TSA reminds travelers not to pre-wrap Christmas presents before packing

Gift might be opened during screening
TSA screening
Posted at 10:33 AM, Dec 15, 2020

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging Americans not to travel this holiday season, it's clear that many will choose to do so anyway.

Between Nov. 25 and Nov. 29 — the height of the Thanksgiving travel surge —the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) said it screened about 4.5 million travelers. While that represented 39% less travelers than last year, it represented the most travelers the agency had screened since the start of the pandemic.

With another surge in travel expected for Christmas and New Year's, the TSA has offered some helpful tips when it comes to packing luggage for the holiday season.

Packing gifts

  • Do not pre-wrap gifts: Gifts need to be screened like any other piece of luggage, meaning gifts need to be unwrapped if they need to be inspected. The TSA suggests wrapping once you reach your destination, or wrapping in a gift bag.
  • Be sure to pack gifts that contain large amounts liquid, like perfumes, gel candles or snow globes, in a checked bag. TSA allows containers with 3.4 ounces of liquid or less for carry-ons.
  • Snowboards, snowshoes and ice skates can be carried on, but be sure to check with airlines about a plane's overhead bin space. Skis and ski poles will need to be checked.

Packing food

  • Homemade baked goods and other treats can be carried on, but any sort of jams, jellies or syrups are liquids and should be checked if they're in a container larger than 3.4 ounces. A rule of thumb? "If you can spill it, spray it, spread it, pump it or pour it, then it should be packed in a checked bag if the container is larger than 3.4 ounces."
  • Higher-proof alcoholic beverages (between 24% and 70% alcohol by volume) are limited in check bags to five liters a passenger. Any beverage with less than 24% alcohol by volume has no size limit in a checked bag.
  • Mini bottles of alcohol can be carried on, as long as they are less than 3.4 ounces and fit "comfortably" in a single quart-sized bag.

Packing electronics

  • Electronics to be given as a gift can be carried on, but remember to place electronics larger than a laptop in their own bin with nothing above or below it.
  • TSA allows drones past checkpoints, but double-check with airlines on their policies about transporting drones.
  • Remember, loose lithium batteries are prohibited in checked bags. Click here to learn more about the FAA's policies about lithium batteries.