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Alcohol on Planes - Checked Luggage

It's still ok to pack alcohol in luggage you plan to check, right? Are there specific guidelines? Will a bottle be ok in the cargo hold with the cold temps (I assume so, since it's fine in the freezer)?

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  1. I had a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel in my checked luggage from Chicago to Orlando with no problems. I did take care to 'bubble wrap' it though.

    1. I second the bubble wrap suggestion. I'd be more worried about the bag getting tossed around, then thrown down on the tarmac.

      1. Cargo holds are likely to be somewhat cooler than the passenger compartment, but they aren't below freezing (and they're at the same pressure).

        1. just came back from europe only carrying a massive backpack and stuffed about 9 bottles of belgium beer, foie gras and some marron glaces.

          all i did was stuff them into socks for padding and arranged them as tight as i could with whatever clothing i had as a buffer. so with maybe about 2 or so inches of solid padding between the rough baggage handling and my alcohol... we did just fine! not a single crack, break leak or anything.

          my sister did the same with beer and a bottle of champagne. nice and chilled when i got it back, unfortunately not in drinking condition though.

          1. I managed to transport two cases of Leinenkugel's on a commuter-plane flight (the kind where they take even your hand luggage away to store it under). They were in your standard black roller bag (did you know it fits EXACTLY two cases of bottled beer?) and they made it perfectly.

            Remember, though, that that sort of thing is just set down on the tarmac for people to pick up planeside, so it wasn't hurled about on a conveyor.

            1. I brought back two cases of Augistiner Brau from Munich (impossible to find here). Wrapped each bottle in some newspaper and had no problems.

              1. Just beware max check baggage piece weight is no longer 70 lbs, but a much lower 50 lbs. Rule of thumb, 1 regular wine bottle = 2 lbs. If your baggage is already heavy enough w/o bottles, you might be crossing the threshold.

                1. Sorry to resurrect this old thread, but I'm wondering about transporting unmarked alcohol bottles on domestic (U.S.) flights. I got some home-infused vodkas for xmas, and was hoping to bring it back home this week in a couple of mason jars or thermoses.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Bone Thug n Hominy

                    I would go with a Thermos. No need to rile the TSA's Suspicions.

                    1. re: gryphonskeeper

                      And a metal thermos full of unidentified liquor isn't going to rile them?

                      Pour the home-infused vodkas in a marked vodka bottle, seal it as tightly as you can, wrap the whole thing in cling film, and put it in your luggage.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        Good idea. We go to Brazil pretty regularly. Booze is expensive there so we always carry a couple of 1.75L bottles. My vodka only comes in glass bottles so we thoroughly wash an empty plastic Scotch one, fill it and tape it. Never a problem.

                  2. I pack such and any liquidy thing wrapped in bubble wrap and seal in the appropriately sized plastic storage bag.

                    1. I travel with alcohol frequently. I put each bottle in one or 2 socks, then wrap around rest of my clothes. Then I put a couple layers of clothes around the whole suitcase. I've done this maybe 10 times and zero bottles have broken (typically take 10-20 beer bottles each trip, depending on size of bottles).

                      1. This is what the TSA's website says. I'd also look at your specific carrier to see if they have any additional information. http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtrave...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Azizeh

                          Excellent link. Always go to the source. Whether I agree with government regulations or not, I do NOT want to get in a conflict where I KNOW I'll lose. Esp. when traveling.

                        2. the only sure way of getting alcohol in or on the plane is to buy it at duty free where it's delivered to the aircraft via the rep from duty free. you have to show your receipt to get your goods. but even when you go to far off countries where you've bought alcohol, that won't necessarily ensure you end up with it. and what are you gonna do? < argue with the ones at security if they ask you about what's in your luggage? You're better off just buying it where you end up, using it there and leaving it. you can try the coke plastic bottle thing or any other way of getting it disguised, but you risk it undoing itself in your luggage and spilling all over the place, ruining your goods that you didn't want wet. I watched a friend of mine with champagne in her luggage, going down the escalator thinking her luggage was fully zipped . I was directly behind her and guess what, before at the bottom of the escalator, that bottle slipped out and exploded everywhere.

                          leave the booze at home or buy it there

                          37 Replies
                          1. re: iL Divo

                            It is legal to fly with alcohol in your checked bags. Duty free may not have the selection you are looking for, so I wouldn't wait until then. Just pack it well and don't lie about it to customs.

                            1. re: kwjd

                              "Just pack it well and don't lie about it to customs".

                              uh huh and be ready to relinguish it if for no reason, they take it away from you.............

                              1. re: iL Divo

                                I've never had customs seize liquor from me, even when I go above the limit. They charge me duty sometimes (the duty on the first 5 L additional isn't too bad, should be under $10 a litre), but they don't seize it.

