A few days ago, we showed you how we pack our bikes for a flight. The next question many of you asked was “How do I pack the panniers?”
It’s a good question. How do you get 4 bicycle bags on a plane, when most airlines only allow 1-2 checked bags?
Here’s our secret: the Chinese shopping bag.
We call it Chinese because we normally buy these sturdy plastic bags with plaid patterns in Chinatown. It turns out the Chinese shopping bag has a variety of names around the world, including the “Ghana Must Go” bag and the “Guyanese Samsonite”. In the UK, we’ve found they’re often referred to as “zipped laundry bags”. (read an interesting history of these bags).
What’s so great about these bags? They’re…
- Cheap. Expect to pay $1-5 U.S. depending on the size and where you buy your bag.
- Universally available, from the dollar stores of America to the markets of Kyrgyzstan.
- Robust. For us, these bags last years. We never worry about them giving way, even when packed with luggage.
- Multi-functional. Use it for a clean place to sit when you have a picnic, as a water-resistant back bag on your bicycle (great for covering tents) or as ‘extra storage’ when you need to carry a little more food and water.
- Light and foldable. They’re easy to stick in your bags or under your luggage racks when not in use.
Spot The Chinese Shopping Bag
We typically travel with 2 of these bags in the biggest size we can find. At the airport, we unfold them and stick 2-3 Ortlieb panniers in each Chinese shopping bag plus the dry sacks with our tent, sleeping bags and mats inside.
We then carry any remaining luggage with us on the plane. Usually we just have 1 handlebar bag (this counts as a purse for ladies!) and 1 pannier with valuables. Voila! Packing your panniers for a flight doesn’t have to be complicated.