There’s no place like home, especially for the holidays. But first, you'll need to get there.
You probably already booked your tickets months in advance and have all your gifts planned out(ish).
Now all you need to do is get yourself and the gifts to where you’re going.
Here’s a few tips on what you can expect at the airport and what you should be prepared for when your holiday trip finally starts.
Carry-ons should have enough room for your essentials, so pack light and you should be able to fit everything (and the gifts!) in there. Check the carry-on size requirements beforehand on your airline’s official website, since they may vary from airline to airline.
Make sure that your carry-on doesn’t weight more than it should, that it isn’t ‘just a little’ over the size limit and doesn’t contain any prohibited items. Any of these will have the gate and TSA agents checking your bags, causing you and other fellow passengers unnecessary delays.
The only serious problem you’ll face is liquids. According to TSA rules, you can pack liquids and gels in 3.4-ounce or smaller containers, packed within a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. If you want to bring more, you’ll have to expand to checked luggage.
If you can fit everything in one neat carry-on bag you can skip the baggage check-in lines (and avoid additional baggage fees too!).
A carry-on will also ensure that you don’t have to deal with lost luggage, something that becomes a regular occurrence during the holiday travels.
Stick to hard-shell suitcases
Transit can be rough, both on checked baggage and carry-ons. We’ve all seen how suitcases are handled, so if you’re transporting fragile gifts, make sure to provide some protection from the bumps and bruises of travel.
Protect your presents
Checked baggage is usually handled roughly, so make sure to use plenty of padding around your presents. The easiest way is to wrap them in the clothes you packed and to make sure that they can’t move around when your suitcase is put upside-down.
Keep your essentials and precious gifts with you
Medication, precious or fragile gifts should always be kept in your carry-on. Be prepared for unexpected delays and lost luggage and make sure nothing essential or breakable gets packed out of immediate reach.
Food and beverage do’s and don’ts
As far as TSA is concerned, your grandmother’s signature homemade jam is a gel and falls under the liquids rule we mentioned above.
If the food you packed is solid (e.g. Christmas cookies and pies or other delicious holiday treats), you can bring it with you onboard the plane.
If the food you packed can be spread on a piece of bread or poured out of its container, it falls under the TSA 3-1-1 liquids bag rule.
If you’re not sure about any of the items you want to pack, visit tsa.gov or download the free myTSA app, and click on “What can I bring?”. Type in your item and check if it can be packed in a carry-on bag, checked bag, or neither.
Don’t gift-wrap the gifts
If you’re flying with your presents, don’t gift wrap them, even if they’re travelling in your checked luggage. There’s a strong chance you or the TSA will have to unwrap them for inspection. Pack some wrapping paper along with your gifts or use gift bags – this way presents can be easily checked and then gift-wrapped when you land.
Flying gifts in check baggage
Checked baggage usually comes with extra fees, which can vary depending on the airline. Generally speaking, checked luggage can weigh up to 50 pounds (25 kilos) and will cost you about 50$ for a round trip. The downside is that you will have to check this luggage in at the airport check-in, then wait for it at your destination, hoping that it didn’t get lost or sent to the wrong destination. Not to mention getting it to the airport along with your carry-on in the first place. If at all possible, we would recommend avoiding checked luggage, if you only plan to use it for gifts.
Ship your gifts
One way to avoid the airport lines is to ship your presents with a courier service ahead of time. Your gifts will be delivered straight to the door, with no extra hassle for you. This comes in especially handy when your gift is on the TSA’s list of no-no’s. Chose a service that provides a tracking number and some insurance in case your presents are lost in transit. The cost of shipping your presents should be comparable or just a bit more than sending them with checked luggage.
Buy online and send direct
Buy your gifts online and have them sent directly to your destination. Why not have Amazon deliver your presents, already gift-wrapped? Most online shops will offer some sort of gift packaging during the holidays, so you don’t even have to worry about the wrapping. Buying online and shipping to your destination is especially handy if you’re flying international since every country has their own rules and regulations about what you can pack in your luggage.
While gift cards are not as flashy or impressive as a nicely wrapped box, they are one of the best gifts you can give. A gift card to their favourite store is a thoughtful gift which will take zero space in your luggage and will require no special gift wrapping.
Bring an empty bag for your gifts
You’ll not only be giving gifts, you’ll be receiving them too! Pack an extra duffel bag or light backpack to bring your gifts back home. Some airlines allow you to take one checked bag along with your carry-on, so you could even get everything back home without any extra cost. Just make sure to pack your precious gifts in the sturdier bag and put your clothes in the other one (clothes are generally more forgiving when it comes to rough travel).
When something goes wrong (and it will), remain calm and remember to be kind. Airport and airline employees are incredibly stressed during the holidays and losing your temper will make them even less inclined to help you. Try phoning the airline instead of standing in line by the counter, sometimes that can get your problem resolved faster.
If you’re flying with gifts, a good rule to remember is that size doesn’t matter, it’s the thought that counts. Small gifts can speak volumes too!