How to Pack a Bottle in Your Luggage

By: Brian Hart

Updated 2/22/24

Long gone are the days when we used to be able to bring a bottle onto a plane and keep it in the overhead bin to ensure it made it to our destination intact. Today, bringing that bottle means having to take a number of risks as it disappears with the ticket agent in our checked-in baggage. In this article I will refer to each of these risks, for lack of a better word, as a “potential toss”. In order to properly understand the challenges and risks that your bottle faces during its journey we must first take a look at what happens to your bag once it leaves your eyesight.

What Happens to Your Bag?

So you have found a unique bottle on your most recent vacation that you want to bring home and share with friends.  After the agent gently (sometimes) lays your bag on the conveyor belt, it will exit onto a common conveyor belt and at some point enter a cavernous warehouse. Think your bag is special? Think again, as there are hundreds if not thousands of other bags streaming into this place make a stop at a CTX machine. These large, expensive machine will determine if there is anything dangerous in your bag (illegal drugs, weapons, explosives, and perhaps lithium ion batteries). They WILL see a liquid in your bottle—typically not classified as “dangerous”, however this is the first place where you want to make sure you pack correctly. TIP: Do not pack electronics anywhere near your bottle, lest an agent (who I can assure you does not have a post-doctorate degree) suspect a detonation device for a Molotov Cocktail and pull your luggage off and toss it aside (Potential toss #1) for a TSA agent to search. If this happens, you must assume that the TSA agent will NOT pack the bottle back up nearly as well as you did and throw it back on the belt (potential toss #2). Your bag may also be subject to other checks including laser or xray scanners and sniffing dogs.

If your bag successfully clears this screening it will continue to the airpport’s main baggage system, where the luggage tag will be scanned, sorted (by either humans or robots) and put on a cart in the right direction to your gate, generating potential tosses #3 and #4. Check in too early? Your bag may go to “suitcase hotel” holding area (this involves potential tosses #5 and #6—possibly more, depending upon the airport). Check in late? If your luggage does make it onto the plane, don’t expect that it have been delivered with more TLC, they will be rushing to get it there. If your bag makes it on time to the gate, the ramp agents will put your bag onto a conveyor belt up to the plane (potential toss #7), and stacked with the other luggage (potential toss #8). Once on the plane, your bag is usually secure, unless there is some heavy turbulence, in which case there may be a potential toss #9. Once at your destination the ramp agents will recover your bag and place it near the cargo hold (potential toss #10), throw it onto the conveyor belt (potential toss #11), where it will be loaded onto a cart (potential toss #12) and taken to the baggage claim where it is dumped onto a conveyor belt (potential toss #13), and depending upon the airport may have anything from a gentle slide to a tumbling cartwheel crash onto the carousel (potential toss #14). Occasionally airports have carousel agents to take the bags off and set to the side (potential toss #15).

Worry-free Travel

Now you know what obstacles face you and your bottle on their journey. If you are flying somewhere with one stop you could be facing over 20 potential tosses of your luggage. How does one pack in the face of this? The obvious answer on our end is of course to pack your bottle within a Vinarmour™ Wine Carrier. Not only is it impact resistant, but more importantly it is puncture resistant, so that even if your bottle faces a violent impact and breaks, the Kevlar and Dyneema fabrics within the Carrier will help prevent glass shards from cutting or puncturing it and will not spill or leak.

Tips For Those Without A Vinarmour Carrier

Use “tubes.” Some articles of clothing have a tube shape and may help protect against impact. Place your bottle within socks, shirt or sweater sleeves, or pant legs. The more layers the better. Best examples: “Hoodie” style pullovers, denim jean pants, calf-height gym socks.

Always travel with couple of kitchen-sized garbage bags. After inserting your bottle within your clothing “tubes”, insert inside the garbage bag and wrap excess bag over itself.

Use Neoprene totes. These can offer modest impact protection, and will offer some thermal protection to help prevent your wine from being baked in case your luggage is left in the sun for a period of time traveling in hot climates. Best technique involves putting one tote over each end, and then wrapping in a plastic garbage bag.

Avoid bubble wrap. Have you ever ordered wine and it has arrived shipped in bubble wrap? There is a reason for this—it doesn’t work for wine bottles. Early experiments in impact protection for my product verified this. You are better off wrapping in clothing (and it’s better for the environment!)

Always pack the bottle in the very middle of the luggage, never in contact with any side of the luggage or any hard personal object, with as much clothing around it as possible.

Protect your electronics in the same bag by packing them away from the bottle and wrap them inside a plastic ziplock or garbage bag.

Add a note for the TSA. Keep it short and sweet. Handwritten and signed adds a personal touch that is difficult to ignore. Seen on the left is the one I (Brian Hart) used (before Vinarmour), on heavy stock paper so I could reuse.