Don’t Waste Your Alcohol: How to Bring Alcohol into the United States
A bottle of wine or a case of beer can keep you savoring your vacation long after it’s over. To get it through customs, however, you need to follow federal and state regulations and do a little planning, unless you want to waste your booze.
If you know what to expect before you pack, you can plan ahead and eliminate unwanted surprises on the way home.
Here’s what you need to know to save yourself money and headaches.
Understand the basics
There are many regulations to consider when bringing alcohol to the United States. Even though federal law allows you to enter the United States with a certain amount of alcohol, your state’s laws may restrict it.
Let’s start with some general rules of US Customs and Border Protection:
You must be 21 years old to travel with or import alcohol
A case of alcohol is an example of the amount generally allowed, but it’s not a hard and fast rule, and state laws may allow less. You can check the amount of alcohol allowed with your state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
Alcohol should be properly labeled, depending on the type. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has guidelines on its website.
You must declare alcohol imported from a foreign country on a customs and border protection form (6059B)
Duty free? Maybe not
Be aware that you may still have to pay a “duty” – a tax on goods transported across international borders – even if you purchased your alcohol at a duty-free store.
The Customs and Border Patrol collects taxes on alcoholic beverages at the port of entry during the customs clearance process. The duty free exemption generally allows you to skip the duty on a liter of alcohol purchased from a duty free store when traveling to the United States; more liters if you come from some Caribbean destinations.
Customs duties are charged on the percentage of alcohol per liter. Prices on wine and beer are relatively low – around $ 1 to $ 2 a liter – but prices on fortified wines and spirits could be much more expensive, according to the CBP website. You may also be responsible for paying state taxes. Again, check with your state’s alcoholic beverage control board.
Put alcohol in your bag
Other federal rules will apply depending on whether you intend to travel with alcohol in carry-on baggage or checked baggage.
For starters, there is a size limit for the bottles in your carry-on baggage. The Transportation Security Administration requires that liquids over 3.4 ounces be packed in a registered bag, but exceptions are made for liquids over that size that are purchased after passing through security screening.
If you register a bag containing alcohol, the Federal Aviation Administration allows 5 liters per person of unopened bottles containing alcohol by volume greater than 24% to 70%. You can pack more than that if the alcohol volume is less than 24%.
The FAA does not allow bottles with an alcohol volume greater than 70% in checked baggage or carry-on baggage.
PREPARATION and packaging
If you know you’re going to want to bring back a bottle, or a few, you can save money by planning ahead.
First of all, keep in mind that buying a suitcase abroad is not ideal. Sure, it will hold your liquid memorabilia, but new luggage can be expensive, and you may also need to pay a checked baggage fee to bring it home unless you have a credit card that voids these. fresh.
Ruth Berman, CEO of the Beer Tour Company Have a nice beer trip, suggests putting an empty travel bag in your suitcase. She also likes to wrap bubble wrap, packing tape or other items to protect the bottles.
“It’s hard to find things like bubble wrap in Europe,” Berman says. “They are more ecological there.”
Reusable protective sleeves can take up less space and can also provide the same function as bubble wrap and packing tape. They can also prevent leaks if a bottle is damaged. If you’re lucky, a duty-free store might give them to you for free with a purchase. Otherwise, you can order protective sleeves online.
Either way, you’ll want to wrap a bottle of alcohol in such a way that customs officials can easily check it and see the label. Otherwise, you could be delayed.
“I would take my wine bottles out of their plastic cases and then wrap my clothes around those wine bottles for extra security,” says Elaine Schoch, a wine connoisseur and editor at Carpe Tourist attractions.
She makes a “wine sandwich” in her suitcase by packing her shoes first, adding a layer of clothing, placing the wrapped wine bottles in the middle, and placing another layer of clothing on top.
Berman prefers the bubble wrap and sock method for his beer. She wraps it in bubble wrap, wraps it and puts it in a plastic bag. She then slips her sock over the bag and wraps it in her jeans for extra protection.
Shipping alcohol to the United States, if your state allows it, may be a more convenient option than shipping it yourself – but it can also cost more. When you ship alcohol, you lose the duty exemption.
U.S. Postal laws prohibit alcohol shipments by mail, so you’ll have to go through a courier and likely pay a handling and customs brokerage fee, according to the CBP website.
Before shipping, check if the drink you want is available in the United States. If not, factor in the final cost after fees and taxes to determine if it’s worth shipping.
You may also want to pay for the shipment with a credit card that offers purchase protection. You could possibly be refunded if something is wrong with your order.
Take a sip in the past
Once you’ve got your booze safely home, you might be tempted to open it right away. Do not do that.
Change in temperature, altitude, and other factors may impact the content. This is especially true for wine.
“If you’re traveling with wine, put it down for a week or two,” says Schoch. “Don’t go home and open it right away because the wine needs to stabilize.”
Consult with the merchant for the best practices to make your beer, wine or spirits feel right at home. Then you can sip at your leisure and taste your fond holiday memories.