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Packing supplements for friends

My friend, who I plan to see when I am Switzerland this July, has asked me to bring over huge bottles of Joint supplements that are difficult or impossible to get where she lives. She said she has brought over many bottles with her in the past and never had any issues. I think she has dual citizenship.

I told her I was just planning to do a carry on. As it is, my carry on will have some heavy items in it already and is probably over the weight limit and very close to the size limit. I hate to say "no" to my friend. She also wanted me to bring some tubes of lotion but we both know that can only go into checked baggage.

What do I do? Do I check a "box" and try and carry on my 1 luggage piece and personal item? Or, do I check what was going to be my carry on "luggage" and hope it does not get lost? That will mean that my personal item will be horrendously cumbersome and heavy.

What I do not understand is why can't I ship this stuff to my friend? I want to help her out but at the same time, I cannot lug around heavy baggage. Not sure how much these pills will weigh but imagine giant sized plastic bottles of horsepill-type pills. She wants at least 2 bottles. Any advice?

Thanks!

Posted by
21209 posts

Can do about whatever you want. Ship them via FedEx IF the items are legal to export to Switzerland. A couple of big bottles would add five pounds or so to your already overload luggage. OR ----

If you feel you have to bring the bottles, then I would get a small duffel bag or day bag, fill it with the pills, lotion, and perhaps some of your more bulky items - shoes ?? - etc., and check that bag. Probability of it getting lost is very low. Put her address on it so if it was delayed then it would be delivered to her address.

Posted by
31294 posts

lisa,

To begin with, it would help to have some idea what type of luggage you're planning on using for your one carry-on bag? There are undoubtedly a couple of easy solutions, but I'll have to ponder the matter for awhile.

As Frank mentioned, I assume the products that you'll be transporting are approved for use in Switzerland? If your friend has transported them before, that's likely the case but I'd still confirm that.

Posted by
238 posts

Thanks and good idea about the address/smaller bag but I do not want to cart around 3 bags and will not be seeing this friend until Day 4 of my trip. I am not changing planes...checking in once at JFK on Delta...nonstop flight to Zurich. About 4 hours from the time I check in until the flight leaves. When my sister was on Delta to Switzerland it took them 3 days to get her luggage to her but she did have a change of planes. So, that is why I am a bit wary of checking a bag. However, maybe I will have enough time and maybe it will be OK without the change of planes.

I forgot....when we arrive in Zurich do we pick up our checked bag and then go to Customs?

I really do not want to check a bag but I know my one luggage piece will be loaded since I am already bringing so many sundry try items for myself. But...hate to say no to this person and I also do not think supplements unapproved by FDA cannot be shipped to Switzerland.

Posted by
783 posts

I say ship it-Fed Ex or DHL. If it isn't prescription, there should be no reason you can't ship it. And she should pay for it. You are going through the trouble of getting it for you. I think expecting you to haul a bunch of heavy stuff with you on your trip is not reasonable. She should be understanding of that.

Seriously, what brand of lotion and supplements does she use? I feel like SHE should be able to order them online and have them shipped.

Posted by
238 posts

She said that she has taken them back in checked baggage without a problem but I think she also has duel citizenship. Not sure if that matters.

The carry on luggage I am planning to take seems very heavy to me (empty) and it is
24 X 15 X 9/10 inches if you include handles and wheels in measurements.

It is a Samsonite and the ones I have found online that look like it say it weighs 4 pounds but no way. At least 10 pounds. I do not want to buy any more luggage...I already have several pieces of luggage...either smaller than this one (too small to hold my stuff for this trip but fine for a USA trip) and then others that are way too large.

Posted by
5980 posts

Lisa mail some to her now and see if they get there. Google up "Switzerland food supplement import" and you'll find a similar question from 2009 in the TripAdvisor forum. Replies to that may be useful to you. I had similar request from relative in Australia once, for a particular herbal tea. Apparently cost was so high there that it was cheaper to buy in US and ship to her. Shipping problem was more about the quantity appearing to be for commercial purposes to customs at destination.

Posted by
238 posts

I agree, Kristen :-). But this is a friend who does have a disability. It does not prevent her from ordering things online also but the places that sell these supplements for really cheap do not ship to Switzerland. Apparently they do not sell this stuff there either. But, I will look into DHL and see if my buying it at Walmart and then shipping DHL would still save her some money.

Posted by
21209 posts

There may be a reason they do not ship to Switzerland. The dual citizenship that you keep mentioning would have nothing to do with it. My guess is if she is carrying it herself into Switzerland then she is just walking through the green door - nothing to declare when maybe she should be. You have three choices - not complicated. 1. Ship via Fedex, UPS, or another shipping service 2. Carry it in yourself via checked luggage and through the Green door - Nothing to Declare. 3. Tell her it is too inconvenient for you at this time. Simple, not worth a lot of discussion.

