Flying with Christmas gifts? Here’s how to prep like Santa!

The festive season might be known as the most wonderful time of the year, but things can get stressful, especially when there's flying involved.


2min read

Published 26 November 2023


The festive season might be known as the most wonderful time of the year, but things can get stressful, especially when there's flying involved.

Whether you’re heading into a neighbouring province or jet-setting across the world to see loved ones, packing gifts for air travel requires a solid balance of thoughtfulness and practicality. Air passenger traffic reaches its peak at the end of the year, so it's important to be prepared.

If you want to prep like Santa, here are some tips from our travel experts to ensure your presents arrive on time and in perfect condition.

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Check those luggage requirements

December marks the busiest time for global travel, so it is important to check the policies of your chosen airline to avoid any luggage delays or mishaps.

Regulations vary greatly among local and international carriers. They’re also updated more frequently than you might expect. Currently, most domestic airlines include one complimentary carry-on bag in the price of their tickets. However, it should not exceed 7kg in weight and typically have dimensions no greater than around 56cm x 36cm x 23cm.

Since you may be bringing extra items with you in December, it is important to take into account the policy regarding checked luggage. International airlines typically allow one checked item weighing around 20kg. However, when travelling domestically, this is usually an additional service that comes with a fee (particularly for economy-class passengers). Remember, there are often cost benefits to paying for extra luggage online before you arrive at the airport. 

Smaller instruments and sports equipment can be carried as hand luggage if they fit into the sizing bins at the check-in counters.


Wrap and pack smart

If you plan to pack gifts in your luggage as cargo, it is crucial to make sure they are well protected. Think bubble wrap, newspaper, and even rolling in your clothes. A hard-shell suitcase also helps prevent additional damage.

While you are allowed to bring wrapped gifts on planes as both carry-on and checked luggage, please remember that airport officials might need to open them for security purposes. Regardless of how beautifully you've gift-wrapped your goodies, they have a job to do and won't hesitate to undo your hard work. To avoid this, you might want to consider wrapping them after you've reached your destination and ensure the gifts you’re travelling with adhere to restrictions.

Gift bags are an also efficient (and stylish!) alternative to traditional wrapping paper – no need to battle the sticky tape once you arrive.

Consider an express courier

If you're concerned about transporting your holiday luggage and Christmas keepsakes in the baggage compartment or even as carry-on, it’s worth considering using express couriers. It's an alternative option growing in popularity amongst South African travellers wanting to avoid luggage mishaps or to save on excess charges.

To ensure a seamless travel experience for our community of travellers, Flight Centre has partnered with U-BAG, a South African specialist cargo logistics group. They’ll get your Christmas gifts and excess luggage where they need to be, on time and unscathed, just like Santa would.

The best part? If you find a lower quote elsewhere, their team will match it and may even apply a discount. To save you time, they can also wrap your luggage for added security at no charge and provide free coverage for loss, theft, and damage for added peace of mind.

If you need help booking your holiday flight this December or need help deciphering your luggage requirements, our team of miracle-worker Travel Experts are always on hand to assist.

Flight Centre

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