PackedCar2009

Hitting the Road: A Guide For Summer Skate Travel

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The summer skate-trip season is fast approaching, and many new travelers have questions about hitting the road to hit some roads. This post is intended to answer some frequently-asked questions about traveling with big skateboards.

PLANES, TRAINS and AUTOMOBILES

Planes: To answer a frequently-asked question, yes, you can usually bring your skateboard on the plane with you. If you get to the gate and the gate agent doesn’t want to let you bring your board on, they’ll check it through at the gate for free or reduced cost.

Obviously, you want to get the best deal on your flight, but the lowest fare price on Orbitz or Kayak.com isn’t always the cheapest trip. Beware hidden baggage fees. Most international flights include at least one bag for free, but domestic fares usually don’t include checked bags and some even charge for carry-on. Your best bet is to check your airline’s baggage policy before you book your trip.

AirportLurk

Air travel involves tons of waiting around. Bring a book to pass the time.

I usually fly with Southwest because they’re pretty cheap, the fare includes two free checked bags, there’s no charge for changing your flight, and the people who work there aren’t total jerks who enjoy ruining your day like the folks at United, US, and American. I’ve also had good experiences with Jetblue, Frontier, and Virgin. Don’t fly on Spirit airlines—they charge $50 for a carry-on.

Right On Switzer Road

GPS is always a good call.

Trains: I’m told trains are a sick way to travel, as you can take as much stuff as you want without extra baggage fees, then just chill on a train and watch the scenery go by. I’m definitely trying to take a train somewhere this year.

GasStationSign

This picture doesn’t really have anything to do with the article. I shot it at 2am at a gas station in Weed, California, about 36 hours into the gnarliest skate trip I’d ever been on. I had already witnessed numerous acts of recklessness and depravity and would see many more before the trip was over.

Blowing it

Sometimes you blow it and drive off with the gas pump still in the tank. Twice. In one day. And then your friends make fun of you.

Automobiles: The key to a good road trip is finding a dependable vehicle and filling it with a solid 3-5 person crew that shares similar skate and travel styles, with a competent leader to hold everything together.

In my experience, full size vans are the best way to travel. You’ve got enough space to stretch out and can still shuttle hills without a problem. That said, I’ve been on rad trips in everything from compact cars to pickup trucks. If you’ve got a car that runs, get that hoopty on the road and go skate some new spots.

MyOtherCar

I should make “My other skateboard IS A CAR” stickers.

GEAR

As you would assume from the name, longboards tend to be long and bulky, which makes them tough to fit in standard luggage. Fortunately, a few companies make good longboard-specific bags and riders on a budget can easily make do with a golf bag.

The Decent Hardware body bag is the best skate bag I’ve used. It’s roomy enough to hold everything you need to go to a skateboard race (mine fits a full-face helmet, park and downhill boards, leathers, sneakers and 7 sets of wheels with enough room left over for my all clothes, a sleeping bag and my toiletries) and durable enough to stand up to a full year’s worth of skate trips. They’re a little spendy, but definitely worth it if you travel a lot with your skateboards.

PackingHeavy

In general, you want to pack light and avoid bringing too much stuff. As you can see from all the crap I brought to Maryhill last year, I am terrible at packing light.

Sector has a new line of bags out, including one that rolls. I’ve never used ‘em, but they look good.

If you’re on a more limited budget, most golf bags work well enough for skate stuff and have the added benefit of being exempt from airline oversize bag charges (when asked, always say your skate bag has “sports equipment” inside). Riders worried about their helmets can get some peace of mind with hard-shell cases.

Most skate backpacks with external board straps work just fine with longboards, but I wouldn’t recommend strapping your board to the outside of a checked bag because they have a habit of disappearing enroute. When in doubt, carry it on.

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GENERAL ADVICE

Selecting your crew is one of the most important steps in the planning of a trip. I find a 3-5 person group ideal for skate travel. You’ve got enough people to get a good session going, but not so many that it’s impossible to get out the door. More people is cool in a van situation, but four dudes in a passenger car works well.

Travel styles vary and it’s crucial to be on the road with people that have similar routines, budgets, and tastes. Some folks like to take a shower, get coffee and enjoy the scenery in the morning, while others are all about staying dirty and getting up at 6 to hit every single spot and get tons of runs. It’s also good to be with a group of folks with similar budgets. You don’t want to be that guy with $50 to last him the whole trip if you’re in a car with dudes that want to eat out and go to the bar every night. Similarly, it’s harsh to be in a van full of raging partiers if you’re just trying to sleep after a long day of skating.

You don’t have to skate the exact same way as your crew, but it sucks to be the downhill-only longboard dude standing around at the skatepark for four hours while everyone else skates.

A competent leader can make or break a trip. Leadership comes with responsibility. A good Trip Dad has a plan for the trip, with skate spots mapped out and sleeping arrangements settled before the trip begins. Trip Dad also needs to be a decisive decision maker–a waffling, indecisive Trip Dad won’t command the respect and cooperation of his skaters, which can lead to disagreements and tense situations.

You are likely to find yourself in a miserable situation at some point in your travels. When that happens, it’s best to remember that you’re on an adventure and today’s misfortune is tomorrow’s cool story. Just roll with it and you’ll have a good time.

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  1. Peter Broberg

    Good info about flying. I fly alaska almost exclusively because they are the only airline out of my local airport. They are always cool with me gate checking my board/boards for free.

  2. Wynne Williams

    Lots of great advice here. Still recovering form our Dubs/Black Squrl 15 passenger vantastic voyage to Hummel Havoc. If you're crew's rolling like 10 deep its always good to have a second in command. Sometimes Dad hits the whiskey.


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