Traveling with bowling balls may not be the definition of routine travel, but that does not mean it has to be difficult. Depending on the distance you need to travel, the amount of equipment you require, and your budget, traveling with bowling balls can be figured out with a little preparation and patience.
If speed or long distance is an issue, flying may be the best option to get you and your bowling balls to your next tournament. If convenience is the most important concern, shipping your bowling ball may be an option, too. Of course, the simplest solution may already be sitting in your driveway.
Despite the planes, trains, and automobiles, traveling with bowling balls does not have to be a comedy of errors. Follow the simple advice outlined below to make the best choice for your travel needs.
Bowling Balls in the Sky – Can Bowling Balls be Carried on a Plane?
Air travel is already one of the most stressful forms of travel. With long lines, delays, and crowded cabins, adding bowling balls into the mix has the potential for headaches. If you must fly with your bowling balls, it is best to know the basic policies of your airline and security regulations.
The obvious concern is weight and room. A bowling ball is not the smallest item in your luggage, and it is almost certainly the single heaviest item. If you normally compete with multiple bowling balls, you either have to compromise by paring down your selection of balls or be prepared to pay over-weight fees. Follow some basic guidelines for packing and you might just make it to your destination with no issues.
First, plan on packing your bowling balls in your checked luggage. All airlines consider cabin areas to be premium space so they are cracking down on oversized carry-on items. Your bowling ball may very well fit in the overhead compartment, but are you willing to risk a nervous flight attendant who forces you to gate check your ball when it is not properly packed? Probably not.
Don’t take your chances and just plan to put your bowling balls in a checked piece of luggage. That will also give you the room to secure the ball between cushioning items like clothes or blankets. You do not need any sort of special bag for your bowling balls as long as they fit snuggly in a bag you already own. Feel free to pack your bowling shoes in your carry-on so you won’t lose them if your luggage is delayed.
Most airlines now have a one-checked-bag policy, so you may have to pay the hefty extra bag fee to accommodate all of your bowling balls. Some airlines, most notably Southwest, still allot two free checked bags. That may be plenty of space and weight limits to accommodate clothes, bowling equipment, and other necessities without paying extra.
Second, consider which of your accessories are necessities. Rosin bags, slide aides, and hand conditioners will need to be packed in small plastic baggies to clear security. Ball cleaning solutions and some blister sealers will have to stay at home because of potentially flammable materials. Just add them to your pre-competition shopping list.
Third, security checks at airports are always a guessing game. Internet message boards are filled with horror stories of bowling balls sawed in half to check for explosives or dropped by careless screeners. Just because airline policies clearly permit flying with bowling balls within the normal baggage restrictions does not mean every ticket agent, security officer, and the flight attendant will be accommodating.
The Transportation Security Administration specifically acknowledges that bowling balls are allowed under their sporting equipment baggage policy. However, just because an item is permitted does not mean that you are in for smooth sailing (or flying, in this case). Bowling balls are not the most common freight, so be prepared for delays and extra questions. Plenty of people fly regularly with their bowling equipment, but that doesn’t mean every trip is routine.
Finally, take every precaution when you check your bowling balls in your luggage. Before you let the ticket agent send your bowling balls away on the conveyer belt, take pictures of each ball for easy identification.
Make sure you include images of the bag and baggage ticket, too. If worse comes to worst and you have to make a lost baggage claim, the more information you have the better. Those photos can also serve as evidence if your bowling balls arrive damaged in any way. Pretty much every airline on the planet claims they are not responsible for damage to sporting equipment like bowling balls if they are in checked luggage, though, so make sure you are aware of the risks.
Bowling Balls in a Box – Shipping Bowling Balls
Just because you need to board a plane to reach your destination doesn’t mean you bowling balls need to. In fact, it is often easier to ship your bowling balls and other equipment straight to your hotel instead of dealing with the hassles of airports and baggage policies.
Shipping bowling balls is less complicated than you may initially think, but it does take some preparation. As with any other shipment, it is best to arrive at your shipper of choice with an idea of the weight, extra packaging, and accurate address for your bowling balls.
As evidence of the popularity of shipping bowling balls, the United States Bowling Congress has partnered with the guys in the big brown trucks to create Bowling Ball Express. They offer an exceptional service at great rates to ship your bowling balls to USBC sanctioned opens and tournaments.
Conveniently, they also offer detailed instructions on how to pack for shipments of one, two, or four bowling balls. Generally, you need boxes that are specifically designed to hold bowling balls. If you are shipping multiple bowling balls in one box, the box needs dividers. Liners should be used to prevent scratches and movement during transit.
