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I am flying to a conference, in which I am presenting a poster.

In principle there might be a problem, as the poster tube:

  • is a second piece of hand luggage,
  • it is longer than the limit allows.

However, it seems that it works (once I tried with no problem, my colleagues usually have no problem).

Does it happen that one is not allowed to take a poster tube in the hand luggage?

If so, how to avoid this problem? (Advice, tips and tricks are welcome.)

If the question is place-specific, I'm interested mostly in EU.

  • 4
    Within Europe it usually works to take the train, I've done that several times from northern Sweden to Austria or southern France. Takes a little while (not necessarily more expensive if planned appropriately) but it's quite fun and there won't be any luggage problems :) – gerrit Jul 17 '12 at 8:17
  • Neither me nor my students had any problems carrying a poster tube as second hand luggage (>50 flights, mostly EU, US, baut Asia as well). It usually even fits in the overhead compartment. – OBu Mar 27 '18 at 9:03
48

There are a couple solutions to the "transporting a poster tube on a plane" problem:

  1. Most flights allow a second piece of hand-luggage, so that bit is fine. And while it is larger in the length dimension than is usually allowed, I've never had this be a problem. In not-very-full flights, it can be stored on top or behind other bags. On fuller flights, I usually just ask a flight attendant for help. So far the tubes have ended up behind the seats in the last row against the bulk head, and in the coat closet usually reserved for first class. Generally, I find they give you "credit" for trying not to be a problem.
  2. As has been mentioned, you can get your poster printed or shipped to the conference location.
  3. Cloth posters. These are becoming more easily accessible. While more expensive than paper posters, if carrying a poster on forces you to check a bag, and your airline charges fees for those, the cost difference vanishes swiftly. These can be folded and stored flat in a shipping envelop or bag. Just make sure to take them out and iron them on a very low setting to get the creases out before you hang them.
  • 2
    Creative rolling of your cloth poster can prevent creases and wrinkles. – Ben Norris Jul 20 '12 at 0:04
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    From my current observations: even if the allow "one piece of hand luggage only", poster tubes for some reason does not count to the limit (however, I've never asked, just in case not to ask for troubles). There were no problems neither for me nor my colleagues; besides sometimes from RyanAir (once a friend needed to fold his poster); other cheap airlines where perfectly fine. – Piotr Migdal Oct 18 '12 at 19:01
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    +1 for cloth posters, a friend used it once and definitely worth that extra little money. – nimcap May 24 '13 at 13:31
  • +1 for cloth posters. I didn't even know they existed but they sound like a nice (and a little more expensive) alternative. – Shion Jun 12 '13 at 17:16
  • +1 for cloth posters. I have used them on a regular basis and they are fantastic. Just fold them, put them in my suitcase or even backpack. Sometimes just have them ship directly to the conference hotel so that it is waiting for me when I arrive. Most of the time you don't even need to iron them but an iron has always been available if needed. Then there is the novelty value. Lots of people stopped by my posters because they notice the fabric. I gave them some time to be fascinated and awed, and then delivered my pitch. My research got a lot more exposure this way too. – Fixed Point Mar 20 at 15:37
15

Sometimes flight attendant staff will be willing to hold a poster for you, since generally they can't safely go as checked luggage, and may not fit in the overhead compartment. You should inquire as to what will be allowed.

One useful alternative I've taken advantage of is to use a printing service in the city where you will be presenting your poster, and picking up the poster there. Nowadays, many will accept things sent by email, file transfer service, or web site. This makes the transfer process easier than before, and avoids the problem of last-minute delays (provided you send it ahead of time!).

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    Actually, the last time I printed my poster at the conference venue (on a cheep paper, so it wasn't that wasteful). However, usually I would like to re-use the poster. – Piotr Migdal Jul 14 '12 at 19:01
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    Your alternative is only a half solution if you still need to somehow bring the poster back to your work location after the conference. – O. R. Mapper Mar 10 '15 at 9:39
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  • I only encountered problems once (with Ryanair - I think they wanted to make me pay for late checked luggage). Fortunately it was going back home. I had to make the poster roll small (it then fit into their hand luggage frame) and I loosely folded the poster. As soon as I was in the cabin I unfolded it again and put it into the roll. Someone frome the cabin staff even asked why the poster was folded and said that this was crazy. Fortunately the creases were not that bad.

