TORONTO -- The holiday travel season is just around the corner -- a time filled not only with cheer, but with thousands of panicked travellers trying not to pack the wrong thing in their carry-on luggage.

While it may seem like common sense not to pack a hunting knife in your purse, some of the restrictions aren’t so straightforward.

Christine Langlois, spokesperson for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), walked CTV News Ottawa through the do’s and don’t’s of packing for air travel during the holidays.


One type of item that becomes more of a concern during December is gifts. If you have wrapped gifts in your luggage, they may have to be unwrapped at checkpoints, according to Langlois, wasting all that work you spent on getting the paper folded just so.

Langlois said she’s a fan of unwrapping presents, but would rather not unwrap other people’s gifts.

“We want to preserve the Christmas magic, so make sure to wrap after the checkpoint,” she said.

However, she said “there’s no limit on wrapping paper, you can bring as much as you want.”


This is the first holiday season that cannabis edibles are legal, but it’s important to understand the rules around flying.

Up to 30 grams of recreational cannabis can be brought onto a plane in your carry-on -- as long as it is a domestic flight. For medicinal users, the limit is 150 grams, as long as they have the proper documentation.

“You should not cross international borders with cannabis,” Langlois said.

This could be tricky. If a domestic flight is rerouted into the U.S. due to technical issues or an emergency, passengers carrying cannabis could find themselves at risk of receiving a lifetime ban from travelling to the U.S.

This was the situation that some travellers on a Vancouver flight found themselves in this week when foggy conditions forced the plane to land in Washington. No bans were reported, but some criticized Air Canada for the lack of clarity over what passengers were expected to do.

While some states have legalized cannabis, the federal policy in the U.S. is strictly opposed to it.


There’s a limit for inorganic powders as well -- you can only bring 350 milliliters. Bath salts are one common example.

“Bath salt is extremely relaxing,” she said. “But if you have more than roughly the size of a soda can, it’s much more relaxing if you have it in your checked luggage.”

The same goes for sand and cooking salts.

But some products affected by this rule aren’t as obvious. She pointed out that hand warming pouches, which understandably become more popular to carry in the colder months, often contain inorganic powders.

“If you have two or three, perfectly fine,” she said.

But if you’re hauling around a box of them, maybe put them in your checked luggage.


The rule regarding liquids and gels is one that has tripped up a lot of people -- shampoo and perfume are two of the most common items that have to be removed from carry-ons.

You can bring liquids or gels on a plane if they are in containers that only fit 100 ml or less -- and if all of these travel-sized containers fit in a one litre clear plastic bag.

There are exceptions: if you want to bring milk and you’re travelling with a child two years or younger, “you’re allowed more, but you have to show it at the checkpoint,” she said.

The same goes for liquid medication, such as cough syrup.


Langlois said she’s seen a lot of strange items come through the checkpoints.

As an example, she displayed a large, two-pronged cooking fork that a traveler had to leave behind.

“Maybe … somebody was planning to do a turkey at home,” she theorized, “(but) that (should) have gone in checked luggage, not in carry-on.”

December 20th is expected to be one of the busiest travel days, as well as the following days leading up to Christmas Day.

“We’re expecting about 8,000 travellers (at the Ottawa International Airport) at departures only for those days,” Langlois said. “So it’s going to be very busy.”

The Toronto Pearson Airport regularly sees over 100,000 people go through its terminals daily through those peak travel days in December.

The year-round rules on what to leave out when you’re packing can be found on the Government of Canada’s website. The ban includes weapons, sharp objects, ammunition and explosives, as well as toys or models that imitate a weapon too realistically.


Appropriate planning can help avert any potential problems at the airport. Thousands of items have to be left behind every day by travellers who mistakenly put them in their carry-on, Langlois said.

“We all make better decisions when we have time. So give yourself plenty of time. It’s going to be busy, we know about it, so let’s prepare and give ourselves time,” she said.

One of the tools that can help with planning is the CATSA app, Breeze Through Security, which shows the wait time in real time in fourteen different Canadian airports, and allows you to search an item to see whether you should put it in checking or carry-on.

CATSA also responds to travellers’ questions during business hours through Facebook and Twitter.

“Sometimes when people want to travel with something a bit unusual, they send us a picture of the item, with a short description, and it helps us tell them where it should go,” Langlois said.

So what is the strangest thing she’s seen a traveler try to bring on a plane? One contender: a carton of eggs.

“The eggs are a bit unusual to me, I’ll be completely honest with you,” she told CTV Ottawa. “It’s the first time (I’ve seen) a dozen of fresh eggs at the checkpoint in all my tours in Canada.”