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logistics of air travel...usa to amsterdam

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logistics of air travel...usa to amsterdam

...starting to day dream about cycling amsterdam to uk and isle of lewis...not new to bicycle touring but quite new to air travel with bicycle and gear...all of my tours have either been loops or one way then fly home, and bicycle and gear shipped back home fedx or ups, and all tours were in usa...would like to speak with someone, in detail, about the logistics and planning involved to make this trip happen...usa, fly to amsterdam, hang a bit to take in some scenery and culture, assemble shipped bicycle, attatch gear, cycle to rotterdam or there abouts, ferry to london or there abouts, up the east coast of the uk along the north sea, into scotland, then to urrapool, ferry to stornoway, and the isle of lewis...when i get there i will decide what to do next.. a good convenient way to get bicycle from usa to amsterdam?..other options available?.not looking forward to negotiating my way around a foreign humongus airport terminal with bike box and gear trying to make a connecting does one maneuver thru an airport terminal with a bike box and gear?...i havent flown very much by airplane nor have i visited many airport terminals, but i have never seen a person carrying or otherwise moving a bike box and gear thru the terminal..have made one inquiry about having my bicycle shipped to amsterdam ($600), then shipped back from amsterdam to usa for $800...gulp!.. i have investigated a bicycle shops web site that claims they will ship a bicycle, after you buy it fom them, from their home town of amsterdam to usa for $150 dollars...any info will be helpful but would like to speak or otherwise communicate with someone over a period of time as questions arise..

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Traveling to Europe with bike

We have spent the last 4 summers travelling down the Atlantic coast from Amsterdam to Gibraltar. We have flown our bikes back and forward to the US each year and also shipped and traveled by train with them in Europe.

We have Co Motion bikes with S&S couplings so we can break them down into a legal size case for air travel (62 inches combined dimension). This reduces the cost and difficulty of moving them around.

I would be happy to talk with you and give you the benefit of our experience if you would like to contact me by email. [email protected]

Clive Reeman

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travel case for Co Motion

What do you do with your bike travel case until you fly back?

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Bike Case

Hi Jeff

We have the hotel we stay at the first night or two to assemble bikes, keep them until return if a circle trip or we UPS/FEDEX/DHL the cases to the hotel we have for the last night or two before flying home. Usually email and book hotels upfront and check if they are OK with holding and have always had "no problem" as the answer. This way the rest of our bags and carry on luggage, clothes ect are also waiting. Usually costs about 50 euro per case.


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We have traveled the first 3 years in August/September and this year May/June. Weather wise for you I would suggest June thru September but that far north you could get some bad weather anytime in the window. Do some online searches on rainfall and temps in your window. As you may know "all" Europe goes to the coast camping for August but on a bike you can nearly always get in even if they are busy.


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thru rider

..ok louise, started to pay attention every day to the weather conditions in amsterdam, london and stornoway...counting on cool to cold, and wind and rain from june to october traveling north from london...did not know that many folks vacation along the north sea from july thru september, as a bicycle tourist, arriving to an already filled campground in the usa, i have never been turned a link to the name of a bike shipping company which i do jot have at this moment but intend to investigate further...thanks for response

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Bike Shipping

Mike, You should not rule out using a bike case and flying with the bike either. We have also traveled many times with our full size plastic bike boxes when we have traveled with our regular bikes. They have wheels and you can sling a big duffle bag onto the case with your gear or just get a luggage cart. The shuttle vans or van type taxi can usually fit them. They cost anything from $50 to $200 per travel direction depending on the airline you use.
Clive(Louise is my wife)

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flying with bikes

I have travelled around the world flying with my bike. I think it depends where you are as to how much fuss the airline/check in people make. The first time I went I put it on as it was at Heathrow, as part of my baggage allowance. I was a couple of KG over but given I was off on a world trip with full camp kit within a 20kg allowance the check in people were impressed and didn't levy the charge. The bike had to have the usual pedals off bars turned tyres deflate.

In Asia I just handed it over as it was, as they were not bothered, and much easier for baggage handlers to move as they could be wheeled not carried by them. Oh and my bike went right the way round the world, and home totally intact - not a scratch dint of ding on anything.

Then it was ok to use clear plastic bags, but since then the obsession with bagging and boxing them has taken over. This is where unless it's a hard shell or a clear poly bag the problems arise. BA used to give clear bags out at check in. That way it could be seen as to what it is and not chucked in a general stack of suitcases, crates etc.

Problem with hard shell boxes is their weight if trying to keep in a luggage allowance. It seems the policy some airlines such as BA had as regarding it as separate to your luggage and it went for free as a sports item, has gone.

I am addressing the very issue you have with my trip to NZ for 6 months this year. So here's what I have found out, and my solution

I tried shipping options - OMG!!! The cheapest I got offered was £500 EACH WAY!!!!! (guess that's about $750us), yet these carriers are advertising their services to avoid excess baggage charges, but cost more - wot???

