Author Topic: How to fly with front and rear panniers without getting killed on baggage fees?  (Read 1171 times)

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Offline bobbiedobbs

Flying with my front and rear Ortleib panniers - 4 checked bags. Major airlines charge $25 for 1st,  $35 for 2nd, $150 for 3rd and $200 for 4th. My old panniers snapped together. Filled rear Ortleibs  probably too big/heavy to combine, but seeking way to combine front panniers to at least save $200 for get total down to three checked pieces. Ideas? Options I'm considering: finding a suitcase large enough to fit two front panniers, shipping the front and/or rear panniers via FedEx/UPS, or somehow combining the front panniers with some sort of belt or webbing - worried won't stay together in transit. I ship my bike itself using shipbikes.com/aircaddy, but box won't accommodate a filled pannier. Going cross country so need all four panniers.

Offline RonK

Just buy one of these cheap stripy bags.

Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

Offline John Nelson

As Ron says, put all your panniers inside something. You can use a cardboard box, a cheap duffle bag, a thrift store suitcase, etc. I usually use a 20x20x20 cardboard box from an office supply store. Throw the container away when you arrive. If you use a duffle bag and you don't want to discard it, send it home in a fixed rate postal service box.

Take a front pannier or your handlebar bag on board as your free personal item. If the airline doesn't charge for carry-on, you can take two on board. A front pannier is within the personal item size limit.

Offline staehpj1

As Ron says, put all your panniers inside something. You can use a cardboard box, a cheap duffle bag, a thrift store suitcase, etc. I usually use a 20x20x20 cardboard box from an office supply store. Throw the container away when you arrive. If you use a duffle bag and you don't want to discard it, send it home in a fixed rate postal service box.

Take a front pannier or your handlebar bag on board as your free personal item. If the airline doesn't charge for carry-on, you can take two on board. A front pannier is within the personal item size limit.

A few things I have done...
  • Packed my stuff in a thrift store suitcase.  I have typically paid $6-7 and discard them on arrival.  Be sure to ask where it is okay to leave it.
  • Used cheap duffel bags.  Walmart has some that are a good size and pretty cheap.
  • Packed everything in cardboard cartons and either shipped them or checked them as baggage.  When checked as baggage they did make me sign a waiver that there were only responsible for loss, but not damage.
  • Used an airline that doesn't charge for the first two bags.  I usually fly Southwest, but I typically tour in the US only.
  • When I pack really light, I have managed to fit everything in a bike soft case with the bike and still stayed under 50# total.  If I was over 50# I'd take a second bag or even just put some stuff in a carry on, which in my case can actually be a backpack small enough to be considered a "personal item".  Most folks may not want to travel that light, but I have found that using ultralight backpacking gear, it can be done.
  • I have also gotten by with attaching a pair of panniers together, but I have heard of others having trouble with this approach.  I don't know if I was just lucky or did a better job of making it look like a single item.

Offline staehpj1

I ship my bike itself using shipbikes.com/aircaddy, but box won't accommodate a filled pannier.
The shipbikes aircaddy is pretty big, you could probably stuff empty panniers in easily and pack the gear in the empty spaces.  Maybe use multiple plastic bags in sizes to fit the spaces.

Going cross country so need all four panniers.
Personally I never found that I needed more for going cost to coast than I do for any of my shorter trips.  I have gone coast to coast with as much as 55# of gear and as little as 14# of gear.  On the U/L tour I had full U/L backpacking gear (14#) and the bike (38#) all in my soft case (mailed it home at the start).  It was all still easily within the airlines weight limit and it was easy to carry the whole thing into the airport unassisted.  If I wanted to carry more a second bag would still have been free since I was flying with southwest.

So there is a wide range of approaches ranging from not even needing panniers (I have used a couple stuff sacks on the rear rack, or one in a bar roll and one on the back) to fully loaded with 4 panniers and stuff on the rack top.  Then there are bikepacking bags which work especially well for lighter loads.

Having done the wide range of packing styles, I have found that I prefer the lighter end of the scale.  It is really a joy to ride a sportier much lighter loaded bike.  It may not be for everyone, but it is one option to consider.

Offline bobbiedobbs

Thanks to all. I'm considering the cheap suitcase or duffle, maybe even the cardboard box. One additional problem is having to acquire the same thing at the end of my ride (Minot, N.D.) as I am not cycling round-trip. Would have to either find something in Minot (could be tricky) or ship the suitcase/duffle in the Aircaddy or separately, from the bike store at the start of the ride to the one at the end.

