There is a lot of uncertainty in the wine world when it comes to transporting wine on an airplane. Can you bring wine on a plane? Does it need to be in a checked bag or can it be carried in a carry-on? What’s the best wine suitcase to use? We’ll answer all of these questions and more in this article.
Can You Bring Wine on a Plane?
The answer is yes. Yes you can. However, there some rules around bringing alcohol on a plane that must be acknowledged.
Wine purchased outside of the airport must be kept in checked baggage.
Since most bottles of wine consumers are looking to travel with exceed the 3.4 ounce liquid carry-on limit at airports, you’ll need to keep your bottles within checked baggage. There’s a good chance that if you’re traveling with wine it has a special value to you, so don’t risk TSA keeping it for themselves and throwing a party.
You can (usually) bring an unlimited amount of wine in your checked luggage.
Airports within the United States allow you to travel with as much wine as you’d like in your checked bag given that it’s below 24% alcohol. Which, is almost always the case as it relates to wine. If you’re traveling with fortified wine, be sure to inquire about any limits before hand. Although this is not usually checked or regulated as stringently.
If you’re bringing wine home to the United States from a foreign country, you’re only allowed one-liter of duty free wine.
Per U.S. Customs regulations, you’re only allowed to bring up to a liter of duty free wine from a foreign country. Otherwise, you may incur a 3% sales tax on any items exceeding this amount.
Remember that foreign countries may have their own set of rules for bringing wine on a plane.
Be sure to do your research ahead of time if you’re planning on bringing wine to a foreign country. Not all rules are universal and there may be limits and/or taxes incurred when you arrive at customs that vary by country.
At present, bottles of wine purchased before security checkpoints in airports are not allowed to be stored in carry-on bags. This is due to the TSA-mandated rule that any liquid over 3.4 ounces is not permitted in carry-on baggage. However, if you are able to purchase wine in the terminal at a duty-free shop after going through security, you’ll be allowed to put it in your carry-on baggage.
Note that most airlines do not allow these large bottles of wine to be opened on board when in flight, so be sure to keep them hidden away or you could risk them being confiscated.
Protect Your Wine in Luggage
If you’re only planning on transporting a bottle or two, more often than not they can be stored safely within a typical suitcase. The trick is to pack them in such a way as to avoid them breaking during transport and to minimize shaking and rattling during the flight to preserve quality. We highlight a couple of tricks below to help keep your wine safe in a checked bag.
Pack bottles in the middle of your bag.
We’ve all heard of baggage handlers throwing luggage on and off conveyor belts and into the belly of a plane. In order to minimize the chance of a bottle breaking, keep your bottle(s) closer to the center of your suitcase to lessen the effect of any impacts. Don’t keep any glass bottles directly at the top, bottom or sides of your suitcase. Instead, keep them firmly secure and surrounded by clothing on all sides in the middle of your suitcase.
Don’t put two bottles next to one another.
This should be relatively obvious, but you don’t want two bottles clinking together every time the plane encounters turbulence or a baggage handler tosses your suitcase. Ensure that there’s a fair amount of cushion between two or bottles in any suitcase.
Use poofy and/or dense fabrics to protect your wine.
Dense pieces of clothing or other fabrics offer ideal insulation for both protecting and keeping your wine bottles from excessive movement while in transit. I’ll usually wrap some of my thicker shirts, socks or jackets around any bottles I plan to travel with. Then, I’ll pack more garments tightly around the wrapped bottle. If you want to take this a step further, head to Home Depot or Target and pickup some bubble wrap and secure your bottles before heading to the airport.
Note: You can also purchase bottle protectors like this one to both protect, contain and absorb wine in luggage should anything break.
Add an extra layer of protection with a large zip-lock bag.
Even though the above protection is usually fine for transporting bottles of wine, many travelers are concerned that there’s a chance a bottle could break. If this is you, and you know you want to travel with wine ahead of time, head to the store and buy zip-lock bags that are large enough to hold a 750ml bottle of wine. Also keep in mind that the bags should be large enough to hold bottles of wine that are wrapped in protective garments as well.
Thanks to relatively recent technological advances in luggage, several companies offer very reliable wine suitcase options that are specifically designed to hold large numbers of bottles in a secure way. My favorite is the TZ 7-Bottle Wheeled Water Resistant Wine Transport Case. It’s rugged, reliable, not too heavy and the water resistance is a huge plus when you’re traveling through Bordeaux in the winter. Below, we include a couple of our favorite brands in various sizes that have also received great reviews.