How to Fly with Gifts for the Holidays

Flying With Gifts
Flying home for the holidays is a hassle, even under the best of circumstances. The plane tickets are more expensive, the lines at the airport are longer, and you have to figure out how to get your gifts there safely, too. The following tips will help you pack your presents securely and avoid issues at the TSA security checkpoints for stress-free holiday traveling.

  • Pack your gifts in a hard shell suitcase

    A hard shell suitcase is a better option than a soft bag or suitcase for presents. Inevitably, gifts will get jostled in checked luggage. Packing them in a hard-sided bag minimizes the risk of damage.

  • Don’t wrap presents before you fly

    TSA does allow wrapped presents in both carry-on and checked luggage. However, TSA may decide to open gifts during a security inspection. In many instances, they don’t re-wrap presents or they re-wrap them poorly. Whenever possible, wait to wrap presents until you arrive at your final destination. If you’re tight on time or unsure if wrapping supplies will be available at your destination, pack them.

  • Review the TSA guidelines for checked and carry-on baggage, and plan accordingly

    Liquids exceeding 3.4 ounces (i.e. wine, perfume), semi-liquid foods (jams), toys that look like weapons, items that can be used as weapons (i.e. baseball bats), large sporting equipment, and weapons aren’t allowed in carry-on luggage. Certain food items, such as pies and cakes, are allowed as stand-alone carry-on items. Be prepared to stow them under your seat or keep them on your lap. For further information about checked and carry-on luggage, consult TSA’s list of prohibited items prior to flying.

  • Wrap fragile presents in bubble wrap, and cushion them among softer items

    Protect all fragile gift items with a thick layer of bubble wrap. Then place these items among softer items, such as clothing, to minimize the risk that they’ll bump against hard surfaces and get damaged.

  • Have large gifts shipped directly

    Typically, it isn’t worth the hassle of hauling large gift items with you during flight travel. You won’t have the same surprise element with your presents when then boxes are waiting for you. However, it’s not possible to conceal them completely when you’re flying either, so it’s better to save yourself the trouble. Most retailers are able to ship gifts for a much lower cost than checking them on an airplane. Warn your family of any packages arriving, so they don’t open them before the big day.

  • Pack valuable and fragile presents in carry-on luggage

    Plan to keep all valuable and fragile gift items in carry-on luggage to reduce the risk of theft and damage. Ideally, pack these presents in a carry-on bag that fits under the seat in front of you, so you’re able to keep an eye on it at all times. However, depending on the nature of the gifts and the other luggage you’re bringing, it may be easier to pack these items in an overhead carry-on bag.

  • Be prepared to gate check your carry-on luggage

    With that being said, with the holiday season being a busy time for flight travel, overhead compartments often fill up quickly. If you’re planning to pack valuable or fragile gifts in carry-on luggage, be ready to move them into a personal bag that you’ll keep by your feet. You don’t want gifts to get lost, stolen, or damaged just because you ended up on a full flight or a tiny plane with limited overhead baggage space.

  • Ensure you have adequate luggage space for your return trip with new presents

    Theoretically, you’ll have enough room for your new presents in your luggage because you won’t be flying back with the gifts you’re bringing. However, if you’re expecting large gifts or are planning to bring back other bulky items from home, think about flying with an empty duffel bag or another luggage piece that’s easy to store in your existing luggage. It’s cheaper to check one more bag than get charged for oversize luggage or pay to ship gifts. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to store fragile or valuable items in a checked duffel bag.

When you’re unsure of how to package a gift in your luggage, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Invest in a new hard shell suitcase and pick up a couple of rolls of bubble wrap, so you have a peace of mind about your presents.