I'm going to Sydney next month for work and I was wondering if it's a bad idea to risk taking a big bottle in my checked-in baggage. I've heard the pressure can be different to the cabin and with the carbonation there's a risk it may all go horribly wrong.
It's a common misconception that the cargo hold of a plane isn't pressurised - it's actually the same level as the cabin, so that shouldn't be a worry. There will still be a bit of pressure, so I'd recommend keeping it well sealed in a plastic bag, just in case a bit of liquid seeps out past the lid mid-flight - I've had that happen with other liquids.
To really be safe, you could use duct tape to seal the deal. The main problem will be baggage handlers throwing things around, so be sure to keep your precious cargo well-padded in the middle of your suitcase. This goes for anything that could be knocked about.
I think plastic bottles would be the safest bet - more room to expand than with cans or glass bottles.
How onerous is the entry for a transit via USA? I have an existing ESTA, but don't know if I can use it without the interview or whether to fly over Asia to Europe (my final destination) and not even bother with the USA - any ideas?
Your existing ESTA allows you to travel under the visa-waiver programme - there were rumours this was going to be suspended under Trump, but this hasn't turned out to be the case, thankfully. However, US airports can be stressful at the best of times, so if you don't feel like dealing with that, Asia could be a better route.
I received a couple of responses to last week's question about motels and hotels in the USA.
I mentioned a few motel chains that were best rated online, including Days Inn, Microtel Inns and Suites and Red Roof Inn.
Valerie Bogan didn't recommend these chains at all: "As an American please don't suggest those places to anyone! That is cruel and unusual punishment. Those places attract unsavoury types like drug dealers and prostitutes."
However, Neil Mander also wrote in to say his limited experience of a Red Roof Inn was completely satisfactory - as I said in the column, chains generally vary from place to place.
He also pointed out that I mixed up my Carolinas - Charleston is in South Carolina, not North - and had an interesting suggestion for anyone who visits. "Its maritime museum with aircraft carrier and submarine, among other craft, is well worth a visit. On the aircraft carrier one can buy a naval lunch for a reasonable sum."