                                Say yes to life, il Divo... it's worth the risk to bring back a bottle of, say, amari that I can't get in the US.

                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                  Absolutely, DU. I travel internationally about twice a year and not necessarily on US carriers. I always carry liquor, usually in both directions, and NEVER have had a problem. As you say, don't lie on amounts, pay duty if necessary (there are two of us traveling so we've never exceeded the duty limits). I also agree that duty-free shops selection tend to be expensive lowest-common-denominator type choices.

                                  The four different cachacas we brought back from Rio in October have made nice drinking and appreciated gifts.

                                    1. re: iL Divo

                                      That's great. I've not found that to be true at JFK, IAD, SFO and others. And not when departing from other countries. But, again, the question isn't about that. I'm sorry anyone had that experience. And the fact that your friend had her suitcase unzipped to the point that a bottle of champagne could fall out doesn't have anything to do with what's allowed or not.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Before the stupid liquid ban on planes, I brought back a roll-on back absolutely jammed full of Leinenkugel's beer from Wisconsin. It all made it back fine.

                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                    oh I say yes to life < are you kidding? but in my presence it has been seized, and he was an official and still couldn't do anything about it. that's all I'm saying.

                                    understand also I don't drink alcohol so to me, it's a none issue. but for some..............like say friends?....................................................

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                      A word to the wise - if you're transiting Narita en route to other destinations, security people seeing you through the scanner there will seize any liquids over 4 oz (the transit zone is apparently outside what they consider the secure zone) - we lost a duty-free bottle of Scotch this way. Was bought inside security at JFK and was in sealed duty-free packaging, made no never mind to them.

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        I don't think Narita is alone in this practice, but I could be wrong. I think it's commonly recommended to buy duty-free liquor at your penultimate stop for this reason.

                                        1. re: Bone Thug n Hominy

                                          Wish we had known at the time (figured we'd be in secure area the whole time). Replaced the bottle with a nice Yamazaki single malt at the airport, better than the one we got at JFK.

                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            hoping that some will pay attention to your post BT cause you're right.

                                            was this experience that you had before this thread started or while it's been ongoing? I only ask because I've tried to be informative but it's been met with some resistance. there are a few things I know cause I've been right there. not calling you out, you're not who's disbelieved me.

                                            for instance in Calgary Canada, I was walking up to customs, had checked that I had no alcohol or cigs or food or or or on my "come into their country sheet" and the lady at the customs counter hated me or my looks or whatever and pointed for me, me alone, to go into the empty glassed in room. she walked in with other officials, and reemed my luggage like no body's business. found nothing, but sure as $p!t tried.

                                            all I've tried to say is you may have no rights in a lot of places [like poorer nations or 3rd world countries] and if they say hand it over, you hand it over with no questions. cause what choice do you have?

                                            1. re: iL Divo

                                              iL D:

                                              all these comments need to be tempered with the comment "but everything seems to change everyday"

                                              so best of luck to all.

                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                It was in 2008. Customs everywhere (although this was a security guard, a bottle in checked luggage would have been fine) has the right to pick random individuals for search and it's at least not supposed to be because of the cut of your jib.
                                                We used to travel back and forth to Toronto from California a lot when my mom and dad were alive and the only time we got searched was when my husband had put something - nothing dangerous, just naughty - in the suitcase he shouldn't have without telling me (was not found, by the way, and a good thing it wasn't).

                                                1. re: iL Divo

                                                  Do you think you have any say in whether you hand it over or not w/ U.S. customs? If you think so, I think you're pretty mistaken.

                                                  Bone Thugs N Hominy is right - the practice is not restricted to Narita Airport and buttertart's experience is not exceptional. If you have a connecting flight in another country, you should not buy any bottles of liquor at duty-free stores unless you are sure that you will have a chance to put it in your luggage before you go another security check. Carrying liquor in your luggage is absolutely legal and buttertart's experience doesn't have anything to do with it, rather a security procedure. Had buttertart's flight been non-stop, it would have been a non-issue.

                                                  1. re: uwsister

                                                    In no way did I impute exceptionality to my experience and of course it would have been a non-issue on a direct flight. We have travelled internationally a lot. In the US once you're in the secure area you don't normally exit it in transit to another flight. For whatever reason it didn't enter our minds that the situation would be different at Narita. Others should be aware that it is there and can be at other airports.

                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      buttertart - my post was not aimed at you, I know you didn't say your experience was an exception!

                                                2. re: buttertart

                                                  Could happen in the US too. We came in last week from India, landed in Chicago then changed planes for LA. We were warned (fortunately) in Chicago that any duty-free liquids we had bought needed to be removed from our carry-ons and stashed in our checked bags before continuing.

