How to Smuggle Beer: A Tutorial in Pictures

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Ever since 9/11, it’s impossible to fly with any container of liquid larger than 3.4 ounces, whether it’s mouthwash or water. Like any beer or wine aficionado, you know that bottles of local hooch are some of the best souvenirs from any vacation. But try to carry those beers onto the flight with you, and you could be losing your precious beer. Whenever a TSA agent confiscates your bottle of Kentucky Bourbon Stout, the terrorists win, so isn’t it about time you learned how to become an effective beer mule?

As a Baltimore native who now lives in San Diego, I’m always bringing bottles of suds that can’t be bought on the East Coast for my friends in the Mid-Atlantic region. Since I’m almost always flying back to California with reciprocal bottles (a constant test of my wife’s patience), I’ve logged more than a dozen cross-country beer mule missions, and I haven’t lost a man yet (knock on a bourbon barrel’s wood). Sure, you could buy a custom-made bottle carrier hard case with a foam insert that has holes for individual bottles, but who has the money for that? Here’s how you too can pack beer and wine in your luggage like a boss.

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Four of the five beers that we’ll pack into our suitcase today. Missing from the picture is an additional 750ml bottle.

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Before a single bottle goes into your suitcase, it’s important to start with a base layer for padding. This can be a few pairs of pants or anything else that can help cushion the precious cargo.

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You’re going to want a lot of large zip-top bags to carry out this task. Sure, your hotel room might temporarily look a bit like Dexter’s lair, but it’s worth it for successful transport. Once your bottle is in the bag, roll it up in a winter coat for some padding.

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You probably only have one coat that you’re willing to pack, so stack three or four t-shirts up, and then roll your next bagged bottle up like you did with the jacket.

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Sweatshirts also make great padding for your booze, so once again, bag it and roll it.

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Larger bottles pose a problem as they won’t fit into a standard-sized zip-top bag. We got this wine box as a housewarming gift (I’m sure it had wine in it too), and we now use it to transport bottles all of the time. Once your bottles are in the carrier, fill in any empty space with socks to keep things stable and padded.

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Once everything is bagged and wrapped up, it’s time to arrange things in the suitcase. Put the wine carrier in the middle, and then surround it with your rolled-up bundles. With the booze in the suitcase, fill in any remaining room with shirts or other items that can provide additional padding.

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A luggage scale is crucial for making sure your suitcase stays under the weight limit. With airlines charging up to $100 for an overweight bag, you definitely don’t want to add that expense. This suitcase flew with us in early January, and every passenger arrived completely unharmed. You can chalk up another successful mission for the beer mule.

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