How To Fly With Wine Like A Pro

We all know how it feels when flying with wine! While you're stuck in your seats at thirty thousand feet up in the skies, you’re constantly wondering whatever might have happened to that checked-in wine bottle you so fondly picked up as a unique souvenir.

Carrying bottles of wine on a flight is daunting for most of us, what with the constant risk of breakage, heat fluctuations, and also with the hassle of following several travel rules and restrictions. Don’t fret, however, since flying with wine isn't as difficult as you think.

how to fly with wine in luggage

Here are a few smart tips for flying with wine like a pro:

1. Choose the right luggage

The mandate of flying with your wine bottles in check-in baggage and not in cabin baggage necessitates choosing sturdy checked luggage. You need to ensure that the wine bottles have sufficient padding to cope with any impacts your checked bag or suitcase may experience. On average, a wine bottle weighs 3 pounds, so, you can use up the individual airline-allotted weight of the checked luggage accordingly.

At the airport's checked baggage counter, your bag is sure to go through tossing and jostling and might end up passing swiftly on the conveyor upside-down as well as backward. Therefore, it’s wiser to invest in a hard suitcase rather than one made of canvas to diminish the effects of an impact.

Alternatively, you can go for innovative wine luggage such as a reinforced, well-padded wine check bag. A perfect wine accessory, the foldable and reusable wine check bag is an extremely lightweight, airline-approved stroller. When used in combination with a shipper box or sturdy wine protectors, this bag can safely carry as many as fifteen bottles of wine, protecting them against significant impacts and resisting the crushing of glass.

What’s more, the wine check bag also functions like a cooler, maintaining constant levels of temperature and pressure, thus protecting the delicious wine.

Suitable for a range of sizes of wine bottles, the wine bag offers you the flexibility of carrying back several varieties of wine, including champagne and Porto.

Interesting Reads: Best Airlines for International Travel

2. Pack wine carefully

If you're using a wine check bag, you have ready-made wine protectors to cushion not less than 15 glass bottles. However, while using a hard suitcase, you’ll need to follow certain precautions as you pack your wine bottles in the bag. Also, in the worst case, if you’re using a canvas suitcase which is so susceptible to impacts, you’ll have to take even greater care as you’d surely not fancy your sherry bottle ruining a lovely summer suit.

In general, don’t pack the wine bottles around the sides of your suitcase. Use soft clothing as padding to line the suitcase, then nestle the delicate bottles right into its center. If you happen to purchase wine on your trip impromptu, wrap the bottles up in unimportant clothing such as pajamas, and socks. You can also place the wine bottles inside a plastic shopping or laundry bag for added protection.

If you’ve already planned to bring wine back home, and, that too, more than a couple of bottles, a safer option is to use bubble wrap, leak-proof vinyl wineskins. Throw a few of them in your suitcase when traveling.

On your return journey, you just need to place the wine bottles inside the wineskins or sleeves and nestle them in your bag’s center. The wineskins, with an adhering seal, not only cushion and protect your wine bottles but also prevent spoilage of your clothes in case the bottles break.

Interesting Reads: How Far in Advance Can You Book Flights?

3. Comply with the Customs Guidelines

Before purchasing wine for taking back home, be sure about the Customs dos and don'ts of flying with wine. So, it becomes essential to check for quantity limits and whether Customs duties (taxes) apply to wine for taking off from your exit country. Also, know your destination country's duty-free allowance for wine, as you need to pay additional tax for anything above it.

For instance, while departing from the U.S. you can take back an indefinite amount of wine, unlike a Jameson, intended for individual use as long as it fits within the specific air carrier’s weight regulations. These guidelines hold for bringing wine from overseas, say France inside the country also, however, while dealing with the U.S. Customs, on arrival, you’re eligible for only 1 liter of wine duty-free.

In general, at the airport, make sure to declare to the Customs Department any quantity of wine exceeding the duty-free limit. In case you need to pay any taxes to Customs, you can do so by using most of the bank as well as credit cards, or cash, or even currency transfer methods. This way carrying your delicious wine back home will certainly be smooth sailing for you.

4. Claim your VAT Refund

Before leaving for your home country, and before you and your wine set out homewards, remember to reclaim the Value-Added Tax (VAT) on its purchase. VAT, a part of the total price of the wine could qualify for an appreciable refund.

For instance, whenever you buy wine in Europe, intending to carry it home, request the retailer or winery to provide you with a 'tax-free form'. Some retailers follow a practice of paying you back the VAT there itself, while others complete the tax-free form which you can then reclaim at your departure airport.

