To wrap or not to wrap? Whether wrapping gifts is OK before heading through TSA security is just one of the questions you need to ask if you’re traveling with gifts during the Christmas holidays. Here we offer some tips on traveling with gifts. And, yes, sometimes wrapping is OK. Except when it’s not.
Tips for Traveling with Gifts
‘Tis the season for gift giving. And visiting family. Combining those two means you end up flying with gifts, figuring out how to hide the gifts in the car for the road trip and deciding whether wrapping the gifts at home or your destination is the right thing to do.
We polled the TravelingMom family travel experts for their tips on traveling with gifts.
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Order Online and Ship Gifts
This is a good option for traveling moms who like to buy a lot. Shop local, then just box everything up and send it ahead to the destination. Or, if you’re an online shopper, just put Grandma’s address in the “ship to” line on the form. Not only is it easier on you, it’s also a great way to keep the little ones from seeing all those wrapped gifts long before Santa could have dropped them off.
Or at least buy smaller. The less you buy, the less you have to ship or carry. It doesn’t mean you have to spend less, but it may mean you’ll spend time explaining to kids that good things come in small packages. Gift cards are a popular option, but consider giving cash instead, says my friend, Susan Beacham, a financial literacy expert. She rails against gift cards because:
a.) they are easy for kids to lose,
b.) it is tough to spend the exact amount on the card and
c.) fees can eat up the balance.
Delay Wrapping Gifts
To wrap or not to wrap? The answer depends on whether you’re driving or flying, checking bags or carrying on. Flying with gifts poses a special challenge. It can be a pain wrapping all of the gifts after you arrive, but it can save lots of hassle at the airport. If the airport security screeners can’t tell what’s inside the wrapped gift, they have every right to unwrap it. So you could end up wrapping the gift twice.
Active TravelingMom Kimberly Tate says she never wraps gifts she’s carrying onto a plane. “We just bring paper and tissue with us or use gift bags. We’ve also used hand-sewn Christmas fabric bags that tie closed so the gifts can be inspected if needed.”
Dana Zucker, one half of the Luxe TravelingMom team, wraps gifts that she ships via her checked bags. Although that doesn’t always work either. “I do not wrap anything that looks weird, like stuff with cords. We once had an item in checked bags unwrapped and re-wrapped with a note from TSA saying, “Sorry we couldn’t tell what it was in X-ray. Cool gift.”
If you want to send a gift through with your checked bag, just remember to cushion it well so whatever you’re giving doesn’t end up crushed on arrival. And be sure to check your airline’s weight restrictions and other limits on checked bags.
Celebrate Christmas early. Or late.
Storytelling TravelingMom Teronya Holmes says her family would open some presents on Christmas Eve. “We used to travel to grandparents’ homes every Christmas Day when I was growing up, so my dad came up with a solution. He would catch Santa Claus as he flew over on Christmas Eve and force him to give up his packages for us. Sometimes he had to grab Rudolph by the leg to wrestle him down! So we enjoyed opening up Christmas gifts from Santa or at least some of them on Christmas Eve, instead of Santa having to take them all to the Grands’.”
Celebrating on a day other than Christmas also is how Candid TravelingMom Patty Holliday handles things. “Ahhh— we are the worst. We are having ‘Christmas’ here on Thursday night before we start our travels. Between flying coast to coast and then driving another long segment, and my lack of plan-ahead skills, this was best we can do. So Christmas is happening here on the 15th. And when we get to my sister’s house, we will do stockings and show off all the presents we already got.”
Hide the Gifts
Our road tripping TravelingMoms are experts at hiding gifts in the car. Most use big Rubbermaid-type bins that aren’t so inviting to prying little eyes—or thieves who might spy them in a parking lot.
Solo TravelingMom Sarah Pittard uses the stow and go compartments in her Dodge Caravan to hide gifts she has to carry with her. The space is big enough to fit a kid. But, she notes, that is not a recommended use for the cargo area.
Geek TravelingMom Jana Seitzer says her mom was a master packer. “My mom used to pack all the gifts in the car and we had NO CLUE they were there. Every Christmas until we were 11, even after we knew she was Santa,” she says. “She’s a master packer. She would intermix them in the middle of other items, bags and suitcases and such.”
Give a Gift that Doesn’t Need to be Wrapped. Or Shipped.
Finally, TravelingMoms recommend giving something that doesn’t need to be wrapped or transported: the gift of travel. Dana Zucker reserves one of the eight nights of Hannukah gift giving for a travel gift. For National Parks TravelingMom Catherine Parker, the Christmas trip is the gift. “We ski, that’s the gift.”