Flying with Sports Equipment

Not all of us are world class athletes and sportswomen, so most of the time we will be forgoing the chance to transport our own sporting gear on a plane and instead just rent as we go.

Like skiing – perhaps you’d be fine with just renting equipment when you arrive at the mountains instead of worrying about your gear making it safely.

However, there are times when traveling with sports equipment is preferred, such as when you’re planning to hit all the golf courses in Florida in a month (with dreams of the LPGA tour in your head), or to ski for weeks in Colorado. In those cases, you might need a good bag and to weigh the costs and hassle of checking them on a plane.

Sporting Equipment You Might Consider Checking:

  • Golf clubs
  • Skis
  • Softball bats, gloves and protective gear
  • Tennis rackets (you might just go carry-on)
  • Scuba gear
  • Surfboards
  • Bicycles

Things to consider:

  • Cost to check your sports equipment versus the cost to rent while at your destination.
  • The benefits of using your own equipment (are you training for a bigger event?).

Item restrictions:

Sporting equipment is considered special items, and some of them can be taken as carry-on, such as baseballs, softballs, basketballs, etc.

Airlines will vary in their requirements and restrictions for sporting gear. Many airlines will accept sporting equipment as part of the checked baggage allowance, but there will be extra baggage fees and requirements if they go over. There are also strict criteria that must be followed for the specific type of item that you are checking, such as a surfboard not being over a certain size and weight.

Bicycles will typically have to be in a Bike Pack, which may or may not be available at the airport. In addition, pedals and handles might have to be removed, as well as other parts being disassembled if over a certain size.

Fishing rods will have to be secured within a PVC cylinder for checking.

Surfboards will generally have to be stored in a surfboard bag and have the fins removed if possible.

Failure to stay within size limitations can have costly consequences according to an article by

Passengers should also be careful with the size of their equipment, as travelling with a surfboard over 200cm on Air France will cost an extra £59, and on American Airlines, bikes over 62 inches will incur a £97 charge. Golfers and skiers flying with Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are lucky as the equipment is part of the checked baggage allowance, whereas windsurfers and surfers are charged £129 and £130 respectively.

It is always important to check with your airline’s instructions, and if ever in doubt, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone.

Have you ever packed sporting equipment? If so, did it end up being costly?


  1. Sarah says

    Re: packing sports equipment

    Definately pays to do your homework. I fly out west every spring to ski, and Iam quite vigilant about y preferred airline’s rules.

    If I would have one piece of advice, measure and weigh all your sporting bags. Failure to do so can cost you an easy $100-$200 in extra fees depending on the trip.
    Print out a copy of the airline’s baggage policy as it relates to your sports item and frequent flyer/ticket status.

    It sounds crazy, but sometimes its cheaper to fly first class with the free checked luggage than it is to buy a coach ticket and pay for the sports bags.

    Some sports bags are bundled as one, for instance, on United, a ski bag and boot bag are considered one bag as long as the total weight does not exceed the one bag limit. Ski bags are great as you can pack them full of sweaters etc for “padding”.

    Know the airline’s policy as some of the check in personnel may not be familiar with your equipment. I flew out of O’hare in mid-winter and I don’t think the check-in person had any concept of what a ski bag was, or what skis were for that matter. Fortunately, I asked for a manager and was able to get ski and boot bag checked in for no fee with a copy of the airline’s policy printed out for them to review.

    Remember that planes flying to higher altitudes may have different weight and size requirements because of flight equipment variations.

    If you are flying with guns, bows etc, allow yourself at least an extra hour at the airport to have a special examination by the proper federal authorities. My spouse likes skeet shooting, but his unloaded, disassembled rifle was in a locked travel case that was compliant with only pre-911 rules. We had to leave the rifle, but in our car as no-one would ship it home for us. Had we not budgeted the extra time, we woul’ve missed our flight.

    I also fly places to go camping, and pack a lot of gear in coolers etc. Double check that you do not have combustibles in your checked luggage (This includes compressed cartridges that inflate waist-pack PFD’s for SUP etc).

    I invested a fair amount in sporting gear, and with the proper homework, am able to take it with me when I travel for minimal to no fees. It definately pays to prepare ahead of time!

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