Holiday Travel Tips: What to Pack, What Not to Pack

You’re all set for your Christmas or New Year’s flight, but wait – do you know all the latest security rules? You’ll find them here along with tips for military, families and passengers with medical conditions. Save time and trouble, read this before you fly.

Listen: Travel guru Rick Seaney has more tips up his sleeve:

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Wrapped gifts

You may be surprised to learn wrapped gifts are technically OK to go through security. However, if anything inside must be inspected – and this depends on what the security officers see in the X-ray – it may have to be unwrapped. This will slow down the line and will probably destroy that elaborate bow you worked so hard on. Leave gifts unwrapped or ship them ahead.

Wine and other beverages

You can carry as much wine as you want in a checked-bag, but only 3.4 ounces in a carry-on. Since that’s barely enough to determine whether your vintage is smoky or oaky, ship it ahead or place the bottles in a big suitcase – very carefully!

Treats and edible goodies

Acceptable: As noted on the TSA website, “Cakes, pies, bread, donuts or turkeys” are among the items allowed through checkpoints (though it’s hard to picture someone lugging a turkey past security).

Not acceptable: Also from the TSA site, “Cranberry sauce, creamy dips and spreads including cheese, peanut butter, etc. as well as gift baskets with liquid or gel food items such as salsa, jams and salad dressings, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, sauces, soups.” Put these in a checked bag (and if you’re smart, you’ll put them in a zip bag first).

How to pack absolutely everything in a carry-on

Snow globes

Not so long ago, these decorative souvenir items were forbidden. Now, small ones are allowed if they “appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces, approximately tennis-ball size” and if the globe can fit in your one allotted quart-sized zip bag along with the rest of your liquids/toiletries. Otherwise, into the checked-bag it goes.

Miscellaneous personal items

  • Gel inserts: These comfy shoe inserts are now allowed in carry-ons
  • Stick deodorant: This is OK no matter how big but aerosols, liquids or gels must be 3.4 ounces or less.
  • Razors: Electric and disposable, no problem. Razor blades, straight razors and safety razors are no-go in carry-ons.
  • Dry ice: Surprisingly, security has no problem with dry ice, either in a carry-on or checked-bag. However, there is a limit of five pounds and a few other restrictions.

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Passengers with disabilities, medical conditions

Check the TSA Cares site. Tip: Call the toll free helpline at 855-787-2227 at least 72 hours before you head to the airport so you can ask questions about screening procedures.

Military personnel

The TSA has tips and programs for those in uniform including help for those who’ve been wounded or disabled plus practical packing advice for all.

How to get faster security

Learn how to go through security more quickly and with less hassle thanks to PreCheck. How to sign up here. Note: Children 12 and under plus travelers 75 and older are already exempt from rules such as shoe removal.


Published: December 5, 2013