Packing Tips for Wine, Art & Souvenirs

The VinniBag, $28. Photo by <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. VinniBag
By Kara Murphy

Smart packing means leaving enough room in your suitcase for souvenirs and gifts -- or at least having a plan for bringing home special purchases like wine or artwork.

Always check to see if shipping is an option for items that are heavy, fragile, or too large to fit in your luggage. If you're traveling overseas and are having something shipped from a store, make sure the VAT, or sales tax, is deducted from your purchase. This will help alleviate the shipping costs.

Whether you're bringing home a bottle of Italian wine or some Venetian glass, here are some ways to make sure your souvenirs make it home in one piece.

Have you figured out the best way to pack wine, drawings, fragile items, and other must-have souvenirs? Share your best packing tips on the Packing Forum.

Photo Caption: The reusable VinniBag, $28 each,
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Baggu ripstop reusable bag by Baggu, $8. <a href=" " target="_blank"></a>. Baggu
It's always a good idea for your packing list to include an extra bag just for souvenirs. Even if you don't set out with plans to buy something, you may come across an item or two that you want buy. Reusable nylon bags are great because they fold flat and are very compact. If you want to invest in a sturdier bag, consider a canvas tote or a zippered nylon style. Many luggage companies also make nylon totes that fold up.

Even if you have to check the extra bag, the additional baggage fees may prove more economical than shipping costs, especially when traveling abroad.

Photo Caption: Baggu ripstop reusable bag by Baggu, $8,
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Book sellers along the Seine in Paris, France. Markel Redondo
Pack items like canvas sketches or photographs where they can lie flat in your suitcase. You may be tempted to place these prints at the bottom of your suitcase, but the weight can damage the art. Instead, place items on the top along with the rest of your delicate items -- they'll create a soft cushion.

Cover prints or paintings with a paper or plastic bag, bubble wrap, or tissue paper. If the piece can be rolled easily and without causing damage, consider placing it in a poster tube that you bring from home or buy at your destination. Always remember to ask if these items are available to you wherever you purchase the art. In a pinch, use things like newspapers and plastic grocery bags as protection.

Photo Caption: Vendors selling books and paintings along the Seine in Paris, France
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open suitcase Zach Davis
When purchasing items from a store, make sure that the clerk wraps each item in tissue paper or bubble wrap. Use your clothes for extra cushioning. Keep in mind that you may have to unwrap these items at security, so try to pack wrapped souvenirs in your checked luggage.

If you know you are traveling to a place that is known for certain fragile items, such as handblown glass or hand-carved wooden figures, you may want to consider bringing some tissue paper and bubble wrap with you in your suitcase.

Photo Caption: Bringing home souvenirs
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Customs gates at Calgary International Airport. Eric Rice
Avoid having any of your souvenirs confiscated by checking the Customs and Border Protection's website ( for a current list of restricted food items. Fresh meat, fruit, vegetables, and plants are all banned when you're re-entering the U.S.

People often get stopped for attempting to bring in certain food items, especially cured meats like prosciutto and salami from Italy. Get your fill before heading home.

Note that if you're traveling to or from Hawaii from the mainland United States, there are a number of agricultural restrictions in place even though you're staying within the same country. Packaged products (macadamia nuts, coffee) will generally make it through, but fresh produce and flowers will not. Be sure to educate yourself so you're not forced to get rid of items when going through customs.

Photo Caption: Approaching the Customs gates at Calgary International Airport
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WineSkin bottle transport bag, $9.85. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. WineSkin
Don't wrap wine bottles in your sweaters -- unless you don't mind if they leak all over your suitcase. Ship the bottles whenever possible, but understand that some states don't allow direct shipping to a residence.

If you plan to bring wine home with you, consider grabbing a few bags specially-made to protect vino. Companies such as WineSkin ( and VinniBag ( make double-sealed, leak-proof sleeves that will protect your bottles during transport.

If traveling internationally, you can bring back one liter of duty-free alcohol. Anything above that amount will incur a duty (or tax) as determined by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Photo Caption: Single-use WineSkin bottle transport bags, $9.85 for two,
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