I was on the hunt for the perfect souvenir.

Standing over a collection of gorgeous specimens, I knew just what I was looking for: something smooth and flawless. I wasn’t perusing a high-end boutique or rifling through antiques; I was staring into a bin of beautiful avocados. And for less than a dollar apiece? I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather bring home from California. (After stuffing my suitcase full, I’ll be eating them twice a day for more than a week, which is fine by me.)

You could call me a food tourist. When I travel, it’s often with a certain restaurant or dish — or more likely a list of restaurants and dishes — in mind. I think about souvenirs the same way. While I do sometimes return home with more lasting trinkets, food is what most often makes the trip.

Sometimes it’s produce — avocados from California, oranges from Florida, peaches and okra from North Carolina; anything that might be a cut above what I can get here. Sometimes it’s baked goods or other specialty items. I recently left New York with a bag full of croissants and canelés from Noglu, a favorite bakery there. They are fleeting tokens, but ones that allow me to live in that trip just a bit longer through my taste buds and memories.

Anything travelers tote in a carry-on is subject to the TSA’s rule for liquids (containers must hold 3.4 ounces or less). But if you’re traveling within the States, there are no restrictions on what kinds of food and how much you can pack into your checked luggage. (California does have a few special rules about bringing food into the state; see its Department of Food and Agriculture’s website for specifics.) And while there are restrictions on the kinds of food that may enter the U.S. from abroad, many packaged items — like my wine from France and olive oil from Italy — are fine in a checked bag. The Department of Homeland Security (cbp.gov) has a full list of what is permissible.


Amelia Rayno covers food and travel for the Star Tribune. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @AmeliaRayno.