I often get asked about the rules and regs regarding flying (or just travelling in general) with wine, so I thought it was worthy of a post!
Let’s start with the current TSA rules regarding travelling with alcohol:
Carrying Alcohol In Your Checked Baggage
Please note, you can’t take alcoholic beverages with more than 70% alcohol content (140 proof), including 95% grain alcohol and 150 proof rum, in your checked luggage.
You may take up to five liters of alcohol with alcohol content between 24% and 70% per person as checked luggage if it’s packaged in a sealable bottle or flask.
Alcoholic beverages with less than 24% alcohol content are not subject to hazardous materials regulations.
Before you even consider packing fragile bottles of wine in bags containing your clothing, you need to make sure that you’re travelling prepared! One very cool product I’ve found is called the WineSkin, which is essentially a leak-proof transport system for your precious cargo. It’s also reusable!
Personally, I just always make sure that I travel with plenty of black plastic trash bags! Wrap each bottle in at least 2, and pack the bottles toward the middle of your suitcase, with plenty of padding around them. This will ensure that your bottles are protected when those friendly baggage handlers decide to kick your bags down a flight of stairs. It happens! The last thing you want is to arrive home, all travel weary and such, only to have to be faced with the unpleasant task of washing red wine and broken glass out of your clothing. Not cool.
Remember that liquids over 3oz are currently not allowed in your hand luggage. You have been warned! It would suck to have your 6 bottles of $100 cult Napa Cab taken away from your by some TSA Nazi, and use it was Sangria that night! They do that, you know!
Also; I can’t even tell you how many wine bottle openers I’ve had taken off me, which I’d completely forgotten were in my hand luggage! Don’t try and hide them either. They consider that a concealed weapon (I speak from experience).
Here are the major airlines, and their individual restrictions:
There is no restriction on the amount of alcohol you may pack in your checked luggage, provided it contains under 24% alcohol by volume (e.g. beer and wine). Alcohol restrictions, such as prohibiting the possession of alcohol, vary from city to city in the state of Alaska. Alaska Airlines recommend verifying the laws and regulations of each city in your travel itinerary. See Alaska Airlines’ Checked Baggage Policies for more information.
Opened containers are allowed in checked luggage if they have been re-closed and packed properly. Limited to 5 liters per passenger for beverages 24-70 percent by volume. For more information and limitations based on alcoholic proof, check the list of American Airlines Restricted Items.
Passengers can check alcohol up to 24% alc/volume with no regulations as long as it in within weight regulations. Again, all bottles must be packed to prevent breakage. For more information check Continental’s list of Fragile and Perishable Items
Passengers can check alcohol up to 24% alc/volume with no regulations as long as it’s within weight regulations. Bottles must be packed to prevent breakage. For more information see Delta’s list of Restricted Items.
Customers over the age of 21 may bring up to five liters of alcohol per person. Alcohol may not exceed 70% (140 proof) alcohol by volume. The limit to alcoholic beverages that contain less than 24% alcohol (i.e. wine, beer, etc.) are only restricted by our baggage size and weight requirements. Click here for Jet Blue guidelines.
Alcohol must be securely packaged in a leak-proof bag with adequate professional packaging designed to fit the proportions of the bottle to prevent breakage. The bottle also must be contained within a corrugated box secured with sealing tape. For more information check Southwest’s Special Luggage information.
Glass bottles must be in a Styrofoam-type insert which is molded to the shape of the bottle and completely encloses the bottle. NB: Kind of weird! How do they monitor that!?!? There is no limit on alcohol under 24% alc/volume as long as it is within weight regulations. See the United Airlines page on alcoholic beverages for more information.
US Airways doesn’t specify any alcohol packaging policies on their website, referring only to the TSA guidelines above. Click here for a full list of US Airways baggage guidelines.
You can take onboard (in your hand luggage) any liquid items you buy after security screening in the departure lounge – regardless of how large they are. This applies to any EU airport. Most duty free purchases will be given to you in a sealed bag – do not open this until you’ve reached your final destination. Make sure you retain the receipt, too, as you’ll be asked to show it at any transfer points. Click here for other Virgin Atlantic restrictions.
A Final Word of Advice
Especially if you’re travelling within the U.S., my word of advice is that most of the wines you’ll find are (99% of the time) readily available where you live.
If you’re at the winery, and considering buying wine to transport back, you might first want to ask whether the wine is available in your home state. If the wine is, then you might want to further inquire which distributor the wine is available through. Once you get back home, you’re armed with all the information you need to be able to go into your local-independently-owned-wine-store, and have them secure you a case, or 3.
If the wine isn’t available in your home state; then make sure you bookmark this page!