Holiday air travel has grown considerably more complex and hectic in recent years, particularly with heightened security measures. How can holiday travelers plan appropriately for safely and conveniently transporting gifts and other seasonal items?
Here are five tips for navigating the airport security process, when flying with holiday gifts.
Don’t wrap holiday gifts for air travel.
The first rule for taking holiday gifts along for air travel is to leave items unwrapped until arrival. Whether bags are checked or carried onto airplanes, their contents must be inspected by airport security personnel. Wrapped items will likely be unwrapped or even discarded, wasting both time and the traveler’s money and perhaps leading to baggage rerouting or loss.
Smart air travelers pack flat gift wraps or gift bags and tissue papers, so they can wrap their holiday gifts after arriving at their destinations.
Mark all checked bags clearly.
Most airlines currently charge extra fees for baggage checking. However, many passengers still choose to check luggage for air travel. Checked bags are x-rayed for security purposes, so they may contain items that are not allowed in carry-ons. Lotions, jams, manicure sets, salsas, sewing notions and other potential carry-on no-no’s may be acceptable in checked bags at airports.
Of course, air travelers should never pack valuables or breakables in checked bags. Airport security staffers may cut or disable luggage locks for inspections.
Passengers who do check bags for air travel are advised to include personal identification tags (both inside and outside each bag). Smart travelers also mark their luggage with bright ribbons, decals or other décor for easy identification in the baggage claim areas at their destination airports.
Follow the 3-1-1- rule for carry-ons.
Remember the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) 3-1-1 rule for air travel? Liquids or gels in carry-on bags must not exceed 3.4 ounces, and these items must be contained within a one quart-sized clear plastic bag for each passenger. This rule applies to both personal items and holiday gifts.
Even perfumes and snow globes must adhere to the 3-1-1- rule, or they will be confiscated by security officers at air traveler checkpoints.
Of course, gifts purchased inside airports will be allowed on planes, as long as passengers buy these items after passing through security areas.
Avoid taking banned items for air travel.
Many items are simply not allowed on airplanes at all. For example, axes, box cutters, knives, razors and swords are taboo. Aerosols, torches and flammable or hazardous chemicals are prohibited for air travelers.
Archery equipment, baseball and cricket bats, golf clubs, guns (unloaded) and ammunition, hand tools, hockey and lacrosse sticks, martial arts equipment, pool cues, power tools, ski poles and small scissors are permitted only in checked bags, not in carry-ons.
Ship holiday gifts ahead, if possible.
Although Santa Claus loads up the sleigh each year with holiday gifts before take-off, today’s holiday air travelers are smart to plan even further ahead.
With countless merchants offering free shipping deals, consumers can easily send gifts directly to their destinations, greatly simplifying their trips. As a bonus, most vendor-shipped items are guaranteed against breakage or loss in transit, while parcels checked at airports (or carried aboard planes) are generally not.
Holiday travelers can have gifts shipped directly to host homes, hotels or other locations, eliminating the need to take such items along for airplane trips.
By following these five simple steps, holiday air travelers may celebrate the season with minimal stress and maximum enjoyment, arriving at their destinations with gifts intact.