How to Travel with your Snowboard and Skis

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For years, I sucked at packing. My mother could stuff half of Texas into my suitcase with enough shoving and organizing, and I would be forced to watch her in stupefaction and not a small amount of shame. But much of that changed when I picked up snowboarding – or more specifically, had to get my snowboarding equipment on a plane because there is not much skiing in the Deep South.

Anyone wanting to take a trip to Colorado or other ski destination has to face some tough choices. Do I take my own equipment with me, or do I rent someone else’s? If I take mine equipment, do I mail it or try to travel on a plane? And what do I do if I do put it on the plane?

There are a lot of choices, but a lot of choices means a lot of chances to make a wrong decision. If you decide to try to bring your equipment, here are a few things to consider for how to make the right decision and properly travel with your snowboard.

The Right Bag

Airlines charge extra for checking in extra bags, which means that you want to bring in as few bags as possible. This means that you ideally want to have everything – your clothes, your snow gear, your snowboard and skis, and other stuff – packed into one, good snowboard bag.

How do you know which bag works for you? There are a few things to consider depending on how you plan to travel. First, you want a bag which is around the same length as your snowboard. Some people will get the largest bag they have hoping to cram as much equipment in as they can, but this represents multiple problems. If there is empty space in your bag, that allows everything inside room to slide around. Furthermore, airlines will charge more if the checked in bag exceeds a certain weight total, which in the United States is normally 50 lbs.

If you are flying on a plane, make sure to get a wheeled bag and get a padded bag. For some examples of which bags to get, White Lines has a solid recommendation list.

Packing

Getting a good ski bag is an important first step, but you still have to pack everything inside. The most important thing you can do to keep the size and weight down is, as Smarter Travel suggests, to only pack what you need.

Don’t pack that nice shirt or dress because you may go on a night about town. Don’t pack all your electronic devices, especially a bulky laptop. And definitely don’t pack half a dozen pairs of underwear and socks. Pack a pair of jeans, and no more than three to four days’ worth of clothing.

And in a snowboard bag, you want to roll up your clothing items like a burrito instead of folding them. Line your clothing so that they serve as additional padding for your snow gear, and stuff underwear and socks into your packed boots, helmets, and shoes. Also wear as much clothing as you can on the plane. The more clothing you wear, the less you have to pack.

Know your Airline’s Baggage Policy

Different airlines have different rules in regards to snowboard bags. Some airlines like United count a boot bag and snowboard bag as a single bag with the appropriate fees, though they will charge more if the bags weigh 50 pounds or more. Other airlines specifically state that if the boot bag contains other items beyond boots and relevant ski equipment, it will be classified as a regular bag.

It is particularly important to know these rules yourself because many check in clerks do not. If you write reviews for hotels and other services, you’ll be well aware of this fac. If you are feeling particularly paranoid, you may consider even printing out a copy of the airline baggage rules so that you can prove that those two ski bags are actually counted as one under their airline policy. The more you can check in and the less you can avoid paying, the better.

Figuring out the Rental Car

You got out of the airport with your gear in a wheeled snow bag, and have managed to pay less than you feared. But then the next challenge becomes trying to stow your gear into a rental car or taxi along with everyone else who came with you.

The good news is that many rental car companies offer discounts during ski season to let you rent a car with a ski rack. But while ski racks are more convenient, they come with downsides. They can expose your snowboards to dirt and salt thrown up by your car and the elements, especially as you may not be travelling on the best roads to your final destination.

If you are travelling by car, consider getting a ski box which offers your equipment better protection. While a ski rack is not strictly speaking bad, consider trying to fit your equipment inside if it is possible whether you are driving your own car or a rental.

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