The Secret to Packing Beer, Wine, Olive Oil and Other Speciality Items in Your Checked Luggage

July 07, 2015

The secret to packing beer and wine in your checked baggage

When we travel, we become captivated by the culture, food, and customs of our vacation destination.  We desperately want to capture some of the wonderful experiences we’ve enjoyed, in more ways than with mere photos taken on our cellular phone!

Bacon Butter

Bacon Butter Pancakes from the Buttered Tin, St. Paul MN

Like Carol Burnett in her famous Gone With the Wind skit, we see souvenirs “hanging in the window and we just can’t resist”!  We’ve all done it, haven’t we?  If you’re in the Gen Y age group – you might come back from Mexico with a humongous sombrero, from Hawaii with a hat woven from a palm frond, or from Las Vegas with a ‘life’ size plastic guitar – minus the couple gallons of booze it held  Baby boomers and Gen Xer’s may be more inclined to shop for carvings or other works of art by regional artisans, locally made articles of clothing, bottles of wine or local beer, or foodstuffs – such as balsamic vinegar or virgin olive oil.  You’ll definitely want to bring home a bottle or two of that delectable light white Fazi-Battaglia Verdicchio, in its unique green-glass bottle shaped like an ancient Greek vase, that you SO enjoyed in Italy.  Take it home, chill it well to serve on your patio alongside a bucket of fresh oysters or mussels – and you’ll be back at your Italian villa – if only in your imagination

St. Barths Rum

R. St. Barts | Rhum

These ‘spur of the moment’ purchases are all well and good….IF you’re traveling by car.  Hauling these ‘treasures’ home when you are flying, however, can be pretty tricky.

How do you pack them safely and securely for the journey home?  First, you’ll want to weigh your luggage once you’ve packed all your treasures.  A very handy travel gear item is the Jetsetter Digital luggage scale – as, often the amount you may have to pay in excess baggage fees can soon cost more than what you spent on all the goodies you want to bring home! Secondly, lock your luggage with a Tarriss TSA lock to discourage would-be thieves, yet making your luggage easily accessible for inspection by TSA officers.

Tarriss SearchAlert TSA Luggage Locks

TSA Luggage Locks w/ SearchAlert®

Tarriss Digital Luggage Scale

Jetsetter Digital Luggage Scale

If the items you have purchased – those beautiful ironwood or African walnut carvings from South Africa, that tiki mask from Fiji – are too bulky or too heavy to pack in your checked or carry-on luggage, consider mailing them home.  Most vendors are willing to package up your purchase to make it ready for safe shipping.  Purchase insurance when you are mailing it off – if your treasure doesn’t make it to your home, at least you won’t have to suffer a monetary loss in addition to the loss of the souvenir.

Items you’ve purchased that come in liquid form – wine, beer, oils, vinegar, etc. – will need to be packed in your checked luggage to avoid their being confiscated at security for being above the allowable size/volume.  Some of these items can be purchased at the airport Duty-Free shop which makes it so much easier to transport them home, worry-free.

You bought your wine, beer, olive oil, etc. directly from the little vineyard, brewery or orchard you visited personally.  It holds much more meaning for you than a bottle you pick up at Duty-Free on the way to your gate at the airport!   How are you going to get a breakable bottle to remain intact through all the hands and rough treatment it will have to travel during the flight home?

A friend returned from performing at La Scala in Milan with a bottle of Moscato in her checked luggage.  When she arrived home, the bottle had broken, drenching all of her clothes and her piece of luggage!  Fortunately, Moscato is a white wine…..so her clothing wasn’t stained AND every time she used that particular piece of luggage….the aroma of the wine took her back to time spent in that fabulous city!  Overall, not a truly terrible event

Maybe, like her,  you’re a gambler and are okay with taking a risk.  You hedge your bets and swaddle, in with your articles of clothing, that bottle of Amarula you picked up in Jo’burg, the bottle of Bordeaux from France, the bottle of extra virgin olive oil picked up in Orvieto, or other liquids you simply MUST bring home with you!  Then, you place it ever so gently into the middle of your suitcase where, you hope, the surrounding clothes will act as a sort of buffer.  Chances are it will arrive in one piece; but, that one time when you have a favorite dress or pair of slacks packed in with a bottle of red wine….that’s when your luck runs out and the Russian Roulette bullet is in the chamber

