If your return is at the crowded season, particularly from Europe between August 15 and October 15, you will be wise to have reserved (and paid in time), your return passage. To have done so does not prevent changing your sailing date if new plans come up in Europe.
You will also have done well to declare before the authorized customs-authorities in your port of departure before sailing, all things of great value (jewelry, seal-skin coats, etc.) you are taking with you, and get a certificate that they were not purchased abroad.
A steward will distribute United States Customs blanks a day or two before arrival in the United States. These are of two kindsfor returning residents of the United States and for all other persons. Every passenger must fill out a declaration, except that the head of a family, all living in the same place, may include all the family on one declaration. In theory, at least every last shoe-string or patch on a garment procured abroad must be declared, but in practice customs officers use more common sense than appears in the wording of the law. The filled out declaration, being signed, is turned over to the purser, who detaches coupon at bottom, which passenger retains.
All your baggage (or all that of a family filing a single declaration) being gathered together in one place on the dock (room steward’s duty to attend to this) under or near the initial of your last name, join the line passing the chief inspector’s window. When your turn finally comes, hand in your coupon, acknowledge your signature, and conduct the inspector assigned to you to your baggage, which should be opened with complete frankness.
If you are a returning resident of the United States, you may bring in free of duty $100 worth of things purchased abroad, and not for sale. Foreign market value is allowed but inspectors may question it, hence receipts or bills of sale are useful. Depreciation by wear and use are also subtractable. The $100 allowance applies to each and every member of the family, even to an infant born abroad. Do not allow misinformed inspectors to convince you to the contrary, if the extra $100 exemption is useful in saving the payment of duty. Passengers over eighteen may also (in addition to $100 exemption) bring in free of duty 300 cigarettes or fifty cigars or three pounds of tobacco. But these must be declared. The importation of alcoholic beverages, certain articles, such as aigrettes, and various plants and fruits is prohibited.
On the whole it will probably expedite matters to have all articles purchased abroad in one receptacle or on top of the rest of the baggage, although this does not assure that a doubting inspector will not examine further.
It is better to offer no tips to United States customs inspectors. It has been done, sometimes with beneficial results, but this is a case in which it is not only not blessed but against the law either to give or to receive. The $100 exemption per person having been deducted by the inspector the duty due on the rest must be paid, in United States currency, or a certified cheque (A.B.A. Cheques are certified) after which you are free to call porters, ex-pressmen, or taxicab and proceed to your destination. Baggage may be bonded through to your destination and examined there, but only in exceptional circumstances is this advisable.
Between turning in your customs declaration to the purser and following your baggage to the dock, you will be subjected to two other formalities. First, medical inspection by United States Quarantine doctors, for which you may be lined up on deck. This examination is usually a hasty visual one, since the ship’s doctor is expected to report any cases of actual illness. An American citizen cannot be excluded for disease or physical condition though he may be quarantined.
The rule requiring the possession of at least $20, applied to all foreigners entering the country, does not affect American citizens, who may step ashore even though utterly penniless.
The second formality usually takes place in the respective saloons or dining rooms of each class. In your turn your United States passport will be compared with your appearance and statements by an inspector, and if no discrepancies are found, permission to land will be given you. Should your passport have been lost or mutilated, you are likely to be held like all alien passengers (except United States residents with permit to reenter from Washington) until you can prove your citizenship.
Home again at last, it often happens that your journey in retrospect is the most delightful of all the pleasures of travel, not even excepting anticipation.