We will be taking our first Rick Steves tour and know that carry-on only is strongly recommended. How do people take trekking/walking poles with them and not get crosswise with TSA? Obviously, I could check my bag through, then shrink it down but is there another option? They are not essential, but have very much appreciated them on some of our more strenuous independent trips.
Check with the airline you are flying on to be sure but from what I’ve seen, they must be checked.
When I bring trekking poles I check them. If they have pointy tips, you will have to check them. If you don’t want to check your main bag, just put the poles in a separate bag that you can fold up after you arrive and check that bag,
I consider my trekking poles essential for some trips, so I check a bag. Really the only option other than buying/renting at your destination.
Check with the airline you are flying
Its TSA, not the airline, that has the say on what gets past the security check point.
In 2017, we strapped our hiking poles, with rubber tips attached, to the outside of our carry on rolling backpacks and took them through security and onto the plane. This flight was from Seattle to Zurich, with a stopover in Toronto. In 2018, we flew round trip form Seattle to Frankfort with the same hiking poles and bag arrangement. We never had any trouble going through TSA or getting onto the plane. I plan to do the same arrangement when we fly to Greece this spring, hopefully it will go as smoothly as the first two times! Our hiking poles collapse to 23" and 25".
The TSA web site has a problem at the moment looking up specific items. However is does say in the boiler plate that regardless of what the web site says the final decision is up to the TSA officer at the check point. Best bet ... check them or leave them home. If you get to the check point and the answer is no, the clock will not stop while you go back to the ticket counter, try figure out how to check them as loose luggage and start the whole security process over again.
It doesn’t matter how many people are able to post an anecdote that they were able to bring poles via carryon. TSA rules forbid it. Do you want to be the person standing there at security with your poles either confiscated or you being sent back to check your bag? It happened to me once and it was not pleasant! I learned to simply check my bag when bringing my hiking poles.
Rick Steves Tours could care less about how your bag goes on the airplane ( check vs carryon). They just want to make sure you can manage your own luggage for short distances and up steps.
We pack as carry-on only but never carry-on the plane because of trekking sticks. Every trip. Check your bag on the plane but have it light enough for managing without help up stairs, onto the bus, etc.
The only alternative (unless you want to play TSA roulette and hope they don’t notice) is to buy trekking sticks in Europe. Remember, TSA occasionally lets handguns through, although clearly in error.
Rick Steves company recommends that you fly carry-on mostly so that you are bringing luggage that you can handle (size- and weight-wise) during the trip.
They don’t have any problem with your actually checking a bag in, which is what you will need to do to bring trekking poles with you.
Once you have arrived in Europe, you can affix them back to your bag and get on with it. If you have appreciated the trekking poles before, I am sure you will be glad to have them on the tour.
Trekking poles as a carry-on is a FAQ..
Short answer is "do you feel lucky". Legal answer is:
Carry On Bags: No
Checked Bags: Yes
The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.
We carry multi-section trekking poles in our checked bags.
Another safe option: buy a packing tube (often sold at places that ship or mail things) , big enough for all your trekking poles and nothing else. Put poles in that and check that (probably for the outbound flight only - recycle the tube when you're done with it, and just put the poles in your main bag and check it all on your way home).
I just wanted to add that it is not just the US’s TSA you need to be concerned about. Years ago, I was sent to check in at Charles De Gaulle because I had trekking poles in my carry on.
I would not take them at all. Buy or rent a set at your destination. Or ship yours to your arrival hotel ahead of time.
While carry-on is recommended for tours, it's not compulsory. Many tour members travel with checked luggage, including me, and it's never been a problem. As others have mentioned, the main criteria is that the luggage has to be small enough and a manageable weight so that you can handle it on your own, as there won't be any Porters on a RS tour.
If you absolutely must have your Trekking poles, I would highly recommend using at least one checked bag as that should avoid any problems.
Another anecdote. I have carried on one Hiker Hunger carbon fiber trekking pole on multiple flights in the US and back from Turkey. I literally carried it as a cane. I put it on the security belt, walk through the person scanner and picked up my stick on the other side. No questions, no troubles. I collapse it and put it in the overhead bin once I am on the plane. I am always prepared to give it up, but so far, so good. I used it with a rubber tip indoors and outdoors (except in mosques where I was instructed to not let the tip touch the carpeting).
When I was in the Italian alps, I bought a pair of poles that were more robust for 20 Euros and left them behind in my hotel when I left.
We put ours in a collapsible sports duffle and checked them.
I have been on five Rick Steves tours, and I always check a bag with my trekking poles. I have found it chancy to rely on getting what I want on arrival, greatly prefer having ones with which I have experience.