How To Travel with Your Expensive Jewelry

Traveling with Jewelry

Planning and packing for an upcoming trip can be very daunting—You don’t want to overpack, but you also want to be prepared. You’ve gone over the itinerary and searched for the best local places to visit. Maybe you travel a lot, or perhaps this is a once-in a lifetime trip abroad and you want to savor every moment. Either way, you can’t wait to get on a plane and start your explorations. As you plan your outfits, you reach for your jewelry boxes to coordinate accessories for each one. Before you throw it all in a bag and call it a day, you should know that you’re putting your precious jewelry at potential risk of being lost or stolen. When you travel, you should always take specific steps to ensure that your jewelry is safe, and that in the event it is lost or stolen, that insurance will replace the value.

If you plan on taking expensive jewelry with you, be sure to take clear photographs of each item prior to your trip. It’s entirely possible that even if you don’t lose the items, a stone may fall out or they may suffer some damage during your travels. Having a recent, dated photograph will provide you with the documentation you need to have insurance pay for the repair and replacement.

Even if you love the jewelry, think twice before taking anything with sentimental value or that can’t be easily replaced. If your jewelry is a family heirloom, it may be better to leave it at home. While you can receive an insurance payout for the value, the history and emotional attachment to the item can’t be replaced. In these instances, it may be the best choice to leave it out of your travel bag.

If you are traveling abroad and worry that customs might stop you upon return due to an item of jewelry you’re bringing in your possessions, you can pre-register the items at a CBP office or through the airline. Supply the items and their serial number along with an appraisal, and a record will be made that you own these items prior to your trip. This can help prevent confusion on your reentry if customs doesn’t believe you brought the items from the states as customs agents will have a list of jewelry items you began your travel with.

Before reading the following safety tips, consider whether you should invest in traveler’s insurance to protect your jewelry while you vacation. While it won’t necessarily keep your valuables safe from theft or loss, it could help you recover the value if something should happen.

Keeping Jewelry Safe During Travel

The most obvious safety tip is to never pack your jewelry in your checked bags. They are out of sight too long, and can be lost, damaged, or rummaged through by any number of people during that time. The risk is simply too great. While most people realize this, there are other safety tips you may not be aware of. Storing jewelry in carry-on bags is also questionable, as the airline may decide that your bag is too large and force it into checked baggage. If it’s a long flight, you may be distracted or fall asleep, leaving your bag unattended in the overhead bin for anyone to look through. The safest plan is to carry a small pouch for jewelry storage in your handbag so that you can carry your jewelry with you at all times.

While many companies sell travel jewelry pouches that are great for storing your valuables and keeping your jewelry tangle-free, be wary of purchasing anything that broadcasts its function. Just like it’s never a good idea to show a lot of cash while traveling, you don’t want to advertise that you have a bag of jewelry in your purse. Pickpockets and purse snatching does occur, so if you go this route, pick one that is discreet and try to avoid taking the bag out of your purse while you travel.

Some sites advise ill-thought out plans such as hiding your jewelry in a rolled-up clean diaper or specially made containers that are disguised as something else, like a sunblock bottle. The dangers of these methods is that they can easily become lost or thrown away by people unaware of their true function. It’s better to avoid the secret agent style methods of hiding your jewelry while traveling.

While You’re at Your Destination

If you’re planning on enjoying the beach as you vacation, several companies offer small waterproof storage designed to be worn as a necklace or clipped to your suit. Of these, the Pakpak, at around $30, is small enough to not be cumbersome yet large enough to store a few items of jewelry safely. It can be attached to your arm, waist, or worn as a necklace and is waterproof. This device would allow you to carry your items with you, rather than risk leaving them on the beach.

Now that we’ve gone over some safety tips for traveling with jewelry that you already own, there’s another aspect to vacationing that you might not have considered. If you plan on purchasing jewelry or gemstones during your travel, you should be aware of special considerations that should be taken.

