How To Pack Wine In Your Suitcase
What do you do when you taste some incredible wine on your travels? You buy a bottle (or several) to bring back home with you, of course! Unfortunately, when you’re traveling by plane, bringing bottles of wine back home with you can present its own unique challenges. The biggest challenge is getting those bottles back in one piece. After all, the last thing you need is to open up your luggage upon arriving home, only to find that your expensive bottle of cabernet has shattered and spilled all over your clothes. Successfully traveling with wine will take a little extra effort on your part, but there are some steps you can take to get your precious cargo home with you in one piece.
Always Pack Wine In A Checked Bag
Fist and foremost, never try to bring a bottle of wine with you in a carry-on bag! Some travelers will make this mistake, thinking that being able to keep the wine with them will protect it from being handled roughly. Unfortunately, the TSA doesn’t allow for liquid containers of more than 3.4 ounces to be packed in a carry-on bag per the TSA 3-1-1 rules. If you attempt this, you could even end up being asked by a TSA agent to discard your wine before boarding (gasp!). Avoid this misunderstanding and hassle altogether by always packing bottles of wine in your checked baggage.
Understand Customs/TSA Guidelines
If you’re traveling strictly within the United States, the good news is that you can technically pack as many bottles of wine back home with you—so long as the alcohol content for each bottle doesn’t exceed 24% (most wines are around 11%). If you’re traveling back to the United States from another country, however, you’ll need to do a little research into Customs rules and regulations.
For example, if you’re bringing back more than a liter of wine from another country, you may be subjected to a 3% duty tax by United States Customs. You’ll also want to research the laws and regulations for the country you’re departing, as they may have limits on the amount of wine you can bring out of the country without paying additional duty taxes.
Cushion Each Bottle Properly
If possible, pack your wine bottles separately in their own hard cases. You can find these specifically made for wine/alcohol bottles on sites like Amazon. However, if you don’t have time to order one before your trip or if you’re otherwise in a pinch, there are other options for properly cushioning your wine bottles.
For starters, choose your checked bag wisely. If you have a soft-sided suitcase, the contents aren’t going to be protected as well as they would be in a hard-sided one. If you have access to a hard-sided case, this is the one you should pack your wine bottles in. If you only have a soft-sided suitcase available to you, do everything you can to add some cushioning around each wine bottle you’re bringing home. A great way to do this is to wrap each individual bottle in some thicker articles of clothing. For example, if you packed a knit sweater or a towel for your trip, these items would offer excellent padding for your wine bottles. This is by no means a fail-proof solution, but it can make breakage less likely. In case of breakage, it’s always good to play it safe by also packing your wine bottles inside a sealed bag or in a waterproof compartment within your luggage.
Request “Fragile” Tags For Your Luggage
When you arrive at the airport to check your bags, don’t hesitate to request “fragile” luggage tags to be placed on both sides of your suitcases. Any airline check-in counter should have these tags and have no problem giving them to you or adding them to your luggage for you. Of course, this is not a guarantee that your luggage will be handled with delicate care (have you ever watched luggage being loaded onto a plane?)—but it’s at least one more simple step you can take to increase your chances of your wine arriving back at your destination in one piece.
A Final Note…
Once you arrive back at home with your intact wine bottles, it may be tempting to pop one open and celebrate! Not so fast, however. It’s likely that your wine was shaken around quite a bit during travel, which can affect the flavors. For the best taste, you’re actually better off waiting at least a couple weeks before opening any wine that has traveled with you. This is especially true if you’re bringing back any carbonated wine, though you’ll want to be especially careful when opening any bottles that have carbonation. It’ll be worth the wait!
As you can see, there are a lot of precautions you should take when traveling home with bottles of wine. Whether you’re bringing home a single bottle of $10 wine or something a little fancier, you don’t want to open your suitcase to find that the bottle has broken or leaked. Fortunately, by taking just a few special precautions, you can arrive home with your wine bottles intact and ready to enjoy in just a couple short weeks.