TRAVEL: Carrying a Bicycle on a Plane (follow up post)
Boom-Shaka-Laka readers! How are you? Bringing the follow up of a previous post about bicycles+planes.
I've been planning on creating this post for a while, in fact, I wanted to produce it as a video format as well, but I no longer own a camera to produce videos - Do'h! Since I don't want the idea to fade away from my crazy mind, I'll do in a written form and later, if light shines back on me, I'll record a video making it more visual and less tedious.
This is a follow up from a previous post to talk about what I learned from taking my bicycle on a plane and how you can also do it without suffering as much as I did!
Last year (2018), before going to Kraków, I recorded a video on how to pack a bicycle for flying, as my plan was to take my bicycle with me from Brazil to Poland on a single flight across the Atlantic ocean. I did with absolute success on both ways, that's why I want to share with you what I learned.
Here's the video If you want to see the proccess on how to disassemble and make the package.
I've selected a few topics that I think are worth mentioning as well as tips to avoid extra fees. Our main objective is to transport our two wheelers safely, without to much hassle and as cheap as possible. Let's go!
1. Disassembly / Assembly
Even though the proccess requires some mechanical skills, it's pretty straight forward and any doubt can be easly searched online. The more parts you learn how to disassemble the better, this grants that your package will be small enough to dodge those exorbitant fees. A small package will also be easier to move around the airport.
I set two main objectives when preparing my bicycle (showed on the linked video)
- It needed to be compact enough that I could carry it alone, plus my 50L backpack.
- It needed to be 100% discartable upon arrival.
From my experience the proccess worked flawlessly on two international flights so far; remember that we are talking about a 29" mountain bike, they are NOT small.
TIP: Make sure to keep all small parts and bolts in a safe place along with the tools you used to disassemble, you'll need them to put it all back together.
2. Packaging / Safety
On both flights I didn't suffer any packaging damage and the bicycle arrived safely to the destination. Everything was strapped together and small parts that could be stolen were kept sealed inside my backpack, which was also checked-in.
Some cyclists say that it's better to make it visual that it's a bicycle, by using clear plastic for example, but I think that it's more a case of bad luck; no one is imune to terrible handling and damage, chances are greater that it'll survive.
TIP: Don't let loose parts inside your package, they can easly be stolen or simply lost. Also make sure you carry your bike's documentation on your carry on baggage!
By making my package small enough that I could carry it under my arm I avoided A LOT of hassles, the only time I had to actually carry the weight was from the car to the baggage cart. Also the box was easly discarted on a recycling bin, puff, gone, no more worrying about it.
Benefits of a small box:
- Fits in a car's trunk/back seat.
- Easy to carry alone.
- Can be discarted.
TIP: Add two holes on the sides of your box so you can hold it with your hand, make sure it's well balanced.
3. Avoiding Fees
This is the field where I learned the most and I'm sure you'll be happy to skip the pain of paying a ton of money to learn, just by reading this post.
Avoiding fees is a subject that concerns each company individualy, for that reason I strongly sugest that you read the policies for the company you plan to take. You'll need to find flaws on their baggage policies or find companies that are bicycle friendly.
On the first flight I was a virgin when it comes to flying with a bicycle, my package was small, but I was not prepared. The chosen company was Latam Airlines and I didn't read their baggage policy, an error that coast me 100 usd to transport my bicycle from Brazil to Frankfurt. Oooops!
On the second flight I travelled with Tap Portugal from London to Brazil and it was for free. Why? Because I read the policy to find what I could do.
The sneaky fee works as follow:
- economy can carry 1 checked baggage with size and weight limits, extras are charged 30-40 USd
- bicycles can travel and are charged 140 USd
What they don't tell you is that bicycles are normal checked baggage if they are under the size and weight limits, that's why you should make it as small as possible. Don't be fooled if they try to charge you (they tried with me!), show them the policy and if necessary tell them to measure your box!
TIP: If you plan to check-in a backpack as well, book the extra baggage in advance, or else they'll charge the bicycle as sports equipment, which will be more expensive!
As I said, this changes from company to company, do your research and select your options wisely, don't be fooled by misleading and stupid policies.
So far my experience with travelling with my bicycle has been great, either on airplanes or buses/trains. The biggest incovenience is researching the companies baggage policies, but once you've got that figured out it's just a matter of taking the plane and voila.
I've assembled/disassembled my bicycle on airports, parks, hostels without any problems and generally everyone is curious to know what you are doing, so not really a problem with annoyed people.
I wouldn't consider carrying my bicycle if it's a shorter trip, as renting one would be more convenient, but from now on, whenever I can I'll be taking my two wheeler - there's nothing cooler than exploring the surroundings on a bicycle, it adds a lot of independance to move around while exercising.
Would you take your bicycle on a trip? Let me know on the comments and I'll be more than happy to help you!
If you liked this post, please, consider leaving your upvote for a hot coffee.
~Love ya all
Disclaimer: The author of this post is a convict broke backpacker, who has travelled more than 10.000 km hitchhiking and more than 3.000 km cycling. Following him may cause severe problems of wanderlust and inquietud. You've been warned.
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