or Puerto Rico) are prohibited.
The state also regulates the export of fruit. You can't take hand-picked fruit home with you, but you will be allowed to board a plane out of Hawaii with fruit that has been agriculturally approved and prepackaged. Approved fruit is sold in Hawaii airports and in shops that cater to tourists.
Q: What about traveling internationally?
A: This is where things get a little sticky. (Not quite as sticky as a ripe peach, however.) Most countries don't prohibit visitors from bringing fruit with them, but a few do.
Australia, in particular, is notoriously picky about this because, as an island nation, it's able to strictly control the kinds of insects and plants that are introduced into its environment. Basically, since customs agents can't be sure that your harmless-looking apple won't cause a domino effect that harms the country's ecosystem, you won't be allowed to bring it with you.
New Zealand also forbids visitors to bring fruit with them. Japan is also strict about what food can and can't be brought into the country, so your best bet is to arrive without produce.
Because each country has its own regulations that are subject to change at any time, you should contact the embassy of any country you're planning to visit if you truly don't want to leave the fruit behind.
Note that, although customs agents may not discover your fruit when you arrive in a country where it's illegal, as a matter of respect you simply shouldn't bring it in. And, if you're traveling to Australia or another country that forbids foreign fruit, you can still bring it to eat during the flight. Just discard any excess fruit before you leave the plane.
Q: Can I bring fruit into the U.S.?
A: Probably. Just check the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website first. Use the Fruits and Vegetables Import Requirements (FAVIR) database to look up the specific fruit you'd like to bring into the U.S. to make sure it's not prohibited.
A: How do I pack fruit for a flight?
A: Pack your fruit carefully, both for your own benefit (after all, you'd probably like it to remain edible) and for that of your luggage. Not only will you keep your stuff free of sticky juice, but any TSA agents who inspect your bag will thank you.
Wash and thoroughly dry all fruit first. Wet fruit may mold quickly once it's closed in a container. Pack fruit in hard plastic, collapsible food containers. When you're done with the fruit, you can pack the containers with more fresh food or collapse them so they take up minimal space in your luggage.