Packing up the presents requires some ingenuity Getting there: With some planning, traveling Santas won't have to overload their cars with bulky boxes or try to stuff fancy packages into airplane overhead compartments.

November 12, 1995|By L. Kelly | L. Kelly,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

So you've figured out what clothes to pack for your holiday trip, and you can't wait to hop into that plane, car or sleigh that will deliver you to family and friends.

Aren't you forgetting something? What about all those presents? How are you going to get that pile of gift-wrapped glee into an airplane's overhead compartment or a car trunk?

The stress of finding just the right gift is nothing compared to the stress of getting it there without ruffling its ribbons. Or -- dare we say it? -- losing it in transit! So for every traveler who will be bearing gifts next month, here are some tips for making your trip a smooth one:

* Make room in your luggage for presents by packing fewer clothes. (Chances are, there are laundry facilities wherever you're going).

Resist the temptation to fill up the back of your car with packages: Not only do they attract thieves, they can be dangerous if they block your viewor fall on passengers in a sudden stop.

* If you are going to arrive several days before the holiday, consider doing your shopping after you get there. You'll have less to pack, and it gives you an excuse for exploring the local shops. Plus, you don't have to worry about hauling stuff any farther than to your car in the parking lot.

* If you don't mind risking "dialer's finger" and "phone ear," grab a stack of catalogs, your credit card and a phone. Order everything you need, and have it shipped to your holiday destination. With a little luck, and if you order early, your gifts will arrive before you do, and your travel load will be considerably lighter. For a few extra bucks, you can have your mail-order presents gift-wrapped, so once you hang up the phone, you're done until it's time to play Santa's helper. On the other hand, you might want to wait and wrap things yourself, so you can be sure you received just what you ordered. Holiday surprises are nice, unless the cashmere sweater set that you bought for your fussy sister turns out to be a monogrammed dog bed.

* A growing trend for travelers is to ship packages ahead. If you want guaranteed two-day UPS delivery, you need to get organized now and pack up your stuff by Dec. 8.

* To really reduce your shipping headaches, give magazine subscriptions, zoo or museum memberships, and the ever-popular gift certificates. There's always room in your luggage for a handful of envelopes. Well, in most people's luggage. If the envelopes seem a little drab compared to festooned packages, remember: You can dress them up with bows before you hand them out.

OK, now that you've figured out how to get yourself and those fabulous gifts to your holiday destination, you have one more challenge: Getting home with all the things people gave you.

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