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How To Carry On All the Duty-Free Liquids You Want On the Plane

Because I’m starting to figure out middle age (especially without children) is learning about how to pass the time until death comes, alcohol has taken a more prominent cornerstone in my life. So when local liquors are particularly cheap, someone’s wallet takes more notice at the airport.

Here’s how to bring back all that pisco, because it is doable. Essentially, it is possible to buy duty-free liquids and have them connect in the U.S. when they’ve been bought abroad in the past 48 hours, and everything remains sealed with a proof of purchase.

Liquids over 100 mL bought at airports that are transiting domestically the entire way must be checked through all connections. Besides, it’s pretty much not possible to buy duty-free for a domestic flight.

Buying items at the duty-free shop can be a double-edged sword: the items often (though, not always) are more expensive, even though passengers aren’t paying duties. In fact, a good rule of thumb is that it may be worth to purchase higher-end items at the airport, where they can run cheaper, versus more common items, like aji (a pepper paste), where it may be cheaper at the local grocery store with taxes.

Still, the main advantage of purchasing at the airport is being able to carry them on versus sliding it into checked luggage. This includes liquids over 100 ml, so let’s proceed how to actually go through with the process.

The process of carrying on all that booze.

For example, here’s how I brought in some pisco I picked up at Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport (LIM) at half cost for a future dinner party.

Purchase the item. I was told that the item was good for two connections. The shop should seal it in a clear bag, with the receipt. Passengers are not allowed to carry it with them to the gate; instead what will happen instead is that the store will deliver the liquids straight to the plane. Keep the receipt, as this is a passport to liquid freedom.

Guard those receipts like gold. (Erica Ho / Map Happy)

Basically, after you board the gate, and right before physically boarding the aircraft is when someone will be sitting there with a bag that has your name on it. Pick it up.

Generally, it’s not really recommended to store liquids in the overhead bins, because they can roll around—unless the bins are super full—but to store them underneath the seat. This prevents the bottles from spilling all that juice that helps us forget that our existence may only serve as a limitless pathway to working for the next 30 years.

The next step is to clear the point of entry. Assuming this is the U.S., generally what will happen is that bags must be rechecked and passengers must undergo security again. Certain countries will allow the transit to happen without all of this, so in that case, thank those lucky stars, and continue on with the loot.

If you so happen to be continuing onto in the U.S., or simply seem to get diverted to a different airport terminal without a boarding pass like I did, most passengers will have to go undergo security again, and this is where you will definitely have to allot extra time in between the connection. Don’t worry, it’s going to make it through.

This is where things get a bit hairy at the TSA security checkpoint screening, but should the items have been bought under good faith, ye shall have nothing to worry about. The bags must be sealed, the receipt must be present, and the purchases must have been made within the past 48 hours to pass.

Passed inspection. (Erica Ho / Map Happy)

In this case, I watched the security staff open the bottle of pisco and run it through that bomb-sniffing liquid thingie, and repeat the process with the pepper pastes. The staff will return the contents back to its original packaging if possible with a TSA-approved sticker.

Congratulations, you have now been approved to enter the plane with liquids over 100 ml, and I can’t wait to make some aji de gallina at home.





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