Whether you want to take some along to toast the start of your vacation or would like to take advantage of the cheaper alcohol prices in overseas supermarkets, travelers to destinations all over the globe may well wonder about packing wine in their luggage.
Can wine bottles be taken on an aircraft, and if so should they be packed into your hand luggage or your checked bags?
If you’re wondering about the combination of glass bottles of wine and cabin pressure, this post goes through all you should know before taking alcoholic beverages onboard.
Don’t go to the duty-free shop before reading this article! In it, we’ll outline all the rules regarding packing wine bottles into a checked bag or your carry-on.
This advice is given for guidance only, however: you should always check the restrictions with the airline you’ll be flying with.
- TSA Rules for Taking Wine on a Plane
- Buying wine from the duty-free shop
- Alternatives to taking wine on a plane
- Packing wine bottles for the plane: FAQs
- How to pack wine for the plane: Final thoughts
TSA Rules for Taking Wine on a Plane
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a great place to start.
As a US government body responsible for safety on airplanes as well as other forms of transport, their guidelines make a good rule of thumb to follow.
(As long as you remember that other officials may be at the airport instead, depending on the countries you fly into and out from.)
So what does the TSA say about whether or not you can bring wine on a plane? And if you can, how many bottles are you allowed?
The TSA set limits on how much alcohol you can pack into both carry-on and checked baggage. In the bag you take on the plane you can only take up to 100 milliliters (or 3.4 ounces) of wine or other alcohol.
Any little bottles of wine or other alcohol must fit snugly into one quart-sized bag.
A wine bottle that’s going into the cargo hold is fine to pack in your checked bags, but the number you can take varies according to the alcohol content.
24 – 70% alcohol
If it has between 24% and 70% alcohol, the quantity is limited to 5 liters (or 1.3 gallons) per person. Such bottles must also be contained in the original, unopened retail packaging.
Under 24% alcohol
For wine bottles or other alcoholic beverages that are under 24% alcohol by volume, these aren’t subject to the same limits.
So in theory you can take as much as you like: but do bear in mind that in practice you’re subject to a baggage weight and volume limit.
Most wine that you can buy will have an alcohol content of under 24%, but do read the label before you travel.
Airlines based outside of the US often don’t have as generous baggage allowances as US carriers.
Where you may be permitted two pieces of hold luggage per person when flying with a US airline, one based elsewhere may allow significantly less.
A typical baggage allowance is 20 kilograms, but every airline sets its own restrictions.
The average weight of a bottle of wine is a little under 3 pounds (around 1.34 kilograms). So if you take a few along, that’s a substantial addition to the weight of your luggage!
Check with your airline
As per TSA advice, you should always check with the airline before taking wine on a plane.
They may have their own rules, and may also be able to advise about the regulations that apply at your destination airport.
At the same time, you could also ask about your luggage allowance limits.
No alcohol allowed
Any alcoholic beverages with a volume of over 70% cannot be carried at all, and for the US, passengers packing wine must be aged 21 or over.
Buying wine from the duty-free shop
If you’re planning on buying a bottle of wine from one of the duty-free stores you’ll come to after the security checkpoint, then bringing wine onto the plane is normally permitted.
Let’s be honest; these stores would soon be out of business if it wasn’t!
You can bring wine purchased in this way in addition to your hand luggage. Before buying, though, do check the rules of the airline and the countries you’re flying to and from.
This wine must be packed into a tamper-evident bag, and you should also retain your receipt so you can prove it was bought within the last 48 hours.
Again the TSA limits apply to flights in and out of the US, and you can only take 750 milliliters of alcohol that’s 24% to 70% by volume.
This is the typical strength of spirits: wine will normally have a lower volume than this. 750 milliliters is the average size of a bottle of wine or spirits.
Alternatives to taking wine on a plane
If the idea of wrapping bottles in plastic bags and placing them into a suitcase sounds like too much effort, there are alternatives you could consider.
Buy wine onboard
You don’t have to transport wine by plane: there are other options. If you want to drink alcohol on board, then the flight crew can often supply this (a charge may apply).
If you want to bring wine home in large quantities from a foreign country or interstate, then you could arrange shipping with the winery or merchant instead.
Different rules will apply in each destination, but they should have some idea of how much wine for personal use you can receive.
This option saves any risk to baggage handlers, avoids any potential hassles with airport security or the local police, and means you won’t have to worry about your wine as it’s thrown around in the cargo hold or on the baggage carousel.
Buying wine from other countries or states can be a real pleasure (we think wine from Spain makes the perfect souvenir), so why worry about what happens at the security checkpoint or the safety of the baggage handler if you don’t have to?
Consider an alternative
When you want to take along your own alcohol to drink at your destination, you could consider spirits instead, as you’re going to get more drinks out of one bottle than you would with wine.
Packing wine bottles for the plane: FAQs
Is it safe to put wine in checked luggage?
When flying with wine it’s safe to pack into your checked bag, but do make sure you apply some common sense!
Soft suitcases or backpacks, for example, cannot resist knocks, scuffs, and scrapes like hard-sided luggage can, you’ll need to factor in extra protection.
Do you really want that special bottle of wine to break? And if it does, staining all your carefully selected vacation clothes?
A packed bottle of wine is thus best wrapped in bubble wrap and a plastic bag before placing between layers of clothing or other items that will provide some sort of protective padding.
Alternatively, use a wine travel bag that’s specially designed for this purpose when you bring wine on vacation or back home. Some of these are inflating, providing a similar protective barrier to bubble wrap.
Whichever you pick, it’s worth using any straps your suitcase is fitted with as an extra precaution. You could also place firm items like shoes to either side of the bottle to act as a barrier.
Think about the baggage handlers when you pack wine – would you want to hurt anyone with cut glass, or risk facing a lawsuit?
It goes without saying, but do check the wine is correctly sealed before you even begin.
How do you fly with a bottle of wine?
The TSA says that if you want to pack more than 100 milliliters of wine, then you must pack it into your checked bag rather than a carry-on. Any taken on board with you must also fit into a single quart-size bag.
When you pack wine into your hold bags, it’s fine to take as much as you like as long as the alcohol content doesn’t exceed 24% – but do keep in mind the airline’s baggage weight and volume restrictions.
For alcohol between 24% and 70% the TSA limit is 5 liters or 1.3 gallons, and this must still be in the unopened retail packaging. No alcohol with a volume of more than 70% is allowed at all.
Will alcohol explode in checked luggage?
So is wine exploding ever an issue? No. Atmospheric pressure on an aircraft isn’t sufficient to cause glass bottles to explode.
Just think about it: the flight crew is perfectly happy to pour you a glass of wine upon payment or request, so how could that happen if it was a threat to safety?
Wine freeze doesn’t tend to happen either – unless the temperature falls to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (between -9 and -10 degrees Celsius) or below.
This may apply to very cold climates, but the insulating effect of the clothing in your checked luggage around a wrapped bottle decreases the likelihood.
Cargo compartments are designed for the safe storage and transportation of all sorts of items, so if you make sure your wine is well padded it should be fine.
No one wants to deal with an exploded bottle of wine – not least because the sight of all that fluid from a bottle of red could look pretty scary at first glance!
Does alcohol explode in airplanes?
No, nada – alcohol does not explode on a plane. If that were the case you wouldn’t be permitted to carry any. Nor would flight attendants be able to serve you some to go with your dinner or as a pre-vacation drink. Even sparkling wine is safe to take on planes, including champagne, prosecco, and other types of fizz.
How to pack wine for the plane: Final thoughts
If you want to take a wine bottle or two home with you, then it’s easiest to add this to your checked luggage rather than taking it in your carry-on.
Another option is to buy wine at a duty-free shop. Make sure you leave the tamper-proof bag intact and keep the receipt as proof of your recent purchase.
In general, flying with wine is fine, as long as you check the rules that apply to your airline and final destination.
Don’t forget to follow the packing tips outlined above. Not least because no one wants to deal with spilled liquids all over their clothes as soon as they arrive on vacation or return home!
- Can You Take a Lighter on a Plane? [Answered]
- Can You Bring a Razor on a Plane? [Answered]
- Can You Bring Hairspray on a Plane? [Answered]
- Can You Bring a Vape on a Plane Under 21? [Answered]
- Can You Bring Magnets on a Plane? [Answered]
- How Long Does It Take a Hotel to Refund Your Deposit?
- Is a Garment Bag a Carry On?
- How Strict Are EasyJet With Hand Luggage?