Air travel can be stressful, and that is particularly true during the holidays when millions of Americans take to the skies. But if you are traveling with a suitcase full of presents, you could be setting yourself up for disaster, as the Transportation Security Administration can unwrap your gifts.
The policy is not new. The TSA has been opening packages for years, and for good reason. According to Bob Burns, a member of the TSA’s blog team, “wrapped gifts are screened just like any other item. We can see through the paper just like we can see through luggage, but just as we have to open a bag when it requires a search due to an anomaly or an alarm, we have to open wrapped items as well if they alarm or require additional screening.”
So what should you do to avoid a travel nightmare? The easiest solution is to wrap your gift(s) when you arrive, but if you must have your present ready upon arrival, the TSA recommends using a box or bag.
“Consider using a gift bag or a gift box, [as] resolving the alarm will just mean removing the item from the gift bag or gift box without needing to unwrap it.”
Travelers should also avoid banned items, including liquids and larger snow globes in carry-ons and flammables in checked bags. This includes Christmas crackers. Oh, and regardless of what you are carrying, the TSA recommends arriving early.
“It will take longer to park a car and longer to return a rental car. The lines will be longer at airline check-in counters. And of course the lines will be longer at the checkpoints because airplanes are fully booked,” the TSA writes. “Plan to arrive two hours before a domestic flight and three hours prior to an international flight out of a major airport.”
But perhaps the most important thing to remember is to breathe, because while the airports may be crowded and tensions may be high, tis’ the season of laughing, loving and giving. So be polite, wave and share a smile. We’re all in this together.