The Insider’s Guide to International Travel with Wine Bottles

If you are planning on traveling to the various old world wine regions, whether it's France Italy, Spain, Portugal, or others there are a few things we can predict: 

  1. You are going to love wine tasting, visiting wineries, and learning about the regional wines.
  2. You will want to bring some bottles home to enjoy later, and to share a little of your vacation experience with friends and family. 

Although it's true that you can get plenty of old world wine back home, there are just so many great small, local producers that simply do not export. We regularly get questions on whether you can bring wine and alcohol on a plane and if so how to do it, so we’ve put together our tips for packing wine in your luggage:

Note, these rules do not apply to international shipping of wine and alcohol, which typically come with many more restrictions (import licences, jurisdictional and state laws, bans on shipping alcohol to certain countries and states, and by many couriers in entirety) 

1. Checked (Hold) Luggage Only

This might seem obvious to many, but so many travelers overlook this not so insignificant detail. Liquids in containers larger than 3.4 oz or 100 ml are prohibited in carry-on (cabin) luggage. Don't be that person having to hand over your bottle of Château Margaux for the TSA agents to drink later, or otherwise be forced to have a spontaneous wine tasting party at airport security.

2. Checked (Hold) Luggage Bottle Restrictions

To the question of how of how much alcohol can you bring on the plane, you'll be pleasantly surprised that there are no TSA-regulated quantity limits for wine or alcohol in your checked (hold) baggage as long as it contains less than 24% alcohol. Those wanting to add a little spirits to the mix need to know that alcohol that contains over 24% alcohol is limited to 170 oz or 5 litres per person. Beverages that contain more than 70% alcohol are prohibited.

Individual airline baggage weight limits still apply, but you can use up your entire weight allotment for wine or alcohol if you choose as long as the above mentioned rules are respected. One bottle of wine weighs on average 3 lbs or 1.4 kg so you can do the math. Typical international baggage weight limits are 50 lbs or 23 kg.

3. Packing Your Bottles in Luggage Safely

Wine can be delicate to travel with and you never want to arrive home to your clothes stained and destroyed from a broken bottle of red. Luggage handlers generally don’t handle your luggage with the utmost care. Your luggage is likely to get tossed, jostled, and probably will end up shooting down onto the conveyor belt upside down and backwards. Typical cardboard alcohol transport boxes are not adequate for commercial air travel due to a lack of padding. If you are wanting to transport an entire case of alcohol, a styrofoam container specifically designed for the shape of wine or spirits bottles, combined with the Wine Check luggage is best. This specialized luggage has been specifically designed for checking 12 to 15 bottles of wine or alcohol onto the plane and is airline approved. Its lightweight design ensures that its overall weight with the bottles inside falls under the 50 lbs or 23 kg airline weight limit. The insert is removable and the luggage itself is foldable and reusable for all your future wine trips.

If you are transporting a small number of bottles and want to pack them in your luggage you can use the cleverly designed, self-inflating WineHug, which comes in a single bottle, or twin version (for 2 classic bottles or a single large bottle). Otherwise consider the leak-proof WineCradleWineSkin or Vinnibag. As an alternative, opt for a polystyrene bottle protectors that come in a variety of capacities from 1-6 bottles.

 

4. Bringing Wine and Alcohol through Customs

This is of course is dependent on which country you are flying into.

How much alcohol can I bring to the US? In the United States there are no limits to how much alcohol you can bring as long as it is intended for personal consumption and not resale. Many mistake the duty-free limit of 34 oz or 1 liter as the total limit. If you are over the duty-free limit, you simply have to declare the alcohol you are transporting on your customs form and pay the appropriate duty to the customs officer, typically around $1 to $2 for wine and beer, while the amount for spirits is slightly higher and varies by type, as of publication. From our experience however, more typically than not, you will be waived through without paying any duty due to the amount being so negligible.

Travelling with wine within the European Union is even simpler. You can take up to 90 litres of wine between EU countries (including the UK) before duties and taxes are charged.

For duties in other countries (including Canada, Australia, the E.U, and Brazil) check out the Flying with Wine 101 guide we've created.

Do you have experience with flying with wine and alcohol?