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Flying home for the holidays involves bringing along packages and maintaining some tidings of good cheer. Yet before you pack your bag with presents and goodies, it’s best to check your list against TSA requirements. Here are some tips from TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein on what preparations to make far (la-la-la-a) before heading to the airport.

How to get your gifts through TSA

Bag it! | Credit: Courtesy of TSA

1. Don’t wrap your gifts beforehand.
Before jetting off, hold off on giftwrapping—especially if you’re bringing the presents in your bags. If a TSA officer can’t tell what an item is through the X-ray image, it has to be pulled out of the carry-on and checked. So even if your gift has been nicely covered up in wrapping paper, it would need to be opened to see what’s inside. Instead, Farbstein recommends putting that present inside a gift bag with tissue paper or a decorated gift box that opens and closes easily.

2. Pack your bag nicely.
Put some effort into organizing carry-on items carefully. Folded items and tidied up cords of electronic devices help to make it easier for a TSA official to view what’s in your bag as it goes through the scanner—and clearing inspection. “It’s always faster to screen items if you pack neatly,” says Farbstein. Also since devices such as laptops need to be taken out and put your screening separately, it’s a time-saver.

Related: 8 great gifts for every kind of traveler.

3. With jams or jellies, the 3-1-1 rule applies.
If you want to pack that specialty spread that you found at a holiday market in your carryon, you have to make it fits with TSA’s 3-1-1 rule. Under this rule, jams, jellies and preserves are identified as liquids or gels that must be no larger than 3.4 ounces or less, and stored in a 1 quart/ clear zip-top bag. If you’re not sure if your edible is so jelly, follow Farbstein’s advice: “If you can spread it, spill it, pump it, or pour it, it’s a gel.” So even if you want to bring cranberry sauce to your destination’s table, it’s best to stick with a canned version inside your checked-in bag.

How to get your gifts through TSA

Larger snow globes are a no go. | Credit: Courtesy of TSA

4. Even snow globes have to be small.
Even this shaky bauble of joy and wonder has to be a small one. Your holiday sphere must only be up to 3.4 ounces in size and contain clear liquid. In comparison, Farbstein said these dimensions are approximately the size of a tennis ball. Plus, the entire snow globe has completely fit inside its own quart-sized, resealable bag. If it’s bigger, it has to be put inside checked baggage.

5. Box up your cake or pie
Desserts can travel, but they come with restrictions. Cakes, cupcakes, pies, and our favorite, gingerbread, are permitted as carry-on items, but they could also require additional screening (but without a fork). Baked goods can be placed in bakery style boxes or plastic “clam-shell” type containers, but make sure they’re secured to avoid potential leaks or spillage during screening.

Can't bring these, duh. | Credit: Courtesy of TSA

NOT real shot gun shells. Also not funny, duh. | Credit: Courtesy of TSA

6. Check on your toys
Whether they’re magnetic, electronic, or motorized, most toys can be transported in carry-on or checked baggage. However if they’re going on board with you, it’s recommended that you check with your specific airline to confirm that your toy will fit in an overhead in or under the seat with no problems. Toys that replicate firearms automatically have to go into checked-in. And if you’ve bought a hoverboard, one of the hottest gifts for 2015, you should check with your airline. Major carriers such as Southwest, Delta, United, American and JetBlue have banned them completely due to safety concerns over the scooters’ lithium-ion batteries catching fire. So maybe opt for that Star Wars plastic light saber instead.

7. Wrap up your holiday lights
Yes, even holiday decorations and strings of lights are permitted as check-in or carryon, but it’s best to keep the cords all wrapped up. Also note, it’s best if your lights reflect the holiday spirit in a good way. Farbstein noted that once at a security checkpoint at Newark, a passenger had a “Jingle Bells Shotgun Shells” item that was prohibited. (Yes, the item’s packaging actually said “real shotgun shells.”)

Related: All is bright – these are the best towns for Christmas.

8. Have other Q’s? Go online
Take out the guesswork about your questions by visiting TSA’s website. In its top right corner, it lists the question “When I fly can I bring my…” with a search bag where you can type in your entry. And arrive early.

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Tagged: Christmas Travel Ideas, Family time, Top 10 Lists

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Michele Herrmann

Michele Herrmann

Michele writes about women's travel, destinations, culinary, and cultural topics for various outlets and has ventured as far as Fiji, to date. She also muses her tales on She Is Going Places.

2 thoughts on “8 rules for getting your holiday gifts through airport security”

  1. Would there be a problem if i were to take magnetic toys onto the areoplane.
    I would hate to have them taken off my grandson.

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