Want to bring a few bottles of your favorite Bordeaux on your way back from France, but don’t know how?
Well, then you’re in the right place because, in this article, we’ll show you how. We’ll tell you how many bottles of wine you can bring, what are the duty taxes if you bring more, where and how should you pack it to avoid any spills, and tell you everything else you need to know.
Let’s start with whether you can actually bring wine bottles on planes.
Can You Bring Wine on Planes in Hand Baggage?
Unless you’re bringing mini wine bottles, large bottles of wine are banned from hand luggage. According to the TSA (Transport Security Administration), only 3.4 oz bottles or smaller are allowed in hand luggage, and you must follow the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule for liquids.
Essentially, liquids have to be in 3.4 oz bottles or less, and they have to be stored in transparent, resealable quart-sized bags. Each passenger can have only one quart-sized bag of liquids.
What Are the Limits for Duty-Free Wines on Planes?
If you’re purchasing your wine from duty-free shops, you can bring wine bottles in any size, as long as they’re unopened and in the retail packaging. There aren’t any limits on how much you can bring if the alcohol content of your wine is below 24%. But if you’ve found a really strong wine that’s 24% – 70% in alcohol content, you’re limited to 5 liters per passenger.
That said, you should remember to only purchase duty-free wine right before your last flight if you’re flying with connecting flights. That’s because if you have to pass through security again, your duty-free items won’t be allowed in your carry-on if they’re in larger than 3.4 oz bottles.
But there’s an exception. If you’re traveling internationally, and have a connecting flight within the U.S. (For instance, Barcelona – Atlanta – Dallas,) you’re allowed to bring your duty-free items on multiple domestic flights if they’re packed in a transparent, secure, tamper-evident bags, and you have a receipt that proves that your items were purchased within the last 48 hours. So if you’re planning on doing that, make sure to ask the retailer to pack your duty-free alcohol in a TSA-approved bag, and keep the receipt.
Can You Bring Wine on Planes in Checked Baggage?
According to the TSA, you can bring wine bottles in your checked luggage in any size. If your wine is below 24% alcohol, there isn’t a limit on how many bottles you can bring. Alcoholic beverages between 24% and 70% are limited to 5 liters per passenger, and alcoholic beverages over 70% are prohibited. Also, it’s worth remembering that you can’t bring home-brewed wine on planes. Only wine in unopened retail packaging is allowed.
That said, although you can potentially stack a checked suitcase full of wine bottles, in reality, you can’t. Checked luggage is limited to 50 or 70 lbs weight, depending on the airline, and the excess baggage fees usually aren’t worth it, because they’re so expensive (100$-200$ for a few extra lbs.) Assuming that an empty checked suitcase weighs around 11.9 lbs and a full bottle of wine around 2.65 lbs, you can fit around 12 wine bottles in a 50 lbs suitcase, and 18 wine bottles in a 70 lbs suitcase. (Potentially, a bit more, but you have to leave some room for the weight of the packaging, so they don’t break.)
How to Pack Wine in Checked Luggage to Avoid Spills?
Having a broken wine bottle in your checked luggage is truly nasty. Not only will you have to clean up the glass shards, but all of your clothes will be soaked with wine stains, which will most likely be impossible to get out.
So to avoid that, you should do a good job of packing wine bottles safely. Here’s how you do that.
If You’re in a Rush and Don’t Have the Appropriate Items
- Find large plastic bags without holes and put each bottle inside a plastic bag. Make sure to wrap the ends tightly for a, hopefully, good seal. If possible, wrap in another bag for a double-tight seal.
- Wrap each wine bottle in a few pieces of clothing, so that there’s at least one inch of clothing around each bottle.
- Place your wrapped wine bottles in the center of your suitcase. Avoid placing near the walls or near hard objects. If possible, wrap all of them in additional clothing.
For Your Future Flights
- Go ahead and purchase a few pieces of Wine Skin. Essentially, they’re sealable bubble-wrap sleeves for wine bottles. If the bottles accidentally break (and they eventually will), the broken wine bottle won’t spill outside of the wine skin and ruin your clothes. They aren’t reusable, but, personally, I use them around two or three times each, until the seal becomes non-sticky.
- Wrap each bottle of wine, that’s already sealed in a wine skin, in spare clothing, so that there’s at least one inch of clothing around each bottle.
- Place all the bottles in your suitcase and avoid placing them near the walls or near any hard objects.
For the Wine-Addicts
- Purchase a dedicated wine bag and use it as your second checked bag. (Or if you’re traveling only with a carry-on as your first checked bag.) The VinGardeValise Grande 05-12 Bottle Wine Travel Suitcase is one of the most popular options because it’s durable, good-looking, and does the job perfectly well. It will safely store up to 12 bottles and will always be under 50 lbs when packed full.
