Flying Home With a Suitcase Full of Wrapped Gifts? Here's How to Keep Them Safe

...and out of TSA's hands

Holiday gifts suitcase

Viktoriya Telminova / Getty Images

It may seem like the ultimate holiday travel hack: wrap all of your presents before you head to the airport, unpack them as soon as you land, and casually slide your ready-to-go gifts under the tree as you walk through the door to your family's house. Done!

Except... not so much. That's because, as any traveler who has ever been stuck in an airport security line knows, not all items are created equal in the eyes of TSA. One slight miscalculation, and you can run the risk of a gate agent undoing all of that beautiful folding, taping, and curling to confirm that you're not trying to sneak anything prohibited across state (or international) lines. And in a worst-case scenario, that additional time spent examining your wrapped gifts could cause delays that would prevent it from getting on the plane at all.

If you're really committed to flying with wrapped gifts this holiday season, these helpful tips will ensure they successfully make the trip home. Because if Santa can do it, why can't you?

Make Sure Your Gift Will Be Allowed on the Plane

Grandma Ruth may love a bottle of sherry, but unfortunately for her, the TSA's rules for liquids mean that you won't bring it home in a carry-on. The same goes for those cute artisanal jams you hoped to bring home for your brother's new wife (she's recently started getting into canning). Forget about wrapping any condiments unless you're planning to check them—foods that are liquid or semi-liquid must be 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less to travel in your carry-on bag safely. For those traveling internationally, carrying meats, cheeses, and produce across certain borders may not be allowed, so check with the Department of Agriculture at your chosen destination.

That Gift May Cost You Extra

Even if all your gifts fit inside your carry-on, some airlines have strict weight cut-offs for luggage that could force you to check your bag anyway. It's time to evaluate the extra price tag that may come along with checking a bag. Are you flying a low-cost airline? You will almost certainly be asked to check your bag and pay a fee. Unless you have status on any of the larger domestic airlines, checking a bag will cost you—and it's up to you to decide whether that fee is worth it (helpful hint: if the fee costs more than the gift, it's not). If you're flying internationally on a non-basic economy ticket, you will most likely be allotted one free checked bag. And then you're finished—your bag is in the airline's hands. Just close your eyes, relax, and try to ignore the slow, creeping dread of wondering whether or not that bag actually made it on the plane.

Do You Really Have to Pack That?

We all agree it's nice to bring a festively wrapped present home—who doesn't love untying a big, floppy bow? But sometimes, the easiest, most stress-reducing solutions are right before you. Just think of how much stress you would save yourself by purchasing a gift card, a subscription, or even tickets for an experiential gift, like travel or a concert. If you're buying your gifts online, consider having them shipped straight to your destination, then wrap them once you arrive. Some online retailers even offer wrapping services with shipping, just in case you're too nervous that your big surprise might be spoiled. Sometimes you deserve a break—it is the holiday season, after all.