If you will be traveling over the holidays and plan to fly somewhere for your gift exchange, these tips can help get your gifts there with the least possible hassle.
1. Buy less. Or at least buy smaller. The less you buy, the less you have to ship or carry. It doesn't mean you have to spend less, but it may mean you'll spend time explaining to kids that good things come in small packages. Gift cards are a popular option, but consider giving cash instead, says my friend, Susan Beacham, a financial literacy expert. She rails against gift cards because a.) they are easy for kids to lose, b.) it is tough to spend the exact amount on the card and c.) fees can eat up the balance.
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2. Wrap at your destination. It may be a pain to wrap gifts after you arrive, but it can save lots of hassle at the airport. If airport security screeners can't tell what's inside the wrapped gift, they have every right to unwrap it. So you could end up wrapping the gift twice. If you want to send it through with your checked bag, just remember to cushion it well so whatever you're giving doesn't end up crushed on arrival.
3. Buy when you arrive. Unless you're flying Southwest or Jet Blue, you'll pay for every checked bag. Whatever airline you're flying, be sure to find out about weight restrictions and other limits on checked bags.
4. Ship the gifts. It's much easier to box everything up and send it ahead to the destination. It's also the best option for online shoppers -- just put Grandma's address in the "ship to" line on the form. Finally, it's a great way to keep the little ones from seeing all those wrapped gifts long before Santa could have dropped them off.
5. Buy creatively. Choose gifts that are easier to carry, such as a share of stock, a gift certificate for a weekend at a local resort or a donation to someone's favorite charity in his or her name.
6. Celebrate early. Or late. If your kids are past the Santa stage, consider opening gifts before you head off for the holidays, or wait until you get home.
• Cindy Richards is the editor of TravelingMom.com and author of the TravelingMomWithTeens blog. She only wishes she could be flying somewhere this Christmas.