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Essential Tips For Air Travel With Your Inflatable SUP

Essential Tips For Air Travel With Your Inflatable SUP

One of the greatest advantages of owning an inflatable paddle board is the ability to take it with you while traveling. The portability of an inflatable SUP lets you paddle in locations that might otherwise be out of reach, while also eliminating the costs and time constraints of renting a paddle board—if rentals are even available at your desired paddling spot.

Drawing from numerous memorable trips with our paddle boards, we've compiled our top seven tips for airline travel with your inflatable SUP:

1. Know Your Airline’s Baggage Policies

Most airlines allow up to 50 lbs in a checked bag to avoid extra charges, but it’s always best to check the website of the airline you are planning to fly for their baggage policy.  Your board, pump, paddle, leash, and PFD packed in a SUP travel bag should come in well under the typical 50 lb airline check-in luggage weight limit, but it’s best to weigh your bag before heading to the airport.  Once you know how much of your weight limit you are using for your essential SUP items, you can use any remaining weight allowance for additional gear or personal belonging so that you are making use of all the luggage capacity you’ve paid for.

Paddleboard bags often push the limits of the dimensions that airlines technically consider to be oversized,  This is generally not a problem because, when a SUP bag is not stuffed to capacity, it is too soft to measure accurately and you are therefore very unlikely to be charged for oversized luggage. A SUP bag is roughly the same size as various sports duffels that are routinely checked through as luggage, so it should not come under any special scrutiny.  If the bag has cinch straps on the sides, tighten them to make the bag more compact, which helps reduce overall bag volume and keeps the contents from shifting.

Note:  At the time of writing this article, Spirit Airlines has a checked bag weight limit of 40 lbs, which is 10 lbs less than most other airlines, so plan accordingly when packing your bags.

Pro Tip - Be nice to the airline staff. In over ten years of our extended team traveling with inflatable SUPs we have even had any issue, with any airline. We check SUP bags as normal, don't push he weight limits and don't stuff them full of gear and you will generally be fine. 

2. Make Sure Your SUP Bag Has Wheels 

Chances are that the suitcases you travel with have wheels to make it easier to get through airports. The same convenience should apply to the luggage that you use to transport your SUP.  A well-designed SUP bag should have wheels to aid in travel, plus backpack straps in case you ever need to walk a significant distance with your board kit on uneven terrain. If your paddle board did not come with such a bag, you may want to consider buying one separately or finding a rolling duffel that will fit your board.

An exception to this is board designed to be lighter and easier to carry on your back. They are still going to count for a checked bag which is why we recommend a full sized back to fit more of your gear. 

3. Don’t Forget Essential Accessories

There is nothing more frustrating than taking your board out of the bag at your destination and realizing that you forgot essential items, such as fins and mounting hardware.  We recommend that you maintain a checklist of items you’ll want to have with your SUP anytime you travel with it.  Some items you might want to include on the checklist are:

  • collapsible 3-piece paddle
  • leash
  • fins and mounting hardware
  • dry bag
  • pressure gauge
  • paddling attire
  • PFD (lifejacket or inflatable belt pack)
  • hat
  • glasses

Keep your checklist in a compartment of your bag so that you can refer to it every time you travel with your SUP.

4. Pack an Electric Pump and / or a Manual Pump in Your Suitcase or Carry-on Luggage.

An electric SUP inflator can save you a lot of time and energy when setting up your gear for a paddle, but you’ll want to make sure it arrives at your destination in working condition.  Because electric pumps have moving parts that are susceptible to damage with rough handling, we recommend packing your electric pump in your carry-on bag, or a suitcase with plenty of padding around it.

Electric Pumps like any form of electronics and have the ability to fail without notice. A manual pump will get you out of a bind if that happens which is why we recommend you carry your manual pump as a backup or as your primary pump if you can only take one, and are physically able to manually inflate your board. 

5. Pack Your Board and Accessories in a Way That Prevents Damage

Rolling your board with the paddle sections and other breakable accessories on the inside of the roll can protect them from damage when your luggage is handled roughly.  

If your bag has cinch straps on the sides, use them to remove excess volume from the bag so that your gear is not rattling around.

6. Have a Plan For Transporting and Storing Your Board At the Destination

Think about your travel destination, where you’ll be staying, and how you will be getting around. Is there a safe place where you can keep your board inflated overnight?  If not, plan on keeping the board in your room rolled up and inflating it each time you use it. For some people, that might be a good reason to bring an electric pump, but be sure that it can run on a portable power source if you won’t have a car with an accessory power outlet. If you are renting a car, see if you can get one with a roof rack or luggage rails and bring tie-down straps so that you can keep your board inflated and transport it on top of the vehicle. 

7. Discover Great Places To Paddle Wherever You Travel

Taking your inflatable paddle board on trips can add variety and excitement to your travels. We hope the air travel tips shared in this article help you include your paddle board in your travel plans while avoiding pitfalls we've learned from experience.


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