When most people go on vacation or travel they bring back postcards or maybe a trinket or two. I like to bring back booze. The habit started when I’d bring back cigars from Cuba — which evolved into bottles of rum. Now everywhere I go I presumptuously leave space in my luggage for beer or spirits. Cans are easy, but bottles make it more tricky, so I decided to share my tricks for wrapping beer cans and bottles when you have nothing but clothes, or what owning a wine travel case involves.
Whenever I am within the U.S. (since I live there), I will mail what I am buying back home in order to avoid needing to fit it inside of my suitcase. Typically, I mail home cans of beer. I am not a huge drinker of beer but I appreciate the novelty surrounding good branding.
Whenever you are traveling overseas, there really isn’t any other option other than to place your alcohol inside of your checked luggage. Just watch somebody load suitcases into a plane, and you will see that your valuable cargo is in danger practically from the second it leaves your sight at the check-in.
Can You Bring Alcohol on a Plane?
How much you can bring on a flight depends on whether you’re carrying them on board or storing them in your checked-in suitcase or bag. Each country has different regulations so check your destinations local laws prior to bringing alcohol home. In the USA for example, if you are transporting booze in your carry-on, you will be subject to the TSA’s (Transportation Security Administration) 3-1-1 limit for liquids, meaning containers need to be 3.4 ounces or less and fit inside one quart-sized bag.
If you plan to check bags in with alcohol in them, the limitations depend on alcohol content. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), they have no limit on how much alcohol you can carry in your checked luggage, so long as the contents of the bottle by volume is less than 24% (normally wine and beer). Anything between 24-70% percent, the FAA has limits of 5 litres per passenger.
When in doubt, ask “can you take alcohol on the plane” at check in. I have yet to encounter a country or airline that allows the consumption of alcohol a passenger has brought onto a plane. That’s likely what private jets are for. 🙂
Improvise Your Own Secure, Travel Liquor Case
When it comes to packing booze, there is a right way to do it. Here are my tested hacks using things that I have with me:
Make Sure To Wrap Each Bottle
Usually, the first thing I do is wrap each bottle inside of a sock. Then I used the thickest clothes that I have to wrap it again. Think jeans, sweatshirts, sweaters, the thicker they are the better. Protection is the key here, especially the bottle’s neck. Most of the time when a bottle breaks it is due to the fact that the neck broke. If you happen to have any bags with you, tie the bottle up with them (either after or before wrapping, depending on the size). That can help to minimize any potential damage.
Build Walls of Clothing
The goals whenever you pack your suitcase is to ensure there isn’t any way that the bottles will end up touch the sides of the suitcase. Typically I start off by building a base at the bottom of the suitcase using a layer of clothing or shirts that I didn’t use for wrapping the bottles. Then next make a protective wall on the sides of the suitcase. Shoes work really well. Or if you don’t happen to have any shoes, then you can use rolled up pants or shirts. Protecting the top of the suitcase is as important as protecting the bottom. Make a protective barrier using all of your remaining clothing on the top of your suitcase. For even more protection I have also used books.
Arrange The Bottles Nicely
Put the bottles in the middle of the suitcase. Have the top of each bottle point in the same direction as the bottom part of your next bottle. Each bottle should be separated with extra clothing that you have handy. Make it as difficult as you can for the bottles to touch one another.
Pro Tip 1: If you shop at a vineyard or distillery sometimes they will give you a box or wrap the bottle in bubble wrap. Definitely, take advantage of that. Every wine shop that I went into in Italy had bubble wrap sleeves available for the wine that I bought.
Pro Tip 2: The next time you purchase a new suitcase, choose one with hard sides instead of soft ones.
Pro Tip 3: If traveling with alcohol is your thing, you may want to purchase a dedicated suitcase. That’s the best wine suitcase Amazon has to offer. I bought a styrofoam 12-bottle, insulated wine travel case that has wheels and a lock. Even when 12 bottles of wine are loaded in it, the entire weight it under 50 pounds still (which for most airlines is the maximum weight). I’m sure it’s tough to design wine luggage for airplane travel, and although not practical for all trips, it makes sense if you are going someplace like Napa and planning on returning with lots of bottles.