How to Travel with Alcohol

Can you bring alcohol on a plane? The answer is, “it depends.” With luggage fees and packing rules, air travel is hard enough to navigate without trying to pack in a bottle of wine from your latest adventure. This guide to traveling with booze will make your next trip a little less turbulent. 

A person holding a plastic cup of alcohol near an airplane window, showcasing how to travel with alcohol.

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Can you bring alcohol on a plane? 

The short answer is yes, you can bring alcohol on an airplane. But the alcohol content and volume of the bottle matter, and so does whether you pack it in your checked luggage or your carry-on. 

How well you pack the alcohol makes a big difference, too. Many bottles are made of glass, so you want to make sure they’re well protected and don’t break or buckle under pressure and spill all over your clothes — a great way to ruin your travel adventures.

Like any other item you pack, you should always check with the TSA or similar air travel governing body in the country where you are traveling.

Some airlines have different rules for bringing alcohol on board — and some simply don’t allow it at all — so it’s wise to check with them, too. If you’re traveling internationally, be sure to follow local customs regulations and duty-free laws.

A bottle of champagne and two glasses on a table inside a private jet cabin, epitomizing luxurious alcohol travel tips.

Bringing alcohol in your carry-on bag

You can bring alcohol on a plane in your carry-on bag. According to the TSA, it has to be a mini-bottle size less than or equal to 3.4 fluid ounces. These mini bottles have to fit into one clear, quart-sized bag, along with any other liquids you need to bring on board. 

However, bringing alcohol on the plane in your carry-on may not be allowed on every airline. Do your research and check with your airline before bringing any alcoholic beverages on board. 

FAA regulations strictly forbid passengers from consuming alcohol on board except when served by a flight attendant. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a drink. 

An airplane cocktail kit with a bottle of wine, a passport, and other items.

Drinks on a plane

If your airline carrier is serving alcohol on your flight, you can order beer, wine or a cocktail on board.

Popular cocktail choices are savory Bloody Marys and sweet two-ingredient drinks made with soda and a mixer, like a gin & tonic, rum & Coke or whiskey ginger

You can also mix your own with ingredients on board. Order a coffee and a mini bottle of Irish whiskey or liqueur to make your own boozy Irish coffee.

But if you prefer a more complicated drink, you can step it up a notch. Stash an airplane cocktail kit in your carry-on to up the ante throughout your trip from the tray table of the plane to the hotel minibar. 

These kits contain items like sugar cubes and bitters; they are a great way to make sure you have everything you need to make your favorite drinks, like an old-fashioned or a French 75. However, you’ll still need to get the boozy ingredients from the flight attendant, not your carry-on. 

A person placing a bottle of wine into the side pocket of a blue suitcase at an airport terminal, wondering if you can bring alcohol on a plane.

Packing alcohol in your checked luggage

If you want to bring home a special bottle of wine or liqueur as a souvenir, the size means it should go in your checked baggage. Per the TSA, you can bring up to 5 liters or 1.3 gallons of alcohol in checked bags, as long as it’s between 24% and 70% alcohol and still in unopened retail packaging. 

If it’s less than 24% alcohol, there’s no limit to how much you can pack. Many wines are less than 24% alcohol.

Wine and liquor

Pack a few sheets of bubble wrap if there’s room in your suitcase for a bottle of wine or a special spirit you can’t get at home — it lies flat and weighs nothing. If you decide not to bring a bottle home, you can always toss it out to make room for another souvenir. 

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You can buy protective sleeves designed for packing bottles. These provide extra padding and a seal to prevent pesky red wine spills inside your bag. You can also carefully wrap bottles in a few pieces of soft clothing. 

“On our last trip to Jamaica, we bought bottles of rum and bags of coffee beans to bring home. To keep the bottles of rum from breaking, we slipped them into the bags of coffee, and it worked perfectly to pad them. However, we ended up getting pulled out of line at customs because, it seems, people smuggle drugs in coffee beans. Lesson learned.”

— Leah Ingram, Bagels and Lasagna

Beer

Bringing home a brewski might not be as common as a wine souvenir, but you can certainly travel with beer. If you visit a brewery, you can likely purchase local craft beers to bring home. 

“I absolutely love bringing beers back from my travels to enjoy at home and share with friends, so I always travel with large Ziploc bags, scotch tape and bubble wrap in my suitcase,” said Alexis Dickie of the beer and travel blog Adventures & Ales

Accidents do happen, especially with the high air pressure on a plane, causing bottles to break or pop open. If you know ahead of time you’d like to bring home a cold one to enjoy later, pack a few supplies in your suitcase. Both cans and bottles of beer can be packed in a suitcase for safe travel. 

“A four-pack of cans fits perfectly in the larger Ziploc bags, and I put some bubble wrap in the bag, too, to cushion any impact my bag may encounter,” said Dickie. “For bottles of beer or wine, I use bubble wrap around the bottle and tape it securely, and then put it in a bag as well. I have found this system to work extremely well.” 

On the off chance that something does come open or break, the sealed bag will hold the liquid so your clothes and suitcase aren’t covered in beer or wine. This extra layer of protection ensures a smoother and cleaner travel experience, sparing you from any unexpected spills or stains.

Wine bottles in a wooden crate labeled "cabernet" with straw packing material, questioning if you can bring alcohol on a plane.

Shipping alcohol

Don’t have room in your suitcase or prefer to avoid the risk of a broken bottle? Most wineries can ship a bottle or box of wine to your home if traveling within the United States. The same goes for many distilleries and breweries, depending on your state’s laws for shipping alcohol. 

You may be able to ship alcohol internationally, but whether you can do so depends on the carrier or shipping service, the laws of the country and the alcohol percentage. Be prepared to fill out customs paperwork, importation licenses or special permits.

Additionally, make sure to inquire about any extra taxes or duties that might apply to your shipment once it reaches the destination country. 

This article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

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