I’ve struggled with the idea of transporting alcohol from my travel destination. While it seems intuitive to me that I would transport them via carry-on rather than a checked-in bag, you don’t have a choice. Security protocols for most international flights in the US require that you transport liquids via checked-in luggage. So today, we’re going to review how to pack wine (and beer) in your suitcase.
How to pack wine and beer
Suppose you’re visiting France, Italy, or Germany, and you pick up a few bottles of wine or beer. What’s the best way to transport them back in your suitcase? The most efficient way would be to use your clothing to minimize the impacts and vibrations. Most travel experts advise putting your bottle into a sealed bag, then placing them inside a pair of socks. Then wrap the bottles with the thickest clothing in your bag.
When placing the bottles and cans inside your suitcase or bag, you’ll want to create as much of a buffer as possible from the sides of the suitcase. Basically, you want to avoid having the bottles or cans touching the edge of your bag. You’ll want to use your clothes and shoes to create layers on all sides, then place the bottles and cans towards the middle. I suggest staggering the bottles and making sure that there is enough material so that the bottles and cans don’t touch one another. You should pay special attention to the neck of bottles too, as it’s definitely the most likely spot to break while transporting.
The rules and regulations
Keep in mind that while these packing tips apply to any type of bottled or canned beverage, there are specific limits defined by the government. Here in the US, Customs will allow you to bring in an unlimited amount of wine as long as it’s under 24% alcohol by volume. And according to the rules, only one liter of the wine that you import is duty-free. Anything above the liter is subject to a 3% tax. While it’s not much of a fee and seems to be rarely enforced, it’s something to keep in mind. Also, transporting liquor is whole another issue and topic. I won’t get into the details, but just know that the United States TSA prohibits any air travel with liquor that is over 140 proof.
Tips to consider
Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:
1. Use wine skins and bottle protectors:
There are several inexpensive products that are geared to help travelers transport wine bottles. These include products like Wine Skins, Wine Wings, and Wine Diapers. While you can use a normal plastic bag, these specialized pouches often provide extra cushioning and absorbent padding and sealing. They’re essentially designed to protect the contents of your bag from any potential leaks. The products are fairly inexpensive, and some are even reusable.
2. Keep a copy of the rules with you:
Every once in a while, you may encounter an airline or airport employee who hassles you about checking in your beverages. Having a copy of the TSA and airlines rules with you can help in case you encounter any problems during the check-in process.
If you’re traveling internationally, you may want to do a quick google search on your departure country’s rules before your trip just to be safe. Some countries may restrict the amount of wine or beer that can travel out of the country or impose special fees.
3. Consider shipping your alcohol instead:
If you’re traveling domestically, it might be easier to have your alcohol shipped to you directly, so you don’t have to worry about packing it. However, if you’re traveling internationally, it’s usually cheaper to transport your wine or beer via your luggage, even if you have to pay additional baggage or customs fees. By using your luggage, you can usually avoid the value-added tax imposed during shipping, also known as VAT.
4. Consider bottles instead of cans:
While cans might seem more durable since aluminum is more malleable, they are actually more prone to bursting if compressed. This is especially true if your luggage gets stuck under a bunch of other heavy suitcases. If given the choice, you are better off transporting bottles instead of cans.
5. Use a hard suitcase:
A hard suitcase is a much better choice if you’re planning to transport alcohol. In general, hard suitcases should protect the contents of your bag more effectively and reduce the additional compression from being stacked under other bags.
It’s not a requirement, but if you have the option, I would opt for a hard suitcase if you’re planning to transport your beverages.
6. Carry a collapsible duffle bag:
A small collapsible duffle bag can easily save the day if you happen to stuff your bag with alcohol and you run out of space for all your clothes and personal items. Rather than overstuffing your suitcase, you’re better off having the extra luggage space if needed.
7. Buy a wine suitcase:
If you’re a wine enthusiast or someone who buys a lot of wine while traveling, then your best bet is to buy a dedicated bag for this purpose. There are plenty of options out there, like the Wine Check Luggage Set and the VinGardeValise Wine Travel Suitcase. These options are fairly pricey. However, if you’re buying expensive bottles of wine, then this is by far the safest option for transport.
Have you ever checked in wine or beer in your suitcase? If so, did it survive the flight? Let us know in the comment section below.
- “How to Successfully Pack Beer and Wine in Your Suitcase” (Lifehacker)
- “6 Expert Tips for Traveling with Wine” (Wine Enthusiast)
- “How to Fly with Wine Like a Pro” (VinePair)
- “Air Travel with Wine Bottles” (USA Today)
- “How to Pack Beer (or Wine) for a Flight” (HopCulture)