Bringing Home a Bottle or Two
  • Whether it’s olive oil, vinegar or vino that you’re packing, minimize the chance of breakage and, include a Bot’lPak as part of your travel gear.  This liquid tote is made with a durable padded outer shell and has a thick sealable plastic case on the inside which is designed to keep liquid from leaking out onto your clothes – if the unthinkable should occur.  Just be certain you have sealed it correctly!  Check them out at TravelwithWine.com.

packing 1 bottle

BottleWise Duo LX | Source: Amazon.com

  • You can also use a BottleWise-Rollup.  Place your bottle at the bottom of the pouch, press out any air, double seal the pack – the same way you would a vacuum pack, then roll it up and place it in the middle of your luggage.  Surround it with clothing to give it even more protection from bangs and bumps on the journey home.  This handy bag will hold up to one (1) Liter of wine or other allowable liquid.

BottleWise rollup

BottleWise Rollup | Source: Amazon.com

  • Another option, if you want to bring back a single bottle, is a wine sleeve with a ridiculous name – but, hey….if it works, right?  This would be the ‘wine diaper’ – yes, that IS the correct name!  Like a diaper, the inside of this pouch is made of soft and absorbent material.  It will provide your bottle of favorite wine better than a ‘fighting chance’ of making it home intact!  You can watch how to use these bottle carriers at the Wine Diaper website.

Wine Diaper

Wine Diaper Reusable Padded Absorbent Bag, Eco-Friendly Travel Accessory | Source: Amazon.com

Bringing Home a Half Dozen Bottles or More

What if you want to bring home a number of bottles of wine?  You’ve been touring wine country in Italy and some of the samples have been simply TOO divine not to purchase a bottle.  Before long, you take a look around your hotel room and realize you have half a dozen bottles of wine and not enough time to consume them all – that is…. if you want to remain upright for the rest of your vacation

  • You’ll need to pick up a ‘wine shipper box’ – which you’ll be able to find in most wine production areas and in major cities like Rome or Milan.  These cartons+ are available in sizes that will carry 6 or 12 bottles.  Be certain to seal the box correctly or you may end up with broken bottles at your home airport.  The boxes aren’t very expensive to purchase but the packed box IS going to count as a piece of luggage when you check it in at the airport.  You may have to pay extra to ship it but, no doubt, it will be well worth the additional charge once you are home and sipping a glass of some of that fine Italian vino!  Declare it on your Customs Declaration card – under ‘food’ if there is no specific box to check for alcohol.  Tell the agent how many bottles you have and that they are for your own consumption.  You can’t bring bottles of wine or liqueurs into the country with the intent to sell them – that’s illegal.  You also will have to pay any applicable duty and taxes.
  • You may choose to ship your vinegar, olive oil or bulky souvenirs (that wooden giraffe you couldn’t resist in South Africa) with a shipping company such as FEDEX or UPS.  Remember to add sufficient insurance to cover the cost of the item and all should be fine.  Again, you are responsible for all duty and taxes that apply.
  • It is NOT recommended that you use a shipping company such as UPS, FEDEX, etc to ship your wine home for you.  Regardless of what the agent may tell you, legally they are not allowed to transport alcohol of any kind.  They get around this by indicating on the waybill that it is vinegar or some other liquid that is being shipped.  It may end up being way more hassle than it’s worth!

By all means bring home with you some of the delectable food and drink you enjoy throughout your travels.  There is plenty of travel gear available out there to make transporting it a worry-free endeavor. Just remember to do your homework and ensure that the items, in fact, CAN be brought into the U.S.  A fairly all-encompassing list can be found at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection site.

Ensure your luggage is locked with a TSA luggage lock to decrease the likelihood of your treasures falling into the wrong hands!  You paid for them – you alone should be able to enjoy them when you get home from an incredible vacation!

Buon appetito!

Written by Emma Ghattas