The age old question for a surf trip is – should I pack my surfboard or rent one when I get there? It’s an age old question because traveling with your surfboard can be so expensive and such a huge hassle that sometimes it ends up being more trouble than it’s worth. We've discussed the potential advantages here, so let's take a look at the disadvantages. If you have a bad experience traveling with your board, it can go bad in a hurry: you may end up with no surfboard, a dinged surfboard, or fees that cost as much as a new surfboard!
Lugging Surfboards Around. Getting to an airport with surfboard bags can be a trip itself. It’s a major challenge to hop on a bus or train to the airport with a huge surfboard bag. So you usually end up driving your surfboard bags to the airport. Then you have to leave your car in long-term airport parking, which can be like buying an extra plane ticket. Or you have to get someone to drop you off at the airport with your surfboard bags. If you need to get to the airport at 5am, good luck finding a friend willing to drop you off. Next, have you ever carried surfboard bags through an airport? One of the most frustrating feelings in the world is watching random security guards open up every compartment of your surfboard bag and sift through all the gear you spent hours carefully packing so everything fit just so. And then watching them toss around your surfboards like they’re not some of your most prized and valuable possessions. If you’re a control freak, your head might explode.
Board Bag Charges: can cost an arm and a leg. You must-must-must check with your specific airline about how they charge for surfboards. All airlines are different (but all awful) and if you don’t optimize your storage arrangement to their pricing scheme for surfboards, you will get screwed. Prime example: one trip, we were charged by the number of surfboard bags we were traveling with (3 bags). Next trip, to cut down on that cost, we got one surfboard bag to hold 3 surfboards. Of course, that airline charged by the surfboard. And it would have cost less to travel with 3 separate surfboard bags containing 1 surfboard each than 3 surfboards in 1 surfboard bag. Yeah, go figure. These are things you must know for your airline.
Connecting Flights: one trip we connected to get to Puerto Rico and our first leg flight was late taking off (it happens more than you think) and we arrived late for our connection. Sprinted through the airport and just made our connecting flight, sweaty and out of breath. Of course our boards didn’t have the same luck. We had to pick them up at the airport the next day after we arrived; we were fortunate that the airport happened to be 10 minutes away from where we were staying. Often to get to your surf trip destination you drive a few hours from the airport to the surf spots. Had we been staying at a place hour/s from the airport, we would have had to leg back to the airport to pick up our boards. Could kill a whole day of your vacation. And you still will have to rent boards until your boards arrive. Same thing happened on a trip to El Salvador – and we weren’t renting a car. We had to pay a guy to drive us back to the airport the next day, luckily it was only an hour ride. It was still a hassle figuring out (in different languages, without a phone, etc.) when our boards would be arriving, on what flight and arranging the driver.
These are just some of the things to think about when considering whether to travel with surfboards on your next big surf trip.