When people travel, there seems to be a lot of confusion and misperceptions about the quantity of wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages you can take back with you, especially if you are travelling internationally. But the truth is, if you’re visiting wineries, brew pubs or distilleries on your vacation, you’re going to want to bring back some of these drinks as souvenirs to enjoy back at home.
When flying with alcohol, there are TSA regulations, airline regulations and import laws set by individual countries.
Taken directly from the official TSA blog, any amount of alcohol greater than 3.4 ounces must be packed in checked baggage. Each traveler may also take up to five liters of liquids with alcoholic content between 24% and 70% if it’s packed in a sealable bottle or flask. Alcoholic beverages with less than 24% alcohol content are not subject to hazardous materials regulations. Please take note that the TSA is an agency of the U.S. and these restrictions will differ in other countries.
One big problem is that many in the industry don’t even understand the rules—including those who work for the airlines and the TSA.
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Stephen Gardner, a strategic communications consultant with NorthStar Policy in Washington, D.C., was traveling to Palm Springs to see family, and while there, he and his wife visited their favorite vineyard in Temecula called Palumbo.
“We took the wine luggage there with us that holds 12 bottles. We bought 12 bottles at the vineyard and after the holidays I headed to LAX for my flight back. After getting through security United called me and they were in a panic. TSA was telling them that I was only allowed to take 6 bottles with me on a flight,” he says. “They told me that either I could come back through security to the United Desk and try to make other accommodations for my wine or I could leave 6 bottles behind. I was very upset and couldn’t imagine how a luggage company could sell me luggage that I couldn’t use.”
Eventually, it was discovered that the six-bottle limit only applied to spirits and he was allowed to continue his journey,
And while wine and alcohol is not allowed in carry on bags unless purchased in duty-free stores beyond security checkpoints, this is not always the case.
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Mariza Leal, host of the Abroad Podcast, a show about expat life and living abroad, ran into difficulty when trying to bring a bottle of Cachaça from where she lived in Brazil to Las Vegas.
“I bought it at the duty-free before boarding the plane. It was a wedding present, one of those cute sets that comes with the glasses and a muddler to make caipirinha,” she says. “When I got to my connection in Panama City they set up this makeshift checkpoint. I put the liquor in the bin and they said I had to check it because it was more than 4 oz. I argued and ended up having to buy a bag to check it. It was very frustrating.”
According to the TSA, passengers traveling internationally into the United States, Canada and Europe with a connecting flight are permitted to carry liquids in excess of 100 ml (3.4 ounces) in their carry-on baggage, provided they were purchased in duty-free shops and placed in secure, tamper-evident bags.
Not all airlines have an explicit written policy on checking alcohol in your hold luggage, but the general rule is that it must be packaged to completely prevent breakage, which could damage other customers’ luggage and property. But packaging alcohol correctly can be a problem and is not easy, which is why many people opt to buy special luggage designed to hold alcohol.
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Dr. Ruth Berman, CEO of Bon Beer Voyage, offering tours for Belgian and craft beer throughout Europe, has heard horror stories from customers who traveled home with beer because they failed to pack the bottles correctly.
“Our guests often report back to us about what they brought home and what survived the journey,” she says. “And more than once they have purchased additional suitcases during the course of a beer-cation just to bring beer home with them.”
This allows them to use correct insulation and not worry about other things in the suitcase damaging or breaking the bottles.
Adam Tope, an attorney in New York, often takes wine trips and brings back anything between a few bottles to several cases of them on each trip. Over the years, he has brought back wine from Australia, South Africa and South America to the U.S. without any issues.
“If we are buying in quantity we use a standard cardboard box with Styrofoam inserts that wineries sell cheaply,” he says. “The biggest issue is finding these boxes in certain countries, so we have often brought them with us as checked bags. If it is a few bottles, I wrap a white T-shirt around the bottle and place it in a garbage bag (in case it were to break) and then bury it deep in my luggage.”
Be smart about traveling with alcohol. Don’t try to hide you are traveling with it, and package it so it’s safe from rough handling. If there are fees associated with bringing alcohol back to your country, be sure to declare it properly. Do all this and you’ll be enjoying your drink back at home.
Having peace of mind that your luggage (and wine or alcohol) is where it’s supposed to be going can provide peace of mind as well, so be sure to utilize LugLoc (www.lugloc.com), so you know where your bags are at all times.
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