TRAVEL AND CIGARS
I thought to myself: Is this topic too narrow to write about?
… and three nanoseconds later I stood in front of the proverbial mountain of issues… Why in the world of people is this topic so complicated? …after all, taking a few cigars on a trip, or find them at our destination should not be a big deal? Then I remembered: Cigar smoking as enjoyable as it is, has been made unnecessarily complicated by people and politics!
I am writing from the point of view of the average American Cigar Smoker traveling, both in the United States and abroad. We are subject to laws, international politics and the sometimes ugly and unfathomable face of U.S. political correctness. All becomes exasperated while traveling. There is also a form of stranger danger out there: The line between thumbs up and thumbs down for cigar smokers being hap hazard and unpredictable as we encounter strangers who are not yet friends.
Most Journeys start in the car, and rarely are we lucky enough to avoid cars. Cars and cigars are generally a bad combination:
The obvious first: Don’t leave your cigars in the car while it is parked. Especially in bright sunshine, in the dog days of Summer, when cars get very hot, very fast, and your cigars will fry and bake and dry out quickly. Air Conditioning only helps while the car is running. It takes only a few minutes parked with the engine and AC off in the sun that your car’s interior temperature will rise above a steamy 100 degrees Fahrenheit. While driving with AC the temperature may be all right, but the active AC also removes humidity and thus tends to dry out the air to a point too dry for cigars. Driving in the cold of winter may appear less harmful until you consider the huge temperature changes and the extreme dryness associated with the extreme cold. Conversely, frozen cigars that are thawed too quickly can easily turn into a wet mess.
If you must keep cigars in the car no matter what climate, you are well advised using a good sized well-insulated cooler. Inside that fit a humidified cigar travel case or at least a hygrometer and humidification device. There is no need to add ice or cold bars to the cooler, or have an electronically chilling cooler. It is simply the insulation that will help buffer the extremes in temperature fluctuations, and the typical plastic coolers are very effective for this, especially within one day. A travel humidor inside the cooler or a hydration device on its own will then buffer humidity. For a few days, you can thus manage both temperature and humidity as well as protecting your cigars from jostling about. At your destination, it is not a good idea to leave the cooler in the car for days, though at moderate temperatures this should be ok.
Oh, something else … please, don’t ever leave a butane lighter, especially a cheap plastic one, or a butane canister in full sun exposure in a hot car. An acquaintance of mine lost his Corvette to a flaming inferno that way.
Motorcycles have cargo space issues, but bikers somehow appear to do well by their cigars which they invariably retrieve in good condition to smoke while waiting out a rainstorm deluge under an overpass. Here a pocket case is arguably a good investment especially when kept inside a Ziploc bag.
Next, comes air travel, because American train travel is generally a rare treat.
The overly dry cabin is not a big problem, but commercial jet travel will have you, your cigars, and accessories challenged in a morass of regulations. For example, you may be OK with the fact that no-one smokes on board in the plane’s cabin anymore. However, did you know that Airlines and the Transportation Security Administration don’t look kindly on a fuel-filled lighter, lighter fuel, or cutters? Well, apparently all three can potentially bring down an airliner, or so they have learned. Butane fuel ignites easily and is potentially explosive and is, therefore, a substance not allowed to be carried in an airplane with the exception of one regular flame lighter in your pocket or hand-luggage, and not in the cargo hold. Any other lighters must be purged empty and must be carried in a special airline approved air tight box. Ergo leave your fancy jet lighter at home because for air travel it’s trumped by the ubiquitous Bic. Otherwise plan to purge your jet lighter and carry it in an approved container, and find some good soul at your destination to help you refill it. More official information: FAA/TSA/HAZMAT info media Passenger Lighter Faq .
Needless to say, lighters that look like guns, and cutters that are effectively knives or can do double duty as box cutters are very likely to be confiscated.
The Case for your Lighter? There is actually such a thing that allows a lighter to be carried in your luggage,… made of some extra strong airtight polycarbonate material approved by the Airlines to hold a lighter while on a plane. See the Colibri Tranzpac… Cool, and not cheap, it sells for between $59 and $99 not cheap. But there is a confusing “but…” Torch lighters (the typical preferred Cigar lighters with the blue flame jet torches) are not allowed by official TSA rules unless they are completely purged empty and empty and still only one locked securely in such a lighter travel case. If a lighter is too big to fit into an approved lighter case, it does not travel. Please consider that a TSA agent who lets you through, without considering these precautions does risk his/her job, so arguing will usually not help. Your best bet is to air travel with a disposable or soft flame lighter in your hand luggage, precut one or two cigars and carry the cutter in your regular luggage.
That is also the reason why pre-filled lighters can only be shipped by road and boat but not air. Fuel canisters can only be shipped in specially marked boxes by road transport only!
While we all wonder about, and then tend to ridicule these regulations, and may remember someone’s story who always gets through with his lighter, these rules are actually law. So the wise airline traveller never takes his/her most valuable lighter.
When you travel abroad you open yourself up to many new taste experiences often at the price that your comfort home taste experience may not be available. This is true for food, drink, and cigars, and is best accepted as part of the adventure of travel in far lands. So if you value a specific brand/size/blend from home, check if they are available at your destination or plan to take a box. But beware, many countries tax tobacco products much higher than the United States, and to encourage local trade they restrict what you can bring in. For example, in Europe you may be limited to only one or two boxes of cigars entering the EU. Therefore if you choose to bring more than is permitted, you rsik for your stash to be confiscated quite legally without much ado. So it is worth your while to check what cigars are available on arrival. Alternatively embrace the opportunity to find and try cigars you can’t get in the USA.
While you can’t legally purchase Cuban Cigars from anyTobacconist in the U.S.A., International Air travel brings you easy access to Cuban Cigars in most other parts of the world. While abroad you may smoke all the Cubans your host country and wallet permits. In fact in many places in the world cigars are often predominantly Cuban. While some brands may look familiar to ones you smoked in the States they are often entirely different products by completely unrelated Makers. You cannot expect to find your U.S. home brand in another country, but you will be surprised at what is available.
Homewards, (U.S,) bound travelers could always bring cigars home from other countries to the U.S. but since 1969 to 2016 not Cuban made cigars. Meanwhile inbound travellers, may bring in $100 worth of cigars from abroad for personal use and not for resale, including Cuban Mades. That is the limit for Cubans, and for other cigars from other countries you still have to pay customs duty. However, beware, if a customs officer deems that you have exceeded the legal limit they have the right, and may take away your entire stash.
Travel by Sea, Especially a Cruise is remarkably good for your cigars, unless the cruise ship company’s rules on smoking cigars become prohibitive. There is some science involved: Salt in Sea water has the specialized property of working to stabilize humidity at around 72%. Of course, the sea does this slowly, and can’t overcome heavy humidity in moist winds that reached a ship through rain storms. However keeping your cigars in a dry box, like a Herf-a-Dor and you should be all right. In fact, cigars were originally designed to travel by slow boat, and age and mature in the process.
In any case, all that hubbub about traveling with cigars does not eclipse the pleasure of a fine cigar in a fine place, on a great adventure.
We’d like to hear from you if you have a travel story or anecdote to share involving cigars.