It was the midnight before my 7 a.m. flight from JFK to LAX when I opened my case of wine and realized there was no way I could check it. I check cases of wine on flights all the time—it’s the only way to drink well (or enough) while visiting family—but the bottles were protected only by flimsy cardboard dividers, and there was no way the case wouldn’t arrive in Los Angeles a dripping mess of shattered glass.
So, I did what any rational person with a suitcase full of their favorite garments and nine bottles of wine you can’t buy in LA would do: I packed that shit. And not only did I successfully get nine bottles of wine into my already stuffed suitcase, but I got each of them home unbroken with my wardrobe just slightly more wrinkled.
If you love wine and you travel, chances are you’re going to have to transport wine in your checked luggage one day. Whether you’re bringing home a bottle you didn’t end up drinking on vacation, or you’ve realized it’s going to cost three times the amount of the wine to ship it back home (#truth), here’s how to get them into your suitcase and safely off the carousel all in one piece.
- Step 1: Take everything out of your suitcase. You can leave the dirty underwear in that pocket you use exclusively for dirty underwear, but everything else needs to be out.
- Step 2: Separate your clothes. Put them in piles of heavy, light, and fillers like socks, bras, and whatever other small stuff you brought. Put aside one heavy piece for every bottle of wine you have if possible; sweaters and jackets are best.
- Step 3: Use shoes to build a parameter around the inside of the suitcase. Gotta buffer that side impact.
Step 4: Build your base. You want to make sure there is a cushy barrier between the side of your bag and the bottles. Use thick pieces of clothing as the foundation, with lighter pieces on top. Just don’t use all your clothes, you’re going to need them.
Step 5: Check the wastebaskets for bags. Grab any clean ones, or empty the ones that have non-messy snack trash from when you got drunk and raided the mini-bar the night before. Place one bottle of wine into each bag, and knot it tightly at the top. In case there is a problem, this bag can help contain the damage (or at least you can pretend it will).
Step 6: Wrap your bottles. If you have sweaters or jackets, place the bottle inside, roll it up, and then use the exposed sleeve to wrap around the neck. The neck is the most vulnerable part of the bottle, and if it’s going to break, that’s where it will be. This is why you don’t want to put multiple bottles into a single trash bag; each neck needs individual support. If you don’t have jackets or sweaters, use whatever your heaviest pieces are to wrap cushion around the neck and bottle. Roll with a few extra items just to be on the safe side,