When you travel as much as I do, and drink wine like I do, at some point it starts to make sense to invest in a wine suitcase. I’ve been lucky in that I have not experienced the horror of bottle breakage in my main suitcase, thus ruining clothes, shoes and other travel ephemera but every time you escape that broken bottle puts you one trip closer to experiencing that dripping wet piece of luggage coming down the luggage conveyor belt at the airport. Go ahead and Google wine luggage and check out the prices for those bags. Go ahead…I’ll wait right here for you. And now you know why I made my own Wine Carrier.
Fellow oenophile’s listen up! There is no reason to have to spend $1600 for a piece of wine luggage.
When you travel a lot, you tend to end up with some extra luggage. No matter how good your intentions are regarding buying souvenirs and whatnot. When you’re traveling to a country for the first time (and maybe the last time) and you gotta have that pair of shoes in Italy, those pieces of silk (you promise you’ll make into pillows or curtains) from China or that antique bric a brac from Paris you just gotta have it. Luggage space be damned. So you go out and buy some cheap bag to get it home. I am now the
proud embarrassed owner of several pieces of luggage obtained for any one, maybe all, of the aforementioned reasons.
The photo above is the haul from last trip to South Africa. I’m a HUGE fan of their wines (especially those from the Stellenbosch region) and they are very difficult to get here in LA. I wanted to show you the suitcase as it was packed so you get an idea of how it looks. It might not be as slick as a ready made wine carrier, but you can see that everything is well padded. We packed 9 bottles in the bag on this trip.
Something that may be surprising to you is that this piece of wine luggage is soft sided. An advantage of this is that the bag itself weighs less, so that more bottles can be carried and still stay under the international baggage weight limit of around 23kg (or 51 pounds) without incurring significant overage charges. *Different airlines may have different weight restrictions. Make sure you check luggage weights and quantities allowed on ALL legs of your itinerary.
So here’s how we did it….A visit to the local fabric store to buy foam. This is the foam that upholsterer’s use when they make cushions or are doing upholstery projects. It comes in different thicknesses. We measured out our suitcase and bought 2″ thick foam to line the top, bottom and all sides of the suitcase. Some of the bigger stores will cut it into manageable size pieces, but they aren’t going to cut it into the smaller specific piece sizes that you will need. To make your life easier, get yourself a cheap electric knife. You know, the kind you use to cut meat? I picked one up at a cheapy store for $5 bucks a few years ago and only use it to cut foam.
You don’t need to secure the foam in any way to the suitcase. It should fit snuggly into the case.
Instead of making individual slots for wine bottles, we opted to make this a versatile wine carrier by cutting strips of foam from 2 1/4″ – 2 1/2″ pieces of foam. This allows us flexibility on the bottle sizes. Standard wine bottle sizes allow us to carry a case (12 bottles) in this bag. But as you can see from the photos, the larger format bottles of bubbly only allowed us to carry 9 bottles. On a trip to Portugal, we were able to fit 12 bottles of wine and Port (combined) in the luggage. So these individual pieces of foam give us some great flexibility with our purchases.
As you can see in this last picture, you can also tuck some clothing in the available openings which gives you more room for packing things as well as even more padding for your valuable cargo.
Regarding US customs fees and alcohol allowances. The general rule is that each passenger, aged 21 and older, is allowed to bring in 1 liter of alcohol duty free. Can you bring in more than that? Yes. But it has to be considered a quantity deemed for personal consumption. Craig and I have not had a problem with customs when we bring in a case of wine, even when we’ve been traveling separately. When coming through customs, claim the alcohol that you are carrying…ALL OF IT. You should always double check if there have been any changes to what alcohol you can bring in and what quantities by checking the US Customs Regulations. You can also find the duties on quantities over 1 liter on the site. It’s not very much at all and totally worth carrying it back from your trip.
I’ve been asked to write this post for a while now, and I apologize to those who have asked me to post up the directions for our wine carrier and that I am just now finally getting it posted.
So get out there and travel and don’t be afraid to bring back a favorite bottle or two…or three…or…..a case. Now you’ve got a way to do it safely and securely.
If you’ve got any questions about this, don’t hesitate to ask. Oh, and for the record…Craig is the one who made this beautiful wine carrier for us. (Gotta give credit where credit is due )Welcome to My Man's Belly! Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about the site or if there's a recipe you'd like to see here. Have a great day.