So you’re headed home for the holidays — we bet you’re excited! (If not, you may want to check out your odds for surviving the trip). Besides the enticing prospects of family conversations across the dinner table, watching Elf together throughout the holiday season, and the warm greetings of smooth jazzy tunes and Starbucks’ red cups, there’s a whole ‘nother thing we travelers get to fret about during the holiday season: packing!

Fear not, intrepid holiday voyagers, because we’ve put together a smart guide to traveling home for the holidays like a total pro. Whether it’s bringing back your 50 new pairs of socks or sneaking mum’s apple pie through Customs — we’ve got you covered.

Skip the Airport, Send Gifts Through the Mail

If you’ve ever tried to tote your haul to and from the holidays, you know that there must be a better way. And there is! If you’re not shopping from unique, local stores, you can easily buy gifts for your family online and send it straight to their front door! Then, when you get there a couple days early (or even morning of!), you can busy yourself wrapping them and making them look nice and festive. It’ll save you a ton of stress of having to explain your nephew’s new magic trick set to disgruntled airline employees. After the holidays, you can also ship the presents that you received to yourself through the mail — you can totally wear the new tie that Dad got you on the plane, though.

Woman hands opening a parcel contains a gift. Unpacking box with another box. Surprise. Red present box. People, delivery, shipping service, opening cardboard box or parcel at home.

Freeze Those Leftovers!

I think we can all agree that the best part of the holidays is the food. Right? Right. One of the most disappointing things about living away from your family is living away from their amazing home cooking. While our office broke out into a fight about whether or not one can take home room-temperature turkey and live to tell the tale, we found a great solution: freeze that turkey (and everything else)! If you freeze the leftovers, pack them into nestable food storage, then travel all day with them, you can arrive back at your place with still-cold (and preserved!) leftovers. Yum. Plus – now you know what you’ll be eating for lunch for the next week!

Protect the Alcohol (At All Costs)

Much like the delicates, your best bet to getting that fancy wine across the country is to either swaddle the bottles in your sweaters or by buying one of those foam bottle protectors. The foam protectors can cost upwards of $25 per bottle, so you should also check if the company that you want to impress your in-laws with ships their wine for added convenience.

Closeup of four different wine bottles in a wooden crate with straw packing material.

Swaddle Your Delicates

No, not those kinds of delicates. A lot of people tote delicate items like ornaments, dinnerware, or other breakable gifts with them on their holiday travels. If you’re intent on carrying them with you in your checked bag or carry-on, the best thing you can do is swaddle ’em up like a baby. Yup. Take your chunky winter sweaters, scarves, puffy vests, and the like and wrap them around your delicate gifts like there’s no tomorrow. For optimum protection, make sure they’re craddled in equally soft spots in your luggage. We also recommend packing delicates in a carry-on so that you can have the most amount of control and supervision over your belongings throughout your journey.

Leave Some Space for Extras

We know the drill: go home with a carry-on (or better, a small backpack!) and come back with a checked bag full of stuff that your mom wouldn’t let you leave without. C’mon, we all know this is going to happen — so might as well prepare for it! Pack a super light bag on your way home (Need help packing light? We got you.) and make sure that you family has a checked bag that you can tote back to where you live. If you really think ahead, you can also bring your own (empty) checked bag over on Thanksgiving and leave it for future you to schlep back from the Christmas holiday. If that’s too complicated, take the easier approach and pack light on your way there so that you’ll have enough room to stuff your winter boots in your luggage for the ride home.

female legs closeup. stylish woman with a suitcase standing at the window at the airport. traveler waiting airplane flight

Don’t Forget to Pack Your Sanity

This is pretty important. Pack a lot of patience, understanding, and — hey — try to keep the eye-rolling to a minimum.


Do you have any holiday travel packing tips that we missed? Fill us in by commenting below!

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About The Author

Mary Zakheim
Content Writer

When she is not figuring out what the middle button on her headphones is for, explaining the difference between Washington State and Washington D.C., arriving to the airport too early or refusing to use the Oxford comma, you can usually find Mary in the mountains, at a show or on her couch. Mary is a content writer at Fareportal and likes annoying her coworkers with weird GIFs throughout the day.