Hunting trip, you say? How do I get that gun to Montana?
Running the San Diego International Triathlon in California? Should I ship my bike or fly with it?
Snowboard trip to Breckenridge? Will my board fit in the overhead?
The fact is, even the lightest of packers will at some point have to travel with large luggage. The trick isn’t avoiding it, the key is learning how to best deal with it. From fees to learning what you really need to pack, we’ve covered all the basics of traveling with large or oversized luggage.
You will, without a doubt, incur extra fees when traveling with large or awkward-sized luggage. Check with the airline beforehand to avoid surprises and keep your travel budget accurate. After you check-in for your flight and receive a bag tag for your large item, head to the area within the terminal that is designated for oversized luggage.
When you land, airports in Colorado and other skiing hot spots are set up to handle larger gear with ski and snowboard-sized luggage carousels. Otherwise, ask an airport employee to direct you to the oversized luggage in the baggage area when you land.
Yes, you can travel with your firearm. In fact, this may be the best way to get your gun from Point A to Point B and is probably easier than you think. You should visit the TSA website for the comprehensive guide to flying with firearms. In the meantime, here are the basics to get you started:
Visit a bike shop and ask for a bike box; the store should have boxes lying around and are usually happy to give them away. Finding a bicycle box can be more difficult if you’re traveling overseas, but big screen TV boxes will usually work and are much easier to find. If you travel with your bike often, you should probably invest in a proper case. If there’s extra room in the case, be sure to fill it with gear or other clothing.
Where to Ship
The big caveat with shipping is that you will need an address where you can ship your gear. Check with your hotel; they will often accept packages on your behalf. If you are renting a property or using an accommodations-sharing site, ask the host if they will do the same; however, this may be more difficult if the owner does not live nearby.
Ski Gear: Find a box at your local ski shop or purchase a gear bag that you can ship directly.
Bicycles: Because of baggage costs, a bicycle can be much cheaper to ship than to fly. Hold on to the box for shipping it back home if you have a home base. Another popular option for some is to ship a bike to start a cross-country ride, then donate it at the final destination.
Firearms: Can you ship firearms? Technically, yes. However, I would suggest taking it with you on your flight. According to the ATF website, "Any person may ship a firearm to himself or herself in the care of another person in the State where he or she intends to hunt or engage in any other lawful activity." After that, the instructions get complicated, especially when you look at the instructions given by shipping providers.
If you're a sponsored athlete, you’ll usually have someone else taking care of shipping your sweet tri-bike and wetsuit for you. If you don't have logos plastering your gear, renting can be a great option because you can rent a surprising amount of gear at your destination. Do consider that your destination most likely caters to what you’re planning on doing. For example, in Colorado, they’re used to skiers, snowboarders, and mountain bikers; in locations that host the Ironman, you will most likely find stores that rent out triathlon equipment. If you’re heading to an off-the-beaten-path location, you may have better luck with shipping or flying with your equipment.
Check with the local ski shops to see when and if they have "demo days," where you can ride the newest gear for free! But what about a wetsuit? Yes, you can rent those too. Your inner germaphobe may be having a fit right now, but don’t worry - the suits are sanitized after each use. I have rented wetsuits in Monterey, CA with no issue, just as one example.
Firearms are the exception; you will be hard-pressed to find someone who will rent out a hunting rifle. Renting brings legal implications, insurance liabilities, and background paperwork, which makes this a lose/lose proposition for anyone who would rent out firearms. If you are on a hunting trip with a guide or organization, you may be able to borrow a rifle, but otherwise, plan on bringing your own. The exceptions to this are resorts that offer clay or skeet-shooting, where borrowing firearms is a normal business practice and is included in the fees.
If you are traveling with expensive gear, it is always a good idea to make sure you have travel insurance on the items in case your large baggage is lost. I also recommend taking pictures of your gear before you head to the airport so that you have an accurate account of everything you are traveling with. Pictures make it easier to remember what you packed and serve as proof when you turn in your claim to the insurance provider.
It may seem second nature to take your gear with you, and in some cases, it’s not as difficult to fly with large items as you might think. However, remember that shipping or renting equipment once you arrive can make your actual travel experience less cumbersome, and it’s a great way to try out some new gear. On the other hand, you cannot rent or purchase everything when you show up (guns in particular), and wouldn’t you rather be using your own gear anyway?
Yes, I’m playing devil’s advocate here. The bottom line is: You have a lot of options for taking your favorite sport out on the road, so get out there and plan an adventure!
What are some of your best tips for traveling with large bags?
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Former travel disaster, now a serial traveler, travel safety advisor, and author of The Travel Safety Handbook. Poster boy for learning from others mistakes. Now I provide travelers with the tools to focus on their travel goals; I advise business travelers,prepare study-abroad students and equip families with the knowledge to return home successful with memories that will last a lifetime, not horror stories. Follow JC on his blog at Travel-Safer.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
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