Checking beer on a plane flight/baggage

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by IamMe90, Nov 16, 2012.

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  1. IamMe90

    IamMe90 Initiate (111) Sep 4, 2012 Wisconsin

    Hi all, just had a question about the logistics of getting beer safely through checked luggage. I'm going to be leaving for NYC on thanksgiving day, so I figure most, if not all, liquor stores will be closed. But I really want a bruery autumn maple for tgivings dinner, so, I'm planning on putting a bottle in my checked luggage.

    How do I go about doing this to make sure nothing breaks and it gets through safely? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks so much!
  2. mrandypandy

    mrandypandy Devotee (435) Mar 3, 2007 Georgia

    My $0.02 on traveling with beer...

    Some interesting domestic airline policy information:




    Or if you don't want to read through them yourself:
    Take as much alcohol (under 24% ABV) in your CHECKED bags.
    Take 5 liters of alcohol (24% - 70% ABV) in your CHECKED bags.
    Alcohol above 70% ABV is prohibited (but god only knows why you'd need to check Bacardi 151 or Everclear/Golden Grain in your bags).

    Also, interestingly enough, United's policy states: "Up to 3.4 oz. (100 ml) of an alcoholic beverage may be taken through the security checkpoint, provided it is less than 70 percent alcohol by volume, in a container that is 3.4 oz. or smaller, and is carried in a plastic zip-top bag."

    These are all general rules, and I would check with your carrier beforehand. I've flown 50+ times with beer in my checked bags to include bottles, growlers and cans. A few broken bottles here and there, but those were a result of lazy/poor packing jobs on my part. In my experience:
    • Bubble-wrap is your friend. Use it liberally.
    • If you're worried about spillage, put your bottles/growlers in zip-loc or plastic bags.
    • Pack tightly. Even bubble-wrapped bottles can break if everything else is loosely packed.
    • If you plan on doing this frequently, consider purchasing a luggage scale to help avoid any overweight baggage fees. Most airlines charge extra for any bags over 50 lbs.
    • If you plan on bringing back large quantities of beer, consider traveling with an empty duffel bag in your suitcase. On the trip back you can put dirty clothes and such in the duffel, and fill the suitcase with beer.
    • Bubble-wrap is your friend. Use it liberally.
    Cheers, and travel safely!
  3. Scotty

    Scotty Initiate (0) Jun 29, 2012 Maryland

    +1 to the above post - I just got back from New England and flew with 1 suitcase full of beer and a giant cardboard moving box also filled with beer - about 30 bottles total (thanks Hill Farmstead & others!)

    zip-loc bagged, bubble wrapped, and taped every single bottle and none broke.

    I also informed the airline I was checking beer in my bags and they had me sign a release, but TSA didn't open any of my luggage.

    You should be fine with just a bottle.
    Psykhe likes this.
  4. lurpy1

    lurpy1 Initiate (0) Jan 15, 2010 Minnesota

    • Bubble-wrap is your friend. Use it liberally.
    • If you're worried about spillage, put your bottles/growlers in zip-loc or plastic bags.
    • Pack tightly. Even bubble-wrapped bottles can break if everything else is loosely packed.
    • If you plan on doing this frequently, consider purchasing a luggage scale to help avoid any overweight baggage fees. Most airlines charge extra for any bags over 50 lbs.
    • If you plan on bringing back large quantities of beer, consider traveling with an empty duffel bag in your suitcase. On the trip back you can put dirty clothes and such in the duffel, and fill the suitcase with beer.
    • Bubble-wrap is your friend. Use it liberally.
    Cheers, and travel safely![/quote]

    Word up/+1 to the piece in bold-face. Yesterday I put some bottles in a duffel with spare room, used bubble wrap but not ziplocs, and now have some clothing that smells like Curmudgeon's Better Half. You can also wrap bottles deep in the clothing - wrap a sweater around a bottle, for example.

    The bottle I lost was reasonably well wrapped, but because the bag wasn't full, I think it shifted to the perimeter of the duffel and it was a matter of time before it came into contact with a hard surface at high enough speed to cause a break.
    rrryanc likes this.
  5. crusian

    crusian Crusader (787) May 14, 2010 Oregon

    i fly every week... take beer every week. When I came back from the bruery last month, I just checked 2 cases... taped the top, put newspaper in the bottom and shoved some down the sides... thats it. It is like shipping it. 95% of the time you wont have any issues... 5% of the time you get screwed no matter what you could do. dont worry about it. You can bubble wrap the hell out of it, but chances are really good TSA will dig through and not put it back the way you packed it. All my breaks have been because of BAD TSA completely unwrapping the beer and then just tossing it back in the bag, beer on beer.

