How to take alcohol in checked luggage on low cost carriers in Europe
March 04, 2016
Do you know how to take alcohol in checked luggage on low cost carriers? Check our guide.
Part of our work at Lazenne includes educating people on how to travel with wine. Back when we first started the company we looked at rules and regulations for international wine travel. The piece breaks down tariffs, taxes, and policies from all over the world to show winelovers they can get bottles home safely and cost effectively. Now that we’ve been doing this for a while we want to take it a little closer to home but by talking about how to travel with alcohol within Europe on low cost airlines.
Why Low Cost Carriers?
Low cost carriers have been a European travel staple since airway deregulation in the 1990s, ushering in an array of budget options. Today, travellers from all over the world explore Europe by taking advantage of flights as low as 15 euros each way.
Of course, there is more to the story than a cheap flight. Basically you are only paying for your seat on those flights. Everything else has a price. And, of course, that includes checked luggage. To help you take your alcohol in checked luggage on low cost carriers we created a reference guide.
First, know the main low cost carriers who will get you around popular wine regions in Europe. Next, be mindful of the weight restrictions and policies as they vary by carrier. Third, book extra baggage in advance, and make sure to pack your wine bottles safely. Finally understand the specific rules and regulations on alcohol. Let's review the most important ones:
No alcohol, or any liquids in containers exceeding 100 ml in your carry-on (cabin) baggage.
Wine and alcohol in checked (hold) baggage is permitted as under the following conditions:
- Alcoholic beverages with less than 24% alcohol – no restrictions
- Alcoholic beverages with alcohol content between 24% and 70% - 5L per person
- Alcoholic beverages with more than 70% alcohol - prohibited
Travellers flying between any E.U. country (including the UK and Nordic countries) have a very generous duty-free limit of 90L for wine, 110L of beer, and 10L of spirits per person. Reasonable duties apply to Norway and Switzerland. Get more info here.
This guide can help you get the most out of wine travel in Europe and get your bottles home in one piece. All without breaking the bank.
Who are the low cost carriers in Europe that best serve wine travellers?
One thing to know about travelling on a low cost carrier in Europe is that you have pay close attention to both the terminal and the airport.
Did you know that Milan has three airports? Most people are familiar with Milan Malpensa, but two other outlying airports also exist (Bergamo and Linate). Many low cost carriers, especially big names like easyJet and Ryanair can bring you low costs because they base themselves in these terminals or airports. Flying into larger airports like Milan Malpensa, London Heathrow, and Paris Charles de Gaulle means higher fees for the airlines, which translates to higher prices for you. At secondary airports, fees are less and often the low cost carriers negotiate better deals because they can promise large passenger loads and increased tourism dollars.
That in mind, we created a list of nine low cost carriers that service cities that are in the vicinity of popular European wine regions in places like France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and others.
Let’s start with a reference guide on the hubs, baggage allowance, and hold luggage policies for low cost carriers in Europe.For nearly all the carriers listed checked bag fees vary by itinerary, so we have included links to the complete luggage fee schedule.
Tips to take alcohol in checked luggage on low cost carriers in Europe.
From the outline above it’s easy to see that travel with wine on a low cost carrier can require some advanced planning. Some things to consider to make your trip more cost effective and easy:
Pay in advance for your checked luggage. In most cases you'll be able to purchase additional baggage online even after you purchase your ticket. Do it online though because otherwise prices for hold (aka checked) luggage can be much higher if purchased at the airport on the day of the flight.
Make the most out of your cabin luggage. If you are allotted both a carry-on piece and a personal item, use them. Pack your clothes and travel items in your carry-on and just pay to check your wine. But, be mindful of luggage that looks too large (just don’t stuff it so it is bulging). Most European low cost carriers are not as forgiving as in the U.S. and they will evaluate the size of your rollerboard luggage if they think it goes over their size and weight restrictions.
Give yourself a budget for how much wine you want to bring back so you can buy checked luggage weights accordingly. If you only plan to travel with a few bottles your weight needs will be much less than an entire case of wine.
Consider, one standard 750 ml bottle of wine weighs on average 1.4 kg / 3 lbs. A full case of 12 tips the scales at about 17 kg / 38 lbs. That is just under the standard weight for checked (hold) luggage on most low cost carriers in Europe. Make sure you travel with a portable luggage scale to be able to weigh your bag and avoid surprises.
Have a plan for how to transport the wine on the plane. Packaging is an important consideration to keep your wine protected and to stay in line with luggage policy / weight restrictions. Some people simply pack an extra bag in their suitcase and use that for their clothes, then put wine in their suitcase for the return trip. The drawbacks to this are that you need to either bring packing material with you, or you have to hope for the best wrapping bottles in your clothes.
Keep your wine secure by purchasing specialty wine travel packing products in advance. In Europe these items are not as easy to come by as they are in new world wine regions like the U.S. or Australia. Since many European wine producers are just starting to have them available at the winery we don’t recommend leaving it to chance. Lazenne can ship products directly to your hotel or you can see our list European resellers to pick up products while your are on holiday.
If you only plan to travel with a couple bottles you can purchase individual or dual bottles packaging products. You can save money by doing only carry-on luggage for the flight out and pre-purchasing your checked bag on the way back. This can really save you money with carries like Ryanair and Flybe who offer lower checked luggage rates at up to 15 kg / 33 lbs.
The Vin Bouquet: Inflatable reusable wine bottle holder; fits standard 750 ml or 1.5 l magnum bottle.
The Wine Hug: Self-inflatable reusable wine bottle holder; comes in one and two bottle holders.
Wineskin: Bottle-shaped sealable bubble wrap protection sleeves for a single bottle. Inexpensive and compact
For six bottles or up to a case, consider a more robust packing option with styrofoam packing boxes. These are the best way to ensure no breakage to your wine. Even better, they offer temperature control for hot summer or cold winter wine travel.
The Wine Check: The fully loaded standard 12-bottle Lazenne Wine Check weighs in at 18 kg / 40 lbs. Most low cost carriers in Europe top their hold luggage weight restrictions at 20 kg, so you are in good shape. We also offer a 15-bottle Wine Check that meets the 23 kg / 45 lbs weight limit. The benefit to these products is that you have wheels and a strap for ease of use during travel. If your travels include a mix of air and train travel, those wheels can make all the difference.
The Wine Check Elite is a 6-bottle luggage specifically designed for the airplane. With it's telescopic handle and wheels it's easy to manoeuvre whether taking the train, metro, or cobble stone streets. Fully loaded with wine it ranges in weight from 9 to 12 kg making it the ideal companion for low cost airline check-ins. Remove the durable polystyrene insert and the carrier turns into standard baggage. It also comes with a 12-bottle insert when you need to move wines around town and don't need the extra protection of the polystyrene.
Wine Bottle Protectors: We can also offer Styrofoam packing boxes, separate from the Wine Check. They come in sizes of one, three, six, and 12 bottles.
There are a lot of little ways to get the most out of your wine travel with a low cost carrier. We have one client who shared with us that to keep the weight for her Wine Check under the 15 kg she only packs 10 bottles and uses the other two spaces for things like contact solution, socks, etc.
It’s much easier than most people realize to take alcohol on a plane, even on luggage restrictive low cost carriers. Just make make sure you are clear on the luggage policies and that you are packing right.
Do you have any more tips on how to travel wine travel wine? Please leave us a note in the comments below.
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