  • I'd always take the poster with the hand luggage: I once attended a conference where at the first 2 days about 1/3 of the posters had an A4 sheet saying: The poster can currently be found at Alitalia's lost luggage department...

  • You could print the poster at the place of the conference. I once presented a poster that was printed by the poster printing service of the conference hosting university (who actually allowed orders from the outside).

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    Printing the poster at the place of the conference just solves the issue of bringing the poster to the conference, not that of bringing the poster back. – O. R. Mapper Mar 10 '15 at 9:40
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    @O.R.Mapper: true, but then in my field we tend to have one-time-only posters so their main purpose is the conference. The walls are already rather crowded, so if every once in a while one poster doesn't make it home it is not that bad. – cbeleites supports Monica Jun 14 '16 at 7:47
6

I've seen many people checking a poster in, since the size limits for checked-in luggage are larger than those for carry-on luggages. Another solution would be to send the poster by mail (preferably with a tracking system) a few days before to the hotel where you're going to stay, or even directly to the conference organizers, who can check that everything went fine.

  • Thanks; however, the question was not on other possibilities. – Piotr Migdal Jul 14 '12 at 20:18
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    Well, you did write: "If so, how to avoid this problem? (Advice, tips and tricks are welcome.)", which I understood as "could there be other possibilities if it's forbidden". But I don't mind deleting my answer if that's not what you meant. – user102 Jul 14 '12 at 20:39
  • Now I see, I was ambiguous. The point was concentrating on bringing poster on board, and "tips and tricks" were related to that. However, it's academia.SE, so sometimes the best answer is "no, you don't want to X, try...", so its better to leave voters to plus (or not). – Piotr Migdal Jul 14 '12 at 21:22
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    No problem, but that being said, why do you want so much to carry it on board? As you say yourself, it exceeds the authorized dimensions, and therefore, you can only hope that the flight attendants will allow it, with the risk that they won't, which can make things quite complicated. – user102 Jul 14 '12 at 22:59
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It depends on the airline's policies, but I have never had any problems on any of AA/AF/AZ/BA/DL/JL/KL/EK/QR/US, and I travelled extensively on all of them as a student, often with posters. The hand luggage restrictions are principally about overhead bin space: but a rolled up poster is small and can probably be squeezed in somewhere on the plane or in the coat cupboard if needs be. Therefore the fact that the tube exceeds one of the dimensions is not really of great interest to most airlines.

If you are travelling on a low cost carrier like RyanAir or EasyJet, that may be a different matter. I know that EasyJet is trying to be "business friendly" now so they probably will not be so interested in a small item like a poster tube. The one time I travelled on Ryanair with a poster I voluntarily checked it in at a very large fee rather than have an argument about it.

Now the warning I do have is: if you do check your poster tube, expect it to go missing. I lost three poster tubes (one permanently) by checking them. Somehow the baggage systems in many airports are not designed to transport tubes (especially if they have straps on them) and so they tend to get jammed somewhere and torn to pieces.

3

I recently flew with a poster to a conference. The dimensions for hand-luggage usually are Height+width+length <= 42" (inches) (maybe 45", don't quite remember accurately). If the 'tube' sums up to less than this you should be good.

As is mentioned in another answer, most airlines allow two pieces of hand-luggage e.g. A laptop bag and maybe your tube, if you don't have anything else.

You are free to carry it with you in the hand unless the tube is arbitrarily long i.e. it exceeds 42 inches in length. If you are below that by length, I doubt the other 2 dimensions would be all that big.

At times they may take it from you right at the boarding gate and ask you to check it in there and then. That's fine. It'll be safe and given to you the instant you exit the aircraft rather than at the carousel.

Some aircrafts are small and may have a separate luggage are for hand bags towards the tail. You can put it there.

If it's a small flight and the tube is not too big (diameter and length wise) just prop it by your leg if you are in a window seat or put it below your seat.

As long as you are within the dimensions and allowable limits of hand luggage (count = 2 weight <= 7kgs) you should be fine

3

Almost every airline allows "a personal item" in addition to your carry-on luggage; otherwise people with purses wouldn't get any carry-on. Your poster tube is probably not "a personal item", but your carry-on could be if it's small enough to fit under your seat. (That's the real reason: there's not enough overhead bin space, but there's plenty of under-seat space. Many people hate having stuff at their feet, though, so the airline can't count on that space being used; saying that you can take a personal item that fits under the seat works for you.) In any case, the way this all works out in practice is that if you're lugging a huge amount of stuff that doesn't look like it'll fit, you'll be asked to check some at the door. Otherwise, it's all okay as long as it will either fit overhead or fit under your seat without sticking out inordinately. I've never seen problems even with backpack (personal item) + carry-on (overhead, fitting strictly within size limits and without requiring lots of shoving to get it to pretend to fit) + poster tube, except on really small regional airplanes with desperately tiny overhead bin space.

Also, if the poster tube doesn't fit in the overhead luggage--it nearly always does--they'll be able to check it at the door to the airplane, just like they do with other overly large and slightly fragile items like strollers.

And, finally, almost everywhere you will present has its own poster printing facilities within a few miles. Any institution of respectable size will have their own, and any city of respectable size--and you're rarely far from one in the EU--will have a copy store of some sort at which you can print at poster size.

So just take the item with you as carry on, and in the extraordinarily unlikely event that something goes wrong and the poster is destroyed, get it printed at your destination. (If you are extra-paranoid, you can get a somewhat tougher plastic poster tube instead of the cardboard ones--bearing in mind that I have yet to see a cardboard one get so crushed that the poster was significantly damaged.)

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    If the flight attendants are nice, sometimes they will put the poster roll in the jacket closet that the first class fliers use, and then the flight attendant will give it back to you at the end of the flight. – Oswald Veblen Dec 2 '14 at 12:15
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I'm returning to this old question because I now know the best solution! It's actually Fomite's third solution: fabric posters.

How to do it: AstroBetter has an excellent blog post on this (http://www.astrobetter.com/blog/2015/03/25/fabric-conference-posters-ftw/) which in turn takes you to the how-to from the company Spoonflower (https://support.spoonflower.com/hc/en-us/articles/204266984-How-to-Create-a-Fabric-Poster-from-a-PowerPoint-or-PDF).

This is an even better option than it was a few years ago when Fomite mentioned it, because I've found the fabric printing to be slightly cheaper than traditional poster printing (this may depend on your campus printer) and on the fabric recommended by Emily Rice on AstroBetter, no ironing is needed. It is incredibly fun to be able to stow the poster in the corner of a suitcase and bring it out to show to friends or relatives I'm staying with on the way home from the conference.


Historical note: I came across this post several years ago and followed the advice, when creating my first printed conference poster! It ended up being awkward: I asked the flight attendant politely about putting it in a closet or overhead, and she said to put the tube on the floor at my feet (and the feet of the two passengers next to me). As it turned out, I was sitting next to (and inconveniencing) a professor headed to my conference (though he was nice about it). For the return trip, I decided to fold it up and mail it home and avoid having to deal with a poster tube ever again.

  • I favour fabric posters, but they do not look as good as well-printed posters on good stock. – Jack Aidley Mar 27 '18 at 14:18
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Format your poster so it can be printed as three strips, either vertical or horizontal. Roll them up in a small poster tube that is short enought to fit in your luggage.

  • I have thought about this a couple of times, but have never tried it. I have never seen a poster at a conference that is made up of multiple strips. – StrongBad Dec 2 '14 at 12:21
  • +1, I have done this successfully. The cuts were scarcely noticeable once the poster was re-assembled. It does help that my posters tend to follow rather an unimaginative, column-based layout :). – Pont Mar 27 '18 at 7:41

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