Know your limits this Christmas

When travelling at Christmas, it can be easy to be swept away with festive cheer and to forget the basics of what you can and can’t pack. But don’t let an unexpected charge or a confiscated gift ruin your holiday.

Here we offer you some tips on travelling over Christmas including baggage allowance rules and what the limits are on duty-free items.

Things to remember when travelling over Christmas

  • Be careful when packing as certain seasonal items are not allowed in either hand or hold luggage and may be confiscated. Fireworks and party poppers are not allowed at all, and certain airlines, such as Ryanair and Thomas Cook, don’t allow Christmas crackers either.
  • Think carefully when buying presents to take to loved ones abroad and, if you are unsure about anything, check with your airline before you travel. EasyJet, for example, don’t allow any toy or plastic guns to be carried in your hand luggage, so if you are buying this kind of gift for a child, check if it can be transported before you make your purchase. And Ryanair don’t allow any items with internal combustion engines to be carried in hand or hold luggage – this includes toys such as model aircrafts.
  • Don’t wrap your Christmas presents before you fly as you may be asked to unwrap them for inspection.
  • Allow extra time for travelling to and from the airport as winter weather can cause delays.
  • If you are taking festive food and drink to a celebration, don’t forget the normal rules about liquids in hand luggage (100ml maximum) and check whether the food you have bought can be taken into the country you are visiting.

Know your baggage allowances

When frantically packing all of your last-minute Christmas presents, don’t forget that baggage checks are still in place over the festive period and going over your allowance – even by just 1kg – can be a costly mistake.

  • Don’t assume that as you have travelled before, you know the hand luggage allowance on your flight. All airlines have slightly different rules. Thomas Cook Airlines, for example, only allow hand luggage of up to 5kg in weight and 43x28x23cm in size. BA, on the other hand, allow you to carry hand luggage up to 23kg in weight and 56x45x25cm in size, plus a laptop or handbag. So, check on your airline’s website or contact them before you pack.
  • Remember that you are only allowed one piece of hand luggage whether you have checked bags on to the flight or not. Handbags and laptop bags count as hand luggage and must be able to fit into or be your one bag (with the exception of BA). If you are found to be over this one bag limit, you will have to pay to put your other bags in the hold storage. This can be expensive at the check in stage and even more so if you avoid check in altogether and are challenged at the boarding gate. For example, easyJet charge £25 for an extra bag at the check-in desk and £40 to check an extra bag in at the boarding gate. Ryanair charge up to £50 to check an extra bag in.
  • Airlines have different weight limits for hold baggage too so check this before you cram all of your presents in or go on a shopping spree and want to bring an extra bag back. Also, plan how many pieces of hold luggage you are taking and book them online in advance to save yourself pounds. If you need to take an extra bag on to a British Airways World Traveller flight, you will be charged £35. EasyJet charges £10 per kilogram you are over your limit - the cost of a heavy bag will soon add up.


Bringing goods back

Before you travel abroad to go on a Christmas shopping spree or to stock up for your New Year’s Eve party, make sure that you know the limits of what you can bring back. If you get this wrong, your goods could be confiscated.

The rules

The value of goods you can bring back tax free depends on where you are travelling from, so make sure you know the rules. These rules changed on October 1, so don’t just rely on what you think they are or what they were the last time you travelled.

On the whole, there is one level for travelling from the EEA (EU plus Switzerland and Iceland) and one level for all other countries. There is no limit on the value of goods you can bring back from the EU – except on tobacco and alcohol. For all other countries, you have a limit of £390 (including perfumes), plus separate limits on tobacco and perfumes. Keep your receipts as you may need these to prove the value of goods you have bought abroad.

Pay attention to the rules in Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, Channel Islands and parts of Cyprus as they are different to the main country.

Goods that you bring back to the UK must be for your own personal use or for a gift in order for you to qualify to bring them back tax free. If you are caught bringing goods back to sell and you don’t pay the tax penalties, your items could be confiscated. This includes travelling over the Channel to buy alcohol for a festive party – if you can’t clearly demonstrate to customs that they are for personal use or convince them, you could potentially lose the goods. If you are caught by customs bringing back goods over your limit in a car or van, you could even have your vehicle seized too.

The limits for alcohol and cigarettes

These limits changed on October 1, 2011.

 Item Goods from the EU  All other countries
 Cigarettes  800 200*
 Cigars  200 50*
 Cigarillos  400 100*
 Tobacco  1kg 250g*
 Beer  110 litres 16 litres
 Wine  90 litres  4 litres of still wine
 Spirits  10 litres  1 litre or 2 litres of fortified wine – you are not allowed both
 Fortified wine   20 litres 2 litres or 1 litre of spirits – you are not allowed both








*Only one item from this list can be brought into the country from non-EU destinations or your allowance can be combined – eg half the amount of cigars and half the amount of tobacco.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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