Do you want to take a few mini bottles of liquor on your flight to avoid having to pay for drinks? Or are you interested in bringing back a few bottles of limoncello from your trip to Italy? Before you pack your bag, make sure you know the rules for bringing alcohol on a plane. There are differences between checked and carry-on baggage, and rules for taking alcohol into another country. Keep reading to find out, can you bring alcohol on a plane?
Note: This post is written referencing TSA rules for travel from airports in the USA. Some countries may have different rules, so if you’re flying from an airport in another country, please look up the rules for the authority in that country.
Alcohol in carry on baggage
Since alcohol is a liquid, it must comply with TSA liquids rules if you’re packing it in your carry-on bag. This means each bottle must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or smaller, and all bottles must fit into a one quart (one liter) clear zip top bag.
But since this is alcohol we’re talking about, it gets a little more complicated than other liquids.
According to TSA, alcohol you’re bringing on a plane must be in unopened retail packaging. This means you can’t pour vodka into a bunch of refillable 3.4 ounce bottles or a flask and take it on the plane with you. If you’re taking alcohol in your carry-on, you need to buy those mini bottles, and don’t open them ahead of time.
Can you take alcohol on a plane…and drink it on the plane?
If you’re thinking of taking alcohol on a plane so you can drink it while in flight, think again.
FAA regulations prohibit the consumption of alcohol on board the flight unless it is served to you by an airline employee. This means you are not allowed to consume your own alcohol in flight. This is not a rule the airline came up with to earn a few bucks. It is a federal law.
Certainly some people do still drink their own alcohol while on a flight. But if you choose to do this, just know that you are doing so at your own risk.
Can you bring alcohol in checked luggage on a domestic flight?
Traveling with alcohol in checked baggage is a bit easier than with carry on since it doesn’t need to be in such small bottles. But there are still some limitations to be aware of. If you want to bring alcohol in checked baggage, the total amount you are allowed depends on the percentage of alcohol.
According to TSA:
“Alcoholic beverages with more than 24% but not more than 70% alcohol are limited in checked bags to 5 liters (1.3 gallons) per passenger and must be in unopened retail packaging. Alcoholic beverages with 24% alcohol or less are not subject to limitations in checked bags.”
Alcoholic beverages above 70% alcohol (higher than 140 proof) are not allowed in carry on or checked bags.
Can you bring alcohol in carry on baggage on an international flight?
Since many airports have a duty free section where you can buy things like perfume and alcohol, you might be considering picking up a bottle or two before boarding your flight. If you’re flying from another country into the US, and you have a connecting flight, you’re probably wondering how the carry-on liquids rules will apply to your newly purchased booze.
TSA says that the alcohol you purchased in duty free can remain in your carry-on baggage as long as:
- The bottles are packed in a transparent, secure, tamper-evident bag by the retailer. Don’t open that bag! If it looks like you’ve opened and resealed the bag, TSA will confiscate it.
- AND you have the receipt because you must show that the alcohol was purchased within the last 48 hours.
And be sure to read the next section to find out about potential customs duties for bringing alcohol into the US from another country.
Can you bring alcohol in checked baggage on an international flight?
Alcohol that is unique to a specific destination might be a great souvenir to bring home at the end of your vacation. But before you pack your bag full of Polish vodka or beer from Germany, you need to know about the customs rules involved with bringing alcohol in checked baggage for your international flight home.
Each country has its own customs rules and limits on bringing alcohol into the country. US Customs and Border Protection allows 1 liter per person aged 21 or older to be imported for personal use duty free. No one under 21 years old is allowed to bring in alcohol, even as a gift. Any additional alcohol will be taxed.
Even alcohol that you purchased at duty free before leaving the country you were visiting can be taxed when you bring it into the US. In addition, each state has its own laws about importing alcohol, so taxes and rules can vary depending on where exactly you’re going.
Taxes and customs fees aren’t usually too high per bottle, so don’t let it stop you from bringing back a few bottles. But always declare your alcohol when you land, even if you’re within the tax-free limit. Customs could decide to confiscate it if you don’t declare the alcohol you’re bringing in.
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Flying with alcohol: How to pack alcohol in checked baggage
The last thing you want is for your bottle of alcohol to break while in transit and spill all over your clothes and other belongings in your checked luggage. So when you pack, make sure each bottle is properly cushioned to reduce the chance of breaking. It’s also a good idea to pack or wrap the bottle in a plastic bag or something else that will contain the liquid if it does happen to break.
Luckily there are great pouches designed specifically to transport fragile bottles like alcohol. If you often bring back multiple bottles of wine or other alcohol when you travel, there are even suitcases designed to carry and protect bottles. Most of these pouches and cases are advertised as wine bottle protectors, but they will work with any bottle of similar size. That means you can use these for wine, beer, any liquor that is a similar size, or even things like olive oil or vinegar.
- Reusable Wine Bottle Protector Sleeve 4 pack: Designed with bubble wrap type material to prevent breaks and seals to prevent spilling if somehow the bottle does break. Can be reused.
- WineSkin Bag 8 pack: Also made with bubble packaging to prevent breaks and has an adhesive seal to prevent leaks. Doesn’t seem to be reusable due to the way it seals. Also comes in a 6 pack.
- Jet Bag 3 pack: Lined with protective material that is also designed to absorb liquid if your bottle does happen to break. Can be reused.
- VinGardeValise Petite 3-8 Bottle Wine Travel Suitcase: Designed with high-density foam inserts to carry 3 to 8 bottles. Some inserts can be removed to fit clothing and other items.
- VinGardeValise Grande 5-12 Bottle Wine Travel Suitcase: Similar to the VinGardeValise Petite, except the Grande can hold 5 to 12 bottles.
So can you bring alcohol on a plane? Definitely! But know the rules and limitations before you pack your bags. Taking alcohol in carry-on baggage means complying with the liquids rules. Packing alcohol in checked baggage is a bit easier, but make sure you protect those fragile bottles from breaking. And understand the potential for customs fees if you’re bringing alcohol back from another country. I hope this has answered all your questions about taking alcohol on a plane!
You might also enjoy:
- Carry On Luggage Size Chart with 170+ Airlines Worldwide
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- What to Pack For Trip: Travel Packing Checklist for Carry-On Only
- What to Pack in Your Carry-On Bag