Packing for a snowboard trip is a bit different than packing for a month of backpacking through Thailand, or spending a week at an all-inclusive resort. Snowboard trips mean you have to not only bring regular clothing, toiletries and all the other usual stuff, but you also have to bring gear. And gear takes up a lot of space. With airlines becoming more and more stringent about the size and weight of luggage, you really need to do a good packing job if you’re to avoid excess baggage fees.
As an avid snowboarder for over 15 years, I’ve done a few trips with my board. And since my parents moved across the country a few years ago to live in the heart of British Columbia’s mountains, I’ve been hopping on a plane every winter to chase the Rocky Mountain powder. I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way on how to avoid paying extra fees for my board, boots and regular clothing and I’m hear to pass them on to you!
I’ll start with the most obvious and most important. You want your board protected throughout the trip while it’s manhandled by airport staff, so choosing the right bag is important.
First Tip: Not all snowboard bags are created equal.
If you’re traveling by car, you’re fine to go with the thin, flimsy, cheap ones. But when flying, those el cheapo’s just won’t cut it. Invest in a good, sturdy, double thickness bag so your snowboard will arrive in one piece at the other end. Also, the good, well-made bags usually have a few handy compartments inside them for you to stash your snowsuit and other gear such as helmets and goggles.
Second Tip: Wheels or no wheels?
You have to decide if you want wheels or no wheels on your bag. Speaking from experience (I’ve had both), get the one with the wheels! Snowboard bags are heavy to carry and awkward to try and balance on the airport trolley’s. It’s a workout and a strain on your shoulders to try and carry a snowboard bag around an airport, no matter how short or far you have to walk.
BUT, there is a catch (or two). First, snowboard bags with wheels cost more. A lot more for a good one. But if you want your gear to survive more than one flight, it’s worth the investment. Second, snowboard bags with wheels do weigh a bit more than those without. Which brings me to my next point…
Third Tip: Watch your weight!
A few years ago I invested in a good, strong snowboard bag on wheels and was delighted to see how much stuff I could pack into it. There were so many compartments and pockets, I was able to cram in pretty much all my gear and then some.
I was so proud of myself for getting everything into one bag until I got to the airport and found out it was WAY overweight. Since I didn’t have any other luggage with me (to try and even out the weight between two bags), I had to pay for the extra weight of my bag. #fail
If you want to avoid overweight fees, weigh your bag before hand. Look into your airlines baggage weight allowance and make sure you’re just under. An easy way to weigh your bag at home (if you don’t have one of those fancy luggage scales) is to simply use your bathroom scale. Start by weighing yourself, then weigh yourself with the snowboard bag and subtract. Presto! You have the weight of your bag.
Some airlines consider your snowboard bag to be your one piece of luggage, while others may charge extra for the oversize bag (you really have to look into this yourself as it very much depends which airline you’re flying).
When my boyfriend K and I travel together we check two pieces of luggage, one each, as this is the allowance for Air Canada. One piece of luggage is our snowboard bag, which we can fit both boards into (we have to take the bindings off one board) and our suitcase is the second piece. This is an advantage to traveling as a couple, and I know not everyone can do this. But if your traveling with a buddy, consider doing the same thing.
Snowboard Boot Bag
Not many people know this (I didn’t!) but you can check a snowboard boot bag for free when you check your snowboard bag. Here’s the rational: skiers place their ski’s in long bags that don’t accommodate their boots. So they get to check two gear bags, one with their ski’s and one with their boots. So as not to discriminate between skiers and boards, we can do the same! The airline has to take your snowboard boot bag at no extra cost so its worth investing in one!
Also, if you get a decent boot bag there is usually extra space for heavier items such as your helmet and goggles. Stuff socks and clothing into your boots as well to save on space. Keep your lighter items for your snowboard bag, like your jacket and snow pants. If you can get all your clothing and other miscellaneous stuff into these two bags, hopefully you won’t be paying any extra baggage fees at all!
While this isn’t really a packing tip, it’s a general tip for traveling with snowboards. And so my final tip for a snowboard trip is this: fly as direct to your destination as possible and if you must have a layover, make sure its not a tight one. Doesn’t matter on the return flight. As always, luggage can get lost in transit. Though I’ve never had my snowboard go MIA, there is always the possibility. Be a bit more choosy with your flights going to your destination. The more direct, the less chance you have of you snowboard taking a last minute trip to Hawaii without you. The more layovers you have, especially if they’re short, the higher the chances of your oversize snowboard bag not making it onto your next flight.
The last thing you want to do is wait 1-2 days for your gear to arrive, especially if you’re only going away for 1 week. Yes, you can always rent a snowboard & boots in a pinch but if you pack like me, all you’re cold weather clothing will be lost with your board as well.
Snowboard trips are all about the adventure of exploring somewhere new. Packing can be such a hassle and traveling with oversize gear a headache, especially when dealing with airlines. After years of trying various snowboard bags and different ways of packing, I feel I’ve finally got it down to a science and I hope these tips will help make your snowboard trip smooth and hassle free. Happy riding!
Do you have any other tips to add?