Posts Tagged With: checked luggage

Wine Packing 101

Traveling Tip Tuesday – Tip #5:

And by request, a step-by-step guide to packing your precious wine bottles for the long trek home in your checked luggage! These tips also work for other sorts of liquids in glass bottles (e.g., spirits, sodas, mineral water, etc.). Of course there are professional methods of packing a bottle, but we travelers take what we can get. And that usually means junk and dirty clothes.

1. Gather your basic items:

  • Paper products (local newspapers, old magazines, extra brochures, tissue paper from purchases)
  • Masking/duct tape (packed courtesy of Travel Tip Tuesday #3!)
  • Dark scarves and clothes
  • Plastic bags
  • Tenderly chosen bottle of wine

    1. a packing potpourri.

2. Place your wine bottle into one of the plastic bags and wrap extensively with tape. This layer is the best protection for the other items in your bag in case there does happen to be a crack in the bottle. Better to throw away a wet plastic bag than your whole suitcase of ruined clothes!

2. bagged and taped.

3. Wrap and tape a thick layer of paper around the neck and mouth of the bottle. This gives a little extra cushioning to the narrowest and most delicate part.

3. a neck pillow!

4. Liberally wrap and tape the paper all the way from the mouth to the punt (that conic indentation in the bottom!). Go ahead and overdo it.  Tape it horizontally and vertically. The layers should feel very thick and spongy and will begin to resemble a very bizarre potato/baseball bat.

4. looking awfully weird.

5. Put the entire contraption in another plastic bag and tape your heart out. At this point I begin to feel like a tape maniac… taping faster and faster, eyes bulging, palms sweating. It’s quite a scene.

5. potato, complete.

6. Lovingly wrap your bottle in an item of clothing. Make it a dark piece in case, heaven forbid, your suitcase goes through a tornado and there is some staining. I prefer scarves because they are easy to wrap around an item a few times while not getting too bulky.

6. hush, little baby, don’t say a word…

swaddled.

7. In keeping with the theme of cushiony layers, place your baby into another item of (dirty) clothing like a sweatshirt or pair of jeans.

7. dirty jeans. I’m fine with it.

8. Pack the bottle into your checked luggage with your other clothes. Put it somewhere in the middle of the suitcase in a horizontal position so the bottle will then be standing vertically and upright when the suitcase is stood on its wheels. Don’t put any heavy objects to the side of the bottle that will then be “on top” when the suitcase is stood up. Make sure you surround the bottle on the left, right, bottom, and top with clothes. Your suitcase will surely be thrown around so provide as much padding as you can!

8. are we there yet?

9. When you finally get home and, crossing your fingers, open your suitcase, you can easily cut away the layers with a pair of scissors.

9. feels like Christmas morn.

Good luck!

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Categories: Airport Aid, Global Perspectives, Tourism Trinkets, Traveling Tip Tuesdays | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Where is my garbage bag…

Traveling Tip Tuesday – Tip #3:

There are some household items that always seem to make their way into my checked suitcase when I’m out of town for a week or more. These basics include:

A mélange of suitcase paraphernalia.

A mélange of suitcase paraphernalia.

    • several plastic grocery bags
    • one garbage bag
    • plastic zip-lock bags of various sizes (especially quart-size)
    • one roll of duct/masking tape
    • several scented dryer sheets
    • one pair of scissors
    • one black marker
    • one folder

Grocery bags can be used to organize your souvenirs, pack your alcohol bottles (more on that soon!) and carry wet swimsuits, while garbage bags make great ersatz laundry baskets (so you’re not questioning what is clean and what is dirty…). Shampoo broke open in your carry-on quart-size bag? Rinse off all of the toiletries and replace the oozing bag with the fresh one you packed. It’s oh-so TSA-friendly. Zip-lock sandwich bags also work well for storing smaller souvenirs and for stashing away snacks from the hotel’s breakfast buffet for when you’re later dying of jet-lag hunger. A roll of tape can be a quick fix for a ripped suitcase or broken sandal and a few dryer sheets in your bag can keep your clothes fresh and smelling like home (a remedy for homesickness?). Also, when you need a pair of scissors or a black marker, nothing else will do. Just give in and pack them!