In the latter case, you’ll have to bear a charge related to the refund service, which is usually a portion of the VAT you're about to claim. At the airport, before you check in your baggage, just hand over the necessary paperwork to the Customs Department officers. After examining your goods, they will authorize and stamp the documents.

Once you’re done with the customs formalities, take the paperwork to a tax refund officer for a low-charge, instant service. Elaborate, though this all seems, you’ll become a pro at it after doing it just once or twice.

5. Don't let the 'Bottle Shock' shock you

As you unpack after getting back home, you'll suddenly realize that the wine, originally so vibrant and flavorsome just a few days ago now appears dull and disjointed. This phenomenon, known as “Bottle Shock” typically occurs as the wine bottles shake during travel.

Not to worry, though. Consider this issue as a jet-lag for the wine bottles. Just as all is fine again after you sleep well at night, so also will the wine recover in due course of time.

It’s advisable to store the wine bottles properly for a couple of weeks before you open them. Consider vital aspects such as light, temperature, humidity, and positioning while finding a space for wine storage.

6. Air fares

Your ticket is an amalgamation of a very complex series of codes/fares. Do not assume your ticket is refundable, if you are not sure of your travel plans prepare to shell out more money for a more flexible fare. Do not complain if you need to change or cancel your relatively cheap fare (ticket) and you cannot. Some things are waived for emergent situations such as deaths in the immediate family or medical emergencies.

7. Sign up for frequent flyer programs

No matter which airline you fly, join their loyalty program to earn miles. Now that you've committed to an airline, you should maximize its amenities. A frequent flier number is essential, but you may also want to consider credit cards that provide airline points. Many of these cards provide airport lounge access, free checked bags, and other convenient features. The airline takes good care of their frequent flyers. Ask for upgrades, you might get one.

8. Consider arrival and departure times

Are you flying early in the morning? Late at night? During lunch? When you have a super early morning checkout, make sure you’re totally organized so you can leave on a moment’s notice. This makes sleeping easier and if you oversleep, you won’t delay the flight. The airline usually supplies earplugs for walking around on the ramp, use these at night in the hotel room if the damn air conditioner is too loud.

Run a couple of alarms for waking up. Wake up calls fail and alarm clocks get messed up. Cell phones seem to work the best but don’t have as much volume.

If the flight is over 4 hours long, chances are you will be at the airport early or late according to the local time zone. Be sure to plan for that, and identify food options ahead of time. Pack the airport essentials. Make a list that works for you and stick to it.

If this is a large airport you should arrive early. Give yourself at least an hour and 30 minutes. If it’s Monday morning make it 2 hours because of the many business travelers. If it’s around the holidays add an hour to those times. Reach the airport at least 3 hours before your scheduled time. You should have time to come back home and again get back to airport if you have forgotten something important.

Keep photos of your passport and visas in your phone. Don’t lose your baggage claim tags or at least take a photo of it.

9. Don't fly the day before festivals

Demand is consistently high. Inclement weather is a given. Everyone working is grumpy. Just skip this if you can. There is some sneakiness in getting an upgrade but the same trick can also lead to potentially not flying due to overbooking, if you check in later there is potentially room to get upgraded if your class of travel is fully booked AND there is availability in the higher cabin AND you are not dressed like a slob.

Dress comfortably but a bit stylish without looking like a jerk, how you dress can effect how you are treated (i.e. a free upgrade) This particularly decides how you get treated more on middle eastern flights/airlines which are quite pretentious.

10. Pack light and ship the rest

If you have a lot of luggage with you, there is a good chance shipping it via Fedex will be cost competitive with a checked bag fee. Carrying baggage on the plane can be great, but aircraft are not designed to accommodate a carry-on for every passenger. Note that you can avoid the aircraft bin space battle via frequent flier status.

Get a luggage scale and a small measuring tape and leave them in your bag for safekeeping. They will come in handy as you pack. Pack most valuable items (whether sentimental value or $$) and electronics in carry on (airlines will not be liable for stolen electronics such as laptops which are checked in) and they tend to compensate on lost items/bags by weight and what was believed to be lost.

If individual items are missing its MORE than likely it was confiscated by government authorities. The added benefit of putting your valuables and electronics in your carry on AND putting the bag under the seat in front of your is you now have access to whatever you need. Buy 4 wheel bags. Don’t keep any sharp objects in your carry-on, security will throw it away, put them in your luggage.

Don’t keep big deodorants in your carry-on, security will throw it away, put them in your luggage. If you need a deodorant, buy the smallest one. Buy a travel wallet to organize passport, boarding passes, currency, etc.


Isn’t it much easier now? Follow these smart tips to fly with wine like a thorough professional, ensuring the safe passage of your precious bottles all over the globe.
Kalyan Panja