Posted by
31294 posts

lisa,

While shipping your friend's items via Courier is certainly one option, I'd have a couple of concerns with that.....

  1. That's likely going to be expensive, especially if the courier handles the customs brokerage at the receiving end. Either you or your friend will be stuck with the cost of shipping and brokerage.
  2. If the products are approved for use in Switzerland, your friend may be nicked with duty and import charges, which will add to the cost. If the products are not approved, the Courier will likely return the package to you (or send the contents to the bin).
  3. Shipping by mail probably wouldn't be the best option either, as the parcel could take some time to arrive and again there would be charges for shipping and duties (and insurance if you wanted to add that).

In the same situation, I'd probably make room in the wheeled luggage for your friends items and check the bag for the flight, which shouldn't be too much of a problem. If there are any items of your own that you can't fit into the wheeled luggage once your friend's items are packed, you could take them either in your carry-on bag (if there's room) or take a small foldable Duffel or Daypack (such as the Civita bag) to hold the "overflow" and take that as carry-on also. Once you've delivered the pills to your friend and once again have room in your luggage, fold the Duffel or Daypack and store it on the bottom of your wheeled luggage and it will be out of the way for the rest of the trip.

I'll ponder this a bit further......

Posted by
783 posts

Also, what airline are you flying? That seems big for a carry on. You might have to check that bag anyway.

Posted by
238 posts

Thank you all for your detailed and valuable advice. I am taking Delta JFK to Zurich on way over. Alitalia Milan to JFK on way back.

After mulling this over, and weighing my bag (minus the stuff for my friend) it is very heavy already. I do think it is best for me to stuff what was going to be my carry on luggage piece and just check it. I have a lot of room in the boarding bag that I am taking so I could fit a change of clothes and undergarments in there in case the luggage gets lost.

My plan was to bring some old clothes/undergarments (to lounge in or wear if it is very hot, sightseeing or shopping) that I had planned to discard any way so I will be throwing those out as I travel. I am more comfortable carrying a heavier bag around the train stations in Switzerland than Italy. By the time I get to Lugano, I will have lightened up my load a bit any way.

Not sure if I missed this but dumb question...it seems like when I got off the plane the last time I was in Zurich, I had to go to check in with some official, show passport, answer questions and then I picked up my baggage from baggage claim. I cannot remember what happened after baggage claim. Do we wait in line for Customs then? Do I declare the supplements and muscle rub lotion for my friend or just go to the "nothing to declare" section?

On a related note...is seeing tubes of muscle rub or big bottles of pills likely to get my bag opened and searched by the TSA who examine checked bags? I only had my bag searched once and when it was, zippers were torn and locks were broken but nothing was stolen. I would hate to buy a new suitcase in Switzerland or Italy...LOL...no cheap Walmarts there ;-).

Posted by
21209 posts

I think you always assume the worst. TSA does not break zippers and tear open bags. If they want to inspect locked luggage then they will cut off locks. That is why it is good practice to secure you luggage with ties that are easily removed. I use plastic wire ties. Second, after immigrations you claim your checked luggage and exist through customs. As has been stated many times, you go through the Green Door - Nothing to Declare. That assumes, of course, you have nothing to declare. Have no idea if the all the pills and lotions you are carrying for your friend are declarable items or not.

Posted by
5668 posts

When my daughter was an exchange student in Finland I mailed her a package containing clothes and vitamins -- package was stopped and vitamins seized. Check Swiss regulations before you pack!!

Posted by
21209 posts

George may be on to something. You need to spend some time on the Swiss Customs Administration web site so you can answer your own questions. Since I don't feel like doing all your homework, I did a quick peek. Lots of subsections and limitations. Did not see a specific reference to supplements but did see a constant reference to medication being limited to a 30 day supply AND FOR PERSONAL USE.

Posted by
238 posts

I also saw the 30 day reference and "for personal use." I did tell my friend that I saw that. I also spent a lot of time on the Customs site...downloaded a brochure. I did not see anything specific to vitamins or supplements. However, I did tell my friend that it is possible that I could bring her a 30 day supply (even though I am only staying for 10 days)

But I am also wondering...
If I check the bag and the TSA sees all those pills in big bottles in the Xray ( hear all baggage is screened) then might they definitely open my bag and go through it because they might think I am transporting drugs? Would that delay my luggage? Or get me in trouble?

Many thanks to all! :-)

Posted by
21209 posts

They might open it but I doubt that would trigger an inspection by itself. A lot of people take a many pills so I am sure they have seen big bottles of pills. They are not looking for "drug dealers" or even transporters. They are looking for bombs and other things that could hurt the airplane. Not interested in turning you over to the Feds as potential drug dealer. You do have an active imagination. I know you are trying anticipate everything that can go wrong. But relax. And no it is not going to delay your luggage. One of the reason they recommend a three hour checkin deadline is so they have plenty of time to screen luggage. I am guessing but doubt if more than a small hand full of bags are inspected per flight. You are trying to make things more complicated that should be or need be.

