Traveling during the holidays is already stressful enough, given the apocalyptic traffic jams, the general hellscape of airports, and your knack for always managing to sit next to the one monster who spends the entire five hour bus ride in a loud conference call (just me?). Add the fact that this is all happening right smack dab in the middle of 2017's last Mercury retrograde, aka the astrological phenomenon that supposedly messes with transportation, and we're already out of luck. If you want to save yourself some drama, though, you might as well read up on the TSA's policy on gift-wrapped presents traveling by airplane during the holiday season, because otherwise you might be in for an unpleasant surprise at baggage claim.
It's important to note that none of the TSA's policies on gift-wrapped presents are new for 2017; their most recent set of guidelines was set forth in 2013, and they've held firm on them since then. The policy states that, while gift-wrapped items are by no means forbidden, if the something in the bag sets off an alarm — whether it's a checked or a carry-on bag — they have an obligation to open it. The gift doesn't necessarily even have to be the item that triggered the alarm; once the alarm goes off, TSA agents will thoroughly check the entire bag for safety hazards, and gift-wrapped presents might become a casualty of that check.
A casualty in that TSA agents will definitely open them, and might not do as great of a job rewrapping it as Santa's elves.
While there's no catharsis quite like complaining about airport security, they're (duh) there to keep us all safe, and TSA agents are literally just doing their jobs. But you can make it easier on them and yourself this holiday season by bearing a few tips in mind and planning ahead.
Send Your Gifts Ahead Of Time
If you already know where you'll be spending the holidays, route all the items you order online to your final destination, or brave the lines at the post office and send it yourself. If you're worried about the recipient opening it or knowing what it is based on the box, make sure you let the seller know that it's a gift, and warn whoever you're sending it to in advance not to casually commit a federal crime and open your mail (Mom).
Wrap Your Gifts In Bags
This suggestion comes from the TSA itself: "We recommend passengers to place presents in gift bags or wrap gifts after arriving to avoid the possibility of having to unwrap them during the screening process," they write in their guidelines. That way you won't be surprised by any, uh, creative re-wraps.
Make Sure You Aren't Traveling With Anything That Will Get Flagged At Security
If you're not sure whether something is allowed in your luggage or not, use the TSA app and website "Can I Bring my _________?", which is designed specifically for these kinds of questions. It will let you know what items are allowed in your carry on versus checked luggage, and and which ones will definitely result in a checked baggage search that might ruffle that perfectly wrapped package of yours. It's especially important to stay vigilant about this during the holidays; people might forget in all the merriment that things like spreadable foods, beer, wine, or other "liquids" may require additional screening in a checked bag, and are definitely not allowed over the 3.4 ounce limit in carryon luggage. Don't let your eggnog get sacrificed to the airport trash can gods, y'all. Plan ahead.
For a full rundown of the TSA's policy on wrapped gifts, check their website here.