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Exploring Sanibel Island: A Shelling Paradise

During our road trip through America, we visited some amazing places. Sanibel Island, a small island just off the coast of Fort Myers on the West Coast of Florida, is definitely at the top of our list. Sanibel Island is well known for its shelling. Yes, you read that right, shelling; the act of looking for sea shells.

When you have young children, it can be great fun searching the shore for beautiful shells or trying to scoop the best ones from the surf with a little net. This was something we loved doing ourselves and we weren’t disappointed by our catch! After 4 days of shelling, the kids each had a bucket full of beautiful shells. Not just your average “North sea shells”, but a bunch of tropical ones in all kinds of shapes and colors. Lots of great, self-caught souvenirs to take back home.

Traveling with Shells: What’s Allowed?

We brought the shells along with us on our trip, until we reached Orlando. At this point, we needed to pack them for the flight back. When Floris asked if he could put his shells in his suitcase, I wasn’t too sure. Are you allowed to take shells with you back to the Netherlands? Luckily, someone told me to check the customs app, which turned out to be pretty handy!

The app tells me that it’s alright to take regular, small sized shells with you. When it comes to large, special shells however, it could be that they’re endangered and you’re not allowed to take endangered shells back with you. If you’re not sure, try searching online what type of shell you have or ask Customs your question on Facebook or Instagram. Coral is not allowed either and the app also tells me to always check if the shell really is empty. Shells and their “resident” are also not allowed back home and I can imagine the smell wouldn’t be too good either.

Souvenirs: What’s Allowed?

What else is good to know?

  • Within the EU there is free traffic of goods but there are rules about taking tobacco and liquor.
  • Outside of the EU there is no free trafficking. Luckily we stayed below the € 430 pp restriction of what you’re allowed to take with you without charge.
  • It’s not allowed to take dairy products with you to the Netherlands but there is an exception for powdered milk (baby food)
  • If you’re about to take prescription medication with you for yourself or your kids, be sure to bring a medical passport along (preferably in English). You can get this at your general practitioner.

So to answer Floris’ question: yes! Shells are allowed to be taken back home. There aren’t any large, endangered ones and none of them are inhabited. Floris is happy as can be. Together with Lotte, they rinse them all out, dry them and they are gently wrapped in kitchen paper before they are put in a plastic bag in the suitcase.

Beautiful Shells = Proud Kids

When we arrive home, the shells are allowed to be taken to school so all of the classmates can admire them. The kids wonder why none of these shells are to be found on the beach of Zandvoort. After they’ve been admired, they are taken back home and are put on display in the cupboard.

And sure enough, Floris and Lotte ask every visitor (even the delivery man) if they would like to come inside and take a look at their magnificent shell collection from the USA 😉

Would you like to know more? Here you can find everything you need to know (or in the app of course). Or download the app for your iPhone or Android device.

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This article “Souvenirs: What’s Allowed and What’s Not?” is made possible by Customs.


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