How To Safely Pack Breakable Items In Your Checked Luggage

The first and best advice you can get when considering packing breakables in your checked luggage is this: don't. You know all those lovely black marks, scrapes, dings, and scratches you see when you get your luggage back on the carousel? Well, it tells a harrowing story of how your luggage was tossed around like a hacky sack from luggage cart to luggage cart, shoved in the back of a cargo hold, and stacked under a pile of luggage. But we get it — shipping items home or carrying them with you simply may not be an option.

So, how do you pack your breakable items? Well, it depends on what they are, of course. For anything you spent more than a thousand bucks on, though, we say it's worth it to have it professionally shipped. Having a precious vintage painting or another piece of art ruined by rushed baggage handlers would be a very unfortunate end to a great trip.

Packing breakable items containing liquids

Whether you like wine or specialty spirits you can't find at home or are just bringing back a gift for a special someone, you'll want to make sure it gets there in one piece and without your clothes reeking of alcohol. For bottles of wine or liquor, consider purchasing a small sturdy box that's close to the size of the bottle or bottles that will fit in your luggage. Grab some cushioning such as packing peanuts or shredded paper along with bubble wrap from a nearby post office or office supply store. Wrap up the bottles in the bubble wrap and pack the cushioning in tightly around the bottles in the box.

If you're not somewhere with those supplies readily available, you'll have to make do with clothing. If you can find a sealable freezer bag or plastic wrap to put your liquor in, do that first. Then wrap the bottle in your thickest piece of clothing like a sweatshirt or sweatpants. Place the bottles in the middle of your bag, surrounded by your other clothing, and your chances of getting that bottle of rum back home are pretty good!

Regardless of how you pack it, if you ever think you'll be bringing back home breakables from your vacation, consider purchasing luggage that's best suited to this activity. Hard shell luggage is the best option since it can't be squished as easily as soft-sided luggage.

For items that can't fit in your luggage

Whether it's a pair of skis, a valuable musical instrument, or a fragile sculpture, checking in non-baggage items can be nerve-racking. All the special brightly colored warning stickers in the world won't stop a careless baggage handler from mangling your stuff. So, one item we can't in good conscience recommend you check in any case is musical instruments. Luckily, there are actually federal rules that require airlines to allow passengers to carry on small musical instruments (like a violin or guitar) as long as they can be safely stowed either in an overhead compartment, under the seat, or in the coat closet at the front of the plane.

Some airlines will even allow you to purchase an extra ticket for your instrument or really any item that is too large or fragile to be safely checked in. If you do this, you can ask to have the item placed in a bulkhead space between compartments. But always check your airline's website about these rules, as some allow this and others don't.

If you're okay with checking in an item that isn't particularly fragile but is too large to carry on (and your airline allows it), wrap it up in lots of bubble wrap and place it in a cardboard box if possible. If you think the item can survive being tossed around like a dog's new favorite chew toy, it'll probably be okay!