If you're anything like me, taking a bicycle ride is quite an important part of my day. But what about when you are traveling? Do we just have to forego the daily ride? Here I'm going to give some of the down-low for taking your bike onto an airplane.
So can a folding bike actually be taken on an airplane? Folding bicycles can be brought onto an airplane. It is most convenient to pack it into a checked bag since most folding bicycles will not fit in a carry-on. Depending on the airline, fees may be incurred.
So now that you know you can bring your folding bike along here are a few tips and ideas that will make your travel just a little bit easier.
Packing Your Folding Bike
Really this is probably the most important part of the whole trip. This step will probably even determine the safety of your bike and whether or not you get charged once you get to the airport! So read carefully!
When you are deciding how you want to pack your bike you will want to explore a few different options to find the best one for you. There are three main choices that seem to work for most people.
- The first is to pack it in a case specifically designed for the folding bike OR use the original packaging from the time of purchase.
- Second, some find that their bike is small enough to pack it in a carry-on bag.
- Lastly, many people will simply put their bikes in a checked bag.
Those three options are probably the easiest way to go. But there are pros and cons to each one.
Packing your bike in a case specifically designed for your bike is probably one of the best options for the bike. It is good that every part of the bike has a spot and you know that there will not be any shifting or movement during travel.
The downside to this choice is the shape of the bag. More than likely the case (or packaging) will look nothing like a suitcase. So depending on your airline, (and really the person at the desk) you may end up having to pay an extra fee for "special or abnormal baggage."
Now a baggage fee isn't the worst thing in the world but depending on the size of the bike, airlines charge anywhere from $50 to $200 dollars to transport a bike. YIKES!
Since folding bikes are smaller and lighter than average bikes, you might get away with it, but it really just depends.
The second option is extremely popular for a few reasons. One, because you can keep your bike close to you during the whole trip. It can be a little nerve-wracking to hand your bike over to someone who doesn't really care whether your bike is damaged.
It is also popular because carry on bags is usually the cheapest, or free! As long as you are under the weight limit, you could potentially take the bike on for free.
The downside to this method is security. Often times when travelers have put their bike in their carry-on, their back is flagged at security for further review. I've never heard of a bike being confiscated, but it will take a little extra time.
The biggest reason most people choose to go with another option is that their bike is simply too big for a carry-on bag. A lot of folding bikes have tires somewhere around 22 inches, making it just a little too big for the small carry-on bag.
The last choice is probably the easiest and the safest, so in all honesty, it is my go-to plan. Just take another checked bag and put your bike in it. If you are traveling alone, more than likely you would be able to fit your bike in the bag with room to spare. Wrap the bike nicely and you can pack clothes and your personal items around the bike.
Just make sure you stay under the weight limit, and you won't raise any red flags. When you pack clothes around your bike it also adds more protection to it, so it's a win-win.
If all of your personal items don't quite fit, throw them in your carry-on!
Most of the time you either get your first checked bag free or for a reduced price. I guarantee, the price of the checked bag will be cheaper than paying for abnormal luggage.
Now you have an idea for the best way to pack your bike, the next part is actually traveling with it. There are a few things you can do when you get to the airport that will make it a lot easier AND can potentially save you some money.
Folding Bike Tips at the Airport
So depending on the baggage option you chose, you will most likely experience difficulties at different places in the airport. I'll go over the common sticky spots where you will want to be prepared for.
Bag Check Counter
The first is going to be the bag check counter. If you opted to take your bike in its original packaging or in a special bike bag, now you will have to explain that to the person at the desk. I suggest looking for the most friendly one.
Almost always, they can cut you a break, ONLY if they are in a good mood. :)
If you are lucky, you might get your bag cleared for the price of a checked bag and if you aren't so lucky, you might end up paying the bicycle fee.
If you decided to pack your bike in a normal checked bag, you shouldn't have any problems unless your bag is overweight. You can avoid this by weighing your bag with a bathroom scale.
Just weigh yourself, then hold your bag and weigh yourself holding the bag. Subtract the first weight from the second weight and your answer will be the weight of your bag.
The next place you might find some difficulty is going through security.
Now just remember that this can take a little extra time especially if your bag needs to be searched. As long as you budget some extra time for that, you will be fine
I always just remember that the security guys don't care if I bring my bike on the plane, they just want to make sure everything is safe. So just comply with their directions and they will get you through super quick.
The last place you might have some trouble is at the boarding gate. Sometimes there won't be enough room for all of the carry-ons and the airline will request for some of the passengers to check their carry-ons.
Personally, I would avoid checking it. Especially since the bike isn't packaged for a rough trip. It will be safer to keep it with you.
Inspect your Bike
Once you are all clear and you arrive at your destination, it is critical that you check your bike before you leave the airport.
I have heard horror stories where travelers, checked their bikes a few hours after arrival and when they filed a complaint with the airline, the airline would not help at all.
So as soon as you get off the plane, find your checked luggage and take the bike out.
Yes I know it is extremely inconvenient but I promise, its better than finding out you have a broken bike.
Inspect the bike carefully, looking for any damage to the wheels, and especially any cracks or damage to the frame. Once you have looked it over, you are good to go.
Taking your bike with you on a trip can be a ton of fun! It's a great way to get around for cheap and a great way to see everything you want to see!
Good luck and safe travels!