Strategy is required when traveling with kites

Airline baggage allowances are tight and getting tighter, but there's not much value for you in spending $3K on airfare and arriving with only 10 kg of kites to fly.

Paying for the excess isn't a solution either; just 10 kg overweight can cost as much as another airfare.

How, then, to take as many kites as possible without breaking the bank?

The first answer is that kite fliers who aren't yet doing so should learn to live out of their carry-on bag (typically 7 kilograms).

It's easy. Here's the male version, but there is a female equivalent: wear a jersey, jacket, and other heavy items such as presentable shoes and trousers.

Pack five shirts, five pairs of underwear, a pair of rough trousers for on-the-field, and Crocs for kite flying.

With a toothbrush, razor, and one big cake of soap, this leaves 3 kg out of the original 7 kg for an extra pilot kite or two.

Washing? Shower or bathe with the day's wear, put on a clean set for the evening, and recycle them for the next day's flying.

Drain the washed set on the bedroom carpet overnight and hang it up to dry somewhere during the next day.

Towel? Use a tee shirt you're going to wash anyway.

Actually, you really only need four sets of clothes, even for a month or more away, but this is leading you towards travel efficiency in gentle steps.

The second answer is to take kites that you will use and use all of them.

Not having spare kites can be a risk in case of damage or loss - but pilots are at greatest risk, and you have spares in your carry-on, remember.

All other damage can be hand repaired with needle and thread

In the last 100 or so events, only once or twice have I had damage too serious for on-the-field repair.

Four meters of seam per hour is the German sail-making standard for hand sewing, and it's about right.

And take weight-efficient lines and accessories.

Line reels are wasted weight that doesn't assist at all in keeping more kites up for longer. Layering lines in bags instead frees another 2 kg for kites.

The third answer is to push airlines in every way short of paying to get as much weight allowance as possible.

The strategic problem here is that check-in is an end-run.

If you've pushed too far or get unlucky, there can be no alternative but to reach for the credit card.

Domestic flights aren't a big worry, as excess charges are usually under $100; it's the international sectors with $2000 plus bills that are really unwelcome.

Careful planning and careful packing make all the difference:

1. Load your check-in bag(s) to the maximum, but don't go over, not even by 100g

It's unstated, but I believe that the industry margin on a 20 kg allowance is 3 kg. I've never been pinged at 22.9 kg (hundreds of check-ins), but at 23.1, I have been charged for the extra 3.1 kg.

Once over the invisible line, they tend to go for the lot, probably by the theory that you're already pissed off, so what's the difference?

2. Weight up your carry-ons as much as you dare

It depends on the airport, airline, and local knowledge of how hard-line check-in staff will be.

3. Duty-free bags are invisible

Otherwise, wise airports wouldn't be able to charge their shop tenants such exorbitant rents, and else wise, this income would have to come from airlines instead.

4. Computer bags are generally invisible

Even when there are signs proclaiming "only one carry-on per person."

Craig (Hansen), PLKites Ltd, has made a computer bag that he can get a midi octopus in.

5. Carry stuff in your pockets

Craig also has a special jacket with big pockets in the back that can hold 10 kg or so of tightly packed soft kites, which check-in staff isn't supposed to be able to see.

It makes him look so hunchbacked they offer him a wheelchair and a nurse (no, I'm kidding).

6. Attitude at check-in is critical - yours and theirs

Often, whether to give you a hard time or let things go seems to have been decided before you even get to the desk.

Perhaps there is a memo out requiring a crackdown, or maybe the sight of big ugly kite bags working up the queue sets the scene.

From your side, there are really only two choices - the friendly, happy approach or going for their throats right from the start.

The first can work because airlines like to keep the atmosphere happy.

The second (I've seen it used effectively) is based on complaining loudly about something without letting up as soon as you're in range, hoping they'll then buy you off by ignoring excess.

Neither is sure-fire.

7. Last-minute check-in

Some travelers swear by this, hoping there'll then be too much concern about getting everyone through to worry about being a bit overweight.

This can go wrong, though, when increasingly harassed staff before you can even start making excuses, bark out "$2,000, pay or don't fly".

8. Size matters

A small overweight bag can get through, whereas a big one of the same weight won't.

This is because the supervisors who roam around jumping on staff who are too friendly judge first by size, not weight.

Long bags (for kites that still have sticks) are a special problem, but labeling can help.

Many airlines have special allowances for skis or golf clubs - which is why many kite bags are labeled as such.

9. Don't carry wet kites

That it will rain in the last hour of the last day at a kite event is a better predictor than any weather forecast.

Except by flying in dry conditions, there's almost no way to get kites dry.

Even after hours with the hotel bathroom hair dryer, a wet maxi kite will still be up one or two kilos, triggering excess.

Therefore, it's best to book return travel for the afternoon of the day after the event.

Flying on beaches is also a problem - sand always seems to add at least a kg/kite until there's been an hour or two of flying over grass.

I have no answer for sand except allowing a margin when initially packing.

10. Inveigle extra allowance from the airline

They will often pre-arrange up to 10 kg more for a good story- national interest, representing the country, that sort of bull---t.

But a word of warning: 10 kg extra on 20 kg (which is actually 23 kg as above) by their view is 30 kg, not 33.

Frequent flier status also boosts weight allowance.

Gold cardholders on most airlines get an extra 20 kg (23 kg) and can check in at the first-class counter - where they are much less inclined to argue over a few extras than they will at the economy desk - because it makes a bad impression on the other up-themselves who check-in there.

11. Check your bags all the way

Your local airport is likely to be more generous to you, so use airlines that make interline connections and insist that bags get checked all the way.

Are you coming home? If you haven't sold or lost stuff by then, you can give something away or leave it there for next time.

12. Book your own travel rather than accepting offers from the event to do it for you

Organizers tend not only to disregard your time costs but also go for the nominally cheapest, ignoring the lower weight allowances that budget airlines apply.

This can end up costing someone, probably you, more than using main carriers.

Also, budget airlines don't provide baggage check-through, and every extra check-in is another chance that you'll be caught for being overweight.

13. Travel to, from, or through the USA is best of all; then rules are different

You need only one US touchdown in a sequence of flights, and the allowance for all sectors goes from "by weight" to "by piece."

The minimum then becomes two bags at either (nominally) 20 kg each or even 32 kg each, depending on the carrier.

Words by Peter Lynn | Founder of Peter Lynn Kites

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