7 Deadly Zins and Twinkies
May 22, 2012 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Next month I'm traveling overseas from the US for the first time. What's the best way of packing the foods and beverages that friends have asked me to bring for them?

I'm visiting friends in the London area next month, one of whom is putting me up for the week that I'll be there. Two friends have requested that I bring stuff that they miss from the US - a giant box of Twinkies, and a particular kind of red wine.

I've got three bottles of the wine and have easy access to a monster load of Twinkies, but I'm not sure how to pack them. I know I won't be able to bring the wine in my carry-on, as it's a liquid and I could potentially use it to stain people's clothes on the plane. I've heard from different sources that I can carry the Twinkies in a carry-on, or that I can't. I should mention that I'm one of those lucky people whose bags always get searched and who generally gets pulled out of the security line for "random" enhanced screening.

What is the best way to pack wine bottles and snack cakes so that they make it to London intact and not confiscated?
posted by terrierhead to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total)
Wrap the wine in plastic bags first, maybe duct tape the off to make sure they are sealed. You never know what cabin pressure in the luggage compartment will do. Next, I'd pad the bottles in clothes or towels. I'd pick the latter, just in case something breaks.

The twinkies? Not a problem to throw in your carry on. They'll at most just think you're extremely hungry.
posted by melizabeth at 8:39 AM on May 22, 2012

I've transported spirits in my luggage and Wrap well in plastic and bubble wrap, buffer with lots and lots of clothing. Make sure it's all very tightly in there and it should be fine.

You never know what TSA or Customs in the UK will think of your Twinkies. Perhaps that cream filling will look like C-4 through the scanner. I'd pop the Twinkies in your checked bag as well, wrapped in bubble wrap, then in a rigid cardboard box.

This won't leave you much room for clothing, but hey, you won't have all that crap to drag back to the US, so there's that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:51 AM on May 22, 2012

Unless you're underage, you'll have no problem bringing a bottle of wine overseas. No need to obsess over wrapping it, I just stick them in whatever plastic bag is lying around. Just try to pack it in the middle of your suitcase and you'll be fine. I've never had a problem.
posted by mkultra at 8:54 AM on May 22, 2012

There is a bubble wrap thing that they make for wine and spirits for travel. I would suggest bubble wrap and then the freezer zip lock bags if you can't find the ones made for wine bottles.

The twinkles will be squished unless you wrap them in stuff. I usually just leave stuff like that in a carry on. It will be fine. You can ask if you are afraid and rearrange your check in luggage to put the twinkles in.
posted by Yellow at 8:56 AM on May 22, 2012

Some carriers have specific policies about wine/alcohol, but it seems like most don't. United, for example, says if it's below 24% alchol by volume there are no restrictions, although it's not their fault if things break.

There do seem to be some anecdotes on the web about TSA agents wrongly thinking the restrictions on spirits apply to wine, so if you're being cautious you might want to print out the relevant TSA guidance, although I would guess people take wine to London often enough that that wouldn't be an issue.

I think it might be worthwhile to include an oversized ziplock bag or something similar in your bottle packing system just in case you do have a broken bottle to avoid it spilling over everything else.

Finally, since you mention getting your bags checked, I would try to use clear plastic where possible (clear bubble wrap, clear bags, etc.) just so they don't have to uwrap everything to see the wine bottles.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:59 AM on May 22, 2012

Yeah, I don't believe you're supposed to bring food items through the security scanners. I've been told to throw food/drinks in the trash. (Not sure if it was just an individual inspector or if that's policy.)
posted by Doohickie at 8:59 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I believe that the types of food you can't bring with you on the plane are things like nuts, fruits, etc. Not wrapped like twinkies are.
posted by melizabeth at 9:11 AM on May 22, 2012

I've lugged wine in checked luggage a zillion times (well, maybe ten times). As mkultra says, just plastic bag it and either wrap in packed clothes or make sure to position it securely in the middle of the suitcase. If you've got duct tape at your disposal, that would be good to seal off the plastic bags just in case.