    As for the 3.4 oz of alcohol... every time I go internationally I take 12 mini bottles (that is the max a quart bag holds) through security and drink them on the plane to help sleep. TSA gives me funny looks sometimes, and have actually had one agent pull me aside and say it was a great idea, but that's it. Security has nothing to do with the airline, so the airline can not say what they allow through security. On a different note, however, it is against their rules to drink your own liquor on the planes.
    cocoapuph likes this.
  6. SourinQns

    SourinQns Initiate (0) Sep 23, 2012 New York

    If you're only bringing the one bottle you have nothing to worry about. Bubble wrap it, or, since you're coming to NYC, roll it up in a pair of pant and wrap a sweater around it. Put it in the middle of your bag and pack the rest of your stuff tightly around it. I do it all the time and have never had any problems or breakage.
    No need to tell TSA or anyone else - they're gonna be too busy w/ holiday traffic to care anyway.
  7. SammyJaxxxx

    SammyJaxxxx Poo-Bah (2,326) Feb 23, 2012 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Never been to NYC I guess.
    You won't have any problem buying beer.
    Hdredfern and utopiajane like this.
  8. Keyportnick

    Keyportnick Initiate (0) Sep 29, 2012 Wisconsin

    I just flew from AZ to MN with 4 22oz'ers in my luggage. I was in a hurry so I just wrapped them in a sweatshirt. (all in the same sweatshirt)Usually I am more cautious and wrap them in bags and bubble wrap. I also had 3 pint glasses just wrapped in paper. Everything survived with zero issues.
  9. CommanderOfAwesome

    CommanderOfAwesome Devotee (413) Aug 30, 2012 California

    I just traveled earlier this month and traveled with quite a bit of beer. I had two wine bubble wrap packages which I used on bombers, and the rest I plastic wrapped the caps, bubble wrapped the bottles, and put clothes between them. I also put carboard around some that were close to the edge of the suitcase and socks between the necks. Probably overkill but it was my first time flying with beer (checked bag obv) and was nervous. All got home unscathed.
  10. notjustgc

    notjustgc Initiate (53) Nov 15, 2008 New Jersey

    I always bring an empty suitcase, which then comes back home FULL of beer. Just mind your weight limit and use clothing or empty water bottles to fill all empty space so nothing moves around. That's the key. NOTHING CAN MOVE AROUND INSIDE THAT SUITCASE, or things will break.
  11. ColonelCash

    ColonelCash Initiate (0) Jul 6, 2011 Tennessee

    I usually bring back a few bottles when I travel. My trick is to wrap the bottles in a ziploc bag, then shove them into the shoes I'm not wearing (12oz works best, unless you have clown feet). Also, if you can find a small box that fits in your luggage, that is nice in case of leaks. Lastly, tighten down the straps inside your luggage to prevent everything shifting around.
    jmccullough108 likes this.
  12. Tiger33

    Tiger33 Initiate (0) Oct 28, 2011 North Carolina

    I bring lots of bubble wrap and an extra backpack for my clothes that won't fit on the way home. Zip locks are a wonderful idea if you care about your clothes. Keeping things in place is key and watch your weight limit. You shouldn't have a problem with one but plan accordingly if you want to bring anything home with you. Just brought back 6 big boys from CCB and a couple small bottles. Weight was at 40 lbs. so I had a few pounds to spare.
  13. tendermorsel

    tendermorsel Devotee (400) Oct 22, 2006 Massachusetts

    bubble wrap is for suckers... Clothes work fine.
  14. VaTechHopHead

    VaTechHopHead Initiate (0) Jan 9, 2008

    I fly quite frequently and I have packed beer away in my checked bag a lot and never had anything break. I always use clothes to wrap my bottles of beer, usually roll bottles up with jackets, long sleeve shirts, etc. Even though the cargo hold is pressurized it doesn't hurt to tape the bottles around the cap. If you're packing cans I have found out that putting them in a sock and putting that sock in another sock works extremely well since cans are pretty hard to break anyway. Keep in mind that the suitcase should close tightly and there should be very minimal movement to prohibit bottles moving around. Also watch the 50lbs weight limit or you'll get charged more to check your bag. Just my $0.02
    ehammond1 likes this.
  15. msnow34

