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Walking Sticks in carry-on luggage?

I typically check luggage for my independent European travels and pack my two fold-up walking sticks, but am planning to go on a Rick Steves tour and take the required carry-on only. My question is- has anyone packed walking sticks in their carry-on luggage and had an issue going through security? I had read years ago they were not allowed, but am wondering if that has changed. Thanks for responding about your experience.

Posted by
6274 posts

Technically, they are not allowed, pursuant to the TSA website. Here is a link to what they say. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/hiking-poles

In reality, it depends on the TSA worker - they may or may not let it go by, but you are taking a risk of losing them by putting them in carry-on. Most people here seem to be putting them in checked bags or they are buying a pair at their destination.

I'm a little confused, though. Why can't you check your carry-on? Rick Steves doesn't arrange the flights, I don't think. Am I missing something?

Posted by
2368 posts

I have checked a bag for every RS tour I have taken (7 so far). The only actual requirement is being to handle your luggage yourself.
And yes, trekking/walking poles are not allowed in carry on.

Posted by
6788 posts

Yeah, there's nothing "required" about carry-on bags.

The tours will indeed require you to carry whatever bag(s) you choose to bring along - but if you want to schlepp along a big, heavy steamer trunk, that's up to you. They won't care (because, frankly, it's not their problem, it'll be your problem as you navigate tight places).

Of course, many people try (and sometimes try very hard) to get by with just a small "carry-on" sized bag -- both on their flights, and while on a tour. But there's nothing stopping you from checking a bag at times if that works best for you.

Walking sticks/hiking poles may or may not pass the TSA inspection. I'd check them to avoid the risk of them getting rejected at the TSA checkpoint. There are lots of ways to make this work.

Posted by
291 posts

Thanks everyone for your responses. I have never taken a RS tour, but was under the impression I was required to take nothing larger than a carry-on on the tour, which I would prefer not to do, given the option. I would never check a carry-on because by-passing the luggage wait at the baggage claim, to me, is one of the the benefits of having a carry-on. Now that I know I have the option of taking a larger suitcase, I will plan on doing that. I have tried packing lighter, but for a 2 week trip, I don't think I can do a carry-on & a back-pack. Also, this way I can buy lots of pistachio cream to take home in a checked bag. Some habits are hard to change!

Posted by
8421 posts

alohalover,

I have a bad knee. So sometimes I have traveled with one folding walking stick in my carryon (actually strapped to the outside so it is visible to TSA). I point it out and tell the screeners its a medical device, not sports gear. It has rubber tip, not a spear point: that point makes a difference. I've not had it taken away yet, domestic or international. But since i always check a bag for the return flight i pack it in that on the way home. But I also know that they are pretty readily available over there, (thats where I got mine at a cheap souvenir shop).

And yes, Ricks advice is to limit your luggage to carryon size to make it easier to get around. But the doesnt mean they'll throw you off the tour. You'll see most people end up buying souvenirs and such that add to the luggage they take. There are times when checking the bag on your flight make sense.

edit: Not sure what you mean. If the carryon you were planning on taking is already the max size the airline allows, then any bigger size bag will have to be checked.

PS, what many of us do, is pack an extra empty duffle bag (or get one there) that we pack our souvenir liquids and other such stuff for checking on the return flight.

Posted by
2368 posts

I'm not sure I understand your point about not checking a carry on. Not that it matters if I understand, of course!

For instance, I have a 22" roller bag, which is considered carry on, and I have used it as such on occasion, but I check it for International trips, including RS tours. As my carry on for those trips I use a rolling backpack. It's quite easy to handle both by myself on the tours.

Posted by
291 posts

Thank you Stan and LizinPA for your replies. Stan, you were especially helpful with your explanation of what you do with your walking sticks. I have pricey sticks I purchased at REI that I would hate to have confiscated. I never thought of buying them at my destination.

As far as not checking a carry-on sized bag, I just meant that if I limit myself to that small a bag for a long trip, one of the benefits for me would be to bring it on the plane, and not go through the hassle (to me) of checking it. I am always concerned that my checked bag won't make it to its final destination, especially with the current mess at many airports. When I was in Montreal last week, there was still a pile-up of luggage to be claimed. My friend told me today it took 31 days to get her luggage returned to her from a trip this summer. I am priority and always travel business class internationally, so I get the orange sticker on my checked bag, but I no longer think that makes any difference as to whether a bag makes it to where you want it to go.

