Travel Light and Ship Gifts Home for the Holidays

Just because you’re flying home for the holidays doesn’t mean your gifts have to go with you. Check out these money-saving strategies for shipping and packing.

Bonus: These tips can also make it easier for you to breeze through the airport – and security.

Update on Baggage Fees

Gifts You Might Want to Ship

You may be thinking, “I’m already paying for the checked bag so why pay more to ship gifts separately?” Here’s why – two categories of gifts that you probably shouldn’t take with you:

Breakables: A good rule of thumb for travelers is, if it can break it will. Sure, you can use all the bubble wrap in the world but if that’s your strategy, where will you put your clothes? And if you pack a bottle of wine in your checked-bag and it breaks, the clothes you did manage to squeeze in may not be wearable. If it’s breakable, leave it to the professionals.

10 Tips for Infrequent Flyers

Valuables: Airlines do pay for lost luggage, but they don’t cover everything inside. In fact, most specifically exclude “valuables” and according to the American Airlines website, you will not be compensated for lost valuables which include everything from “heirlooms, documents, electronics, eyeglasses, contact lenses, furs, medicines and much, much more, plus, of course, jewelry.” Why take a chance? Again, leave it to the professionals.

Shipping options: If you’ve got the time, check out ground transportation – otherwise, go to the websites of the top shippers where you can get cost estimates. It’s like shopping for airfare – if you want a cheap flight, you must compare prices – do the same for shipping.

How to Get Faster Security – And What You May Pay

Gifts You Might Want to Pack

The best gifts to pack and take with you are smaller items that can be kept on your person or in a carry-on bag. Warning: Sometime airlines have to check even carry-ons due to limited bin space on regional jets. If this happens to you, you might want to remove the gift from your bag so it can stay with you.

Security Notes: Liquids in containers larger than 3.4 ounces are not allowed through security checkpoints which means no bottles of wine or jars of jam or jelly. Also, do not wrap gifts or screeners may unwrap them for you.

The Right Bag Matters

Different bags have different advantages and it does make a difference if you’re bringing gifts with you.

Pros and Cons of Carry-on Bags: Most airlines allow carry-on bags for free (exceptions: Allegiant and Spirit) and you won’t have to waste time waiting for your luggage after the flight. However, you will not be able to pack as much.

Pros and Cons of Checked-Bags: Pack as much as you like (up to 50 pounds on most airlines but beware the steep overweight fees). However, most airlines charge a fee of up to $50 round-trip for a first checked-bag (exceptions: JetBlue and Southwest).

How to Pack Light

Whether you choose a carry-on or checked-bag, it makes sense to pack as lightly as possible – save your arm, and save cash by avoiding overweight charges.

  • Roll your clothes: Rolling up clothes instead of placing them flat saves space, avoids wrinkles
  • Wear the heavy stuff: Don the big sweater and coat and stuff pockets with small articles
  • Avoid toiletries: Save space by borrowing/buying shampoo and other items at your destination
  • Use zip bags: Place any liquids in a couple of plastic zip bags for extra protection


Published: December 13, 2012