Visiting local wineries and vineyards while on vacation or out of town is a great way to try new wines. The only problem is, if you like those wines enough to buy a few bottles directly from the winemaker, you will have to figure out a way to get them home with you.
If you’re driving your car, this isn’t much of a problem, just keep the bottles somewhere safe in the car and they should make the trip without issue. However, if you’re traveling by airplane then it’s not so easy.
To start, air travel has restrictions on how much liquid you can bring through security onto an airplane. If you’re bottle of wine is more than 3.4 ounces you won’t be able to carry it through the TSA security checkpoints in your carry-on luggage, even if the bottle is sealed.
There’s no sense in trying to sneak the bottle through because it will get taken away and you’ll have to throw it in the garbage before continuing to your flight. Instead, lets look at some other ways that you can safely and easily travel with a wine bottle.
Ship The Wine Home
Want to ensure that you have no issues at the airport, and that your wine arrives safely at your home? You may want to consider having your wine shipped to your destination instead of trying to bring it with on the airplane.
Of course bringing the wine home in your checked luggage may be cheaper than shipping it home, especially if it’s just a couple bottles, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. You’re limited to 50 lbs. per checked bag and wine bottles can add quite a bit of weight to your baggage depending on how many bottles you’re bringing home. If you do end up going over that weight limit you’re going to have to pay an oversized bag fee, which will most likely be more than it would have cost to ship the bottles.
2. You’re limited to the amount of wine you can bring with you in your checked bag, regardless of the weight. Alcohol in checked bags is limited to 1.3 gallons if the alcohol content exceeds 24%. The average bottle of wine is around 12-14% alcohol, so this won’t be an issue in most cases. But if you happen to find a bottle of wine that’s over 24% alcohol you’ll be limited to 5 liters worth of liquid.
1.3 gallons of wine, or 5 liters, equals a little under 7 bottles of wine, or the equivalent of a double magnum bottle of wine.
So if you’re planning to travel home with more than 6 bottles of wine that is over 24% alcohol, you’re going to have to have it shipped as the airlines won’t allow it in a single checked bag. But of course, you can always split it between luggage if you’re traveling with more than one person.
With most bottles of wine coming in under that number you’ll only be limited by the weight of your bags and the risk you’re willing to take of the bottles not breaking in transit.
We all know how careful baggage handlers are with our luggage.
Pack Wine in Carry-on Bag
As we mentioned above, you can only bring small bottles of liquid through airport security and on to the airplane. If you wanted to bring home some mini bottles of wine from your favorite wineries, you can pack those into your carry-on and make it through security with no issue. The other thing you can do is purchase wine at the duty-free stores in the airport after you make it through security.
If you’re traveling through an airport located close to the wineries or a wine region, you may be able to find the local wines in the duty-free shops at the airport. Otherwise, you’re going to have to either ship the bottles back or put them in your checked luggage.
Pack Wine in Checked Luggage
If you’re only trying to bring a few bottles on your flight home, and you have some extra room in your luggage, the best way to travel with the wine is to put it in your checked bag.
The airports allow you to bring up to 5 liters of alcohol in your checked luggage as long as the bottles are less than 24% alcohol, which most wine is. So in this case you can load up your bags with as much wine until you hit that 50 lb. weight limit.
If you are planning to bring wine home in your checked bags though you’re going to want to be sure to pack them well so that they don’t break in transit.
Packing the bottles securely and safely is the key to ensuring that they survive the flight home. Since the cargo hold of most airplanes these days is pressurized and wine doesn’t freeze until it gets extremely cold, you won’t have to worry about your bottles exploding or freezing during transit.
The biggest threat of something happening is the bottles breaking due to force.
Baggage handlers and the machines that carry your luggage through the airport, are not the gentlest with your bags. Therefore, it’s extremely important to pack your wine bottles so that there’s no risk of them banging into each other, or something hard, and breaking within your luggage.
Taking each individual bottle and wrapping them in something soft before packing them is the ideal way to protect the bottles. If you know you’re going to be bringing wine home from a trip, a wine travel bag that can fit in your luggage is a great thing to bring. You can also wrap the bottles in bubble wrap before packing them, but not everyone has these things available.
We recommend putting each bottle into a long sock and then individually wrapping them up in your clothing so that you’re never having bottle on bottle contact.
If you don’t have socks long enough to cover the wine bottle, just be sure to wrap them extremely well in your clothes and then stagger them between layers of clothing. The further away from each other the bottles are, the less chance they will bang into each other and break.
Protecting your bottles of wine during a flight is the most important thing you can do to ensure that the bottles survive, and your clothes don’t get destroyed. There’s no reason to worry about the wine freezing or exploding due to the pressure on the plane, so as long as you focus your attention on protecting the outside of the bottles you should be able to enjoy those delicious bottles of wine when you get home.