Sunday, December 10, 2006

Avoid Air Travel With Gifts. Ship Early; Ship Cheap!

A few weeks ago, I went to my high school reunion in New Jersey. I traveled by plane and while going through airline security, I lost my toothpaste. It was confiscated. My little tube didn't clear security because it was a 4 oz container instead of the 3 oz standard required under the new TSA rules.

So I faced the cost of the buying a new tube in order to show up at my reunion looking fresh and bright. This experience contributed to my latest column in the Miami Herald.

What would have happened if I were shipping holiday gifts that did not meet the airline security requirements? That's the question that I was asked by my editor Kathy Foster. Here's the column I wrote in response to her question:

When traveling with holiday packages, you can easily become a bundle of nerves, especially if you're headed for the airport. Even basic gifts such as fruit cakes and scented candles are subject to higher levels of scrutiny from the Transportation Security Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

How strict are the guidelines? Gifts should remain unwrapped so that security officers can inspect your package. And don't even attempt to carry on gift sets of food, toiletries or perfume that exceed three ounces. As carry-on bundles, toiletry gift sets or food items must fit into a single quart-size plastic bag with a limit of one bag per passenger.

Bottom line: Ship your presents before you leave home and leave enough time to meet the most affordable rates for domestic shipping. The post office says ground-package rates are the cheapest; delivery time ranges from two to nine days.

Of course, after clearing airport security, you can always shop for gift sets and other items in the shops near your ticket gate, but you might not find the cheapest deals.

Here are some suggestions from the TSA about carry-on and checked gift items. Of course, each airline may have additional size and weight requirements, so check with your carrier before departure. TSA has also prepared a free holiday travel publication, which you can download at

• Do not wrap gifts. Security officers may want to inspect your package. Wrap at your destination.

• Food gifts -- salsa, jams, syrups and other edible products -- must not exceed three ounces and must fit into one quart-sized plastic bag. TSA recommends shipping food gifts before you travel.

• Scented candles, perfumes, snow globes, oils and toiletry gift sets must be three ounces or less. TSA recommendation: Ship gift sets before you travel.


You can carry on: cigar cutters, corkscrews, toy robot transformers, umbrellas, walking canes, camcorders, PDAs, laptops, cellphones and tools such as pliers that are less than seven inches long.


The following cannot be carry-ons: kitchen gifts with sharp objects, baseball bats, hockey sticks, ski poles, golf clubs, hammers and saws.



The Frugal Duchess Boutique

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