To check or carry on?
First decide whether you will put the fragile item in your carry-on or if you will check it. Some things, like wine, must be checked. If something is of great value to you, you may want to consider keeping it close, although overhead compartments can be just as rough as checking, so you still need to package it carefully.
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Whatever the fragile item, Bubble Wrap is a great, easy way to protect everything from bottles to plates and from ceramic bowls to figurines. Use it generously to fully wrap your items before packing them. It will make things a little more bulky, so take that into account when determining how much space you have. Also, be warned that there's always a chance that they'll need to be unwrapped at some point while going through security.
Depending on what you are bringing back, they now sell various items to help you pack. There are a number of options specific to wine bottles, like a Bubble Wrap-lined bag that protects the bottle from breakage but also prevents leakage into your luggage should it crack. There are also inflatable travel pouches that will blow up to create a safe enclosure for various products. If you travel a lot, you may want to look into these options.
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On the other end of the spectrum, you can also use what you already have on hand — clothing. It provides a great source of padding in which to pack your fragile souvenirs. Stuff a bowl with a few pairs of socks, then wrap it generously in a sweater or a bunch of shirts. It may sound crazy, but it can be really effective. The risk, of course, is that should anything break, it will get all over your clothing.
Finally, besides what you pack your souvenirs in it's also crucial to think about where you put them in the suitcase. The best bet is to put them smack in the middle, with a layer of clothing below and on top. If you have multiple fragile items, make sure they are separated by at least a piece of clothing so they don't bump into each other during transit. And a tightly packed suitcase is actually best, because it leaves less room for the items to shift and break.
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