Posted by
6274 posts

You might consider getting an AirTag (if you have an iPhone or iPad) to put in your luggage. It really brings peace of mind because you can track your bag wherever it is. I used it on my recent trip to Germany and it worked very well.

If you don't have an Apple product, there are some other trackers that will work with Androids.

Posted by
17854 posts

I haven't had problems with my 9 foot fly rod and hazardous barbed hooks yet. Guess I should ask before the next trip.

Curious, how many people on a RS tour have had to walk more than 200 feet on a relatively flat surface from bus to checkin counter?

Posted by
6788 posts

The tours all require at least some modest walking (and not just from a bus to the check-in counter); some of them involve quite a LOT of walking.

Posted by
470 posts

We always check a carry- on size suitcase, both outbound and inbound. We just don’t like the scrum of carting luggage through airports, scrambling for overhead bin space etc. The RS tour leaves your choice of luggage up to you.
RS tours do require you to be responsible for your own luggage. Since most RS hotels are in city centers/ down small streets the tour bus cannot drop you within 200 feet. Usually you have a bit of a trek with your luggage, up and down hills and over a lot of cobblestones. Many of the RS hotels do not have elevators, so you may be taking your luggage up and down several flights of stairs. Transport to where the tour begins and after the tour is over is your responsibility. The distance to the airport check- in desk depends on how you chose to get there. We take public transport whenever it is feasible, but if we have a very early morning flight we take a cab. Regardless of transport, some airports still entail a bit of a hike.
For all those reasons it is prudent to travel as lightly as you can. Not a requirement, just good advice.

Posted by
5579 posts

I have been on exactly one RS tour (Rome). I would say there was a moderate amount of walking. ALong with our independent sightseeing, I was walking at least 10 miles a day. There was only one day that I would have potentially wanted walking sticks (Ostia Antica). It would really depend on the tour you are doing. If you are going to Switzerland, then perhaps walking sticks would be helpful. I have horrible knees. I debated this whole walking sticks/cane TSA allowability when I went to Sicily this past spring. I ended up bringing a cane. I pulled it out when going through airport security. It was not an issue. In my research, I came to the conclusion that I wouldn't want to risk losing my REI walking sticks in a carry on bag. Canes are generally not an issue on a carry on. I also do not risk checking a bag at the start of our trips since we don't generally stay in the city we've arrived in. It would be a huge hassle if our luggage was delayed.

EDITED TO ADD: We've had luggage delayed 3 times in our travels over the years. We travel a lot, so really, we've done quite well. HOWEVER, the first time our luggage was delayed, it was our honeymoon and we were without bags for 3 days in the Carribean. The second time was a ski trip. We flew into Denver and drove to Steamboat. With 4 kids. All our bags were delayed. Ski clothes and equipment. 2 days later, Delta had them delivered to Steamboat after we had gone out and rented clothes and equipment. The 3rd time our bags were delayed was a return trip from Europe. Not a huge deal because it was at the end of the trip. In any case, these experiences and the fact that we don't stay long in our arrival city, means I am not willing to check my luggage at the start of the trip. It probably does make quite a difference for folks that fly direct/nonstop to your destination. This is typically not what we are able to do from MN.

I own walking sticks and use them on hikes. I've decided for the most part, I'm happier using only one. For Sicily, in the cities and walking through the ruin sites, I felt the cane was the right choice.

Posted by
4151 posts

Mister E, that walking frequently involves steep inclines and/or stairs both up and down without any kind of handrail. All while carrying or pulling your own luggage.

Alohalover, there is usually at least one place on an RS 2-week tour where you can do laundry or have it done for you. The rest of the time most of us sink wash in locations where we're going to be long enough (2-3 nights) that it will dry. That's cumbersome and a bit of a PITA, but it works.

There are numerous discussions about packing light on this packing forum. Everyone has their own formulas for that and they vary by destination and weather forecast. I basically pack for a week no matter how long I'll be gone.

As for the walking sticks, I've taken one or both in my carry on before, with a note from my orthopedist, rubber tips on them and spare rubber tips in their bag with them.