In the end what I discovered was that most airlines will allow you to purchase excess bags, and some have an 'overweight' charge allowing up to 32kg for an item. Even if you get to the airport (it is cheaper pre booked) booking an extra bag works out reasonably cheap. I am going to pay for one extra bag (the bikes - both dismantled to fit into one box, he he) and for it to be registered as overweight as it's over the 23kg standard limit. That's going to cost my a max of about £120 and that's one payment, not each way.

You also need to know there is an international agreement that if using more than one airline company within your ticket it is the airline who you bought the ticket with who's allowances apply both ways. Eg I am going on a BA ticket, but Quantas operate the Sydney- Auckland bit, but it is BA's allowance (better for me). But they will argue the toss sometimes as it makes them money, or the check in people are sometimes genuinly ignorant (one AA person told me I had to buy a box for the bike from them, having already taken it from the UK to NZ and back to San Francisco already without one, when their regulations do not require it to be boxed - a summons to the supervisor settled that!)

Also check the bike box dimension limits as some airlines have limited the dimensions (goodness knows why given they are quite capable of transporting elephants tigers and all sorts of bizzare items!). BA didn't have one, just said if it was 1m max when laid down on the conveyer belt that was fine, as it would go through the belt slot. But some are restricting it to as low as about 70cm, which is daft considering the height of most bike boxes used to supply imported bikes to shops are 1m !! And many of the proprietary bike bags and boxes don't meet this criteria!

When I have used a soft big bag, this is when it had clearly been treated roughly, despite quantities of 'fragile' 'this way up' etc There were quite a number of holes in right through the padded bag

This time it will be interesting to see how well the box survives - i got cardboard bike box from local bike shop - one less for them to dispose of, and has the advantage I could dismantle my bikes enough to get the MTB and touring bike in both boxes (to reduce the hassle of dealing with two bike boxes as well as main bag). I will dispose of the box and get another one from the bike shop in NZ for the return trip.

Not sure if you have contacts who could get you them, if needed, but I am taking a back up bag made by Cyclists Touring Association, and take it along with their page stating it has been designed as a 'propriety bike bag' (airline words). These are huge poly bags into which you can wheel the bike/tandem (yes big enough!). Problem solved - proprietary bike bag, and clear so they can see it's a bike. They are about £7. This is mainly in case there is some issue re the box.

The big issue airlines do not appreciate is the impracticalities of moving on trips, especially where you will not be returning to your starting trip but returning home from another destination, if they insist on bags and boxes in the way they are starting to - even a normal bike bag is not practical to carry!! This is where the clear bags came in handy (especially as you can pick them up easily enough from bed shops etc and don't need to keep the one you set off with if you don't want). One way others have found around this is to take large rolls of cling film (guess the professional kitchen stuff the best), and totally wrapped the bike in this, until completely sealed (but still visibly a bike). One mate who was coming back to the same airport after his ride stashed a roll in the bushes against the airline perimeter fence, and just picked it up and wrapped the bike again before he checked in to go home! he didn't carry it as was on race bike, one small pack for the week, although he probably could have bought some there!

When negotiating through airports I have just chucked the bike, bagged or not onto an airport trolley, which is what I will do with the box - just need more width than usual when passing others in the airport so you don't swipe too many ankles etc!

If you have any other queries and want to know more details re bikes and flying as I know it is a nightmare to sort out.

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thru rider at airport

...heavens!...appreciating your sharing of your experiences even though a bit discouraging...i will bolster up for this endeavor and be determined to proceed...a "worse case scenario" : i have a heart seizure trying to communicate with an airline rep over bicycles on airplanes...another "worse case scenario" : bike not accepted for transport, trip canceled, money lost...i believe i will try the " bike box from local bike shop " approach, or another type of heavy duty, bicycle specific, non plastic cardboard box, call the airline before booking, for weight and size restrictions and extra penalty fees...then try to pack panniers in a separate box or decide if panniers are able to "carry on" knowing full well that some items ( not sure which items, tools, cables, tent stakes, tent poles, spokes, fork, paring knife, cork screw...) will not be permitted except as cargo and not be allowed to be carried on...some of my apprehension arises out of my lack of knowledge and familiararity with airports and their procedures and regulations...certainly hoping that by the time i decide on return trip back to usa, my knowledge and confidence levels will be then, ONWARD, one rotation of the crank, and then another, and another...its good to be here !

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bike and planes

Realised if you are travelling from the USA you often get a two piece allowance, which is a bonus, as then you would have a hold bag the bike and carry on. Not sure since you are going to Amsterdam if you will using KLM and it's US partner airlines, but KLM bike is standard piece of luggage, unless it goes over 23kg, in which case you pre book it as non standard and pay a bit extra.

