How to travel with a bodyboard and other travel tips!



Whether you're about to embark on your first bodyboarding trip or your fiftieth, travel, especially in this day and age, is challenging at best.  

I've spent 4 decades traveling the globe with my bodyboards and I want to share a few tips to keep things rolling smoothly. 

BOOKING YOUR TRIP-

Booking travel is a breeze compared to the days prior to the late 90s.  There was no internet, so you had to make inquiries and bookings via phone and fax.  No comparison shopping without calling several airlines to find their lowest fares, but there were plenty of travel agents who had access to that info, so the key was to find a good travel agent who understood your needs and preferences.  Many of the bodyboarding crew used a guy named Paul Fairman who was fantastic at making bookings and changes on the fly and knew our destinations and creative ways to get there.  The internet has made most travel agents obsolete.  

If at all possible, to make things simple, travel with a proven bodyboarding trip provider like Bodyboard Holidays.  Owner Rob Barber has been taking bodyboarders to the best spots on the globe since the early 2000s, and has done all the legwork for you.  All you have to do is buy the plane ticket.  There are other bodyboarding-related trip providers too.  Seek them out if you want the easiest experience. 



AIR TICKETS:
If you are doing your own trip, I recommend using Google Flights to seek out air tickets.  I've found that some of the larger travel sites set "cookies" in your browser, and if you don't book the low fare they are showing, and return to their sites later, "magically" the fare has gone up.  Our rule was always, "book it NOW" because of this.  I have no proof they do this, but more often than not, that was my personal experience.  Google Flights doesn't seem have the same issue.  You might find cheaper fares elsewhere, but keep in mind, if you book an air ticket through a third party site (like Expedia, Travelocity, etc.), and there's a problem, you typically can't go directly to the airline to solve the problem.   If you can, always book directly through the airline to avoid these issues.  



ACCOMMODATION:
As far as accommodation at your destination, VRBO or AirBnB are both great for some locations, but they do charge high service fees to book, so if you find a property you like, see if they have a website for the property where you can book direct to avoid that fee.  If you're booking hotels, the hotel's website is always a good idea, but you can start by comparison shopping through Expedia, Travelocity, or Hotels.com, or something similar.  

RENTAL CARS: 
I typically shop for prices on Expedia.  It's easy to cancel reservations there if you change your mind, and you usually don't have to pay for rental cars until you get there.  If you're under 25, keep in mind, most rental car companies won't rent to you.  You might have to do some Googling for local companies that will rent to younger people.  

PACKING FOR THE TRIP-
See Vicki's blog about packing for a girl's surf trip.  Many of the things apply to both males and females, but the key is to have a good padded board bag to protect your boards, and if you are going somewhere remote, have backups (leashes, extra fins, wax, sunscreen).  We typically travel with multiple boards, so we use a rolling bag.  One small tip is if you use symmetric fins (either fin goes on either foot), you can just pack one spare fin since it can go on either foot if you lose or break a fin.  You definitely want fin tethers or cinches though to reduce your odds of losing your fins.  If you're going to a third world location, bringing extra stickers, tee shirts, etc. to give away go a long way to stoking out the local wave riding crew whose waves you might be sharing. 



AIRPORT PARKING-
I use two websites- cheapairportparking.org and spothero.com

They have apps to make it simple, but you just plug in your info and the sites will show you parking lots near the airport with shuttles with the lowest pricing.  Definitely check both sites (and there are others too) to find the best pricing as this will fluctuate from day-to-day.  Also, be sure the lot you are choosing has a regular shuttle and read the reviews to make sure no one mentions their cars getting broken into while they're on a trip.  I will pay a little more for a reliable parking location, and many of them are at large hotel chains near the airport.  

GOING TO THE AIRPORT-
I'm a huge fan of giving myself WAY more time than I think I need.  I live a bit over an hour from LAX (if there's no traffic), and I usually leave as much as 4 hours before the flight.  Unexpected stuff happens- accidents/construction on the freeway, shuttle takes a long time to the airport from the parking area, security screening is slammed, etc.  You will be stressing if you start running out of time, so just leave early to avoid that.  



