The TSA May Unwrap Your Holiday Presents If You Don't Follow These Rules

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

There may be no place like home for the holidays, but if you're traveling by plane this month and plan to bring presents for your loved ones, it's a good idea to think ahead about how you're going 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 you run the risk of an agent undoing all your fine folding, taping, and ribbon curling to check that you don't have anything prohibited 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.

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

The TSA can, and will, unwrap your presents in your carry-on or checked luggage — and you probably won't like their re-wrapping job. 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. 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.) To be extra safe, consider going to the liquor store or the duty free when you've arrived in your destination.

If you're traveling internationally, check to make sure the items you're traveling with are permissible under customs guidelines, and no matter where you're going, jams, salsas, and other sauces larger than 3.4 ounces will probably be confiscated if you try to get them through security in your carry-on.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles