Know rules before packing holiday treats

December 17, 2006|By Cox News Service

AUSTIN, Texas -- Foodies do not travel empty-handed. It's simply not their nature. They love to take their latest food finds to friends and family or bring back items unavailable in their own cities.

When my friend, a Washington, D.C., caterer, arrived last week for her annual holiday visit, she had Romanesca cauliflower, organic liver jerky from Virginia, a Japanese sweet potato, a South African orange, artisan chipotle chocolate truffles, garage-roasted Ethiopian coffee and plum conserve in her carry-on.

Last year, her food loot included a big bottle of pomegranate molasses. That item would not make it to the plane's cabin this holiday.

Airport security rules have changed, several times, since August, after a terrorist plot to bring liquid or gel explosives onto Britain-U.S. flights was foiled. Carry-ons became far more suspect, and new restrictions were placed on cosmetics, food and drink items.

Some edible gifts that travelers traditionally have taken to family and friends for the holidays now will be "surrendered" - airport security does not use the word "confiscated" - if they are in carry-ons. It doesn't matter if it is a six-pack of Shiner Bock beer or a quart of the family eggnog. If it's a gel or liquid that is more than 3 ounces and it's in your carry-on, it goes in the trash.

"We don't like to disrupt traditions, but it's an unfortunate by-product of our responsibility," says Doug Johnson, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration.

"In a heartbreaking story, one gentleman with too little time to do anything but dispose was forced to part with a 100-year-old bottle of scotch," Johnson said about one carry-on incident. Security still cries over that one.

Such sad partings, however, are avoidable. Allow plenty of time to go through security. And familiarize yourself with the rules. A lot of holiday traditions are not affected. For instance, venison sausage, rum cakes, Christmas cookies, pralines, nuts and many other items still are fine as carry-ons. Foil and tin containers are allowed, but might need to be opened if they trigger alarms.

As for the forbidden 3 ounces or more of liquids or gels, you can either ship the items ahead, pack them in your checked baggage or buy them at the airport gift shops and restaurants after you go through security.

Here are a few traveling tips to make sure you and your goodies get there easily:

Don't gift-wrap until you arrive at your destination, and pack in clear wrappings to facilitate the identification of the fruitcake or chunk of cheese.

Pack items throughout the bag, not in one clump.

If you must pack breakables in your luggage, wrap the jar in bubble wrap, then in a T-shirt and place inside a plastic bag. Pack the jar among soft clothing in the center of the luggage for extra cushioning.

Wrap those skinny bottles of homemade limoncello or infused vodkas in paper and plastic and stuff inside your athletic shoes in checked baggage. The shoes provide extra cushioning. The same trick works for well-wrapped baked goods, too.

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