                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                    It would have been nice to have been reminded of it by JAL...damnit. It was just an ordinary bottle of Bell's (an old sentimental favorite), but for some reason we've only seen it in duty-frees in the NY area, not in stores.

                                                3. re: Bone Thug n Hominy

                                                  I think this is correct. In the Sidney transit zone a few weeks ago I saw someone lose a nice duty-free bottle the same way.

                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                    That's too bad. We 'lost' a bottle in Nairobi but it was our own fault. Had we been thinking clearly, we'd have KNOWN we hadn't gone through security on our first outbound flight. Since our international flights really 100% of the time involve transitting through a US airport on our way home, we simply never carry anything on board.

                                              2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                I just flew from NYC to Toronto last night. I had 12 bottles beer in my checked suit case that I can't get in Toronto, plus I bought a bottle of scotch at the duty free. Nothing seized, I didn't even have to pay duty (I was willing to though, since I can't get what I bought where I live).

                                                I put each beer bottle in a sock, put that in a big zip lock back, then wrap in clothes so that all bottles have a couple layers between each other.Then have a few layers between the bottle and the edge of the suit case. Nothing broke.

                                                1. re: kwjd

                                                  ..................like you say, nothing seized. it's a hit or a miss too I've noticed. I got through security in January last year with a cup of coffee. totally forgot I even had the $t@rbucks cup. I got through they said nothing. Two people behind me, a lady with a cup of coffee, seized. you just never know.

                                                  you were fortunate with none of your bottles getting broken though right? boy that could have been a wet mess..... :/()

                                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                                    I just have to ask how you forgot that you had a cup of coffee with you.

                                                    I pack so well I'd feel UNFORTUNATE if anything DID get broken. We're talking 25 years. Knock wood :)

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      I just have to ask how you forgot that you had a cup of coffee with you

                                                      oh umm I don't know, let's see...............can you say rushed, tired, stressed, confused, in a giant hurry, etc etc etc

                                                      my point is, sometimes things pass, other times not so lucky, you win some you lose some

                                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                                        packing is key, I've been bringing glass in packed luggage since about '83 and later worked in a shipping department for a while in the old days and my suspicions were validated (after asking around carefully of all our shippers) ASSUME any piece of luggage, package or whatever is going to be handled roughly, don't even bother writing "fragile" just pack with that in mind. I never lost anything, glass, art, architectural models, you name it.

                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                          Sometimes if you mark fragile, a handler in a bad mood might just give it a kick or two. I've seen it happen! (Not on planes, but I worked at the Post Office for awhile, and now at a company where we have tractor trailers deliver our goods.).

                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                            Yep. Before checked bags had the weight limits they have now, one of our suitcases was a good-sized hard-sided one. It would have taken getting run over by a truck to break anything inside it. We got rid of it cause it weighs too much empty to be practical when traveling by air. Packing IS key.

                                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                                Is'pose I am, but then I was also responsible for moving people overseas and dealing with the thoughtful care packages relatives wanted to send and conversant with what customs would allow through. funny which countries will allow what food products. and how careless some people are, glass against unprotected glass? sheesh, we were shipping by weight, not volume. I went through so much bubble wrap those years.

                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                  It does seem that people are their own worst enemies at times. What's the expression? Ignorance of the law is no excuse? And common sense seems sorely lacking at times. I think threads like this are valueable because it can help people stay focused on how to achieve success when traveling. Kinda like cooking, huh?

                                                2. re: kwjd

                                                  George Costanza: The Duty Free Shop? Duty Free is the biggest sucker deal in retail.

                                                  1. re: monku

                                                    Though I did buy a bottle of scotch for in the dutry free in Newark airport for less than half the price of the government liquor store in Ontario. Even if they would have made me pay duty on the beer in my suitcase for being over the limit, the savings were easily worth it.

                                                    1. re: kwjd

                                                      When we were in BC a few years ago, we found liquor prices to be sky high. Is that countrywide?

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        Yes, a combination of government liquor monopolies in many provinces, combined with large "sin" taxes on alcohol.

                                                        1. re: kwjd

                                                          When my dad was still alive (in Ont.) we were under standing orders to bring 2 litres whenever we went there. If we bought it in NYC it was maybe a half what he paid at the LCBO. Duty-free was more expensive but a convenience.

                                              3. My son bought several bottles of alcohol while he's been here on vacation in Vegas, and plans to take them home with him on the flight to New Orleans. He said he will just wrap it well and check it...to him its worth it because those varieties are more expensive where he lives (mostly California wine, and some specialty vodka). I only thing there's a limit if you are flying internationally. I am a little leary; mostly because a flight I was on was once delayed for hours when some "unidentified liquid" was found in the baggage hold when the plane made a scheduled stop in Dallas. After sending in the hazmat team and scaring everyone who were still on the plane but could watch the hubub from the windows it was finally determined that the offending liquid was tequila. They did find the suitcase from which it was leaking....

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: janetofreno

                                                  I brought home a few bottles of wine from New Zealand, using devices similar to these:


                                                  though they were a bit cheaper in NZ, purchased with a 'friends and family' discount at hubby's first wife's wine shop... :-). Definitely adds to the cost of the bottle, but if one is nervous, they worked perfectly (I also wrapped the sealed wine skins with bottles inside in clothes just as an extra, probably unnecessary precaution). The seal can probably only be used once (and would definitely have prevented that tequila disaster), but the package can be used over and over again. (You might even be able to make a new seal with duct tape. For that matter, I suspect one could design one's own with bubble wrap and duct tape).

                                                  hmmm.....hubby has been wanting to make limoncello. Do they still sell 120 proof vodka in Nevada?

                                                2. cargo bins on aircraft is same temp as the inside of the aircraft, consider how many people check their animals in the belly of the plane.

                                                  you're more apt to run into questionable situations if you're going international

                                                  1. I last flew domestic US last April with a bottle (uncracked seal) in my checked luggage, it was pulled off the line and searched according to a thoughtful notice I found in my carefully re-packed bag when I got to my remote destination (stores are few and far between, so I HAD to plan ahead)

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                      But the bottle was still there, right? A few years ago when we were in Rio, I bought some necklaces and earring for our daughters that were quite fragile. Thinking I was being so clever, I put them in the cardboard roll from paper towels and taped both ends closed. It never crossed my mind what that would look like on an xray machine. I thought it was totally appropriate that it was opened. I've gotten those notes also.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        as far as I could tell everything was still there. so hat's off to the TSA folk. and I swear I'd packed so much it was like a puzzle to get it all back in place.

                                                    2. Just pack it well in the checked luggage, beyond that you're left to the TSA/custom agent's whim. I've found it doesn't really matter what the current rules are (and have gotten out of the habit of educating myself on the current info, saves irritation on my part). I've never encountered a problem traveling within the US, and other than a nasty customs guy at Dulles, haven't had any problems traveling internationally. Just save your receipts for international travel.

                                                      A lot of vineyards offer unmarked boxes with styrofoam inserts. Just ask. I've used those several times, traveling in the US and internationally, to transport wine.

                                                      1. Here is a tale l thought unusual. Returning to USA after a trip to Korea. l was only allowed to bring bottles in carryon luggage, then when l transferred in Japan l was only allowed to put in check-in, drove me nuts. Had to reclaim checkin to put it in, and that was far from easy.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                            Narita is the only place we've had a problem in more years than you can shake a stick at in international booze-bearing travel. A very particular airport. (The trip JFK-NRT-PVG was on JAL.)

                                                          2. I honestly never understood why people like carrying alcohol on planes. I travel 1 out of 5 days a year and i personally like to just make everything as smooth as possible. I do have an advantage as i usually know a week in advance before i go anywhere so i phone ahead my alcohol and special request orders at least 3 days in advance to the concierge desk of my hotel. Truthfully most people do not use their concierge enough, tip them $50 each week you stay there and you will never have to shop for yourself. Double that if you are needing them to get you free tickets or reservations to hot spots.

                                                            As far as bringing back liquor or really anything heavy from overseas i always just have my hotel mail it for me. Depending on the hotel you can leave it with the concierge or they might tell you to just leave it in your room. I have never had a problem and they will just bill the card you reserved the room with.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: badvegan

                                                              Many of us travel on budgets that do not cover hotels with concierge service, much less a $50 a week tip. I'm still at a life stage where I'd much rather haul my luggage through public transit for $4 than pay $40 for a cab. If there is a special beer or wine that I cannot get at home, then I will but a bottle or two and pack carefully to bring it home.

                                                              To put things in perspective, when traveling for business, I am allowed $79 a night (plus tax) for lodging and $37/day for meals. My employer will pay for taxis, but encourages the use of public transit or shuttle service whenever possible. We're grant funded, so I try hard not to waste funds in order to protect my own salary.

                                                              1. re: badvegan

                                                                It is illegal to send alcohol through the mail in many places. It illegal to send from US to Canada (and even within Canada). It is legal to take alcohol in your bags though.

                                                                1. re: badvegan

                                                                  We don't stay in hotels when we travel. We stay in apartments 99.9% of the time and we don't have a concierge there. Even in your situation, it would offend our basically frugal natures to pay for something that's not necessary. I don't find it a hassle at all, no more than putting any breakable/leakable item in my luggage.

                                                                  ETA: And if I were only going to be gone a few day, on what sounds like business travel in your case, I wouldn't bother with taking alcohol. Generally when we travel (always for pleasure now that we're retired), it's for a minimum of two weeks.