Expert Tips for Traveling with Wine
Bring a taste of the vineyard home with you by following these simple steps
If you journey halfway across the globe in search of the perfect wine, chances are you’ll want a bottle or two to tote back home with you from the vineyard.
Good news. With a little bit of preparation, traveling with wine is easy, and a great way to relive memories from your travels — even long after the trip is over.
Whether you’re going to Sonoma or Sicily and want to bring a few bottles home with you, or you’re heading to Hawaii for a family vacation and want to transport a selection from your own cellar, the following tips will help make traveling with wine a cinch.
What is the easiest way to transport wine while traveling?
Carting heavy bottles of wine around is no walk in the park, especially when you already are weighed down by the rest of your luggage. Before you start stuffing your suitcase with wine bottles, consider these potential options first:
First, a simple question is to ask the winery if the wine is available in the U.S. If so, it’s often easier and less expensive to buy it when you return home, rather than carrying it back with you. If you like it, it’s also easy to find again.
If the wine is not available in the U.S., certain wineries and tour operators like Experi often offer wine shipping services that make the process easy for you. Often you also can consolidate bottles from multiple wineries into one shipment. Ask the winery or tour operator if they can help you ship wine back home and what the approximate cost is per case. But don’t try to do this yourself — there are a variety of regulations and, depending on where you’re shipping to, you would likely need a special license.
How much wine can I bring on the airplane?
If the wine you are looking to transport isn’t available in the U.S. or shipping is not an option, don’t get discouraged. Flying with wine is simpler than it seems.
According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), alcoholic beverages with less than 24 percent alcohol content (most wines) are not subject to hazardous materials regulations. Furthermore, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol states that there is no federal limit on the amount of alcohol a person can import into the U.S. for personal use, meaning the amount of wine a person can travel with is restricted only by the checked baggage limits of the airline.
Expert tip: According to TSA regulations, liquids transported in carry-on bags are limited to travel-sized containers (3.4 ounces or less per item) that can fit inside a 1-quart size resealable bag. As such, if you are planning to bring even one bottle of wine home with you, be prepared to stow the bottle with your checked luggage.
How much does it cost to take wine on an airplane?
Traveling back to the U.S. from somewhere else in the world? The U.S. allows one duty-free liter of alcohol per person. The fee for subsequent bottles of wine ranges in price from about $0.75-$2 per bottle.
However, whether you’re flying domestically or internationally, the airline will charge you a fee to check your wine (like regular luggage). Confirm with your airline in advance to find out what the charge (and limit!) is for checked luggage. Depending on the airline, you may be able to take advantage of special deals and rates. For example, Alaska Airlines’ Wine Flies Free program allows its Mileage Plan members to check one case of wine for free when flying from 29 West Coast cities.
Expert tip: If you’re traveling with others and only bringing back a couple bottles, split the load between the members in your group, as you may be able to avoid some baggage and duty fees.
How can I safely transport wine?
If you only plan on transporting a bottle or two, packing wine with your regular luggage is a perfectly fine option, as long you you use a resealable, watertight, padded wine sleeve like this one. Once the bottle is properly sealed and secure in the wine sleeve, snuggly place the bottle(s) in the center of your suitcase to prevent movement during transport.
For travelers planning to haul back a bigger load, wine shipper boxes with foam inserts are a great option. These sturdy boxes come paired with Styrofoam inserts that securely keep your bottles protected and in place during rough transport. For added protection, you can slip the bottles into wine sleeves before placing them in the box. Once the box is packed, tape it shut and write your name, address, and flight number on the box — just in case something happens to it during transport. Once your box is sealed, it will be treated like a regular piece of luggage.
Expert tip: If you plan on transporting large amounts of wine on a regular basis, investing in a reusable, dedicated wine carrier like this one will provide added protection (and peace of mind) during frequent flights to and from your favorite wineries.