This summer I was going to pack them in my carry-on and check it, and then the airport luggage pile ups started happening. So I got a small duffel and put them in it along with some other extras for my 5-week trip (2 on an RS tour and the rest on my own). I figured that if they didn't make it, or if any of the other things didn’t, it wouldn't be as big of a deal as if my main bag (38L 2-wheeled Osprey Ozone Global) didn't.

But my walking sticks are ones I got on sale from Eddie Bauer and probably much cheaper than yours, plus I have another pair, so my commitment to them is likely much less than yours is to your walking sticks.

Much to my delight my little bright orange duffel made it all the way to Dublin via Heathrow on British Airways and Aer Lingus. I used them on the tour, but I found that I really didn't need them anywhere I went on it or on my own in Dublin and Wales. Something for me to think about next year.

Posted by
8340 posts

Mr E(James E). You made me laugh out loud with that ridiculous stereotype that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I am currently on a RS tour and have been tracking my walking over the last 10 days. I’m averaging 6 miles a day with 8 miles my top day so far. Most of my tour mates are either as active or more active……,

OP. I packed my hiking poles and checked the bag. I’ve only used them once so far and could probably have made it ok without them.

Posted by
626 posts

Huh, I've obviously been lucky this year, been RT from SFO to ARN Sweden twice, missed one flight, rebooked out of FRA & my bag arrived with me both directions. Go figure. I had to RUN through FRA to make a connection, it would have been impossible with carry-on, so why chance that?
Love the idea of buying walking sticks / whatever extra you need when you arrive, as long as you have time.
Hopefully it's becoming less chaotic now that summer vacations are over, but here are some tips. (Seriously, an airport greeter?? LOL.) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-07-26/seven-commonsense-ways-to-avoid-airport-chaos-in-summer-2022?leadSource=uverify%20wall

Posted by
6113 posts

I always check a bag and rarely have to wait more than 10 minutes for it - it’s often on the carousel before I have got through passport control.

Posted by
8421 posts

Well, I recognize that the difference between a walking stick and a cane is semantics. But much of the value for me is being able to lean on it when standing for extended periods of time, as in queues or in museums. I think I bought mine in a gift shop in Varenna for 10€. If they ever dont make it past security, it wont be a great loss.

Posted by
237 posts

There is a difference between a walking stick and a cane. The terms get used interchangeably, but they serve different purposes.

I wondered why a "stick" was not allowed but a "cane" was when it just seemed like the difference was the shape of the handle, so I googled it and found this.

"A walking stick is a device that can provide some support and balance. However, technically speaking, it’s an accessory and not a mobility aid. A walking stick is made for temporary use. For instance, during mountain hiking and other outdoor adventures. Again, it isn't designed to transfer your body weight from the affected parts to your upper body."

"A walking cane is a mobility aid that supports a user's body weight. Acting like a crutch, it distributes the weight on your affected leg to your upper body. This results in effortless movement. In the United States, one-in-ten adults above sixty-five years rely on canes to move around. In addition, canes are made for long-term use as a popular mobility aid for the elderly."

Here is the website. https://riverwalkingsticks.com/blogs/page/walking-sticks-vs-canes

My walking stick has a choice of rubber tips that screw on. Is that screw considered a "pointy tip" making my stick unacceptable for carry-on?

Posted by
17854 posts

Carol, I walk my arse off too when traveling. I was asking about from the bus to the check in counter, when you have to carry/drag luggage.

The only RS hotels I know anything about are in Bpest, and if the bus isn't parked at the front door the driver is pulling a prank.

I suppose I will end up with sticks some day. One on each side to steady me at the bar after a long day of walking.

But, everyone should do what ever it takes to make their trip more personally enjoyable and if that's a 4kg packing limit or walking sticks, it's all good.

Posted by
2368 posts

Bus to check-in counter can be quite a distance on RS tours. I recall 2 locations on the Sicily tour that were maybe ½ mile, and the hotel on the Lizard Peninsula of Cornwall this past spring was a good ¾ mile from where the bus dropped us off.

