Cheap way to transport max amount of stuff on flight "checked bag"?
September 18, 2016 2:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving across the U.S. and have very little to take with me. I'm planning to fly and take 3 checked bags and 1 carry on. I own no airline luggage. What's the cheapest and safest way to do this?

Most of the stuff I need to transport is backpacking gear, rock climbing cams, and a record player. I'm shipping my vinyl via Media Mail.

I'm thinking about getting cardboard boxes to use as luggage, but where do I find boxes that meet exactly (or very close) the 62 inch total dimensional limit of checked luggage and also maximize the packable volume?

What's the best way to reinforce the boxes so that they're easy for luggage handlers to move and not fall apart? Are there places where you can get the boxes strapped?

Is there some better way to do this than use cardboard boxes?

I'm near Santa Rosa, CA if it matters.
posted by topsykretts to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Best way I've found to transport backpacking stuff is in either your bag or a large military duffel bag. They are made to pack everything in, are incredibly sturdy, and close with a solid metal clip that doesn't burst no matter how much you squish in.
posted by corb at 2:41 PM on September 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm thinking about getting cardboard boxes to use as luggage

You are allowed to do this on most (possibly all) airlines, but they will almost certainly make you sign away all coverage if the box gets damaged and your items are lost. If you care about these things, I'd suggest going with corb's suggestion of quality duffels.

but where do I find boxes that meet exactly (or very close) the 62 inch total dimensional limit of checked luggage and also maximize the packable volume?

Shipping store should have a variety of boxes that would let you find something appropriate. I know from experience that Dell tower desktop boxes are around that size and have managed to survive the gentle caresses of the baggage handlers.

The fees for the 3rd checked bags are often very high - unless you know the carrier will do it affordably, you might consider just sending what you won't need in the first week via insured USPS.
posted by Candleman at 2:57 PM on September 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


pro tip, the actual weight is in kilos, which is a smidge over 50lbs. (but it's getting checked more carefully these days)

A duffel bag is can hold the most for the least amount of baggage weight.
posted by sammyo at 2:57 PM on September 18, 2016


I would go with plastic crates rather than cardboard boxes if at all possible. This crate is very close to your size limit.

Anything you pack needs to be openable by the TSA, so I wouldn't strap anything shut in a way that the TSA would need to cut to open…and even if you use a reclosable strap, it's entirely possible they'll overlook that fact at cut it anyhow. I'd probably use nylon webbing with side-release buckles that you can tighten to hold shut the plastic crates.
posted by adamrice at 3:01 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Rubbermaid ActionPacker is the standard thing that field scientists use when we need to fly with outdoors gear. It is very tough, meets the maximum allowable size, will stay shut with the built-in clips, and is lockable with a TSA-approved lock if you wanted to do that. Assuming your backpacking gear and record player are of decent quality, you really probably want to invest in something to protect them in flight.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:15 PM on September 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've used this duffel bag to move overseas and back. With two of them, plus my carry ons, I was able to fit everything. Just $60 a piece and they come in handy for other things (skiing, camping etc.) all the time.
posted by chiefthe at 3:19 PM on September 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


If your stuff is able to be packed in suitcases, you can buy big suitcases for super cheap at your local goodwill or Salvation Army. I've done this when moving before.
posted by MsMolly at 3:36 PM on September 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


For your backpacking pack, REI sells a duffel specifically for your pack. Check dimensions, just in case.
posted by umwhat at 3:57 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would go with duffels. They're real cheap as far as luggage goes, and way sturdier than boxes.

If you decide to go with boxes, double box your shit; for example if you are shipping a 13x13x13 box, pack all your shit into a 12x12x12 box, and toss newspaper or packing paper between to make a buffer. This seems like overkill, but you have no idea the wanton destruction that befalls anything without handles in the baggage system.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:59 PM on September 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Best way I've found to transport backpacking stuff is in either your bag or a large military duffel bag. They are made to pack everything in, are incredibly sturdy, and close with a solid metal clip that doesn't burst no matter how much you squish in.

I'd recommend against doing this with a hiking backpack, doubly so if you are filing it to the brim/bursting. The only time I've lost luggage [contents] on a flight was when I checked my hiking backpack (filled full) and it got checked by the TSA folks after it was checked. I'm guessing they wouldn't or couldn't devote the time it took to get everything back in there and closed up securely. Maybe it was the closures being a bit unorthodox, who knows. Which led to me losing quite a few, very not cheap, pieces of gear. TSA Claim process was unfruitful.

If you aren't packing it slap full, fine, corb is 100 percent right.
posted by RolandOfEld at 4:25 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think it is a bad idea to try to pack that record player unless you are going to be packing a solid container solidly so that there is no unpadded movement. If you wouldn't feel comfortable throwing that package five feet across concrete, then it probably won't survive the move.

I say this with a lot of experience moving myself in the manner you are moving yourself back and forth from Alaska.

I think the RubberMaid Actionpacker is a great idea. I have used those big RubberMaid bins all taped up. However, the tape is ALWAYS cut and retaped when flying.

My suggestion: Army duffel packed to the gills with stuff that could be dropped loose from a height. That record player needs to be packed really carefully in it's own container, if not possible then mailed. And I mean REALLY carefully. The mail can be just as unforgiving. They broke my carefully packed Corningware dishes and those things are practically made of diamond.
posted by Foam Pants at 4:37 PM on September 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Assuming the record player isn't too big, I would personally take it as carry-on. Find a nice box or plastic crate that it fits in easily, and fill all the empty space with clothes. Otherwise, I would definitely double box it. Storage places and large stationary stores have good strong boxes that are generally easy to find out the dimensions of.

For the rest, I'd keep an eye out for large second hand suitcases. Unless your stuff is very light (bedding for example), you will probably max out the weight before you max out the volume.

Also, try to have a friend with you at both ends of the trip. It's hard work travelling with lots of luggage by yourself.
posted by kjs4 at 5:11 PM on September 18, 2016


I just wanted to hop in to say that I really am not a fan of the idea of putting cams into the belly of a plane in a duffel or other soft case, from a safety perspective.
posted by kickingtheground at 5:36 PM on September 18, 2016


To get cardboard boxes that exactly match the total dimensions, get strong boxes that are just slightly larger, and then when you fold down and seal up the top flaps razor down each corner to take off say 1 or 2 inches in height to bring it under the limit while keeping the max volume.
posted by Gotanda at 7:43 PM on September 18, 2016


Also, use a baggage wrapping service at the airport. Here's one in SFO.
posted by Gotanda at 7:46 PM on September 18, 2016


My wife and I moved overseas in 6 of these: Contico Storage Locker (though they were a whole lot cheaper when we got them -- there may be other sources/options that are essentially the same).

It's basically "Army Footlocker" dimensions, which can be checked on any airline worldwide (Fedex and DHL also both accept them). The plastic is lightweight enough but sturdy enough, and the thing is big enough that it's pretty easy for them to get overweight. A fat zip-tie through the lock-hasp will keep it shut through a lot of abuse.

My only real complaint is that while there are wheels, there's not a good handle to actually wheel the things comfortably. The molded-in handles on the side are great for carrying it, but not for wheeling it any distance.
posted by toxic at 9:14 PM on September 18, 2016


I would ship the record player via FedEx, packed at a FedEx location by their shipping person who knows how to properly pad it. And I'd get the insurance. Depending on the value of the record player, I might consider selling it and buying a new one when I got where I was going.

The airline will destroy your record player.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:20 PM on September 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


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