Flying With Folding Or Inflatable Kayaks

It’s no secret that you bought your portable kayak because of it’s compact storage and transportability. According to most customers, that’s the number one reason they purchased an inflatable or a folding kayak instead of a traditional hard shell model. And the possibility of taking your kayak with you on an airplane may also have been a key consideration. But with all the changes in baggage requirements, is that still a viable expectation? The short answer is “yes”. However, there are some things to investigate before you fly ….Airplane into sunset

  • Find out EXACTLY what the policy is of the airline you will be flying regarding transporting portable boats. You need to know what your specific airline and airport’s baggage policy is. Your WORST CASE scenario will be the “official policy” of the airline. If the check-in attendant is having a bad day or is a stickler for the rules you need to be prepared to pay any extra charges or plan on leaving your kayak at home.
  • If you do take your kayak with you, our readers tell us they have had the best luck putting them in a surfboard bag or large duffle bag. Be discrete, polite, and ask them to HELP YOU with getting your boat to your destination. There are different baggage allowances for domestic and international flights. It is helpful to inform the airline that you will be taking an “inflatable boat” or “small surf board” with you when you make your reservation. That way, they’ll get the idea that it’s something compact. If this information is pre-loaded in their computer when you check-in, your kayak is more likely to get through. We’d also suggest that you avoid using the word “kayak” when you interact with airline personnel. they may not comprehend that a kayak can be carried in a bag.
  • DON’T BELIEVE what you hear (unless it is in writing). Processing hundreds of people for a Trans-Atlantic flight can be stressful on attendants and things are often different at the check-in counter.
  • ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS  have a Plan B ready if something happens, like an emergency rental or purchase option in should Plan A fall through.
  • Be familiar with current customs policies and be sure to take off all sales tags to avoid the question of duty and taxes.

Best Kayaks for Traveling

What are the most convenient portable kayaks for traveling? Weight is the main consideration when flying. Here are a few recommendations that are all super lightweight, compact, inflate or assemble quickly, and paddle very well.

  • Innova Safari 330 – Solo, 26 pounds, extremely popular whitewater kayak, good for up to class III rapids and ocean surf
  • Sea Eagle 330 – Tandem but can be converted for solo as well, 26 pounds, best for flatwater, calm rivers and very calm oceans, however it’s capable for up to class III whitewater.
  • Any of the PakBoat Puffin folding kayaks. Ranging from 17 to 28 pounds and easy to assemble, they all paddle great, best for use on calm water.
  • Also take a look at the Advanced Elements PackLite. A very simple design, but super light weight at only 4 pounds, the Packlite was made for traveling!

Sea Eagle All Purpose BackpackSeveral of the above kayaks include carry bags. Most of the bags adapt well for flying. However, you may wish to purchase a kayak backpack, such as the Sea Eagle All Purpose Backpack (see photo). With 5.5 cubic feet of space there’s plenty of room for your Sea Eagle (or other brand of inflatable or folding kayak) and more. Be sure to check your airline’s baggage restrictions prior to traveling. There are variations from airline to airline.

This article was written by Sheryl Connelly

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