Posted by
291 posts

I thank all of you for taking the time to reply, and many of you shared a lot of helpful info. The RS tour I am planning on is the 11 day Sicily, so comments about that particular tour are quite useful. For those that did that tour, what did you think of the hotels in Sicily? Did they have elevators? Air conditioning? (I will probably go in October). When traveling independently, I typically choose a hotel within walking distance from the train station and hoof it, but a 1/2 mile walk with luggage to me is quite a schlep. I don't want to do Sicily independently because I don't want to rent/drive a car throughout the island, but may be re-thinking a Rick Steves tour may be too rigorous.

Posted by
17854 posts

This is a bit of a over generalization but auto ownership is more common here than in a lot of Europe, and yet the young and old get all over town with shopping bags. So the trick is to figure out how tgey do it in each destination and copy.

Posted by
8421 posts

alohalover, we were on that tour February 2019. The hotels were collectively the nicest of our four RS tours. I'd say they were more business category than mom & pop. As I recall they all had elevators, although not large, and required waiting if everyone is trying to get down or up at once (like for checkout) so stairs were often more convenient. They were all modern, and I think had AC, but not needed in February. The starting hotel I believe is always the Hotel Ambasciatori in Palermo, which you can look up online and get acquainted. Note: the rooftop dining area where breakfast is served is where the photo in the tour description is taken (with the man and woman holding flowers).

Rigorous? No. The note thing about Sicily is that the distances are short, so bus time between stops is short. There are stairs and walking not hiking at some stops, but not excessive. The only thing rigorous is being disciplined enough to get up early and meet the group on time. And you can always opt out of an activity if you need more rest.

Posted by
2368 posts

Note that elevators are not guaranteed on RS tours:
https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-help/tours-faq

One of my Sicily tour hotels had an elevator, but there were steps from the street to the check-in desk, then more steps up to the level where the elevator started. Not all of the tours use the same hotels, so asking about hotels used by others is of limited use.

Posted by
5579 posts

No where we stayed in Sicily had an elevator. All the places we stayed were fabulous and worth the stairs. My husband is strong and athletic and apparently not prone to knee issues so he carried my bag up the stairs of inns. I do bring only a carry on, and not to knock husband, but I think he carries my bag up the stairs more to ward off any catastrophes and less so to be a gentleman. However, none of the places we stayed is used for the RS tours. Everywhere we stayed had air conditioning. We were just there in April/May. I had a thread soliciting help with traveling in Sicily with a rather significant knee issue. People were most helpful, in fact, one forum member lent me her cane. So, not really knowing what your issue might be, this is what I encountered. We started in Catania. We'd been in transit, mostly sitting probably 15 hours and I was IN PAIN when we arrived. We just strolled Catania and the knees improved a bit just because I was no longer sitting. The next day we went to Siracusa on the bus and walked about a mile to our hotel in Ortigia. In retrospect, probably a cab from the bus stop would have been prudent. I used a cane the entire time in Ortigia for the stability and to be honest, to alert others so as not to be "bumped into". Also, One of the days in Ortigia we took a train to Noto. I used to cane to climb the hill to the street with the cathedrals. I also used the cane to go up and down the steps into the buildings. A cane in Noto, for me, was a necessity. Walking stick(s) would have been less helpful, and perhaps not helpful at all. From Siracusa, we went to Ragusa (via rental car). I used the cane around hilly Ragusa. I also used a cane in the Valley of the Temples (Agrigento). There were uneven surfaces. As our trip progressed, my knees improved. I did not use a cane or have wanted walking sticks in Trapani or Palermo. I did use the cane occasionally in Cefalu. I am familiar with the RS Sicily tour. I think what we did is fairly similar to what you'll be doing. Frankly, I wouldn't want walking sticks with the possible exception of the ruin sites (Valley of the Temples, Segesta, Selinunte)

Posted by
3 posts

My wife and I carried our trekking poles through security in the US and Europe with no problems during our RS Best of Scotland tour in May.

Posted by
5 posts

Alohalover-thanks for posting this - we have been wondering whether to pack in carryon or check our bags with the trekking poles. Looks like mostly people pack them and check the bag. Wondering if anyone has taken a Portugal tour recently where the trekking poles came in handy - the tour description does say there is a lot of walking, hills and stairs. We regularly use poles on short hikes and uneven terrain walks so I feel like we will probably take ours and take the risk that they will make it as carryon to Lisbon.