How to Protect Your Jewelry in Rented Rooms

If you are staying in a hostel, you should call ahead to ensure they supply lockers for their guests. Ask where the lockers are located; ideally they should be near the front desk and not in an secluded area.

If lockers are available, bring a lock with you. Not every hostel is as secure as one would hope, and you have no way of knowing if they’ve changed the lock from the last traveler or how secure their locks are. If your lock has a key, keep it with you in your wallet or on a small chain. Use the locker any time you are leaving the room, showering, or sleeping to store your items.

If you are staying in a hotel, they may have a safe box in the room or behind the front desk for guests to use. If the safe is behind the front desk, be sure to receive a signed print out from the hotel clerk of what items you have stored in the safe and that a record is kept of each time you access your jewelry. This will provide the documentation you need to prove what jewelry you have stored there, and to protect yourself against claims that you’ve misplaced it if something ends up disappearing while in storage.

If you use a room safe, be sure to put your return ticket in the safe with your jewelry so you can’t accidently leave any of your valuables behind. Some people are wary of trusting room safes in hotels, due to the possibility of staff entering their room in their absence and a fear that someone else may know the combination to open the safe. In these instances, some travelers choose to hide their jewelry in their hotel room. If you choose to go this route, make sure you schedule a reminder on your phone for the day that you leave that you have hidden valuables. This will help ensure that you won’t forget to retrieve them before check-out.

While walking, keep the bag on the pedestrian side of the walkway and ensure that the main compartment is always closed. While it doesn’t happen often, drive-by purse snatchings from scooters have been documented, and the easiest way to avoid this is keeping your purse away from the street side of walkways and wearing a cross-body style that can’t be easily lifted from the arm.

While it’s never a good idea to store your jewelry in a pouch in your backpack, if you do decide to take this avenue, invest in one of the theft-deterrent backpacks that feature locking zippers and cut-proof straps or bottoms. You can purchase small chains that allow your backpack to be secured to a pole or other large object to prevent someone from picking it up and walking away with it.

Getting Through Customs On Your Return

If you have purchased jewelry while in another country, be sure to declare all purchases as you go through customs to return to the United States. Each country has different allowances and tax rates that depend on the item value and quantity that you declare. This applies to items purchased in duty-free shops as well, as the designation only applies on items within the country. A rule of thumb is that travelers can enjoy a duty-free exemption on items valued below $800-$1,500, depending on where you have traveled and the purpose of the purchases you are bringing back with you.

While you may not have tax accessed on your purchases, you still have to declare them. Many travelers get confused as some shops offer shipping from the store to your home.

Using this service may allow you to avoid the extra steps required to keep the jewelry safe as you continue your vacation, but it does not remove the obligation for declaring the items as you pass through customs. Even if it is not in your possession at the time, if you have made a purchase while abroad, you must declare that purchase and fill out an unaccompanied items form.

Remember that the duty-free exemptions are cumulative. It can be easy to make several purchases during a vacation and be surprised by their total when you come to customs. If you have made several purchases, be sure to arrive at the airport with enough time to process your declarations through the customs office as there may be a longer wait in addition to standard airport security wait times.

You can keep track of the receipts for all of your purchases and put them in one envelope. This will help you remember exactly what you purchased and make filling out your declarations form easier as you will have the items, where you purchased them, their descriptions, and their retail value on hand. This will also serve as documentation to customs agents if they question the listed value of an item you declare.

You can check the current tariff for items coming into the United States by using the Official Harmonized Tariff Schedule 2018 for the most recent tariff schedules. If you are accessed a tariff value, the fees can be paid at the customs office through a personal bank check, money order, traveler’s check or government check. Make sure that in your rush to reach your flight you don’t forget to receive documentation that you have declared your purchases and paid any dues you owe.

Above all else, enjoy your vacation and discovery of the special things about the areas you have chosen to visit. These tips may seem like a lot to consider, but with a little extra planning can give you peace of mind as you travel with expensive jewelry.

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