Best advice: Carefully Place Wine in Your Checked Baggage
A hostess gift for the friend who’s putting you up, a souvenir of a once-in-a-lifetime trip, a thank-you gift for the house sitter – there are plenty of reasons why you might want to pack wine during air travel. The “why” doesn’t really matter, though. What matters is the how. Traveling with wine on a plane is totally legal, provided you abide by some simple restrictions in order to get past the security checkpoints. Here are some travel tips on how to get your wine home with you!
(Here’s a hint: Plan to stash any alcohol in checked luggage.)
Taking Wine in a Carry-on
Packing light is practically a competitive sport these days. Traveling with just a carry-on bag lets you bypass baggage claim and negates the possibility of baggage handlers losing your luggage, but it’s not viable if you’re hoping to fly with wine.
Like all liquids, it’s subject to the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule for carry-on luggage, which means packing alcohol that is in containers larger than 3.4 ounces is a no-go, plus they must all fit into a single quart-sized bag or 1-quart plastic bag to pass TSA rules.
The only way to bring a full bottle of wine into the cabin of a plane is to buy it after you clear airport security in a duty-free shop or retailer. That’s totally fine – but don’t expect to uncork it during takeoff.
You need to leave it in its unopened retail packaging. Passengers serving themselves alcoholic beverages on planes is illegal. If flight attendants spot a passenger opening and drinking from a bottle of wine, they’ll intervene and might even alert local police at the arrival city.
Taking Alcohol in Checked Baggage
Your checked bag is the right place for wine bottles. The TSA only imposes limits on liquids that have an alcohol content of at least 24 percent. A typical bottle of wine has an alcohol content of 10 to 15 percent. (If you are traveling with high-proof liquor, the TSA says you can pack up to 5 liters of it in your suitcase.) Just be sure to think about the weight limit of your bags and the amount of wine you’re bringing – you won’t want to pay an extra weight fee when you check-in!
Because a broken bottle of wine will destroy the contents of your suitcase, not to mention the bag itself, how you pack the bottle is very important. Having a hard side suitcase can help avoid breakage.
Wrap the neck of each bottle with socks, T-shirts or scarves to give this vulnerable area some cushioning; then wrap each bottle in a sweater, sweatshirt or another bulky piece of clothing.
Place the wrapped bottles in the middle of the suitcase, so they don’t touch the walls of the bag.
Better yet, have your local wine shop prepare the bottle for shipping.
If you have a wide range of wines to choose from, look for those that are packaged in something other than glass bottles. Now that even established winemakers are using cans and boxes for packaging, it’s easier to find break-resistant wines.
Alternatively, invest in some protective wine carriers to cushion the bottles or use bubble wrap to cushion them when they’re in the cargo hold.
Flying With Wine Internationally
Wine makes a meaningful souvenir from a faraway locale, so you might find yourself wanting to bring a bottle or three on an international flight. That may be possible, but it totally depends on the local laws of the country you’re visiting. The airlines you’re planning on traveling with or the customs departments of the countries you’re visiting can provide more insight.
Note that U.S. Customs and Border Protection allows travelers to carry up to 1 liter of alcohol duty-free into the country. (A standard bottle of wine is 750 milliliters, just under 1 liter.)
You may bring more than one bottle of wine, but anything exceeding 1 liter is subject to duty taxes. Make sure all bottles are properly labeled.