“It’s not heavy, it’s just awkward….”
Are you traveling for the holidays, and want to take a hoop (or five) with you? Me, too. Naturally. Who wants to be without at least a hoop or two, especially when there are festivities to attend, young (and old) family members with whom to hoop, and stress to relieve, right? Now, we know that moving through the world with plastic circles is no big deal, as they may be large, but they are lightweight and can be easily moved and tucked in various nooks. But not everyone else shares that perspective. So here are some tips for making your airline travel with hoops as easy as possible, particularly during the busiest, most crowded travel time of the year.
We have several options for getting our hoops to our destinations via airplane, and having asked for input from many hooper travelers, there is no clear consensus as a favorite. Some take them as carry-on, some gate-check them, and some check them as baggage. Generally, if you’re traveling with hoops, get to the airport earlier than you would otherwise. If you’re traveling with more than one hoop, it’s best to tie them all together using a scarf, sarong, bandana, or the like, or tape them together, so they are easier to move as one unit, and so they stay as compact as possible. And don’t be surprised if airline personnel or even airport security ask you to hoop.
CARRY-ON: The simplest option for plane travel is to take with you only collapsible hoops (those that break down into four or more sections or those that fold down/collapse into a figure eight, to ¼ the original size). You want only hoops that when collapsed are small enough to fit in the overhead carry-on bin or under the seat in front of you—which means when collapsed, the hoop(s) needs to be no larger than 22 x 14 x 9 inches. It’s always a good idea to check with the individual airline on which you plan to travel for its specific carry-on dimensions.
I have affixed a collapsible hoop to my small carry-on backpack using one of the backpack straps, then once on the plane, taken the hoop off the backpack, placed it on the bottom of the overhead bin, and placed my carry-on bag on top of it. No sweat except an extra few seconds for this operation.
The advantage to the carry-on strategy, of course, is you don’t have to worry about others possibly mishandling and damaging your hoop in transit, and if you have some time in between flights and adequate space, you have your hoop with you so you can hoop right there in the airport.
The only downside with this plan is that you may be confronted with smaller-than-expected carry-on compartments, and then it’s a bit of a crapshoot. Also, you can’t feasibly take more than one or two hoops with you as carry-on. Just be sure to uncoil folding collapsible hoops as soon as possible to prevent them being coiled up too long, which can distort their shape.
GATE-CHECKED: Others swear by gate-checking their hoops, the same thing many people do with strollers. When handing your boarding pass to the gate agent to board the plane, ask him or her for a gate check ticket for your hoop(s), affix it to your hoop and keep the stub; then, leave your hoop at the gate door at the far end of the jetway ramp (with any strollers), just before getting on the plane. When you land, reclaim your hoop at the gate door on the far end of the next jetway when deplaning each flight. The advantage to this method is you still have your hoops with you most of the time, and you don’t necessarily need collapsible hoops. Just don’t forget to pick up your hoop in each jetway.
Note: Some of us have been lucky enough to carry our full-size, non-collapsed hoops right onto the plane, myself included. As one hooper explained, “You carry it like you’re getting on the plane and right before you step into the seating area the flight attendant might be willing to put it somewhere else. If so, you get it right when you get off.” I did this flying en route to and from HoopCamp this year and it worked, but it doesn’t always. During the holidays it is even more of a gamble as the decision to allow you take the hoop into the plane’s seating is subject to the attendants’ discretion. If you are trying this option, still be ready to have to check your hoop(s), and possibly at the last minute.
CHECKED BAGGAGE: Finally, others swear by checking their hoops as baggage. “I always check mine,” says one hooper. “You can use a snuggie bag, or I’ve also wrapped them up with Saran Wrap.”
Some people use a “Hoop Huggie/Snuggie” for any/all transport of their hoops, a big loose bag of sorts with a hole with elastic in the middle; you can fit a lot of hoops in this. This gives you an excuse to make or buy yet one more thing related to hooping! Make your own beautiful, funky snuggie, or buy one online.
Others have been using the Saran Wrap method for years. One hooper recommended taking as many hoops as you want of the same size and using the plastic wrap to bind them together, as if you were “taping them together, only with plastic wrap as your tape. It sticks to itself. Security can see through it so they won’t disturb your hoops and by taking more they’re less likely to wind up broken or bend by baggage handlers.”
The advantages to checking your hoops are multifold: 1) you are prepared up front to hand off your hoops to others, so you will have already wrapped or covered and tied them before getting to the airport, protect them adequately. 2) You can take many hoops with you. 3) Once you hand the hoops off at baggage check, you are free from the hassle of transporting them until you claim them again at your destination airport.
A drawback to this is you will probably have to pay to check your hoops—probably $25, the average per piece of luggage on most airlines now, though Southwest Airlines still allows each passenger two pieces of checked luggage free of charge, and if you have an American Express card, some airlines allow you one checked bag free of charge. Again, check with the airline on which you plan to travel. Another drawback is you have no idea to what sort of handling your hoops will be subjected in the underbelly of the airplane and airports.
Shares one hooper, “I just took mine [a collapsible] to Fiji in carry-on, and my feedback is this: try to put it in checked luggage. Otherwise, it’s sticking out of your carry on and catches on things. I left via LAX [Los Angeles Airport] and with the shooting there recently, they were considering not letting me carry it on because it might be a weapon (a neon orange weapon!). If you do carry on, tie the pieces together with something grippy, like veggie rubberbands. I used velcro strips and they wanted to slip off.”
REMEMBER TO SOMEHOW LABEL YOUR HOOP with your name and contact information. Regardless of what method you choose, be sure to affix some sort of label to your hoop(s) with your contact information, just in case. As one traveler mentioned, “I made a hoop bag that I can put my collapsible hoops in, and I checked them when I flew to Costa Rica and they were fine. Make sure you wrap the wicks of a fire hoop in plastic. I also left a note with my cell number explaining that it was circus performance tools and to contact me if they had any concerns. I also had other fire spinning gear in the bag.”
There we go! Hoopy holiday travel!