    msnow34 Initiate (0) May 21, 2010 South Carolina

    never used bubble wrap, the shoe trick works great fo 12oz bottles, ive also wrapped them in socks. As stated pack in the middle and make sure its solid.
    ChanChan likes this.
  16. brother_kenneth

    brother_kenneth Zealot (512) Oct 22, 2012 Virginia

    When I returned to the east coast after visiting southern CA this past summer, I brought probably 15-20 bottles and numerous glasses back with me. I used the tactic of bringing an extra empty suitcase along with me inside another suitcase. I filled it with my beer and wrapped everything with my dirty laundry from the week (gross to some, but I did not give a fuck). Not a single break, but I was very worried. I don't think you can pack too carefully though. Spend some time and go over & above what you think is necessary...then you will most likely have no issues.
  17. ChanChan

    ChanChan Devotee (434) Dec 12, 2009 California

    Yes, I did not have bubble wrap on my last trip so I packed two 12OZ beers in my shoes, I also stuffed 2 bombers in socks! I placed all my beer in the middle of my bag and they all survived!!
  18. mikennat

    mikennat Initiate (0) Dec 30, 2010 Missouri

    I have checked a 12 bottle shipper on problem at all
  19. crusian

    crusian Crusader (787) May 14, 2010 Oregon

  20. thirstygator

    thirstygator Initiate (78) Mar 29, 2012 Florida

    At work I spend a lot of time on the secure side of the baggage claim and I cannot emphasize enough the importance of making sure your bag is pretty much bomb proof. The bag guys care more about getting back to their phones to text or look at thechive than your bags. Expect your bag to be dropped (floor/taxiway/wherever), thrown, crushed or punted.
    Ernest_Hooper and ufmj like this.
  21. notjustgc

    notjustgc Initiate (53) Nov 15, 2008 New Jersey

    Should've added that I use hard-shell luggage.
  22. KingforaDay

    KingforaDay Defender (690) Aug 5, 2010 New Jersey

    Agree that things will be open but let's not give the false impression that NYC is a great place to buy beers for a gathering or party. (as far as big cities go, it downright sucks!!!!) The bottle shops are few and far between in Manhattan, selection in most of them is very limited, and the OP may have a tough time finding the Autumn Maple he wants so I would definitely pack it. If you happen to get lucky at a local Whole Foods, great, but as a former boy scout, I would always come prepared. And sealed in a ziplock baggie wrapped in a sweatshirt is my preferred method of beer transportation.
  23. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,188) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I have traveled with alcohol in my checked luggage. My most recent travel was to Texas where I brought two bottles of homebrew wrapped in bubble wrap and in a ziplock bag. I have traveled with alcohol in my checked luggage many times and every time the TSA has goon through my luggage. Maybe the bottles ‘look’ like potential bombs?

    Anyhow, I read where several folks just use clothing as padding for their beers. I personally would not recommend this packing technique since it has been my personal experience that the TSA does not carefully repack your bag after rummaging through them.

  24. alanc

    alanc Initiate (0) Aug 13, 2009 California

    I do this as well. It is main reason I choose Southwest; free shipping. I typically say the contents are wine or olive oil. Never been refused. Only once ,the box was opened as they didnt believe me the box had styro foam sleeves. I agree with the concern regarding TSA when they close the box after inspection. I would say 9 out of every 10 boxes I ship are opened between the curb and the plane. If the box requires strategic placments to fit back together you are asking for problems.

    The best way to avoid issue is not to modify the styro foam shipper and only place one bottle per hole. I find that crumpled newpaper is the best thing to keep 22oz, 375ml, and 12 oz bottles from shifting. After packing, lightly shake and you should hear no movement at all. Knock on wood, no broken ones yet.

  25. alanc

    alanc Initiate (0) Aug 13, 2009 California

    Sorry, Airline almost never open at the curb at check in. TSA opens almost always after check in. I reread and my post was worded weird.
  26. zac16125

    zac16125 Poo-Bah (1,788) Jan 26, 2010 South Carolina

    I've flown with beer checked multiple times. Just wrapped it in the paper bags it was sold in and then wrapped it in clothes. Never had an issue, but every single time have opened up the suitcase on arrival and seen the TSA "Your bag has been examined" card.
  27. CommanderOfAwesome

    CommanderOfAwesome Devotee (413) Aug 30, 2012 California

    Anyone ever use the clothes technique for moving? If they have, they would know the fail in the "sock" argument. You care about getting your beer home safely? Stop being a cheapskate and pay the $3 for a pack of bubble wrap.
  28. mobius387

    mobius387 Disciple (363) Dec 5, 2010 Wisconsin

    Anyone use a box within a box (aka the inception technique)? I think I could fit a few boxes in my checked bag, and dont need many clothes for my trip. Was considering doing this to try and decrease breakage risk.

