Whether you're taking a bottle of wine or beer with you on vacation or bringing one back, you don't want the bottle to break on the way.
Baggage handlers are lousy with luggage and deal with thousands of bags each day. Your bag is not special and will get tossed and beaten, just like all the others.
Use these tips to make sure your beverage survives the trip.
For the last-minute packer
To cushion a bottle, slide it into a high sock (or two), and wrap the neck of the bottle with a shirt. Next, wrap everything with another shirt or sweatshirt, and place this at the center of your bag. Do this with each bottle you're carrying.
It's not a fool-proof method, but it should work in a pinch. The risk, though, is soaking and staining the contents of your luggage.
For extra security, pack around the bottle, sandwiching it in the very center of everything. Clothing and the other soft items in your luggage will make a nice cushion that should protect the bottle from any small drops and bumps.
Get a travel bottle protector
If you have the option to plan ahead and know you're taking or bringing back a nice bottle of beer, liquor or wine, consider picking up some bottle protectors before your trip.
Bottle protectors, like the Jet Bag, are reusable, resealable zip-top bags that are lined with an absorbent padding. They work much like the above makeshift bottle protector, but don't run the risk of staining and ruining everything in your luggage. Instead, the plastic outer layer should remain intact if the bottle were to break. The zip-top should keep all the liquid inside the sealed pouch, and the padding will absorb the liquid.
Bottle protectors are pretty affordable, too. They typically come in 3- or 6-packs for between $20 (£16.12 or AU$25.92) to $30 (£24.18 or AU$38.88) -- definitely cheaper than replacing or dry-cleaning an entire suitcase of clothing.
Shipping isn't always easier
If you thought you could avoid the checked baggage route altogether and ship your bottle home, it's possible. Maybe.
While USPS strictly prohibits shipping alcohol, some companies, like FedEx and UPS, will allow you to ship alcoholic beverages, so long as someone over 21 is signing for it and it's properly packaged ("Completely covered in something soft to prevent glass breakage; Can absorb liquid if the bottle happens to break.") But the laws vary by state and country, and volume is also heavily and understandably restricted.
None of this even takes into consideration the price of shipping. Assuming the weight of a bottle of wine or liquor is around 3.5 pounds (1.6 kilograms), shipping within the states could cost upward of $35 (£28.21 or AU$45.35) for FedEx Express Saver or $14 (£11.29 or AU$18.14) for FedEx Ground.
With all the regulations, your best bet is usually to pack the bottle in your luggage and hope for the best. But if you would rather ship the bottle home to yourself, call or ask the nearest FedEx or UPS for assistance. They will know what can and cannot be shipped from your current location to your destination.
Boozers: Upgrade your luggage
Baggage handlers are not easy on equipment. You're lucky if you make it through more than a couple flights without your luggage being severely damaged. You can also wrap and pack a bottle however you want, but quality luggage will might make all the difference.
Dropping a canvas or leather bag will have a greater impact on the contents of the suitcase than the same drop with a hard shell suitcase. The outer shell of a hard-side suitcase will absorb more of the impact, keeping the contents inside more protected from shock.