Are you thinking about flying with skis or a snowboard this winter but have never done it before?
Flying with snowboard and ski equipment can seem like a huge hassle, but having all your own stuff when you get to your mountain destination is a joy. Using your own gear is always better than relying on rentals, so if you’re planning the ski trip of a lifetime, you’ll want to bring your own quiver along.
If you’re wondering what to pack, how to pack it, how you’re going to get it onto the plane, and how much it’s going to cost you – then you came to the right place. Before you pack, be sure you know what you need to about flying with snowboard, skis, poles, and boots. Read on!
What to Bring
If you’ve decided to bring your ski or snowboard gear with you on your next ski vacation, you might be feeling overwhelmed. That’s not surprising, because you’re going to have to bring a lot of stuff.
But there’s no reason to be afraid; people bring their skis and snowboards and everything else with them on vacation all the time. Once you’ve done it once or twice, you’ll learn that it’s not as crazy as you thought at first, and you’ll be an old pro before you know it.
First, you’ll need to remember to pack your snowboard or ski clothes. This includes a waterproof ski jacket and waterproof ski pants, or a full-body, waterproof snowsuit.
You’ll want to make sure that you pack layers – tops and bottoms, plus base layers to wear underneath everything. Don’t forget wool socks, a warm hat, waterproof gloves or mittens, and something to wear around your neck like a scarf or gaiter.
Once you’ve found everything you need, start gathering your actual snowboard or ski equipment. Of course, you’ll need your skis or snowboard, and your ski or snowboard boots. If you’re a skier, don’t forget your ski poles, too.
Goggles are a must and don’t forget your helmet if you wear one. You might also want to bring sunglasses, hand and toe warmers, and some other warm layers, too.
Phew! That sure sounds like a lot of stuff – but read on to see how easily you can pack everything, so you can be on your way to the mountain in no time.
How to Pack Your Ski and Snowboard Equipment
Many people shy away from traveling with skis or snowboards because they think it’s going to cost a lot to check ski bags, but don’t fret! Most airlines allow you to check a ski or snowboard bag as one normal-sized bag. If you are careful when packing, in most cases, you won’t have to pay extra fees to bring your ski gear with you on your ski vacation.
Packing Your Skis and Snowboards
You can’t just show up at the airport with your skis or snowboard and hand them across the counter, though. You’ll need to purchase a ski or snowboard bag that suits your needs.
No matter what type of bag you choose, you’ll want to make sure your gear is safe before checking your bag. It’s smart to wrap the tips and tails and the bindings of your skis and snowboards before putting them into the bag.
See Related: Best Snowboard Bags for Travel
What to Do With Your Boots
One of the biggest dilemmas that skiers and snowboarders face when flying with skis and snowboards is what to do with ski boots and snowboard boots. For many winter sports enthusiasts, boots are the most important piece of equipment that they will transport. After all, boots are often custom items and rentals just don’t give you the same experience.
When it comes to transporting ski or snowboard boots, you have a few options. Some people choose to put their boots in their carry-on luggage so they will be with them all of the time. That’s one surefire way to make sure your boots won’t be lost en route or misrouted: they’ll arrive exactly when you do.
However, you can also check your boots. All airlines consider a snowboard or ski bag AND a boot bag to be one single item, so it won’t cost you any extra if you have a ski boot bag for your boots. Checking them does still give me anxiety, though, and I’ve found that a ski boot bag is typically easy to fit in the overhead bin, and you may even be able to have your normal carry-on luggage double as a boot bag.
Putting It All Together
Ski and snowboard bags are often quite roomy and many of them have room for more than one snowboard or pair of skis. You can put up to two pairs of skis or two snowboards in one bag without much trouble, and this is a great space-saving strategy if you are traveling with another skier or snowboarder.
A ski or a snowboard bag often counts as a single checked bag for one traveler. If you’re traveling in pairs, it may be smart to combine gear and use another checked bag allowance for bulky layers and coats.
However, if you are traveling with your ski gear alone or are the only skier or snowboarder in your party, you can still use roomy ski and snowboard bags to your advantage. It’s easy to fit all of your ski equipment: ski pants, hat, gloves, goggles, and even your base layers in your ski or snowboard bag. You can wear your ski jacket on the plane to save space (and it will make a great airplane pillow if you choose to nap!).
In either of the above cases, though, weight can be a factor. You’ll need to weigh your ski bag before you head to the airport to make sure it’s not too heavy. Overweight baggage fees can be very expensive, and you don’t want to run into any terrible surprises at the check-in desk.
See Related: The Complete Backpacking Checklist for Travelers
Traveling with Your Ski and Snowboard Gear on Major Domestic Airlines
There are quite a few airlines that can take you to ski resorts, and we’ve looked up what you need to know for the major carriers. If you’re flying with skis, ski equipment, or snowboards internationally, you should check with the carrier you booked with to find out its rules – international requirements may differ from these.
