Traveling with kitesurf luggage definitely is a new experience! Sometimes it can drive you really crazy to check all the luggage restrictions. Prices for kite surf luggage can vary from 0 to 180 Euros ONE WAY – in some crazy cases like my friend Michael experienced, luggage costs can go up to 1000 Dollars for a flight from the Philippines to Gran Canaria. Also, some smaller airplanes might not take kite surf luggage at all (yup, I couldn’t believe it either, you’ll read about it in the article). So here comes a small guide to make the right flight choices and make your travels with kitesurf luggage as easy and cheap as possible.
1. Check the airline conditions for (sports) baggage before booking
Way more important than the prices for the flights are the prices for sports baggage. Sometimes you’ll find a flight which is 100 Euros cheaper put then you would pay 180 Euros just for the sports luggage. And then you find out, that the other flight, which is initially 100 Euros more expensive, has a great regulation for sports baggage, so you don’t need to pay extra, which in the end makes it the cheaper flight.
How to find the kitesurf-friendly airlines
You can find a great overview of airline fares for sports luggage here (in German) and even if you don’t speak German, make sure to check the link since they indicated the kitesurf-friendliest airlines with smileys 😉 There is also a good international overview in English here.
Worst case: they won’t take kite luggage at all
I almost booked a flight from Brazil to Dominican Republic via Curacao which would have been with an airline that uses a small propeller airplane for especially that route – that doesn’t fit any sports luggage. So the kitesurf luggage would have been transported with the next available bigger machine which could have taken days. Luckily I read it before booking.. (The end of the story was I had to take a 30-hour-flight with 2 stopovers for a distance that would have taken me 2 hours if I flew there straight, but hey, I had my beloved kitbag still with me when I arrived in windy Dominican Republic and went straight from the plane to the water)
2. Carefully read the airline regulations for normal (!) baggage
Sometimes, if your kite luggage is your only piece of luggage, you can check it in as your normal luggage – if the weight limit is kept. Worked for me a couple of times and saved me a lot of money.
Use the smallest kitebag which still fits your gear
Some airlines allow e.g. 2 x 23 kgs of luggage so I could easily check in my kitebag with 32 kgs as the normal luggage. If possible, use the smallest kitebag available (which for me was 135 cm long), providing the fact that your board still fits ins (but it should unless you have a very big lightwind board or a surfboard). Very often the limit of the complete luggage circumference is 158 cm and this bag almost fits those premises so unless somebody starts measuring, it will fit in!
Check it in as golf luggage – if that’s for free
Some airlines allow free golf luggage, that might work but sometimes they still want to check the bag. If you do try that make sure to dress as if you were a golfer 😉
3. Check if the airline has a membership card
Some airlines have a service/membership card with a yearly fee which allows you, amongst other advantages, to take 2 pieces of luggage instead of 1 for every flight you make. It made a big difference for me and I started booking flights preferably with certain airlines who then have very generous luggage regulations with membership programs.
4. Consider the amount and time of stopovers
I’m always a bit paranoid when I travel with kite luggage that it might get lost. It only happened twice until know and I got my luggage back after a few days but since that time I try to always have at most 2 stopovers, preferably 1 stopover.
Also, I don’t use connections which have less than 60 minutes, better 90 minutes, of time for the change since it’s far more likely the kite luggage will be lost if the connection time is very short.
5. Check beforehand if you need to pass immigration even though you are only there for a stopover (like in the U.S.) which would require a lot more time for your stopover
Don’t get me wrong, I like traveling to the US but if you only have a stopover it is quite a big hassle as you need to go through all the procedures you would if you actually stayed in the U.S. You need an ESTA Visa or some other kind of Visa depending on your nationality, as you have to pass immigrations.
This means standing in line waiting for sometimes hours, being questioned, fingerprints taken etc. Then picking up your heavy kite luggage since you have to carry it from one baggage carousel to the other. Then going through the hand luggage check including full body scan most of the times as well.
It probably also depends a lot on the airport and if you’re travelling during holidays – while it took me 3 hours to get through the immigration in Atlanta, it only took me 45 minutes in New York.
6. If you need to book the kitesurf baggage additionally make sure the airline still has space for the luggage
I’ve been lucky about this one but destinations like Brazil in autumn are a tough one considering kitesurf luggage . There have been countless desperate kitesurfers who weren’t allowed to book additional kitesurf luggage since the airplane was already overbooked – namely Condor if you fly to Fortaleza.
Alright, I’d say go for it and book that flight!
Do you have any other tips when booking a flight how to make this whole luggage research easier or cheaper? I would love to know in the comments.