4 Smart Tips for Bringing Home Wine When You Travel

Bottoms (and wheels) up!

If you’re anything like us when you travel, you're searching for that perfect gift to bring back to your bestie or your boo — and yeah, no judgement if the perfect gift for your special someone is always wine. Anyway, if you're trotting around Italy, France, South America, Spain, or Italy, your people back home probably don't want a kitschy souvenir when they could have a taste of what you were slurping down for a week instead.

But getting that wine from one country — or even city — to another one can be tricky. In addition to making sure you’re meeting TSA regulations, not going over the weight limit for a checked bag on your airline, and that everything in your suitcase doesn’t become a smashed-bottle-of-red-wine crime scene, there’s a lot to consider.

1.  How much wine can you travel with?

Liquid-is-liquid-is-liquid, according to the TSA, so the same rules apply, no matter the alcohol content. So if you manage to find a teeny-tiny bottle of wine that’s under that universal 3.4 ounces, you can bring it onboard with you. If it’s over, you’ll have to check it. But what about if you want to check a bag full of bottles? It all depends on how boozy the wine is: Anything under 24 percent is OK, while anything between 24 and 70 is case-by-case... and above 70 is a no-no. (Though we challenge you to find a bottle of wine that’s 70 proof, because we’d love to have a sip!) You can’t go over the weight limit for a checked bag, per your specific airline regulations, but if one full bag is full of wine, that’s totally fine.

2.  How do you pack it?

If you’re gathering all of your treasures from your latest bucket-list destination and you’re trying to make room for your wine, pay careful attention to protecting them. As travel agent Greg Antonelle says, it might even be worth it to invest in some bubble wrap. Then, it’s all about layering: “I wrap a sweatshirt, sweatpants, or some other clothing item around it for extra security,” he says. “I then try to bury the bottle in the middle of clothing so that it is fully secure and surrounded.”

Another option? Buying these inexpensive wine sleeves, $8 for a two pack, that add another layer for your prized alcoholic possessions.

3.  When should you ship wine?

If you’re not comfortable taking the risk of traveling with vino and ruining your clothes or wasting money, Antonelle says looking into the cost of shipping might be worth it. Some speciality international wine stores might offer some discounted pricing for shipping (especially if you shell out the cash for a case), and if you’re opting for the higher end of blends, then you might want the extra protection that comes from professional packaging. “In the event it is a pricey bottle of wine, or you have very expensive clothes you don’t want ruined if the bottle breaks, then it would make sense the ship the wine to your destination,” he says. “Unfortunately, luggage gets tossed around and items inside your suitcase might shift, so shipping is always a valid option.”

Essential to keep in mind when you're considering shipping your vino across the state, or the world, is what federal regulations allow — and don't permit. For example, the U.S. Postal Service doesn't let you ever ship wine, no matter what. And while FedEx and UPS do, it's limited to their own approved list of wholesalers that probably doesn't include the adorable shop you found near the water in Lisbon, Portugal. There are some companies, like Wine By Air International, that will ship and take care of all the permits and duties, but for a heafty fee, around $135 to $150 per bottle.

4.  Invest in luggage for wine lovers.

If you’re a serious fermented grape enthusiast and you often indulge in a gift (or five) of wine for yourself and others when you travel, you might consider buying a suitcase made for wine and only wine. Created by globe-trotters with a thirst for red wine, FlyWithWine created two options to safely get your vino from any wine cellar in the world to your own personal collection at home.

For traveling via air, consider the customizable VinGardeValise. It includes the actual hard-cover suitcase, along with custom foam pieces to secure inside that can transport bottles of wine or glass wine stems (or both!). The inserts vary in price, from $30 to $50, and the suitcase with a handful of inserts already included will run you around $300.

If you’re traveling via train or car though, you can consider a smaller, over-the-shoulder bag, such as BottleShock for $179. Complete with a "fragile" sticker, you can carry three bottles of wine worry-free.

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