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Tips for flying with gifts

The art of gift giving is tricky enough, but throw in holiday travel and you’ve got a Christmas conundrum. Since Rudolph isn’t offering a sled-for-hire service and the elves are spoken for, you’re on your own when it comes to flying with presents. Follow these tips and you’ll stay as jolly as Old Saint Nicholas.

Keep it simple, Santa

Before purchasing any gifts, keep your travel plans in mind. Purchase easy-to-carry items such as gift cards or cash, tickets to destinations and events, or subscriptions. If you’re ordering gifts online, consider having them shipped straight to the destination of the big reveal and wrap them upon arrival. If you prefer to shop locally, look into shipping your gifts a week or more in advance.

 

For checked bags, use hard-shell suitcases

If none of the above works for you and you must fly with a sack of goodies, stash them inside your checked luggage, the hard-sided variety if possible. If the gifts are fragile, wrap them in bubble wrap and also inside clothing. Here’s our recent report on which airlines are least likely to lose or damage your luggage.

 

Carrying on? You’ve got a lot to consider

If you’ve opted for carry-on only, we applaud you, but make sure your gifts are allowed on the plane, especially if they’re edible or drinkable. Foods that are liquid or semi-liquid must be 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less, or frozen. Check out our tips on flying with food here. (International travelers should study up on the rules about taking meat, cheese or fresh produce with you, as those are often banned, putting you at risk of getting busted by a beagle.)

 

As for the gifts themselves, toys that resemble weapons aren’t allowed, nor are baseball bats, sabers and a host of other items. And if you’re into holiday décor, know that Christmas lights are allowed on the plane, but snow globes fall under the liquid rule. Check out the full list of do’s and don’ts at www.tsa.gov or download the “MyTSA” app.

And remember, if you’re carrying on something because it’s fragile, keep it in a smaller separate bag in case you’re forced to check your carry-on, as often happens on crowded flights.

 

Before you get going, peruse our carry-on packing tips.

Check airline baggage fees and restrictions

You’re already spending enough money on gifts, so you don’t want to be charged even more by the airline if you can help it. Luggage fees have gone up over the past year. Check out the latest costs for checked bags , as well as our handy list of which airlines allow you to bring the most stuff onboard.

 

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Whatever you do, don’t wrap gifts in advance

Whether you’re checking your bags or carrying them on the plane, do not wrap your gifts all nice and pretty ahead of time. Yes, the TSA does allow wrapped presents, but if they want to inspect the item, they’ll need to tear off your lovely handiwork. That’s likelier to happen with carry-on gifts, but is also possible with checked bags. As an alternative, consider using gift bags with tissue paper or decorative pouches.

 

Keep it even simpler

Here’s an idea. Ditch the presents entirely. Isn’t spending time with your loved ones gift enough?