The twinkies are the more difficult case, IMO, especially since you're trying to get both soft mushy twinkies AND big heavy wine bottles in the same luggage. I agree with folks who've advised you to check everything on the off chance that some jerk TSA agent decides food is a no-go or the cream center of a twinkie is technically a "liquid". But how??? You're going to want to fortify the packaging, I think. Can you put them in a more substantial box? Or pack them inside something else? My first thought is putting them in shoes, but that sounds sort of gross. When a friend of mine wanted Lime Tostitos brought to Europe, I used a Pringles can in lieu of the non-protective tortilla chip bag. Maybe something like that? A shoebox might work, or maybe a small mailing box, like a Priority Mail or a FedEx Box?
posted by Sara C. at 9:11 AM on May 22, 2012

Doohickie, per the TSA, you are allowed to bring food but not drinks through the scanners. I wouldn't take my chances with the Twinkies, though, and would pack them in my checked bag.
posted by donajo at 9:13 AM on May 22, 2012

I would worry about the Twinkies getting smooshed in the overhead bins, since these days, people cram those bins to the bursting point. For protection, I suppose you could put them in one of those sturdy USPS or FedEx shipping boxes.

I'd be more inclined to pack them into a suitcase. One less thing to schlepp around, and more room in your carryon for useful essentials in case your flight gets delayed, etc. (You wouldn't want to be tempted to break into the Twinkies in a moment of stranded-in-the-terminal weakness!)
posted by quivering_fantods at 9:15 AM on May 22, 2012

Depending on how many Twinkies you're carrying, I would recommend a large plastic food container of those in your suitcase. No experience with wine bottles, but have traveled with glass jars of preserves, etc. So wrap the bottles in plastic, then some kind of bubble wrap or towel. Then another layer of plastic. Make sure they're in the middle, and well surrounded by more clothing.
posted by bardophile at 9:29 AM on May 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

I successfully brought several hundred chocolate truffles, in checked luggage, on a cross-country flight by packing them in cheap 'reusable' plastic containers. Super-rigid ones may crack, but the supermarket ones held up better (although I taped the lids.)
posted by cobaltnine at 9:37 AM on May 22, 2012

When it comes to customs, if you're worried about being stopped and unpacked, just make sure you declare you're carrying food, and tell them what you've got. I've successfully brought many dodgier things through various customs (smoked salmon, fresh spices, etc) by just declaring it. Breezing through without declaring is not worth the anxiety, especially if you have a bag search pattern historically.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:53 AM on May 22, 2012

I've taken bottles in checked luggage inside a couple of thick socks. Think hiking/football socks. As long as the case is packed and padded well, that should suffice.
posted by holgate at 9:56 AM on May 22, 2012

I don't remember how many bottles of wine you can bring into the UK duty free, so check in that. In my vague and hazy memory its only two?

Put all the food in your checked luggage, not hand luggage. Put the twinkies into a hard container to stop them getting smooshed by the wine. The clothes should do a fairly decent job of generally protecting the wine, but I would bubble wrap the bottles, or something to make sure it has protection on all sides. Also, seal the wine in some kind of plastic bag. If the bottle shatters, you really don't want a dripping suitcase and wine-stained clothes. I have seen this happen to someone else at the airport, it was not pretty.
posted by Joh at 10:26 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can I ask why you won't simply mail the Twinkies? They're bulky but light, and so shouldn't be that expensive to ship. You'd be able to put them in a nice, rigid box, too.

The wine, though, is tough: in the 1990s I used to bring beer bottles on flights, and it was always nerve-wracking -- and that was without the TSA or Customs. :7(
posted by wenestvedt at 11:26 AM on May 22, 2012

put the food in the checked in luggage coz there's no point of dragging it all around and there is the odd chance they might not get through.

twinkies, as processed standardly packaged food, shouldn't be a problem in your checked-in luggage at all. other countries in general care a lot less about this stuff, and the US wouldn't even care about this even though you should tell them if you're being obsessive compulsively honest like I tend to be. Put in a shoe box, or even the boxes they already come in, between some of your other stuff and you're fine. save the drama about worrying if things get ruined for the wine bottles, for which other people have given adequate advice.

what a wonderful friend you are to do this.
posted by saraindc at 11:51 AM on May 22, 2012

While everyone is right that the Twinkies *shouldn't* be a problem in your carry-on, the truth is that there's no rhyme or reason to TSA shenanigans and they could very easily decide on the spot that cream filling is verboten. I would pack the Twinkies or Twinkie boxes in a shoe box or Gladware, something rigid, in your checked luggage. The wine too of course - in bubble wrap or towels, and inside a plastic bag just in case the pressure in the baggage compartment isn't quite right.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:49 PM on May 22, 2012

Ideally I would pack the Twinkies in a plastic box within your suitcase. I've done this before with fragile foods. Then you can leave the box in London or use it to bring stuff home. Barring that, I would shove the Twinkies in things like tennis shoes--they're relatively firm, the Twinkies are wrapped.
posted by wallaby at 6:25 PM on May 22, 2012

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