Posted by
3526 posts

I took an interest in this topic because I have some joint problems myself. I don't know what your friend takes, but I take nothing for those issues anymore. I did at one time, but stopped partly because they didn't help, partly because of possible drug interactions with my prescription meds and partly because I have liver issues.

You might want to pass these links on to her about joint supplements from recent Consumer Reports articles. It might affect her request for you to bring them to her.

The facts about joint supplements: http://consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2013/10/facts-about-joint-supplements/index.htm. In this article you can see a chart that indicates which products meet the quality criteria for the study and which ones have less of the key ingredients than they say they do. The Spring Valley brand from Walmart is included in the "less than they say they do" group.

Just say no to glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for knee pain: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2013/09/just-say-no-to-glucosamine-and-chondroitin-supplements-for-knee-pain/index.htm.

Better joints without surgery: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2013/01/better-joints-without-surgery/index.htm.

When trustworthy organizations like Consumer Reports, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Board of Internal Medicine are more than a little iffy about joint supplements and some other treatments, I and my knees pay close attention.

Posted by
238 posts

Thanks for the links. I am pretty sure my friend is devoted to the products she takes but I will still pass the info along if she seems to be open minded when I see her. I take a few supplements myself but not for joints yet. Not to digress too much but I found Milk Thistle to be amazing for my liver. I have taken it for over 10 years now and even when I had to take steroids for awhile and even though I drink quite a bit of wine when on vacations, so far my Liver bloodwork has been normal level/OK. I will bring Milk Thistle with me to Europe. I always have it whenever I plan to drink more than one glass of wine in a day.

Posted by
21209 posts

And you blood work would have been normal even if you had not taken milk thistle. Most supplements and herbal treatments have little to no medical research to support health claims. Most of the effect is mental. If you believe something is going to be beneficial then most likely it will be or at least cause no harm except maybe to reduce some coins in your pocket. And people who believe in the stuff will never be dissuaded by facts or reasoning. As long as does no harm.

Posted by
3526 posts

Now for a continued digression...

Thanks for the suggestion Lisa, but I'm with Frank on this one. Many people have suggested Milk Thistle and any other number of supplements or herbal remedies to me. I know they all mean well, but I take nothing that is labeled as potentially good for or harmful to the liver. If you read labels carefully, that's a lot of over-the-counter meds. And most research I read on most supplements and herbal remedies indicates that they do nothing at all or are actually harmful.

I got Hep C in 1987 from blood given to me for serious surgery for Crohn's disease. I showed up with wonky liver bloodwork in 1990. It was so close to normal that I was tested twice separated by 6 months. By the time of the 2nd test, the virus had been renamed from Non-A Non-B to Hep C and tests to detect it in the blood supply had been developed.

In 2006 I almost died due to blood loss from ruptured esophageal varices related to my liver disease. I was told by a doc at the U of WA that I needed to get on a transplant list. I was also told by him that the foremost liver expert was at the U of AZ in Tucson. He is Thomas Boyer, Director of the Liver Research Institute and co-author of Hepatology, THE textbook on liver disease. For the past 8 years I have been his patient I have had bloodwork and an ultra-sound done to look for liver cancer every six months. He called my varices a "mechanical" problem.

The minute I learned back in 1990 that I might have liver issues, alcohol disappeared from my world. I was never much of a drinker -- loved the taste, hated the effects -- so it wasn't a big sacrifice. I was told here that cutting out alcohol is probably the reason I'm still alive.

A new and very expensive Hep C killing drug should be FDA approved by the end of the year, and I hope to be able to get it. But even if the virus is killed, I will still need to be tested every six months to watch for cancer. In spite of being something of a flower child baby boomer at one time, I put my faith in medicine for situations like mine.

I don't mean to hijack this discussion, but it is an opportunity to remind people to make sure liver bloodwork is done along with their normal exam bloodwork. Hep C is much more common than you might think. This is what the CDC says about it: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/c/cfaq.htm. The major statistic to pay attention to is that it is estimated that 3.2 million people in the US have Hep C and most don't know it because they don't look or feel sick.

Posted by
3774 posts

Hi Lisa,

Just an FYI on Delta's requiremetns for carry-on suitcases. Wouldn't want you to start the trip with a bad experience at the airport. From Delta's site:

Carry-on Size Restrictions

It won’t fit. Three words you don’t want to hear when trying to board. To avoid delays and possible checked bag fees, follow these size requirements:
•Baggage may not exceed 45 linear inches (or 114 cm) in combined length, width and height, including any handles and wheels

•Baggage must fit easily in the Carry-on Baggage Check (approximately 22" x 14" x 9" or 56 x 35 x 23 cm), which is located near the check-in counters

Posted by
238 posts

Thanks, all :-). I decided to check my larger bag. Probably less stress about worrying that it will be too large. I know for sure it is not too large to check even though it is heavy for me.