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christmassantaChristmas is coming and along with it presents! But how do you travel with Christmas presents and a carry on bag? Here are some of my time-tested strategies:

Check a bagSometimes you just can’t get around checking a bag. This is especially true if some of the presents involve knives or liquids. One year I brought home several presents from Africa and Europe. I put the breakable nativity scene in my carry-on bag. I put my clothes in the checked bag to protect the jars of French olives. My check through bag was a small collapsible duffel that could be stored in my carry on for the trip home.

Bring small gifts – Jewelry, gift cards, fancy stockings, small games, small electronics, scarves and Christmas ornaments take up very little room in the carry on bag.

Ship your gifts ahead of time – This strategy would be for the super organized person, which is usually not me. You will also need a “Christmas angel” at your destination who is willing to take your gifts and store them for you until you arrive. Are you staying at a hotel or resort? Shipping may still be an option as many places – especially business hotels – allow you to ship packages to them. Call the hotel to find out if this is possible. Be aware that there may be fees associated with this service. Ask the hotel specifically how they will store the package until you pick it up. Some places will only store the package behind the counter, which is an invitation for theft. Other hotels have specific rooms where they will lock the parcel up until you check in. Make sure you tip the people who are guarding your valuables!

Buy your gifts on the internet and have them shipped to your destination – This is my all time favorite strategy. I don’t have to deal with the shopping crowds and I don’t have to deal with handling the gifts. Like the shipping method, this method needs someone at the destination to receive your packages. All you need to do is swing by the store on the way from the airport to pick up wrapping paper. In over 10 years of internet shopping, I’ve only had one problem using this method – the item shipped did not match what I had ordered. This was quickly remedied with a gift certificate and an explanation of what happened (bless you Dad!). By the way, this method also works well for weddings and for international travel. There are fewer customs problems if you have sent your gifts ahead.

Many countries offer flat rate shipping.  This is an economical way to send Christmas presents and souveniers back home.

Many countries offer flat rate shipping. This is an economical way to send Christmas presents and souvenirs back home.

What about the trip home? You could use a small packable bag and check your presents through on the way home. Or you can use my all time favorite method for dealing with souvenirs or Christmas presents – flat rate shipping. Many countries offer this service. If it fits in the box, it ships – usually with little to no weight limitations. I will often stop by the post office 1 or 2 days before I am to return home. I’ll then stuff my presents into the shipping box and post it. The box usually shows up within a week of my arrival at home – or two weeks if I’m shipping internationally. I love this method as I don’t have to deal with the hassle of carrying things around.

Don’t give up travel with a carry on just because it is Christmas. You can have your light travel and presents too! How about you? How do you handle Christmas presents?