Carrying a poster from France to the US: carry-on or ship?
October 12, 2014 11:42 AM   Subscribe

How do I get a large poster tube from France to the US? Do I try to carry it on, or risk shipping it?

I bought some fine art posters in Paris and am trying to figure out how to get them back to the US. They're valuable enough that I really care they arrive undamaged. I'm flying back Wednesday on Air France on a single direct flight.

The poster tube is about 32" long, for over the official carry-on limit. The sensible thing would be to try to carry it on the plane anyway, it'll fit just fine in an overhead bin or in the coat check. I'm on a business class ticket so can probably expect a little leeway. I'm just worried that if some security screener or Air France agent says no, I'm stuck at the airport at 7AM with a valuable package and no way to do anything with it.

I'd rather not try to ship the package Fedex or check the poster tube as luggage; I've had terrible luck mailing / shipping cardboard poster tubes in the past with them getting crushed. There are plenty of fine art shippers in Paris who will build custom packaging, but I fear that will be unreasonably expensive. They're aimed more at custom shipping furniture and sculpture, not just a few posters.

Any creative suggestions? Alternately, any reassurance that I'm OK bending the carry-on rules in a reasonable way? If it weren't an international flight I'd probably just chance it.
posted by Nelson to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Scientists traveling to conferences, nationally and internationally, carry poster tubes on all the time. I've never heard of a single problem.
posted by dorque at 12:01 PM on October 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd definitely go with carry-on, personally. My colleagues and I travel economy class with poster tubes a lot for work and have never had any issues traveling either domestic or international. (Other than the fact that we are all absent-minded and tend to forget them on the plane.) If by some chance the airline will not let you carry it on, the worst that will happen is that they will make you check it. In that case, I would try to argue for a "gate check" like they do for strollers and car seats. They tend to treat gate check items more gently.
posted by Cecilia Rose at 12:05 PM on October 12, 2014

I've had many posters and artworks shipped both domestically and internationally in heavy-duty Kraft Mailing Tubes, which are extremely thick and can generally not be crushed except under the most severe conditions. I have also carried posters on planes without a problem, in coach.

If your tube is a thin tube that gives when you press on it, I would consider first enclosing it in a Kraft tube whether or not you carry it on. You should be able to find one in Paris. Posters can be crushed not only in the post, but also in compartments or, in the worst case scenario for these things, gate check.
posted by eschatfische at 12:08 PM on October 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I carried on a large foam board (ie not rollable) poster on an economy domestic flight and it was fine. I asked how to handle it (check, carry on?) at the check in desk and the person working said that because I was good at asking for an exception politely, the flight & gate crew would almost certainly be able to find a place to stash it for me if I carried it on. And they did, no problem.
posted by snaw at 12:48 PM on October 12, 2014

I've carried posters on board in the standard cardboard tube. If you're in business class, you'll get even more leeway. I think you'll be fine.
posted by arcticseal at 2:51 PM on October 12, 2014

32"??? On a transatlantic flight??? Ya you'll be fine. I was on a flight today and guy with 4' tall duffle bag which filled the ENTIRE overhead bin of an md88 rammed it in there. Poster tubes no problem and air France is in my personal experience laid bac .
posted by chasles at 4:30 PM on October 12, 2014

> Any creative suggestions?

I've done this in the past (on many international trips). Just ask a steward/stewardess when you board to put it upright in the coat closet at business class. It wont take up any space and there would be no danger of your stuff getting crushed by anything heavy.

An American Airlines steward taught me this trick. But YMMV depending on airline and personality of the person you ask.
posted by special-k at 5:47 PM on October 12, 2014

Buy one of those sturdy plastic luggage grade poster tubes and put it in there.

There are plenty of fine art shippers in Paris who will build custom packaging, but I fear that will be unreasonably expensive. They're aimed more at custom shipping furniture and sculpture, not just a few posters.

It seems to me that it would be harmless to inquire about their rates for sending the posters. Yeah, they build stuff, but they might have shipping materials around for smaller things as well. Just because they say they "specialize" in shipping oversize artwork doesn't mean they don't do anything else.
posted by yohko at 12:47 PM on October 13, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the reassurance on carrying the poster. Had no trouble at all with carrying it on, entirely unremarkable at check-in, security, boarding. Yay!
posted by Nelson at 4:07 PM on October 15, 2014

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