If you’re a craft beer aficionado, chances are at some point you’re going to be on a trip of some sort and find yourself with some brews that you want to take home. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there — that midnight before the flight inner fight of “Do you chug them all now or do you bring them home?”
Maybe it’s because you got to visit a brewery you’ve idolized. Or maybe you happened upon a spot that was having a special release and you picked a few up. From a souvenir perspective, locally brewed beers make for refreshing mementos from any journey. Regardless of the reason, proper packing for the rough and tumble associated with travel, especially the ruthless handling of checked airline baggage, is a must.
Bringing beer, wine, or spirits in your carry-on luggage is a non-starter — don’t even try. TSA regulations prohibit liquids in containers larger than 3.4 ounces. If you’re at an airport with a bottle shop beyond the security checkpoint, you’re free to purchase there and carry on those bottles. However, don’t expect any rare, highly sought-after brews.
Without a viable carry-on solution, you’re stuck with checking your beer in a suitcase. As long as your alcohol of choice is lower than 24% alcohol by volume, you can pack as much as you want in your suitcase, as it is not subject to hazardous materials regulations. So go crazy. With a few smart packing decisions, your beer will be safely waiting for you at the baggage carousel, wherever your final destination may be.
The ideal piece of luggage should have a rigid, hard-sided structure. Bags with collapsible walls, such as duffels, are not suited for transporting such delicate cargo. Here are our suggestions to help relieve the hangover-inducing prospect of packing your own beer for travel.
How to Pack Cans
If you have a choice between cans and bottles, choose cans. There’s no longer any stigma around canned beers. Some of the best beers in the world are released exclusively in these portable, sturdy containers. The real travel benefit is that cans are lighter and more resilient than glass. Even though cans aren’t especially fragile, you should still take some precautions when packing.
To be on the safe side, we suggest using this method for keeping your packed cans safe during travel.
- Place your cans inside a plastic bag.
- Seal the opening of the bag with packing tape.
- Surround the cans in the middle of the suitcase with clothes, towels or other soft goods to create a nest and reduce movement.
How to Pack Bottles
Glass bottles require far more attention and finesse. You need to make sure the bottles do not touch each other, ensure the glass is close to the middle of the bag and pack tightly so that the bottles shift as little as possible.
This is where creativity comes in to play. Whenever possible, look for ways to safely integrate your glass into protective items you’re already packing. Twelve-ounce bottles fit nice and snug inside running shoes, for example. Or, your waterproof dopp kit may provide an extra space to safely wrap a smaller bottle. Those elastic compartments in the divider of your suitcase? They make another built-in spot to hide away your precious cargo.
If you’re planning to bring more than a couple of beer bottles, or larger format bottles, your travel essentials need to include bubble wrap, packing tape and plastic bags. Use these guidelines for safe DIY packing:
- Tape down the caps tightly onto the bottle.
- Place each bottle inside of a sock or wrap individually with bubble wrap.
- Bundle all of your bottles together and enclose the group in a halo of bubble wrap.
- Seal the collection in a plastic bag in the center of your suitcase and pad out the sides with clothes.
Best Products for Packing Alcohol
The WineSkin is a self-sealing, bubble-wrap sleeve designed for wine; but they expertly fit most beer bottles nicely, including 750ml sizes and 22-ounce bombers.
VinniBags are a novel invention that suspends bottles (or anything fragile) in an air cushion with a two-way valve. The bag stands up to the changing pressures of the cargo hold and has a dry seal that holds any liquid in should a leak occur.
Jet Bags are another option for traveling with potent potables. These bags have zipper seals and can absorb up to 750ml of liquid — just in case the worst happens and you return home minus a bottle.
How to Ship Your Bottles
If all of this sounds like too much, you could just ship your items home. Wrap cans and bottles in plastic wrap, then place in a fitted cardboard box. Place that box inside a larger box with scrap paper, air bags, or packing peanuts as a cushion (all are available at the shipping office). It can become an expensive endeavor, but with insurance, it can provide the safest route home for your new boozy souvenirs. Remember, though, that there are restrictions to shipping alcohol.
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