Tag Archive for Travel Hula Hoops

Traveling With Hoops for the Holidays

hoopsonthego by Marlys Hersey

“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!


marlys Marlys Hersey caught the hooping fever in Spring 2013 and promptly surrendered to it. She started a hoop jam in the Chihuahuan Desert where she lives in Alpine, Texas, USA. She works as a massage therapist, and is Editor/Writer/Co-owner of The Big Bend Gazette. If you want to contribute something to hooping.org, let us know via our submissions page.

The Force is Strong with This One: Traveling with Hula Hoops

Traveling With Hoops by Marlys Hersey

All my worrying about taking my big green polypro hula hoop on the plane en route to HoopCamp turned out to be for nothing. In fact, traveling with a big hoop, it turns out, made the whole traveling process a lot more fun.

Unlike many people, I don’t really mind flying, but there is always the task of getting through security, and getting carry-on stuff on and off each plane. Initially, I planned to take apart my non-collapsible hoop and check it with my other bags (full of camping stuff for ten days of travel in California, to HoopCamp, Big Sur, and beyond), but when I got the El Paso Airport, I just didn’t feel ready to take it apart. My friend Annie, fellow hooper and travel companion to HoopCamp, was with me, and though she did have an easily collapsible hoop, she kept her hoop fully extended, too, “in solidarity.” (After all, we were early for our flight, a rarity; what if we wanted to hoop in the airport pre-boarding?) I think her confidence made all the difference in my daring.

I can’t guarantee this will work for you—I have heard hoopers, musicians, etc., tell stories of harassment by various airport and airline personnel about trying to bring their precious toys onto planes—but we had a magical time with hoops in tow the whole way. It seemed to bring out the best in nearly everyone.

When we check our bags curbside, the Southwest Air representative just nods to our hoops and says, “You might have to gate check those.” That’s it? Might have to gate check our hoops? “Like people do with strollers right before getting onto the plane.” That’s all? No problem.

Next hurdle: getting through the TSA security line, where I fully expect a hassle. Instead, before I even reach the X-ray machine, a TSA agent approaches me, smiling, and asks, “Can I take those hoops through security for you?” As we hand off our hoops, Annie and I exchange glances with eyebrows raised, slight smirks of incredulity. Really? Other TSA agents, also smiling, on the other side of the security screening, hand the hoops back to us, ask if we are performers.

We wander around the airport, checking out the great views of the Franklin Mountains, filling our water bottles, and window shopping. A woman driving one of those people-transport carts in the airport stops to ask about our hoops, says her grandkids have some hoops, but though she hooped as a kid, she just can’t hoop anymore. “That’s because your grandkids’ hoops are too small for you,” we tell her. At our insistence that she try one of our bigger hoops, finally she hops off her cart and hoops with us for a couple of minutes, thrilled to discover she can indeed still hoop. Then she insists we take a ride in her cart: “I tried your toy, now you gotta try mine.” Deal!

Next stop: boarding. The agent takes our tickets, sees the hoops, just smiles and says nothing about them. As we start down the ramp to the plane, Annie and I exchange delighted glances once again. Is this really happening?

Boarding the plane itself, Annie is in front of me, and she simply holds up her hoop, smiles at the greeting flight attendant, and asks him good-naturedly, “What do I do with this?”

“Hmmm, let me think about this,” the attendant responds thoughtfully, smiling right back, and taking the hoop from her. I follow her lead, handing mine off to him as well.

At this point, I am blown away. Now our hoops are their problem? Or rather, the hoops are not a problem? It’s that easy? Whoda thunk it.

We find seats mid-plane, and see our flight attendant making his way to the back of the plane with our hoops. We have no idea where he puts them. “Never again,” proclaims Annie, our new tongue-in-cheek motto. No collapsing these hoops; let’s see just how far we can take them, fully extended, into this rabbit hole.

Funnier still, word is out: throughout our flight, other flight attendants stop at our aisle to greet us, ask if we’re hoop performers, make jokes about how the other attendants are surely playing with our hoops in secret somewhere in the back of the plane during the flight.

Admittedly, it helps that I am traveling with Annie; she chats people up and makes friends easily wherever we go with her genuine curiosity, humor, and playfulness; perhaps the hoops simply prime others to expect that kind of good nature from us, and to respond in kind?

We have a stopover and plane change in Las Vegas, and responses in the airport and getting onto the next plane are equally positive. “Are you guys hula hoop masters?” a fellow traveler asks in reverential tone. Hardly, but it’s sure nice to be given that benefit of the doubt.

About to de-plane in San Jose, California, we wait for a flight attendant to bring our hoops back to us at the front of the plane when another attendant jokes, “You waiting for your hoops? Yah, me too: every flight.”

Pilots come out of the cockpit and ask (only jokingly, I’m sorry to report) if they can borrow our hoops.

