Travel Pro-tip: How to Pack Beer to Fly Home in One Piece

How to pack beer in your check-in luggage home.

“How do you pack beer home when you fly?”

-My old friend Kyle (readers may know him as the one who married an Iowan named Susannah*)

This was the nudge to finally draft this post I’ve had in mind. I hope those of you over 21 find it handy as we head into holiday travel this year. Kris and I like to bring a little craft beer back from travel as a souvenir to enjoy with friends. We’ve logged, him especially, a lot of airline miles with beer in luggage and gotten some routines down to accommodate.
[insert 10/22 photo of luggage, brighten and crop, draw arrow, caption: you can see I went with multiples of optional step 4]

The Beer-Packing Formula

Ingredients & Materials:
A few precious beers you want to take home, preferably in cans rather than in glass bottles
Large gallon-sized ziplock freezer bags, 1-2 per beer-to-pack –even more if you like.**
Dirty laundry from your trip
Recommended: hard-case luggage, to check
Optional: more plastic shopping bags

1. Identify your least favorite clothes/laundry from this trip. Envision it soaked in sticky beer for the duration of your flight. Tell yourself this is what washing machines are for, but say goodbye your favorite sweater in its current state –just in case.**
2. Seal beer in ziplock bag, one per beer, squeezing the air out. This is your first layer.
3. Wrap your beer in said clothes, the fluffier the better, evenly distributing around the precious beer. Seal the beer and clothes in another ziplock, squeezing as much air out as possible. This is your second layer.
4. Optional: add another plastic bag layer.
5. Position beer in the middle of your suitcase, or wherever appears the most well-protected from impact. Jetset Jonson advice per Kris: if you are out of room in your luggage, you can get a box from the neighborhood post office where you are, wrap similarly, and check the box in the next step.
6. Check your bag to your destination (still gotta observe that 3 fl.oz. rule with TSA carry-on).
7. Retrieve bags, get home, open luggage, retrieve beer. Chill, and skol!
8. Optional step: discover your luck has turned, and mourners the loss of your favorite, now-beer-soaked sweater. Take it to the cleaners or washing machine and salvage.

Borg’s Icelandic Stout, caption: this was my favorite pour on a traipse across Iceland, from Kaldi Bar in Reyki’. Did it taste better because the bartender looked skeptical I could handle it? Maybe… Sadly, did not find it available for sale in a store. I suspect relatively dry beer laws are why. A 73-year prohibition on beer was not lifted until 1988, according to the NY Times.

Bonus Pro-Tip/Place-Drop***

The food in Iceland was really expensive, the beer even more so. State beer stores had limited hours and selection, and many local craft beers were only available as draft pours to drink. I tucked a few precious cans in my luggage and got to the airport, only to find Duty-Free shopping at Keflavik airport full of beer and liquor options in many brands available for sale outside –effectively a 25% discount! Next time, if in Iceland, just plan to splurge at the airport to carry on a six-pack. You can do it on the way in to the island too, if you’re planning to eat in on your trip and want beer table-side.

Fun goods trivia for travel: don’t forget that if you plan to ship things, beer across state lines in the U.S. is frowned upon –er, I mean..olive oil. So, luggage-check is actually your strongest option. If we’re talking across country-lines, well, heavy tariffs targeted at businesses may be in effect. Thoughtful friends once mailed me an xmas gift from Milan, only I received a puzzling little wooden board of unclear purpose. Come to find out, it used to have tasty salami on it before customs got a hold. Milan has bizarre package restrictions (see: no albums of any kind, nor typewriter tape), I suspect it has to do with economic protectionist policies, but the U.S. checks stuff too.



*’sannah is also an honorary Minnesotan.

**For more on saying goodbye to your luggage, see my favorite travel tips/language geek pro: Sonia Gil’s videos.  If you wanted to go beyond ziplock, you could get vacuum packing space saver bags per Sonia, but I don’t guarantee they’ll give enough cushion for the beer.

***Place-drop: a verb or noun, like in “name-drop,” where rather than name-dropping a celebrity, you are dropping that you went to a place. Inventor: Stephanie Potts.

Viking Classic in a can

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