A bit later this month I am making a trip to the East Coast that will involve at least incidental contact with a few of the Aleheads. I thought it would be fun to bring along a few West Coast beers to the occasion (read: if you don’t greet the Aleheads with beer they’re more likely to bite), but realized I had utterly no clue whether it’s even legal to take beer along with me on a commercial flight. After the internet being utterly unhelpful, primarily due to my entering poorly-thought-out search terms, I finally thought to go directly to the TSA website, and quickly discovered the answer. As an added benefit of slogging through our delightful blog I thought I’d pass what I discovered along to all you faithful readers.
Beer (along with wine and liquor) is on the list of items that the TSA will allow you to transport in your checked baggage, but not in your carry-on (at least until they start making 3.4 oz beer cans). Other items of interest on that list: creamy dips and spreads (such as cheeses or peanut butter, though I guess you’d be OK with a nice hard block of Parmigiano-Reggiano?), gravy, and snowglobes.
However in my browsings I have come across any number of horror stories about people who have tossed a case of bottles into their checked duffel bag and ended up with a brutally awful mess. While I will assume that readers of this blog are intelligent enough to do a better packing job than that (the writers, on the other hand…), here are some tips I’ve gleaned from the experiences of a few seasoned flying beer couriers:
- Individually wrap each bottle. The best technique: head to your local shipping store (UPS, FedEx, etc.) and pick up a roll of bubble wrap and some packing tape. In a pinch, bring some extra socks and put each bottle inside two or three of them, or just wrap them up in your clothes. If you have other important stuff in the suitcase/bag, consider wrapping all the beer in a heavy-duty garbage bag and sealing it with duct tape so if something does break your undies will hopefully be insulated from the fallout. Be aware however that the TSA may unwrap them during a baggage check and ruin all your hard work.
- A hard suitcase will give the best protection, but no matter what kind of bag you use try to keep the beer in the center. Putting in half your clothes on the bottom of the bag/suitcase, then your bottles, and then covering them with the remainder of your clothes will avoid having a bottle directly knocking up against anything external when those ever-so-careful baggage handlers are tossing your stuff around. Packing tightly so things are unlikely to shift around is a good idea as well. One fellow on BA mentioned that he went so far as to get a small hard suitcase, packed it extremely carefully, and then put that inside a larger duffel (surrounded with clothes), but I think that’s probably overkill. Well, depending on the beer.
- Be careful about the weight limit. If you can distribute your bottles across a few pieces of luggage it will help ensure you don’t get hit with a great big extra fee from the airlines for being too heavy (anywhere from $50-$125 or more). Check specific airlines for their individual weight limits and fee structure.
- Important note: International flights have different restrictions. Be sure to check on the relevant regulations depending on where you’re traveling to/from. Some limit volume (2L seems to be a common maximum), others allow transportation of certain consumable liquids but not others. Also, you should always declare anything purchased in another country when going through customs. Customs agents really aren’t going to care about your beer unless they discover it in your luggage and you DIDN’T declare it.
If you think you’ll be doing this regularly and feel like spending a little money, there are a number of products made for traveling with wine that are perfect for 22oz or 750ml bottles. These range from a single bottle ‘skin’ bag to travel cases designed to accommodate six (or more) bottles.
And finally, if you’re heading to Oregon don’t forget to throw a hard-to-find beer or two from your home region in your suitcase for yours truly.
Travel safely friends!