Liz Crenshaw's Guide to Consumer Issues, Recalls and More

Ask Liz: Flying, Tarmac Sitting & Holiday Tipping Etiquette

By Liz Crenshaw and Katie Roberts
|  Friday, Dec 13, 2013  |  Updated 6:19 PM EDT
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If you’ll be flying to grandma’s house for the holidays, can you stash your famous fruitcake in your carry-on? What are the rules when it comes to traveling by air with food and gifts?

The Transportation Security Administration answered this one. It says that you’re better off putting most holiday items in your checked luggage, leaving them at home… or shipping them ahead of time. Foods like cheeses, peanut butter, salsa, jams, jellies, gravy… won’t be permitted if there’s more than 3.4 ounces in your container.  However, pies and cakes ARE allowed through security.. but they’re subject to additional screening by TSA officers. A reminder not to wrap those gifts before traveling: while wrapped gifts are permitted, they could need to be opened if they require additional screening.

What are the rules for if you get stranded on the tarmac? How long can airlines do that before getting penalized?

The Department of Transportation gave us this answer. It turns out, there's a 3-hour time limit for sitting on the tarmac for domestic flights and a four hour limit for international flights. Airlines are hit with hefty fines if they go over these limits. The only exceptions to these rules are for safety, security, or air traffic control-related reasons.

In terms of holiday tipping etiquette whom should you give to... and how much should you give?

Kiplinger's Personal Finance gave us some suggestions. Let's start with your newspaper carrier.
If you want to give a little something extra, Kiplinger suggests a ten to thirty dollar tip, or a small gift. The suggested tip for a childcare provider? A week's pay plus a small gift from your child. For a regular babysitter consider one or two night's pay. If you have a regular cleaning person, Kiplinger suggests tipping the cost of one visit. Hair stylist or barber? suggested holiday tip is the cost of one visit. When it comes to your mail carrier, they are not allowed to accept cash gifts. So, a gift card or small gift worth less than twenty dollars is acceptable.

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