Monday, May 14, 2012

Flying with Skates

I've traveled with skates a few times by air and I think it might be useful to share my solutions.

First off, the big question: Can you take skates on board?

In a complete turn around from last year, the answer is "Yes".  I'd take a copy of the web page and have it book marked on your smart phone, just in case you get told "No" at the gate. (edit. Gel shoe inserts are NOT permitted. Scroll down to the bottom of the reference page. I don't know how picky TSA is about this--anyway, you've been warned.)

Recommendations from other sites say to keep your on-board bag free of junk to make it easier to get the skates through. 

Making their job easier, makes your trip easier
 I'm a fragile and delicate flower, so despite the TSA's policy change, I still put them in the belly of the beast--yes I check them. Just too heavy for a long trip.

I prefer a hard-sided suitcase that's not too large. The one I have is a few years old and is about 20 inches long. I prefer hard sided luggage for my skates to keep them from getting warped or the blades bent if something's dropped on the bag. Unlikely, but better safe than sorry. My experience is that with a larger suitcase, the skates make it too heavy to tool around the airport.  I travel with a small suitcase plus a small carry on. This allows me to carry my skates plus professional clothes for  a week's conference--yes, I do take a lot of black. I've been known to wear black skating pants and plain skating jacket to meetings. My carry-on doubles as my skate bag.

Tip 1: Skate bag is the carry-on.
Tip 2: Hard sided luggage is preferable

How do you pack your skates?  I clean my blade guards, dry them out, then put them on the blades. I put the soakers on over the guards, then I use twist ties to tie the soakers on. TSA security will sometimes search your luggage (they leave a nice little note BTW). You don't want an inspector nicking his hand on your blade because a soaker or a guard fell off. Lawsuits have been made of less. I've never done the following, but I think it's a good idea, take a picture of your skates in the bag for insurance purposes. You don't want to be sued for negligence.

Tip 3: Really, really make sure your blades are secured

I pack the inside of my skates with small stuff:  underwear mostly. My skating equipment (pads, wrist guards, etc) go in a zippered net bag I got at a Dollar Tree. It makes it difficult to pack around that lump of stuff, but I lost a wrist guard once because I tried to 'neat pack' with everything in little crevices. Just not worth the risk.

But unless you're on vacation and want to take your skates, there's other things to consider. If it's a business trip, most rinks don't have either evening public or evening freestyle. If you want to skate morning freestyle, even that can be problematic in order to shower and dress in time for a conference or meeting.

I don't take my skates on business trips any more, and even on vacation it's not worth it (unless it's a skating vacation). I'm usually fully booked with other obligations, so just not worth the effort.  I'd suggest you truly look at rink schedules and your time available before you pack your skates.


  1. This is good information for people who need to travel to a skating competition, too. I follow most of the same advice you gave. In addition, I also wrap other clothing around my skates for added cushion, like robe, PJs and skating jacket. This is just in case the bag got crushed - by surrounding the skates with soft clothing and stuffing them full of other clothing, I hope to minimize any damage. I also use a TSA-approved lock on the bag.

  2. Interesting. Traveling with roller skates is not as bad - no blade = not a problem with TSA. Despite the fact that they are even heavier than ice skates, I always take them as carry-on. I have heard of too many skates getting lost on the way to nationals (seriously, if you check your skates on the way to nationals they WILL get lost, it is, like, mandate of the universe or something). My regular skate bag is too large for a carry-on, so I usually use a small adidas duffle bag, pack 2 pairs of skates, wrap the costumes in a skating jacket, mush socks, bras, etc. around the skates and sit on it to get the thing to close. usually it fits nicely into an overhead bin. Usually. One time on a super tiny jet they forced me to gate-check. As they were unloading the bags the bag elevator wouldn't come up and got stuck - there was a sickening crunch and ten minutes of terror for those of us wondering whose bag had been destroyed. Luckily, it was not my skates, but it very well could have been. Let's just say when the bags did show up, well, I saw how little protection a hard-sided travel case actually offers. So, umm, yeah, skates are always the carry on. I would check my laptop before I would check my skates.

  3. Excellent advice about packing skates.

    Probably worth pointing out though that although the USA might technically allow skates as carry on, other countries do not. Most European countries, and also Australia, still specifically prohibit them as carry on, so if you're travelling outside of the US you will have no choice but to check them.

    You can minimise the chances of your luggage being lost by making sure you arrive at the airport in plenty of time, so your luggage and you are both on the same flight. If you're on a multi-leg trip, also make sure in the planning stage that you leave plenty of time for transfers between flights. Also ensure your luggage is labelled with your name. You can get luggage tags that show only your name and conceal other details, but at least have your name, that way if your luggage is delayed it can easily be identified for later delivery to you.

    Husband used to travel up to 6 times a year for work internationally, over the course of 12-13 years, and has never had luggage lost.

  4. After a disaster with lost luggage skiing this year - make sure you label it with your name, phone number(s) and email address then if someone picks it up by mistake they can contact you and you can get it back a LOT more easily than going through the airline. Who will make NO effort to get the bag back to you!

    1. I once lived in a very rural town, where the luggage from the plane was dropped on a table and you picked it up on your own. Someone walked off with my luggage and left hers. It was only by using the info on her label that I was able to track it down.

      Her excuse? "They are identical!"

      "No, yours is bright green, mine is black. Are you color blind?" Anyway, nothing was missing. But some people are clueless.

  5. thanks for this! i assumed they were banned!

  6. Traveling on Lufthansa for adult world's this week-end and it's still no go for bringing skates on board. Have a direct flight so hopefully this will minimize the risk of loss. According to Lufthansa policy I can have a second checked bag for free if it is a "sport bag" I plan to have my skates and practice clothes in that bag so we'll see how well this works. Otherwise it's will cost me $70 each way. I bring my actual competition dresses on board with me though.

  7. Good tips. Thanks for writing this.

    I don't fly much, and I've never seriously considered bringing my skates on a flight. There was one conference last year where I looked into freestyle times, and it just seemed like too much trouble to try to juggle that with a business trip.

    I don't know if anyone else feels this way, but I also feel intimidated going to freestyles at unfamiliar rinks, especially if they're crowded. I feel like everyone is thinking, "Who is THIS terrible skater? Who does she think she is, getting in the way at our practice?" Paranoia, I know.

    1. I go on unfamiliar freestyles all the time. After I realized that 90% of them are populated by kids who barely have all their singles (if that), I got over my fear of being the lowest skilled skater on the ice. OTOH, after 5 years of skating, I have a sense of who's doing what so I can usually stay out of their way.