Traveling long distances with gifts is often a challenge, but that difficulty can be doubled when it comes to bringing gifts with you during air travel. In addition to the troubles of having to deal with gifts that might be breakable or oddly-shaped, airport security measures don't mesh well with wrapping up a present to keep it secret. With careful planning and packing, however, you can make holiday travel easy and get your gifts safely to your loved ones, whether they be gift cards or snow globes.
Use a hard shell suitcase, if possible. As checked bags are tossed about in transit, they often come into hard contact with hard surfaces or other bags. Soft or semi-hard suitcases do not usually provide proper protection of fragile gifts or delicate gift wrapping.
Re-wrap the package as if you were going to ship it. After gift-wrapping the package, place it in a larger box filled with packing peanuts. This will protect both the gift itself and the wrapping, making it ready to be taken out and unwrapped by the recipient immediately upon your arrival.
Surround the package with soft goods in your suitcase. Put a layer of clothing beneath the package and above it within the suitcase.
Pack gift wrapping along with the gift. Your package will probably travel undisturbed in a checked suitcase, but if your luggage is selected to be searched by airport security, they may have to open the package, in which case, you'll need to re-wrap upon arrival.
Plan your carry-on luggage accordingly during the holiday season. You can carry on one piece of luggage and one personal item (such as a purse or briefcase). Pack lightly so that you can either carry the gift on its own or inside your carry-on bag, and be sure to weigh your carry-on with the gift inside to ensure you can avoid baggage fees. Consult your airline's website for information regarding their allowable dimensions of carry-on luggage before check-in, especially if your gift is large.
Wrap the gift loosely in clear bubble wrap. Use wrap with the largest bubbles you can find (if you have any leftover electronics wrapping pillows, these are ideal) so that you can view the item through the wrap. Fasten it in place with rubber bands, rather than tape, so that you or the TSA agent can easily remove the wrapping at security checkpoints or during a potential additional screening.
Carry the wrapped gift in an easily accessible bag. Either store it in a compartment of your carry-on that's easy to get to, or bring it in an open-topped bag (such as a gift bag).
Carry all liquids or liquid food items in your checked luggage; it will not be allowed through security check as a carry-on. If you must carry liquid in your carry-on, be sure to abide by the liquid rules and ensure it is three ounces or less and stored within a quart-sized bag. Check out the TSA rules and travel tips at the official Transportation Security Administration website (tsa.gov) for a list of prohibited items before deciding how to carry your gifts.