- Fill your bag with wine bottles, and you’re good to go.
Read next: How to Pack Fragile Items in Checked Luggage
How Many Bottles of Wine Can You Bring into the U.S. for Free?
If you’re flying internationally and returning to the U.S., you can bring one liter of wine for free. That said, you must be over 21 years old, and the wine must be meant for personal use.
You can bring more than one liter for personal use, but you’ll have to pay import duty. Although there isn’t a limit of how many bottles you may bring, bringing too much will raise the alarms, because the customs officers might think that they aren’t meant for personal use. In that case, you’ll have to get an importing license.
What’s the Wine Import Duty into the U.S.?
The Import duty on wine is based on the alcohol content of the wine. Usually, it’s 1$-2$ per liter, so it’s not too much. You can find the current import rates for wine over here under chapter 22, “Beverages, spirits, and vinegar.”
Additionally, you’ll also have to pay the Federal IRS Excise tax, which is slightly lower. You can find the exact rates over here, but in general, it’s below 1$ per liter of wine.
Having said that, most of the times you won’t have to pay any taxes even on 5-10 bottles. Really, the customs don’t want to deal with the paperwork for just a few extra dollars, so they’ll let you slide. A lot of people on Reddit said that they rarely had to pay import duty taxes when coming home, and even if they had, it was only 1$-2$ per bottle. Just don’t lie and always declare the correct amount of wine you’re bringing.
Is Duty-Free Wine Cheaper?
Usually, duty-free wine is cheaper than regular wine found on the shelves at your nearest supermarket. That’s because alcohol is heavily taxed for the importers, which takes up a large portion of the final price. So purchasing a few bottles at the duty-free shop is usually a smart option to do if you want to save a few dollars.
That said, duty-free wines might not always be cheaper. Usually, only regional brands are significantly cheaper (For instance, Spanish wines in duty-free shops at Spanish airports.) Other wines may not be as cheap, so you might want to check them on LCBO or any other retailer, and compare the prices. Also, keep in mind that anything over 1 liter might be taxed by the customs at 1$-2$ per bottle when you return.
Can You Drink Your Own Duty-Free Wine During the Flight?
Unfortunately, no, you can’t. The FAA prohibits passengers from drinking wine during flights unless it’s served by the airline staff.
However, we found an airline that seems to have implemented a workaround. When flying with JetBlue, you can bring your own wine on board (duty-free in regular bottles or your own in mini liquor bottles,) and during the flight, you can ask their staff to serve your own alcohol to you. Technically, it complies with the FAA’s rule, because the wine is served by the airline’s staff. That said, they still reserve the right to refuse to pour you anymore, if they think you’re too drunk.
Here’s what they say on their own website:
You may bring wine, champagne or beer on a flight for consumption during the flight if it is in an unopened container. If you’d like to drink the alcohol you carry on, you may give it to one of our Inflight crewmembers, and they will be happy to serve it to you.
But if you’re flying with anything else than JetBlue, you’ll have to purchase wine from the airline’s menu if you want to consume it during the flight.
Can You Ship Wine to the U.S. with Shipping Services?
Unfortunately, if you aren’t a licensed importer, you can’t ship wine into the U.S. using regular shipping services like DHL, UPS, FedEx, and others.
If you can’t bring back the wine yourself in your luggage, your only hope is that the winery you’re visiting offers a shipping service. Though, that’s available only in some states, because some states prohibit shipping alcohol. Having said that, these services are usually pretty expensive, and international shipments cost hundreds of dollars. So a better idea might be just to purchase a separate wine suitcase that holds up to 12 bottles, and pay the cost for an additional checked suitcase, which is 20$ – 80$, depending on the airline.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
We get questions about bringing stuff on planes all the time. So we’ve written a lot of other guides, where we answer the most commonly asked questions.
You can check them out over here:
- What Can You Take on a Plane in Checked Luggage?
- Can You Bring Laptops on Planes?
- Can You Bring Toothpaste on Planes?
- Can You Bring Umbrellas on Planes?
- Can You Bring Mini Liquor Bottles on Planes?
- Can You Bring Hairdryers, Curling Irons, and Hair Straighteners on Planes?
- Can You Bring Razors on Planes?
- Can You Bring Cologne on Planes?
- Can You Bring Scissors on Planes?
- Can You Bring Food on Planes?
- Can You Bring Lighters on Planes?
- Can You Bring Plants on Planes?
- Can You Bring Knives on Planes?