Dear Heloise: I love to collect seashells when I’m on vacation. I was wondering if I’m allowed to bring home seashells from foreign beaches. Are there any laws preventing this? — Susan in Florida
Susan, yes you can, but there are some guidelines. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, seashells are usually allowed, but here are a few stipulations:
They must not contain any creature, sand, soil, etc; they cannot be from an endangered or threatened species; you can only bring home a small amount for personal use.
Here is a hint for cleaning seashells: After your treasure hunt, fill the tub in your hotel room with hot water and some shampoo. Let the seashells soak for a while, then use a cloth or hairbrush to scrub away any sand or dirt, then rinse thoroughly.
When you’re heading back home, remember that your find must be declared at customs when entering the United States. Also, don’t assume items purchased in a foreign shop will be allowed in the U.S. Check with authorities at your destination to learn about regulations.
Use your hotel laundry bag to put the seashells in before they go into your carry-on bag or luggage. — Heloise
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Heloise, P.O. Box 795001,San Antonio, TX 78279-5001
Dear Readers: Travel scams are numerous, but here are some hints from AARP to help keep you safe from the most prevalent scams:
Do book on the official website of a hotel or airline.
Don’t book on a site that doesn’t have “https://” in front of its web address. If the “s” is missing, avoid that site.
Do ask for or look up their policies if you need to cancel or modify your reservations.
Don’t pay for travel expenses with a debit card. A credit card will usually offer better fraud protection.
Do call the airlines and hotel to confirm all arrangements after booking your trip online. If they can’t find any reservations in your name, it may signal a serious problem that needs to be resolved before you travel anywhere. — Heloise
NO RIPS, PLEASE
Dear Heloise: I volunteer at a woman’s shelter and have worked at other charities that take in gently worn clothing. We need clothing that is clean and free of holes, rips or tears. And in many cases, we need garments that are appropriate for job interviews, for men and women. — Kimberly in Washington
Dear Heloise: Please tell your readers that when they are at a doctor’s office and are given a prescription for a new drug they’ve never tried before, it’s OK to ask the doctor if he has any samples to try before filling your prescription. By using a free sample, the patient can avoid the cost of a drug if that drug doesn’t work for them or if they are allergic to the medication. — Karen in New York