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Moooo, Baaaa - Flight 1271 Is Ready For Takeoff

Airplane flying serves two purposes for the triathlete. First, it usually can get you to your destination faster than driving a car. Second, it teaches you patience. As a naive child growing up, I was in awe, and still am, of how these huge metal storks can maintain itself at 30,000 feet without flapping its wings and allowing gravity to bring it plummeting to the earth. I, along with 90% of the 8-14 year olds, dreamed of becoming a pilot. Now, I dread having to pack a bicycle, travel to the airport and board a plane. The past seven years I have become a seasoned traveler on this winged beast and I have observed many idiosyncrasies, which will help you the next time you go globetrotting.

1. Buying your ticket:

Since becoming triathletes, many of us have had to tighten our budgets because we are spending 80% of our disposable income on equipment. Typically, the closer we buy a ticket to the departure date, the more expensive the ticket and the less availability of seats. This philosophy has changed somewhat as the internet sometimes offers cheaper fares within a few days of departure. However, that is a gamble on price and making sure you get to your destination on time. Make sure you always get your ticket 21 days before departure. Otherwise, the airlines stick you in the wallet. The cheapest tickets are through consolidators that are travel agencies that buy tickets in mass. The price difference isn’t much for domestic flights, but international flights can easily be $150-500 cheaper through a consolidator.

There is also the consideration of your ball and chain. No, I don’t mean your spouse, but your bike box. People try everything to get their bike on free of charge which now cost $75….each way! I’ve seen people use a myriad of disguises for their bike case. It’s a tuba, scuba gear, fragile paintings (all are free). One of my friends packs his bike in a large suitcase every time he travels. He spends 30 minutes disassembling the entire bike and 45 minutes at his arrival putting it together. For an inexperienced triathlete, this project would easily take 2 hours. You have to ask yourself what are the opportunity costs? Another friend, packs his bike in a bike case, but leaves out a pedal that he puts in his suitcase. When the ticket counter person asks if that is a bike, he says, “No, its bike parts, the bike isn’t rideable.” He says he’s about 40-60 on getting it on free, without having to lie.

If you don’t want to press your luck, getting a free bike pass is the least stressful way to travel. You can get free bike passes on certain airlines through the USA Triathlon travel desk and also if you become a member of US Cycling Federation. A USCF and USAT license is around $25. Hey, you might even do a bike race; after all, bike races allow legal drafting.

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