  29. EJLinneman

    EJLinneman Aspirant (247) Mar 2, 2009 New Jersey

    I know that there's a lot of posts about checking beer inside luggage at the airport. It's been known that it's pretty much fine as long as you wrap/package things appropriately. However, I came across this just now and was wondering if anyone has checked in one of these at the airport and had any problems with it?


    As someone that frequently travels, I think this may be worth it, but not sure if I want to get it unless I know someone else has used it without any problems.
    enoves24, BierMeJohn and Bizoneill like this.
  30. dbrauneis

    dbrauneis Poo-Bah (8,383) Dec 8, 2007 North Carolina
    Moderator Society Trader

    I have no personal experience but recall them being very popular in Napa Valley (lots of places recommending/selling them) both when I visited in 2004 and 2011.
  31. dphalpin

    dphalpin Initiate (94) Jul 3, 2012 Virginia

    I bought one around Christmas time and have used it twice. Both times I have had no problems, bringing back 750s, 22 oz, and 12 oz bottles. In both instances TSA opened my shipper but repackaged the box. Packed with 12 750s and a little extra bubble wrap the bag weighs in at about 44 lbs. I really like it for both plane travel but also use it on road trips to conveniently bring gifts and return with some goodies.
  32. CLaBarre

    CLaBarre Aspirant (225) Feb 22, 2013 Iowa

    Anyone know about international flights and if putting liqour or beer in luggage is allowed. I have done it domestically if you pack it carefully. Was wondering as I am going to Scotland and Northern Ireland in a few months.
  33. dbrauneis

    dbrauneis Poo-Bah (8,383) Dec 8, 2007 North Carolina
    Moderator Society Trader

    I think it is legal as long as you declare it appropriately on customs forms and pay any necessary duty.
  34. Tchfunkta

    Tchfunkta Initiate (0) May 14, 2009 Kentucky

    TSA always opens mine and never puts it back the way they found it.
  35. jmccullough108

    jmccullough108 Initiate (0) Jan 3, 2013 Missouri

    We flew from Missouri to Punta Cana in the Dominican with 5 bombers between two checked bags. They were wrapped in sweatshirts and tightly squeezed into the rest of the clothing in the bag. We did this in a hurry because one bag was over the 50lbs. I would suggest using bubble wrap and ziplocks just to prevent any leaks. You won't have any problems unless TSA opens your bag behind the scenes and doesn't put it back together.
  36. LambicPentameter

    LambicPentameter Meyvn (1,486) Aug 29, 2012 Nebraska

    Adding to what dbrauneis said, it's perfectly legal, but anything over a liter is potentially subject to duty and excise taxes. You also might get some grief if you're trying to bring in any quantity larger than a case, because Customs might suspect you are bringing it in for commercial, rather than personal, use.

    PS - As a "found out the hard way" note (related to overseas traveling and bottle transit), I would encourage you to think about how you plan on packing the bottles you bring back ahead of time. My wife and I went to Napa a couple years ago and it was super easy to purchase a box and packing materials specifically suited for transporting wine bottles. We bought a box, packed it ourselves and then just took the box as a checked bag. The ease of this process led us to not give a lot of thought to how we would bring bottles back when we went to Spain last year. We figured we could just find the equivalent of a UPS or DHL, buy a packing box and be good to go. However, in the region we visited, most of the towns were small and finding something like a UPS store was very difficult. We ended up creating a makeshift packing box using an empty case from a winery and stuffed it with dirty laundry for protection. Not very wise in hindsight, but it was either that or leave it behind. The end result was a busted bottle (amazingly, only 1 out of 10) and a bunch of ruined clothing.

    Obviously, Ireland/Scotland are not Spain, so who knows if you will have similar problems. I would simply encourage you to do a little advance research about packing/shipping options ahead of time. Or at least before you start buying bottles willy-nilly :slight_smile:
  37. CLaBarre

    CLaBarre Aspirant (225) Feb 22, 2013 Iowa

    I think I am just going to buy one nice bottle of limited Irish whiskey. so i will bring buibble wrap and a ziplock and should be fine. No duty or tax then it sounds like and should be a hassle with airlines it sounds like also. thanks
  38. Walden97

    Walden97 Initiate (0) Mar 31, 2011 Texas

    I have two Wine Checks and use them often with no issues at all. I fly Southwest on beer/wine trips so I take a carry-on and save my two free checked bags for the Wine Checks. Works like a charm.
  39. BeerLover99

