Visiting family and friends often means transporting gifts, especially if you’re traveling for the holidays. Your first instinct might be to save time at your destination by wrapping gifts before you travel. While many wrapped gifts make it through security with no problems, TSA agents may choose to inspect wrapped items, destroying your beautiful wrapping job in the process. Here’s some advice on how to pack a gift with wrapping paper for travel — including some TSA-friendly ways to pack gifts.
Taking Gifts Through TSA
Taking wrapped gifts through TSA checkpoints is always a gamble, as security officers prefer to see what you’re transporting. Having to unwrap a present takes up their time and extends your wait in the security line.
Generally speaking, the best way to pack gifts for travel is to pack them in checked luggage. Agents may inspect and open wrapped packages, but the chance is lower than if you bring wrapped gifts in your carry-on.
If your gifts include food, check out our guide to what types of food you can bring on an airplane. Most foodstuffs are permitted, although liquid and semi-liquid food amounts are subject to the same 3.4-ounce limitation as other liquids unless frozen. International travelers may have restrictions on the types of food to bring in and out of countries, as are people traveling to the US mainland from Hawaii or US territories such as Guam and Puerto Rico.
All gifts must meet the TSA’s guidelines for what can or cannot be packed in carry-on and checked luggage. For instance, baseball bats, toy weapons, or anything which could be used as a weapon are prohibited in carry-on luggage. Check TSA’s What Can I Bring List to determine if your gift can be packed in carry-on or checked.
How to Pack a Gift
To avoid damage during transit, pack gifts as securely as possible. Pack the bottom of your bag with soft clothing such as sweaters and pajamas, then pack gifts snugly in the center of your bag. Add your remaining clothing to fill gaps between gifts (socks and underwear work well as fillers for small spaces), and pack your remaining clothing on top of your gifts. If your bag has interior straps, use them to keep your packed items secure.
If packing fragile items, consider using a hard-side suitcase for extra protection. A TSA-approved lock helps prevent damage to the bag if a TSA agent needs to inspect your gifts.
How to Pack a Wrapped Gift (and When Not to)
The TSA does allow you to travel with wrapped gifts, but the gift will be unwrapped if an agent needs to inspect it. During peak holiday travel times, be mindful that the agent won’t rewrap presents and certainly won’t do as excellent a wrapping job as you did.
That said, you have a few options for traveling with wrapped gifts. The first and most expensive option is to mail the gifts to your destination, so they avoid airport security altogether. Another option is to pack your presents, but wrap them after your journey. While you’ll lose a little time at your destination, you won’t experience delays in the TSA line.
Another alternative is to pack gifts in gift bags, which agents can easily access. Bring along some tissue paper to add to the bag at your destination or to add extra protection to the gift once you’re through security. Travel insurance offers added protection for expensive, fragile gifts.
How to Pack Wrapping Paper
If you choose to wrap your gifts when you reach your destination, you will need wrapping paper. If you’ve got the time and energy to hit the stores for wrapping paper after your trip, great!
Knowing how to pack wrapping paper protects it from damage during your flight. A wrapping paper roll is hollow and easily crushed in your suitcase, so avoid tossing the roll unprotected. Instead, cut the wrapping paper to the size you need for your gifts. Write the name of each gift on the inside of the paper. Cut two pieces of cardboard to an appropriate size, lay your pre-cut gift wrap on one, cover the wrap with the second piece of cardboard, and tape the two pieces together. Pack the cardboard in your bag snugly, and your wrapping paper will be ready when you unpack your suitcase!
Need gifts for frequent fliers? Check out our selection of the best travelers’ gifts.