No matter where you’re going, though, remember that you can find the best deals for both domestic and international flights by signing up for Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) alerts. Even with those alerts, you should always take a minute to compare the prices of the different carriers available to you using Momondo and Skyscanner, too.
American Airlines’ website says that it allows a maximum linear size (length x width x height) of 126″ on any ski equipment that a passenger wishes to bring, and it can’t weigh more than 70 pounds. However, when you dig a little deeper, the site also says that you’ll be charged extra if your equipment weighs between 51 and 70 pounds, so be aware of that, too – you really should be shooting for 50 pounds or less if you don’t want to pay any overweight baggage fees.
You’re allowed one pair of skis with poles or a snowboard, one pair of snowboard boots and bindings, and one helmet. If you try to jam anything else in your equipment bag, you may be charged for an extra checked bag – even if it’s still underweight – and the site warns that they may have you open it at the check-in desk so they can check. Good news, though: you can fly with both ski bag and boot bags, and each pair counts as one checked bag if they’re under a combined weight of 50 lbs.
United has weight requirements that match American’s, above, but this airline allows passengers to pack up to two snowboards or two pairs of skis and their associated equipment in one bag, plus one boot bag, as long as you stay under 50 pounds (or are willing to pay overweight baggage fees up to 70 pounds). If you’re bringing a second pair of ski boots, you’ll have to pay for those as a separate checked bag.
Delta Airlines allows sports equipment up to 115 linear inches but unlike American and Delta, their weight allowance is 100 pounds rather than 70, but you’ll still have to pay overweight fees for anything over 50 – and weight includes your ski or snowboard bag plus your boot bag combined. Each passenger is allowed one ski bag or one snowboard bag, plus a boot bag, but Delta’s website doesn’t say anything about how many skis or snowboards you are allowed per bag, as long as you keep it under the weight limit.
See Related: Delta Airlines Review: Is This The Best Airline?
Lots of people love Southwest Airlines because it allows two free checked bags per traveler. Because of this fact, this carrier might be a wise choice for you and your family if you are traveling with snowboard or ski equipment.
Southwest’s website states that if you plan to substitute ski equipment for a free bag, they’ll allow up to two bags (containing one set of skis, ski poles, and boots) to count as one item, even if they’re not attached to each other, but only one pair of skis and poles or one snowboard is allowed per bag. Also, although this airline only allows a linear size of 62 inches on most sports equipment, this very small number does not apply to ski and snowboard equipment, thank goodness. Southwest is the best airline to fly if you’re looking to send your ski equipment off in free checked bags.
On JetBlue, you can put as many pairs of skis or snowboards in one bag as you want as long as the bag is made for multiple pairs and as long as you don’t go over 99 pounds. There’s no extra charge for bags over 50 pounds on JetBlue – it’s all included all the way up to that amazing 99-pound weight. As with other airlines, one boot bag is also included as part of your sports equipment baggage allowance.
Alaska Airlines allows one pair of skis with poles plus boots or one snowboard plus boots but warns passengers that if you throw clothes in that bag as well, you will be charged standard checked baggage fees, so be aware of that when packing. This airline waives oversize fees for skis and snowboards; you’re allowed to go over its standard 62″ linear limit for this type of equipment. Alaska doesn’t say anything on its site about weight, though; you’ll probably want to try to stay under 50 pounds, though, to ensure that you definitely won’t be charged extra.
See Related: Should I Get Travel Insurance Through Alaska Airlines?
The United States’ budget airlines are not as great about flying with skis and snowboards as the airlines listed above. Allegiant Airlines states clearly on its website that the weight limit for no additional charge is just 40 pounds – ten pounds less than most of the above. Also, they’ll charge you for bags not per trip, but per segment of your trip, so if you have a layover somewhere on the way to your destination, expect to pay for your bags twice en route.
Allegiant counts one pair of skis and poles or one snowboard plus one boot bag as one checked item.
Frontier Airlines‘ ski and snowboard rules are the same as Allegiant’s. However, Frontier also wants its passengers to know that a boot bag cannot weigh over 25 pounds, or you’ll be charged for it as if it is a separate checked bag.
Frontier doesn’t charge extra if your ski or snowboard bag exceeds the length limit they put on other items. Keep in mind that with any of these budget airlines, it’s wise to pay for your bags when you book the flight: they’ll cost more if you wait and do it later.
Spirit Airlines’ snowboard and ski bag police are the same as Allegiant’s and Frontier’s. The weight limit is 40 pounds here again, you’ll be charged per leg of the trip again, and you can bring one pair of skis and poles and boots or one snowboard and boots. However, if your ski or snowboard bag is over 62″ long, you’ll also have to pay extra for that.