Also, do not be tempted by extra costs like packing peanuts or bubble wrap. The proper box, liner, and clear labeling should be enough to get your bowling balls to your destination safely and on time. You should definitely refer to the USBC Bowling Ball Express website if you are thinking about shipping your bowling balls.
Shipping bowling balls isn’t rocket science, though. As with all your other specialty bowling ball needs, your local pro shop is your best friend. Check with them to see if you can take any extra boxes from their bowling ball deliveries. If they don’t have extras, they almost certainly sell boxes and liners to safely secure your ball.
Boxes come in different sizes to accommodate one bowling or as many as four balls with dividers between them. A four-ball box may also have room for ball bags if packed correctly. UPS, FedEx, and the United States Postal Service can all accommodate shipping bowling balls with little trouble.
One of the biggest perks of shipping your bowling balls instead of checking them in your airline baggage is the ability to buy insurance for your equipment in case of loss or damage. Most carriers offer a baseline insured value around five hundred dollars with the option of insuring for more.
Be sure to locate the tracking number on your shipping receipt so you can monitor your bowling balls on every leg of their journey. This peace of mind will take some of the stress off your travel and let you focus on strikes when you arrive at the lanes.
Bowling Balls on the Ground – Car and Train Travel with Bowling Balls
Sometimes the easiest option for traveling with your bowling balls is to keep them with you the whole time. If your next competition is within driving distance, toss your bowling balls and other equipment in the trunk. Car travel with bowling balls is certainly less nerve-wracking than sending them through airport security or packing them in a box for their own independent journey.
Still, traveling with bowling balls requires some basic preparation. Be sure to pack each bowling ball securely either in your suitcase, an appropriate box with a protective liner, or a specialized bowling ball bag. Visit your local pro shop to check out bags for individual bowling balls or even bags that will accommodate up to four bowling balls.
Just remember you will have to lift that thing yourself. Most travel bags for bowling balls have extra padding for bumps along the road, and many feature wheels and retractable handles like carry-on luggage. If you plan to travel with your bowling balls regularly, don’t skimp on the bag.
A loose wheel, broken handle, or torn ball pocket may ruin your trip. Once your bowling ball is in your car, make sure to place it in the floorboard or trunk surrounded by something to prevent it from rolling around. Besides the annoying thumping of shifting ball bags, you want to avoid any shuffling that may damage your equipment.
If you live or travel in a region served by trains, traveling with your bowling ball is not nearly as complicated as air travel. Sure, Amtrak has baggage policies like weight limits and size restrictions. However, most trains allow two checked bags with fifty pounds each for free. Additional checked bags are usually only $20 more.
That is a lot of luggage for a little dough. Each passenger is also granted a fifty-pound carry-on bag. Without much in the way of security screening or crowds, train travel with your bowling balls is nowhere near the nightmare you may encounter at the airport. If you choose to carry on your bowling balls, remember to stow them somewhere where they won’t fall if the train stops suddenly.
It is not every day that you hoist your bowling balls above your head, so to avoid injury, try to stop your bowling balls under the seat in front of you or in one of the baggage cubbies instead of the overhead bins.
Other Things to Consider
If you are checking your bowling balls, either on a train or a plane, or you are shipping your bowling balls, there is a good chance your bowling balls will endure some colder temperatures. Be sure to allow your bowling balls to warm up before you use them.
Just as your local pro shop is a great resource for packing materials and advice, the pro shop at your destination can also help. Get in touch before your trip to ensure they carry any accessories you may need but that you are not planning on bringing in your bags. If you are shipping your bowling balls, you will probably want to know where you can get new ball boxes just in case the originals do not survive the initial leg of the trip in pristine condition.
If your bowling balls suffer any damage at the hands of others, it can also be calming to know where you can to turn for repairs, resurfacing, or replacements. Other pro shops may have different advice on traveling with bowling balls, too. Bowling builds community so take advantage of those in the know.
Regardless of the method you choose for traveling with your bowling ball, there will be things you forget to consider. Call ahead to your airline, Amtrak, or shipping company and just tell them what you are trying to do. They are likely able to offer you guidance and may even have experience with other customers that have traveled with bowling balls. There is no need to be a pioneering hero trying to figure this out on your own. Ask your travel providers or shipping agents, ask your fellow bowlers, and only choose methods that leave you comfortable at the end of the day.
Bowling is supposed to be fun. If you are planning to travel to bowl, your mental energy should be focused on the pins rather than logistical headaches. While you are bowling, chat with other competitors to see if they have had success traveling with their bowling balls. If one method goes awry, try another. Sometimes the return trip is the best time to try a new travel method because there is less pressure related to time constraints. Hopefully, this article has provided some guidance so that you can make the best chance for your bowling ball travels.