I am putting the panniers into another bag altogether with my other personal stuff - clothes etc. There are a couple of options - if moving on a large stuff bag type that scrunched down small and could be carried on the bike for the return, or panniers chucked into a clear poly bag(another scrounged item), sealed up with strong duck tape, which can then be binned on arrival and another one scrounged for the return trip. If the luggage is listed as items this is the only way round it when you need 4 panniers to become one!

Tools etc - have to all go in the hold luggage, including pump. I had kept it in my hand stuff one trip to avoid risk of it being damaged, and took forever for the customs to reluctantly agree it to go through - put that was pre terrorism world! One time, a set of allen keys had sneaked into a hidey hole, and there was no way they were letting me take them on. I emptied my bum bag with all my docs etc, stuffed them in my pockets etc, and the allen keys in the bum bag were checked in as main bag!!

Other thing is anything metal in hand baggage shows up under xray as just metallic lump and they can't tell what it is so you have to empty the bag each time-a pain!

I am going to take my bike shoes in hand luggage though (or you could wear them), as I figure buying a new pair is big hassle - cleated, plus sizing and not worn in etc

What I would go for is, even if they stipulate a bag sized dimension in the usual baggage info, phoning them as asking if this applies to bike boxes. It didn't with BA, but some have a bike box size specifically stated separately. Check with them if you are one or two piece. Put the bike into the box and check it's weight. Then assuming bike box under 23kg you will have your bike as one piece, another bag with all the panniers in etc and whatever hand luggage. If only one piece allowance, buy in advance another bag - it's not a penalty, but if book online, it's a per purchase and cheaper than usual silly penalties paid at check in. If the bike is over weight, you just pay the additional overweight payment as well as the extra bag purchase.

All the airlines websites I have looked at have the info, but are not always clear re bikes and sizings etc.

Worst case scenario is that if your bike box goes over dimensions or over 32kg then they will chuck it on a freight service, for which you would pay the prices you were originally quoted for freight, or more, and the bike won't get there the same time as you!!

I have someone dropping me off who can take a knife and duck tape back, as if there is any issue re bike box dimensions, I can do some cutting and taping to get it down to size while protection the bike. If going myself I'd take a disposable knife and leave or take the tape accordingly! As I have had to break the two bikes down substantially to get into one box, although according to my scales it is less than 32kg I can do a bit of juggling with my main bag, and chuck a chainset, pedals, and other small but weighty items into the other bag.

If coming anywhere near the Lake District and want a bed give me a shout - am not going overseas till mid Oct - not got any other hols so should be home between now and then in the main

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thanks mim

...i am planning this trip an entire year in advance..( may, june july 2014 ).just beginning to map a possible route, which could, and has already changed, tallying the miles and beginning to think in kilometers and centigrade, this alone is not an easy task for me....have changed amsterdam from my arrival city to my "time to go home" departure city...choosing glasgow as arrival, then on to oban, a ferry to castle bay, up to stornoway, ferry to ullapool, around to john o groats, down the east coast thru edinburgh toward norwich, at which point i will decide about paris or ferry from near norwich, to near rotterdam, then to amsterdam...i am gathering some useful info and thank you for sharing...your writing and descriptions make things quite easy and enjoyable to read, and visualise, very helpful...thru this planning process, i have learned about myself, that i am more concerned about the " leaving home and arrival in europe" process than the departing europe and arriving in usa, at this point....i have been in contact with sustrans and surf the web for blogs keeping notes and marking my maps, taking daily notice of weather conditions in edinburgh, amsterdam, london and paris...i have been checking airfares and reading the airlines baggage policy, in a few months, i will be contacting some prospective warm showers hosts near glasgow, i suppose i could start directly from the airport if necessary but would like a rest day, or two, upon arrival, call me a sissy..i have realised also that the act of reading and writing are helpful, immensely helpful, to me, for visualising some different and possible scenarios making these scenarios not so terrible...i have very limited experiences with air travel and never have i shipped or flown entire rig and gear, along with myself to a starting last trip was a two month lovely solo adventure from my home in harrisburg pa to key west florida, using warm showers host ( all perfect hosts), campgrounds and cheaper, not always perfect motels and hotels with a hostel or two...then, thru craigslist, responded to a "room mate wanted" ad and things worked out for both parties giving me ample time (one month) to pack and ship entire rig and gear home using fedx and also time to enjoy key west, not caring so much how or when my gear would arrive at my door, just so i got there first...everything worked out fine...i placed my pick up truck in storage and placed my cat sitter into service...both cats gained a little weight (kg) and are now on a diet with only small occasional amounts of sardine and a tad of "half and half" every so often...i intend to look at your profile and familiarise myself with this area you refer to as " lake district "... will more than likely be posting more questions as time passes, concerning my choice of route, as it involves some ferry boat rides which may be seasonal...thanks again mim....michael j lewis, harrisburg pa, usa...

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