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Three tips if you're traveling with gifts this year.

Sarah Begley
December 06, 2017

There may be no place like home for the holidays, but if you’re traveling by plane this month and planning to bring presents for your loved ones, it’s a good idea to think ahead about how you plan to pack them.

It may seem like you’re saving time or money by planning ahead and wrapping your presents before you pack your bags — but if an item is flagged in the screening process, TSA agents will need to unwrap it to assess whether it’s safe to fly. That means if you wrap a new Nerf gun for your niece or nephew and pack it in your checked bag (it would be prohibited in a carry-on), you run the risk of an agent undoing all your fine folding, taping, and ribbon curling to check that you don’t have an actual firearm inside. Even worse: additional screening could cause delays that would prevent it from getting through the checkpoint at all. Here’s what to know before you travel.

Related: The TSA Confiscated a 5-Year-Old's Buzz Lightyear Toy

If your present raises a red flag, the TSA will have to unwrap it.

The TSA can, and will, unwrap your presents — and you probably won’t like their re-wrapping job. Just ask these social media users who’ve shared the unfortunate surprises awaiting them inside their luggage when they arrived at their destinations:

To avoid this kind of incident, the TSA recommends sending gifts ahead by mail, or waiting to wrap them until you arrive at your destination. Or, if you must, consider putting items in a gift bag instead of wrapping them in paper. 

Check the TSA's prohibited items list.

Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean prohibited items get a pass — and there are some unexpected items on the list.

Snow globes, for instance, are permitted in your checked bag, but if you want to take one in your carry-on, make sure it appears to contain less than 3.4 ounces of liquid (about the size of a tennis ball) and fits inside your quart-sized plastic bag. English-style Christmas crackers are completely prohibited.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About TSA Approved Carry-on Luggage

You can use this tool to check if you’re uncertain about specific items. 

Be careful with liquids and foods.

You can check a bottle of wine in your luggage, but you’ll want to be extra careful to wrap it so it doesn’t break — ideally in clear bubble wrap so agents can see what it is. But even that may not safeguard you against breakages and spills; some social media users have shared photos of bottles that were unwrapped and not properly rewrapped. 

To be extra safe, the TSA recommends going to the liquor store or the duty free when you’ve arrived in your destination.

If you’re traveling internationally, leave the produce, cheese, and meat at home, and no matter where you’re going, jams, salsas, and other spreads larger than 3.4 ounces will probably be confiscated if you try to get them through security in your carry-on. 

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