Golfers traveling with clubs pay attention
Going anywhere these days with golf clubs is not only more expensive than it was a decade ago, but also much more complicated with each airline having its own rules. The “nickel and diming” is really in full gear with airlines charging extra for more legroom in economy, priority boarding and other perks. Still there are ways to save when flying with your clubs.
Of course you can rent clubs at your destination – usually the hottest and latest – but if you’re in the camp where you must have your own clubs, you can ship them to your destination ahead of time with a service like UPS or Fed Ex.
There are also companies like Luggage Forward (luggageforward.com) and Ship Sticks (ShipSticks.com) that specialize in shipping golf clubs and other sports’ equipment. Ship Sticks picks up your clubs and sends them via ground for $39 while quicker delivery can be purchased for a higher rate.
Still the most inexpensive way to go is to check them as baggage and carry on your one small piece of luggage (typically 22” x 14” x 9”) and personal item like a brief case or laptop case. Returning from a recent trip, one of the guys traveling with me was checking in his mammoth golf bag curbside. It was so tightly packed, it looked like he was dragging a 200 lb. gorilla. And yes, it was over the limit of 50 lbs. and he had to redistribute his stuff in other bags or pay $50.
After a lot of reshuffling on the sidewalk – how embarrassing is it to air your dirty laundry while everyone in the line checks out your tighty whities – his golf bag finally came in under the limit.
Traveling within the United States, American Airlines, AirTran, Delta and US Airways charge $25 for the first checked bag; $35 for the second but beware: weigh in at more than 51 lbs. and you’ll pay $100. The third bag (if allowed) is typically around $125 while the 4th is $200. (Delta allows you to check up to 10 bags so at that rate, you might as well rent your own plane).
United Airlines figures their baggage fees according to where you’re going. For example if you are flying from Syracuse, N.Y. to Las Vegas, you’ll pay $25 for your first checked bag and $35 for the second.
Jet Blue is one of the good guys allowing you to check one bag free as long as it’s less than 50 lbs. Your second bag costs $40 and the third is $75. Bags more than 50 lbs. will incur a $50 to $100 extra charge depending on weight. Southwest is even more generous allowing the first two bags under 50lbs. to fly free. But go over that limit and you’ll get socked $75 per bag.
Each airline is a bit different so you’ll need to check their policies carefully. A low fare may actually be higher when figuring in baggage fees when you compare apples to oranges. Allowances are traditionally more generous on international routes, but many airlines are now enforcing a 50 lb. limit.
What would really make sense is for airlines to determine just how much weight each passenger should be allowed to fly with. At the airport your luggage and you would be weighed on a giant scale and charged accordingly. Simple math.
That probably won’t fly, but airlines should and could simplify their rules and allow passengers to fly with a total weight of say, 75 lbs. instead of weighing each bag and having to distribute the weight among bags. More than 75 lbs. would incur a surcharge on a sliding scale.
There are other ways to save on baggage fees. For example Delta’s Visa Card may come with an annual fee, but along with that, if you fly Delta a lot, your first bag is always free, you get a money-saving companion ticket each year and you get to board with zone 1 assuring you will have space to put your carry-on in the overhead.
Most important: pack light. Who says you need a different outfit for each day and several pairs of golf shoes? Even on the road, there are laundries and there are people who clean shoes.
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I recently traveled from New Delhi (India) to New York and back by Turkish Airlines. They carry a golf bag free of charge over and above the free baggage allowance. Within the US, I traveled from Boston MA to Columbus OH to Denver CO to Philadelphia PA, all on Southwest who allowed me to carry the golf bag free as the second checked in bag!
As a result, I played 9 rounds of golf with my own set at various places in the US, without paying anything at all for transportation of the bag.