CHECKING IN FOR YOUR FLIGHT-
Definitely pay for your bag online when you check in, which should happen online 24 hours before you fly.  Try to check in as soon as it's available to you.  This will give you an earlier boarding group, meaning you'll find room for your carryon in the overhead bins more easily.  

When you arrive to the airport with your bodyboard bag, go to the kiosk and get your bag tag and drop it at the bag drop (not usually an option for international flights).  If the bag drop person asks what's in the bag, say "boogie boards" non-chalantly.  They don't know "bodyboards".  This will usually slide your boards right through, unlike surfboards that incur extra fees on many flights.  Always smile for the person that you're dealing with.  They have the power to charge you or not, so don't give them a reason to.  



GET TSA PRECHECK, OR GLOBAL ENTRY-
If you travel more than a couple of times a year, it's well worth the price.  Global Entry actually includes TSA PreCheck, but if you mostly travel domestically, TSA PreCheck is fine.  

Global Entry speeds you through customs and immigration when returning from overseas.  We've saved countless hours blowing by hundreds of people in line coming from overseas.  There are facial recognition scanners at many airports that you literally look into and they spit out a receipt and you're done.  To get Global Entry, you can apply online and have to pay something like $100 per person and it's good for 5 years.  You will also have a background check done on you and have an in-person meeting with the TSA to get approved.  You have to have a clean record to get Global Entry.  

TSA PreCheck allows you to go in a separate security line where you don't have to remove your shoes, belts, don't have to take stuff out of your carryon, etc.  Saves time and hassles.  

STUFF TO BRING ON THE PLANE-
I always wear long pants, shoes/socks, and bring an easily-packable jacket.  It's always chilly on planes.  If I'm traveling to a tropical location, I bring a pair of shorts and sandals in my carryon and change when I land in the airport bathroom.   I also keep a small Ziploc bag with a pen (to fill out customs forms), my phone charger and headphones with adapters for a 2.5mm jack as well as my phone in case the plane has no video screens and you have to watch movies on your phone.  Make sure your phone is charged too as a lot of domestic flights now have basic planes with no charging ports.  For long international flights, I always pack a neck pillow.  They help you sleep while sitting up.  I also bring foam ear plugs if it's an overnight flight.  



I also make sure my sunglasses are easy to reach in either my carryon or suitcase so when getting the rental car, I can quickly grab my sunglasses for the drive. 

I do know some people who will bring basic surf gear (swimfins, etc.) in the carryon in case the checked bags get lost, but fins take up a lot of room.  If you can fit all your carryon stuff in a backpack, perfect!  They are easy to fit in the overhead lockers.  If not, a small rolling bag is ideal too.  

FOOD-
Many flights have stopped serving food.  You can always stop on the way to the airport and pick up a pre-made sandwich or grab one at the airport to have on the plane.  

ARRIVAL-
Hopefully you've already sorted out your transportation and accommodation, so all there is to do is exchange some money (if needed) into the local currency (if traveling overseas).  For the best rates, the ideal scenario is to exchange at your bank AT HOME BEFORE YOU LEAVE, but if you need to exchange upon arrival, the cheapest option would be at an ATM that is in your bank's network, OR a local bank.  Exchanging at the airport typically yields the most unfavorable exchange rates.  

Try, whenever possible, to speak in the language of the country you've arrived in.  I've found that English is the "universal" language, but most folks appreciate you at least trying to speak the local language out of respect for the country you're visiting.  

GENERAL-
When visiting other surf spots/towns, always be respectful of the locals and don't "flash" anything of value.  Keep a low profile and you'll come back with memories that will last a lifetime!  



Here's a final tip:  
If you travel frequently, I'd suggest looking into a credit card that gives you points toward travel rewards.   This is an outstanding resource:
The Points Guy
This enables you to accumulate points throughout the year buy using your card to buy anything and everything and use them for all sorts of travel needs including air tickets, rental cars, hotels, and more.   

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