AAA Advises ‘Deck the Halls and Wrap the Presents….Safely’

Christmas tree car ornament
Photo courtesy of Grotos/Flickr Creative Commons

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (December 10, 2019) – Decorating for the holidays is a tradition for many families. It’s a time to display their holiday spirit to neighbors, family and friends. However, it is important not to get caught up in the magic of the season without remembering a few safety tips, especially when it comes to lights, live trees and other flammable decorations.


“This is a very merry time of year and decorating houses and trees is a tradition for many families. Unfortunately, often times safety is not a top priority, which can lead to unnecessary house fires that destroy more than just the spirit of the season,” said Leah Hunger, Director of Insurance for AAA Tidewater Virginia. “No one wants to spend their holidays filing an insurance claim.”


AAA Insurance Tips for Safe Holiday Decorating

  • Always use non-flammable decorations.
  • Place candles in non-flammable containers.  Keep lit candles in a place where they can’t be knocked over or reach anything that could ignite.
  • Water that tree.  Don’t ever let your live tree dry out – it is a fire hazard.
  • Check all bulbs and wires.  Don’t use any lights with frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
  • Discard and replace any cord that is hot to the touch.
  • String lights through hooks or insulated staples, not nails or tacks.
  • Use surge protectors to avoid overloading your electrical outlets.
  • Make sure outdoor lighting and extension cords are approved for outdoor use.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  • Unplug lights when you leave home or go to bed.


Safeguard Gifts When Shopping

“Put shopping bags out of sight in your vehicle or the Grinch may steal your gifts,” said Hunger.  “A few safety precautions will protect your gifts and your vehicle.”


If a thief does break into your vehicle, damage to your car is covered under the comprehensive coverage of the auto insurance policy.  Personal property stolen out of the vehicle falls under the homeowners or renters insurance.


Buying or Receiving an Expensive Gift

If you give or receive expensive gifts this holiday season, you may want to:

  • Contact your insurance company.  Find out if you need additional coverage.
  • Have the item appraised.   Additional premium for an endorsement or separate “floater” policy will be based on the appraised value.
  • Add the item to your home inventory.  It’s a good idea to photograph all your possessions in case of a loss and the subsequent insurance claim.
  • If possible, store valuable items in a secure location, like a safe.


“AAA encourages gift givers and recipients to review their insurance coverage and possibly purchase additional coverage with a floater policy if necessary;” noted Hunger, “Expensive items such as jewelry, artwork, and electronics have limited coverage under standard homeowners’ insurance policies.”


Flying With an Expensive Gift

“Losing your luggage is frustrating enough and when your bags contain expensive holiday gifts, it can ruin your entire trip.  Check with your insurance company to see if lost luggage is covered by your homeowners or renters insurance policy,” added Hunger.  “Airlines have policies for reimbursing travelers for lost luggage.”


According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement the following liability limits are in effect for lost, damaged or delayed luggage:

  • Airlines assert a limit on their liability for delayed, lost or damaged checked baggage.  When your luggage and its contents are worth more than the liability limit, you may want to purchase "excess valuation," if available, from the airline as you check in. This is not insurance, but it will increase the carrier's potential liability. The airline may refuse to sell excess valuation on some items that are especially valuable or breakable, such as antiques, musical instruments, jewelry, manuscripts, negotiable securities and cash.
  • On domestic trips, the airline can invoke a liability ceiling that is regulated by DOT and that is adjusted every two years. On international round trips that originate in the United States, the liability limit is set by a treaty called the Montreal Convention. This treaty also governs liability on international round trips that originate in another country that has ratified this Convention, and one-way trips between the U.S. and such a country. The current limits may be listed on your confirmation, or you can find them at The international limit applies to domestic segments of an international journey. This is the case even if the domestic and international flights are on separate tickets and you claim and re-check your bag between the two flights.
  • Keep in mind that the liability limits are maximums. If the depreciated value of your property is worth less than the liability limit, this lower amount is what you will be offered. If the airline's settlement doesn't fully reimburse your loss, check your homeowner's or renter's insurance; it sometimes covers losses away from the residence. Some credit card companies and travel agencies offer optional or even automatic supplemental baggage coverage.


Other rules to keep in mind when flying with holiday gifts:

  • Don’t wrap it - Wrapping paper may block security screeners from seeing what is inside your package, whether it’s in your carry-on OR your checked baggage.  You will slow down the security process for yourself and others and the wrapping may need to be torn off.   
  • Don’t forget the 3-1-1 liquid rule - If you plan on giving perfume or aftershave, wine, liquor, jellies/jams, or lotions and they are in packages larger than 3 ounces they must go into your checked luggage.  Liquids in the carry on must be in containers of 3 ounces or less and in a one-quart clear plastic zip top bag. Only one bag is permitted per person.
  • Ship gifts in advance – You might be able to use some of your clothes for the trip to cushion gifts or fill dead space in your shipping box allowing you to fit the remainder of your clothes and personal items in a carry on.  By shipping gifts in advance and eliminating a checked bag may
  • save you money since you won’t have to pay checked baggage fees.  Taking along only a carry on leaves you worry-free about luggage getting lost or delayed.
  • Order online – With a click of the mouse your wrapped gift will be waiting for you at your destination.


As part of North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA Tidewater Virginia provides its more than 330,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding AAA Tidewater Virginia has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter at or Facebook at

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