    BeerLover99 Poo-Bah (1,655) Dec 13, 2008 Illinois

    AMEN! I know after hitting up 10 vineyards in 2 days, we had a few bottles in special
    bags inside our jean pant legs in our checked bags. SF Int Airport HAS to know that is going to happen
    with Wine Country being such a HUGE tourist destination. Bottles got home safe.
    Good luck.
  40. nsheehan

    nsheehan Devotee (418) Jul 3, 2011 Texas

    Sorry for the wall, will put a TL;DR
    I looked at BA forums for this advice A LOT before my first beer-checking travel experience, so I'd like to share a lot of my experience.

    A. X-rays:
    In the interest of potentially new info: I accidentally put a 22oz metal water bottle (half full) through security in 2012 and the xray guy didn't notice. I saw what it looked like, just an outline of the bottle, couldn't really tell if anything was in it. This may be unique to metal, and then we'd have to talk about electromagnetic penetration depths and stuff. Also, the guy in front of me got a lighter through.

    I'm not suggesting taking beer as carry-on, just trying to share that when your checked bag gets looked at, the bottle should look pretty boring. If you've seen a 3oz bottle of hand sanitizer or something on the xray machine, that's roughly what beer should look like in your check bags. Just don't wrap xmas lights and a clock around it.

    B. Wrapping methods:
    I've done many methods and have had 0 breaks (all except for one haul was in a Samsonite 28" normal luggage bag with wheels, not a duffel bag or hard-case luggage) including:

    1. Wrapped in newspaper and then out in big shoe boxes (a few bottles per box),
    2. wrapped in clothes and put in plastic boxes (a few bottles per box),
    3. just wrapped tightly in clothes in the middle of my bag,
    4. wrapped in bubble wrap and put in the middle of my bag (bubble wrap went around several times and I taped it up so good that a break would've just resulted in me pricking the cocoon and draining it into a glass),
    5. wrapped in bubble wrap and then wrapped tightly in a tshirt (I ran a few pieces of scotch tape around the tshirt too)
    6. Wrapped in newspaper in this nice cocoon type thing that I can open at top and then reuse for a same sized bottle. Then wrapped in a tshirt.

    I'd recommended wrapping a sock (or multiple) around the neck of the bottle to make the bottle more column like, and then wrapping it. Also, the box within a bag/box method might look like drug smuggling; that's what my brother and beer mentor said to me (maybe because I went all out and saran wrapped the boxes til the plastic was opaque). I haven't used ziplocs too much because a fair amount of bottle don't fit easily/at all. I know there are bigger than gallon sized, but my methods so far have served me.

    C. International travel:
    I flew with 11 bottles of beer from London to Dublin, and then Dublin to LA (layover in NY). I didn't declare the beer as vegetation (or whatever plants and foods fall under) either time because I didn't know how good beer is treated (BMC is sterile, other beer can have yeast and whatever). I did declare it as collectible glass ware for personal use. This is probably a fine line, but it makes sense to me, the beer I had is (or was, I guess that might be a new debate) a collectible. I'm guessing if they cared and checked, my declaration and bag both showed bottles, and they can't really tell if liquid was in it or not. I don't know if they actually looked at the bottles, but they all made it through.

    D. A Westy-side story:
    One friend and I traveled from Brussels to Paris to London by train with 11 bottles of Westy 12 each, wrapped in random clothes items. They were in a backpack I borrowed from an outdoor enthusiast friend (my friend had a similar backpack), and we were staying in hostels, traveling with five other friends. We had no ziploc bags, tape, newspapers, or bubble wrap. See Part C to see how else the bottles traveled.
    Despite all the travel, jostling, jogging, adding a few souvenirs, and three flights, not a single bottle broke for either of us. And he was stupid and kept wearing the clothes they were wrapped in, so he'd have to rewrap a few in every city. On top of this, I had one more flight to SF the day after I landed in LA, so four flights with me not rewrapping anything and the TSA potentially screwing with my bag, 0 breaks.
    I don't know if it's legal or not, but my friend also might've brought Cuban cigars on the same journey and never declared them...

    Bottles should look very nonthreatening under xray. Wrapping in normal household items/clothes works! Take your time and more is better than less. If it fits in a ziploc start with that, then add clothes or bubble wrap. Be very liberal with tape. Declaring things internationally allows for some cleverness (collectible glassware vs. bottle with live yeast...). I think my tale in D backs all this up.
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