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How to Travel

How to Travel: How You Can Stay Ahead of the Holiday Pack

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

As if spending the holidays with the family weren't stressful enough, add the angst of air travel, as painful to swallow as fruitcake. With airport security still on high alert and airlines penny-pinching passengers over checked bags, getting home for a slice of pumpkin pie or Santa's chimney drop can darken any festive mood. To ease the process, we have addressed some of the most common questions concerning holiday travel, from gift wrapping to flying frozen turkeys.

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-- Andrea Sachs and Christina Talcott

Q. I'm in charge of bringing the cranberry sauce, mint jelly, rice pudding, Christmas flan, etc. Are these items permissible in carry-on luggage?

A. If the food wiggles, jiggles or dribbles, the Transportation Security Administration says it is a goodie non grata. Unless, of course, you are serving only three ounces of the dish -- to the whole table. The 3-1-1 rule, which covers liquids and gels of all flavors, requires such items to be contained in bottles no larger than three ounces and placed in a quart-size, zip-top clear plastic bag. One caveat: Security officials have the discretion to yea or nay any questionable products. For a comprehensive list of TSA-approved food items, see http://www.tsa.gov.

Conversely, you may pack as many jams and sauces as you wish in your checked bags. Just be sure to swaddle any breakables in bubble wrap or thick insulation material and pack them in the center of your luggage, surrounded by clothes or other cushiony items.

My pie is a bit gloppy. Does that make it a liquid and therefore not permitted onboard?

If it's in a crust, even the gooiest slice of pie is allowed, whether it be blueberry, Boston cream or lemon meringue.

Can I take a frozen turkey or ham onboard?

You can haul any frozen foodstuffs onboard; however, you may not use an ice pack or gel to keep them cold. Ice packs and their ilk are allowed only for medical-related items.

If your flight is short, the meat should stay frozen. For longer distances, stick it in a cooler with ice packs and check it. Or, save yourself the hassle and order the main course ahead of time and have it shipped to your final destination. In addition, if you are spending the holidays abroad and plan to carry your favorite dishes with you, remember that many countries do not permit such edibles as meat, fruit and vegetables to cross their borders. Best to buy there; with a little research, you can often find American products in foreign countries, such as the Thanksgiving American Market in Paris (http://www.thanksgivingparis.com). Or go local: For instance, celebrate a Spanish Christmas with a serrano ham.

No holiday is complete without fine wine or champagne. What's the best way to transport bottles of vino, bubbly and other types of alcohol?

Unless you are serving mini bottles of booze or are traveling internationally and can slip into a duty-free shop for some hard stuff, you must check your liquor. Wrap the bottles well and stick them in your luggage, or box and send them separately. Companies also sell padded carriers that keep bottles secure, such as BottleWise (http://www.bottlewise.com).


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