As you probably know, we are two kitesurfers. This sport requires a lot of equipment which can become very challenging when traveling. Of course, there is always the possibility to rent material at your destination but rental gear is very costly and will never replace your own.
The same is true for many other sports (biking, windsurfing, golfing, skiing, diving, etc.) and as we have been travelling for years with sport luggage, we combined list of the most important elements to take into consideration to avoid bad surprises.
1. Get informed
The first and foremost thing to do is to find information and carefully plan your travel considering your luggage. Check in particular the allowance in weight and size of the airline you are planning to flight with. Every company has its own policy; some will allow one piece of extra sized luggage per traveler, some will ask for a fee and some will entirely forbid it.
It is worth to investigate which airlines are flying to your destination and which has the best offer for extra-sized luggage. Sometime, flying with a more expansive company will turn out to be cheaper if you consider the extra-sized baggage fees.
2. Pay attention to policies regarding connecting flights
Bad surprises can happen if your trip includes connection flights. If you are flying with the same airline for the entire journey, it should not be a problem. If your over-sized luggage is not included, your will usually pay for it once to reach your destination and once to come back.
However, if you are flying with different companies, you need to consider the over-sized luggage policies of each of them. This means that you might have to pay 2 or 3 times for each destination and this can be extremely expensive.
3. Confirm your luggage over the phone
Once you chose your airline, we highly recommend to call the hotline. Explain what equipment you will be traveling with, and have them confirmed that you correctly understood their terms and conditions.
Some equipment is sometimes part of a different list and will cost extra. For example, it is often cheaper to bring a golf bag than a kite board bag. You can of course lie (many brands are producing board bag labelled “golf bag”) but it is not a question of size or weight; the difference mainly lies in the risk taken by the airline.
Golf gear are much more resistant than a kite or surf board and if your board breaks during the transport, you will not be able to claim the responsibility of the airline if it was labeled as golf equipment.
4. Consider an upgrade to business class
Business class tickets are very costly and, for a long time, we used to not even consider booking them. However, business tickets often includes free allowance for one additional over-sized luggage per person.
This is of course not sufficient make up for the price difference but if you combine this with using your miles and if you take into consideration the improved flight comfort, you will see that the difference is often smaller than it looks.
5. Avoid packing unnecessary items.
This might sound very obvious but be honest, you are always bringing a whole bunch of useless stuff, “in case of”…
This is mostly a question of prioritization and of course highly depends on the equipment you are transporting. Taking kite surfing as an example:
- Don’t take the bags of all of your kites, one is enough!
- Don’t put this bag in your board bag, use it as your carry-on (but check the size allowance of your airline first).
- Limit the quantity of kites. Take one for light conditions and one for the big days and ride under- or over-powered when needed. If you travel as a couple, don’t take pack the same kites and take the chance to bring 4 different sizes.
- Do you really need a pump or are you heading to a frequented spot where you will find pumps every second meter?
Just question everything you put in the suitcase and keep it out if you can easily to without, find an alternative on the spot. Aside of sport equipment, always keep in mind the following to pack light:
- Invest in a light but resistant suitcase.
- Take a suitcase of the right size. It should contain everything and let a little space for souvenirs.
- If you are staying in a hotel, do not pack beach towels. You will find what you need there.
- Limit the quantity of clothes. If you are heading to a beach holiday, you’ll spend most of your time in boardshort/bikini. We usually take one formal outfit to go out, some beachwear, several light t-shirts/tops and a pullover/jacket that we are wearing in the plane.
- Limit the quantity of sanity products; you can buy what’s needed at your destination.
- Favor unisex products to avoid packing double.
- Leverage multi-usage items such as a light scarf that can be used for sun and cold protection, pillow, blanket, towel, etc.
- Pack your clothes tightly (roll them) but accordingly adapt the size of your suitcase. The more compact, the more weight.
6. Safely protect the most fragile pieces of equipment.
Over-sized luggage often means fragile equipment and baggage handlers are not always the most careful people. Whenever possible, take the most fragile items in the cabin.
If this is not possible, you will need to safely pack it in your luggage. You will (hopefully) need to pack clothes and gladly they are also a great way to secure fragile gear. Try to build a thick layer of soft material all around the object and secure it with hard but solid elements close to the side of the bag/suitcase.
Even if it is most probably not even considered by the airport staff, we also like to label our luggage using duct tape noted “fragile”.
7. Pay attention to the weight of each of your luggage
Double (triple!) check the size and the weight of your baggage!
The last thing you want is to have to open and reorganize 4 pieces of luggage at the check-in. Been there, done that… since that day, we always make sure that our luggage is always slightly under the limit.
Obviously, you want to put the heaviest and/or most fragile gear in your cabin bag but it might be wise to keep some room for additional items in case you need to remove weight from one of your suitcase.
Keep in mind that most airlines do not put a limit to the weight of your cabin bag. Check the allowed dimensions and take a backpack that you can stuff with your heaviest equipment.
8. Plan extra time at the airport
Even if you carefully checked and are very sure that all of your stuff will pass the security controls without any problem, you don’t want to be forced to re-pack in a rush and get stressed before your flight.
Arrive to the airport well in advance and pack some of the heaviest items on top of every suitcase. This will allow you to easily remove exceeding weight in no time. If everything went smoothly, you can enjoy a drink, duty-free shopping or watch some shows on Netflix (and download the end of the season on your mobile/tablet for the flight 😉 )
9. Book the transfer to your hotel early on and mention the size and quantity of luggage.
You carefully planned your trip. You found an extraordinary offer for your extra-sized luggage. You didn’t encounter any weight issue at the check-in. You had a very relaxed flight. The way through the custom was extraordinarily smooth. Your luggage was waiting for you at the carousel and as soon as you pass through the exit, you spot a person holding a sign with your name to take you to your hotel.
You’re there… nothing can go wrong anymore, right?
Well.. maybe you should have mentioned to your hotel how many bags you had and how big each of them was. They would probably have sent a minibus to pick you up instead of the convertible fitting two suitcases that is standing in front of you.
Just give them a call and ask for a big vehicle, that’s all you have to do.
10. Think about the storage in the room
Once at the hotel, you will not only need to store your equipment but also the empty bags and suitcases.
This is a very important point to consider when choosing your room/accommodation if you want to avoid stepping on big suitcases every morning when getting out of bed. We rarely had space issues in hotel rooms as a small balcony is already enough to fix this issue. However, it might be worth booking a suite instead if you want to enjoy a bit of the exterior or if your room doesn’t have a balcony.
In any case, you should call the hotel to address this question; they might even propose to keep your empty luggage in a storage room.