I think one of the most well-used items in my suitcase, however, is the folder. I love keeping restaurant receipts, city maps, and museum tickets as tiny mementos but hate when they get wrinkled or downright destroyed on the journey home! A simple folder (or one with complimentary advertising for Duquesne University) keeps them safe and sound. Folders are also perfect for holding extra copies of flight itineraries, cruise documents, and travel insurance paperwork in addition keeping flat that souvenir photo of you on a camel in Tunisia. Some things need permanently documented. 

Squeeze the air out of the grocery bags and put them in one of the quart-sized bags for more space. Store everything in the mesh zip pocket of the suitcase’s lid. Done!

Mesh lid. Packed. Primed. Lethal.

Mesh lid. Packed. Primed. Lethal.

I’d love to hear ideas from you about mandatory supplies you pack in your suitcase! Leave a reply! I need all the help I can get…

Categories: Airport Aid, Traveling Tip Tuesdays | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pardon Me, U.S. Customs!

 Traveling Tip Tuesday – Tip #2:

Some of my most prized possessions from various international destinations are the wine and liquor I manage to drag home. Maybe I enjoyed this particular Kazakh cognac with friends, or that bottle of Saperavi wine was a gift (from the President of Georgia, perhaps?). Alcoholic beverages act in the way a great souvenir should: a very piece of that region brought into your home that’s a fun and usable way to remember your journey (empty bottles and used corks are cute, too!).  For this reason, I am very selective and protective of the bottles that are worthy enough to make it into my suitcase (more on packing these items in upcoming Traveling Tip Tuesdays).

The notion of bringing bottles of alcohol into the U.S. seems pretty basic until you remember those fateful little words: U.S. Customs. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is a hu-

A smattering of booze I’ve carted home over the past few years. Unopened and glorious.

ge component of the Department of Homeland Security which functions as the organization for all things “coming in”. Border security, trade facilitation, and traveler screening are all included in this agency, so it seems logical that bringing in bottles of valuable, flammable liquids would be dependent on its regulations.

Many 21-years-or-older travelers feel restricted when it comes to choosing which single bottle of wine to pack in their checked luggage (no carry-ons here! 3.4-ounce-rule still applies!). The truth is, there is no federal limit on the amount of alcohol you may import into the U.S. for personal use (click here for the CBP website). Generally, the amount of untaxed alcohol a traveler can bring in is one liter (approximately 34 fluid ounces). A standard bottle of wine is around 750mL, or 0.75 liters, so this works well.

Large quantities of liquid (say, a few cases of wine) may be a red-flag to border control only for tax purposes. They will not throw you in airport jail! If it seems to the officers that your amount could be used for commercial purposes (i.e., selling it), then it could be subject to duty and federal excise tax (that is to say, a fee for coming into the U.S. and an IRS tax).

Duties and IRS taxes go by the type of beverage, its percentage of alcohol, and its volume (click here for the U.S. International Trade Commission [USITC] PDF file and here for the Tax and Trade Bureau [TTB] website). For example, if the border official insists you pay up, the duty on a bottle of wine with less than 14% alcohol content is around $1.59/liter and the IRS tax is $0.21 – bring that bottle home for well under $2.00!

A few things to note:

  • Waters, juices, and non-alcoholic beverages are also subject to taxes.
  • The TSA doesn’t allow you bring beverages with 70% alcohol content (140 proof) or higher at all.
  • You may take up to five liters of alcohol with alcohol content between 24% and 70% if it’s packaged in a sealable bottle or flask (click here for the TSA website).
  • Anything higher than 24% alcohol may be subject to “hazardous materials regulations”.
  • Alcoholic beverages purchased in duty-free shops can still be taxed upon U.S. entry. It’s only “duty-free” in the place in which you bought it!

In short, please don’t be afraid to buy and bring home alcohol from your foreign excursions. I have yet to pay a tax on the ridiculous amount of alcohol I always seem to bring in (knock on wood)… But if there is a snag in your border crossing, the tax that may be placed on your purchases is minimal and even this is at the discretion of the border official. Go ahead and indulge!

Categories: Airport Aid, Traveling Tip Tuesdays | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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