The Surprising Holiday Items You Can and Can’t Take on a Flight

Christmas trees are a go, but you might want to leave your mistletoe at home.

A snow-globe and a Christmas tree
Photo: Hachephotography, Tom Merton / Getty Images

Traveling during the holidays can mean transporting lots of goodies with you on your flight, from gifts for friends and family to souvenirs from your Christmas getaway.

While some items like wrapped gifts and even ice skates are allowed on flights, others are prohibited. To make your travels a little less stressful this holiday season, we’ve rounded up the holiday items you might not realize are either allowed or banned on your next flight, whether you're thinking about bringing a Christmas turkey or a Christmas tree.

Ice Skates: Allowed

Looking to hit up some ice-skating rinks for the holidays? Well you're in luck because the TSA allows you to carry ice skates both in your checked and carry on bags. If you’re planning to pack your skates in your carry-on, the TSA recommends keeping your bag as clutter free as possible and separating the skates from other items when going through the X-ray belt to avoid additional screening.

Knitting Needles: Allowed

If you've been making a cozy knit sweater or accessory to give to a loved one this holiday season, you can continue working on it during your flight as the TSA also allows you to carry knitting needles in your carry on.

For other knitting needs, scissors smaller than 4 inches are allowed in your carry on bag, but circular thread cutters or any thread cutters with a blade will need to be packed in your checked bag.

Getty Images/Daniel MacDonald

Christmas Lights: Allowed

Whether you saw a set of ornately decorated Christmas lights while shopping at a local holiday market on your trip or wanted to pick up some last-minute lights, you’re allowed to bring them back with you both in your carry-on and checked bags.

Christmas Turkeys and Hams: Allowed

Wondering if you can take a turkey with you on a flight? The TSA issued recent guidelines on what you can and can’t bring this holiday season. Solid food items like turkeys, hams, cakes, pies, and cookies, are all allowed in your carry-on bag.

Christmas Trees: Allowed

Some airlines will allow you to bring cut down Christmas trees on flights. “Who are we to turn away holiday spirit,” Delta states on its website about the item, which the airline accepts as limited release baggage.

christmas tree
Getty Images/Artyom Chuguevsky/EyeEm

Trees traveling with Delta will need to be packaged with all branches wrapped and secured with a burlap material, the airline says, while trees heading to Hawaii must be included on travelers’ declarations and pass agricultural inspection.

Air Berlin, another airline that lets you fly with a Christmas tree, is allowing people traveling in December to bring a tree on any flight within the airline’s international network, free of charge. To take advantage of the offer, trees cannot be longer than two meters (about 6 feet) and need be registered up to 48 hours in advance so they can be checked in as oversized baggage, the airline says.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection also has regulations when it comes to Christmas trees entering America. Trees must have at least five needles in a cluster to show that they are healthy, and must come from either Mexico or Canada since trees in these areas are native to North America.

Wrapped Gifts: Allowed but not Recommended

You are allowed to wrap gifts and bring them on flights, though the TSA recommends arriving to the airport without pre-wrapped gifts.

The reason for this: if something in the package triggers the alarm and representatives can’t tell what’s inside the wrapped item through an X-ray machine, they’ll need to unwrap it and see what’s inside. TSA officials also recommend using gift bags to make re-wrapping easier if the items need to be screened further.

Boughs, Wreaths, and Garlands: Allowed With Specific Restrictions

Boughs, wreaths, and garlands are allowed through U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but under specific conditions. They’ll need at least five needles in a cluster (a sign that they are healthy), while those with only two or three needles in a cluster will be prohibited from entry.

christmas garland
Getty Images

Chestnuts: Allowed With Specific Restrictions

If you’re planning to travel back into the U.S. with chestnuts, U.S. Customs and Border Protection allows in any nuts that have been boiled, cooked, ground, oven dried, pureed roasted, or steamed. If you’re trying to bring in raw chestnuts, however, they would need to have their husks removed.

Chestnuts harvested in Canada or Mexico will be inspected and released by officials who will be checking to make sure they don’t contain any pests, while you'll need to inquire about a permit for nuts harvested in any other country.

Candles: Allowed With Specific Restrictions

Where you can store the candles you plan to bring with you on your travels will depend on what type they are. While wax candles can be stored in both a checked bag or a carry on, gel candles must be put in a checked bag because of the TSA's rules regarding gels and aerosols.

Christmas Crackers: Banned

Christmas crackers are a traditional holiday item in places like the U.K. and Canada. The wrapped and decorated cardboard cylinders usually have a joke or riddle and a small gift or novelty item inside of them and are typically enjoyed around a holiday meal.

Some airlines like Emirates, KLM, American Airlines, and Singapore Airlines have completely banned passengers from bringing crackers onboard due to fire safety concerns, while airlines like Aer Lingus will accept crackers onboard as long as they’re sealed in their original packaging.

christmas crackers
Getty Images/Dan Brownsword

Pinecones: Banned in Some Destinations

Some countries prohibit travelers from bringing pinecones through customs, including New Zealand and Australia, because of concerns about transporting pests.

Travelers entering the U.S. can bring pine cones, which will be subject to inspection and released. One exception: pine cones arriving from India are prohibited from entry.

Snow Globes: Banned With Certain Sizes

Snow globes are allowed on flights, but in order to bring them via your carry on, you’ll need to make sure they follow the TSA’s rules regarding liquids.

That’s why the TSA recommends packing snow globes in a checked bag unless its liquid content is 3.4 ounces or less. If you’re wondering how to size up your snow globe, 3.4 ounces or smaller would be about the size of a tennis ball, according to TSA agents.

Mistletoe: Banned if They Have Berries

If you’re heading back into the U.S., you can only bring mistletoe without berries through customs. Mistletoe is considered a parasitic plant, meaning it feeds off of other plants for its nutrition, which is why there are stricter regulations when it comes to where they can come from.

Mistletoe from Canada that has no berries will be inspected and allowed through unless there’s signs of damage since mistletoe from the country is native to North America. Mistletoe coming from any other country will be held until a botanist from a local plant inspection station can take a look.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles