I remember a long time ago in a galaxy - not that far from here. . . I traveled to Denver for Christmas with a mini-cooler full of fresh ricotta cheese and a carry-on. Yes, this was back before 9/11, back before people tried to blow up airplanes with underwear and shoe bombs. Back when you could carry a whole Genoa Italian salami in your carry-on and hardly anyone batted an eye!

Well, okay they were curious, but they didn't stop you. Why was I carrying fresh ricotta cheese? Because it is a precious commodity, hard to find and we needed it to make our New Year's Day lasagna, of course. What a silly question! In fact, on the way back home I carried some of that leftover lasagna in the same cooler.

Nowadays, you're lucky if you can carry-on your undies, your laptop and a sandwich. So getting your presents to your loved ones in one piece may take some homework, careful packing and luck.

  • First and foremost, make sure your items meet TSA requirements - Some items may be carried on, some may be checked, but if they are taken from you, you won't have them for the holidays and they'll end up in TSA confiscation hell where they will eventually be sold to the highest bidder.
  • Keep truly valuable gifts with you - No don't put that Rolex in your checked baggage or your carry-on, just in case.
  • Protect your gifts - Your clothing and bubble wrap are your best friends when packing gifts in your luggage.
  • Don't wrap your gifts - Odds are you'll have to unwrap them for a TSA agent, who is just doing their job, so don't make it harder. Christmas travel is already stressful enough.
  • Use hard shell luggage - No matter what you're bringing or packing, the odds of it arriving undamaged are higher with tougher luggage.

For more holiday travel tips check out Reader's Digest Travel.

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