How to travel with presents (and not break them)

Traveling to Grandma’s house for the holidays is a time-honored tradition (or command performance, depending on the family). If you want to (or must) arrive with gifts in hand, these tips can help ensure at least this one part of the trip goes smoothly.

  • Ship the gifts. This is a good option for those who believe gift quantity is the true measure of how much you’re loved. It’s much easier to box everything up and send it ahead to the destination. It’s also the best option for online shoppers-just put Grandma’s address in the “ship to” line on the form. Finally, it’s a great way to keep the little ones from seeing all those wrapped gifts long before Santa could have dropped them off.
  • Buy less. If quantity is still important (see point No. 1), at least buy smaller. The less you buy, the less you have to ship or carry. Gift cards are a popular option, but consider giving cash instead, says Susan Beacham, creator of the Money Savvy Pig and a financial literacy expert. She rails against gift cards because a) They are easy for kids to lose, b) It is tough to spend the exact amount on the card and c) Cards are limited-they must be spent, can’t be saved.

  • Wrap at your destination. If the airport security screeners can’t tell what’s inside that wrapped box, they have every right to unwrap it. So you could end up wrapping the gift twice. If you want to send it through with your checked bag, just remember to cushion it well so whatever you’re giving doesn’t end up COA (crushed on arrival). And remember, unless you’re flying Southwest or Jet Blue, you’ll be charged for checked bags. Whatever airline you’re flying, be sure to find out about weight restrictions and other limits on checked bags.

  • Celebrate early. Or late. If your kids are past the Santa stage, consider opening gifts before you head off for the holidays, or wait until you get home.

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