On the return plane trip, I am flying with my husband, Waters (Annie returned to Texas several days prior.). Going through security, just as we have finished going through the X-ray machine and gathering our stuff and putting our shoes back on, I ask a TSA agent for my hoop back. She holds my big green polypro up in the air, looks at me, frowns sternly, and says “Uh, yah… It’s just that we have strict regulations about these…. [Long pause.] You have to perform for us!” She breaks into a big smile and hands my hoop back to me, wishes me safe travel. I kid you not.

As I sit down in an aisle seat on the plane, the passenger in the window seat in my row says to me, “I have been flying my whole life, and never have I seen someone bring a hula hoop on a plane. I just posted this on Facebook!” Turned out she was an air traffic controller on furlough during the government shutdown.

By traveling with a hoop, we’re a bit like Obi Wan Kenobi, and the Force is strong with us. Remember that scene in Star Wars? The one in which Obi Wan, with young Luke Skywalker by his side, tells Darth Vader’s stormtroopers on the planet Tattooine that “We’re not the ones you’re looking for,” and, even though they are exactly who the stormtroopers are looking for, Obi Wan, with sheer confidence backed by special power from the good side of the Force, convinces them of the opposite? And then he and his companions move with ease right into the bar, exactly where they want to go? Traveling with a hoop is magical like that.

Maybe even a little better.

(Photo credit goes to Red and Johnny. See their 2007 photo posting for more info).


marlys Columnist Marlys Hersey caught the hooping fever in Spring 2013 and promptly surrendered to it. She started a hoop jam in the Chihuahuan Desert where she lives in Alpine, Texas, USA. She works as a massage therapist, and is Editor/Writer/Co-owner of The Big Bend Gazette.

Abby Taylor on Australia’s ABC Open

Abby Taylor Even though Abby Taylor is originally from Baltimore, Maryland, USA, she’s all about staying on the move! In fact, these days the best place to find her is down under. After moving to Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, eighteen months ago to become a nanny, the second most populated inland city with only 157,000 residents, Abby created both a foldable hula hoop and bicycle so she can get around town and hoop pretty much everywhere that she goes. Abby exclaims, “I’ve got instant dance, instant music, and instant mobility.” It’s the mobility that she needs these days too being someone who isn’t used to staying put. She told ABC, that eighteen months “might not sound long, but for someone who hasn’t lived in any place for more than five months in the last five years it’s kind of a big deal!”

Abby’s hooping resulted in her spinning into the orbit of ABC Open as well, a project of the Australian Broadcasting Company of Southern Queensland that showcases individuals telling viewers about hobbies and projects they are personally passionate about. With an eye for the “wacky”and interesting, it wasn’t too surprising that there was interest in her love of the circle. In her short ABC Open interview piece she really tells people about the joy of hooping and why she fell in love with it. “In Toowoomba I’m probably one of the only ones who does it. In other places in the world it’s more usual, but there is a bunch of aspiring circus kids in town who are practicing hooping.” Abby says she loves the freedom and artistic expression that comes with hooping, even though her current city of residence is a little slower-paced than she’s used to. “There’s nobody on the streets after 6pm!” she laughs. The music she’s hooping to, for those who are interested, is called “Dancehall Queen” by Sampology featuring DJ Butcher and Beenie Man, and you can get a copy of it for yourself on iTunes.

Collapsible Hula Hoops vs. Standard

Collapsable 002 There’s been a lot of buzz in the hooper community about collapsible hoops — hoops that are actually four or six segments connected by a ring of bungee cord inside. They’re similar to tent poles, with the bungee cord helping to snap the segments into place. With all the buzz, the question remains: how does a collapsible compare to a standard hoop?

Advantages of Collapsible: The biggest advantage of collapsible hoops is that they’re portable. They fit in backpacks and suitcases and are easy to travel with…whether that’s flying, biking, or riding a bus. They’re also nicer if you’re dealing with navigating a crowd, like at a concert or other large gathering.

There’s also a certain undeniable coolness of having an stealth hoop. One minute you look like you’ve just got a quiver of arrows on your back, and then next minute you’re a hooping hero!

Collapsable 001 Most obviously, they’re more expensive because they’re much more time consuming to make. You can get a nicely wrapped standard hoop for $25 to $30, but a collapsible is going to set you back at LEAST $50. Or you can try making your own — but it’s tough.

Also, some (but not all) collapsibles have joints prone to disconnecting while you hoop. It sucks to be really building up some speed and heading into a really cool trick only to find that your hoop is suddenly an oval — and those joints can pinch that delicate belly-skin! OUCH!

And! The bungee cords inside collapsible hoops doesn’t last forever. Eventually you’ll have to restring the hoop. That’s not a big deal, but when was the last time you had to restring a standard hoop?

My personal opinion? Unless you need a collapsible for traveling, standard hoops are usually a better choice. They’re less expensive, more durable, and more stable for tricking. Don’t get lured by simple hooper gear-lust: for most purposes, a standard hoop is still the best hoop.