Offline Inge

You can if you stay in a hotel/ hostel at the end of your trip mail your duffle/ suitcase and other bikepacking material for the flight back home. That way you do not have to worry about getting it all sorted again at the end of your trip.

Offline staehpj1

Thanks to all. I'm considering the cheap suitcase or duffle, maybe even the cardboard box. One additional problem is having to acquire the same thing at the end of my ride (Minot, N.D.) as I am not cycling round-trip. Would have to either find something in Minot (could be tricky) or ship the suitcase/duffle in the Aircaddy or separately, from the bike store at the start of the ride to the one at the end.
I don't know much about Minot, but a quick google search shows a goodwill thrift store 3 miles from the airport and a walmart 5 miles from the airport.  So picking up a cheap duffle or used suitcase in Minot should be easy.  I have done this quite a few times in a bunch of different cities and never had trouble finding  a used suitcase or a new cheap duffle in any city big enough to have a commercial airport.

If you are shipping the empty air caddy to your end point any way, putting the empty duffle in it seems like an easy option.

Offline Nyimbo

The last two summers I have been riding my bicycle to Walmart at the end of my rides.  A large Walmart duffle is less than $20.  Last summer I decided to try the Coleman duffle for $21. It was virtually the same size but didn't have little roller wheels which made it a tad lighter.  It is folded into a small package easy to carry back to the motel on the bike.  I then unpacked my 4 panniers and folded them flat inside the bottom of the duffle and then packed everything else on top.  Everything fit inside including my big sleeping bag - everything except my handlebar bag that I carried with me as my carry-on.  (I also packed my water bottles and riding shoes inside the bicycle box)

After arriving home I unpacked and cleaned everything and repacked it into the same duffle for storing together until next summer.  Here is a pic of the duffle sitting on my work bench for the pic.  It has everything I use inside except the sleeping bag, food and water.

On my last trip I used the same bag on the train to my starting point along with the bike.  When I arrived at the starting destination I unpacked the duffle and repacked into the panniers right where I departed the train.  I gave the duffle bag to the man who unloaded my bike and he said he could always use the bag as he had customers with broken bags and such fairly often.  So round trip cost me $21 ßplus tax and of course the $'s that the airline charged for the checked baggage.

Offline adventurepdx

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Thanks to all. I'm considering the cheap suitcase or duffle, maybe even the cardboard box. One additional problem is having to acquire the same thing at the end of my ride (Minot, N.D.) as I am not cycling round-trip.

Did you know that Minot is served by Amtrak? The Empire Builder passes through there, on the way to Seattle or Portland in the west and Minneapolis and Chicago in the east.

If you're not into taking the train, there is Amtrak Package Express, and you can ship a bike that way, so long as where you are going to be is near an Amtrak station that has baggage service. One of the big advantages to shipping a bike via Amtrak is the boxes are huge, requiring only a) turning the handlebars and b) removing the pedals.

indyfabz

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You don't need to find something large enough for four panniers. I fly with four Ortlieb Packers every year. Two go in a duffel bag along with my tent, sleeping bag, mattress, cooking gear (minus stove and fuel bottle) etc. The 3rd. counts as my one free carry-on. The 4th is small enough to go under the seat in front of me and thus qualifies as a "personal item." Even if you have to toss the bag and buy a new one you will save over baggage fees.

And FYI...There is an REI on U.S. 83 about 5 miles north of north of Minot if you need to buy a new one. This place is in town:

https://www.scheels.com/

And there are no fewer than three thrift stores in town. Gooodwill, Salvation Army and one other.

Offline bobbiedobbs

So, after reading  so many great ideas I went to my nearby Wal-Mart and purchased a 32 inch (32 x 12.6 x 13.8 Protege rolling duffel with a shoulder strap. I fit three of my four panniers in it, flat on the bottom, and there is sufficient space to stuff in the pannier contents. The duffel meets the 62 inch combined size requirements for checked bags on Delta and American (and most other airlines). I will carry my fourth (a front) pannier onto the plane. Bottom line, four panniers will amount to only ONE checked bag. I'll either have the bike shop at my starting point put the duffel into the empty bike box it is shipping to my end point bike shop, or just give it away and buy the same bag at the Wal-Mart in Minot, N.D. I can spend the money I save on elotes or carne guisade in Laredo!