By Jana Brooks
Jana, (pronounced Yana), Brooks is a RISD Grad in Graphic arts, a writer, photographer and owns her own business as a hat maker called "Little Shop of Hatters". She has been with the team since its inception in 2011 and went to her first foreign steel combat event, as a team photographer, in Warsaw Poland, 2012. Jana has dedicated ever year since to The ACL, The Knights Hall and the sport of armored combat. She helps with her knowledge in graphics, web design, photography, social media and serves as a BOD member for The ACL.
Traveling overseas is an adventure! And like any adventure, there are going to be brilliant memories that you can entertain your friends with for years to come. There will be the, “No shit, there I was…” story to be told loudly with buddies over beers as big as your head. There will be the magic, “Oooo, ahhh…” stories that you can use to delight small children … And then there are “those stories”… you know the ones... the, “Holy, WTF!”, “What just happened?” and “Do-not-tell-your-mother!” stories. These are the stories that we really could do without. And with any luck, this article will help you through them ...
Your Papers Please
Ok, we don’t foresee anyone getting shot for not having their papers in order, but a little prep-work goes a long way to avoid airport delays, hassles with security, unplanned visits to the American Embassy and yes… deportation is a thing!
So let’s get this party started with...
Step One: Your Passport
If you haven’t gotten your passport, do it now! This cannot be stressed enough! The issuance of a passport can get delayed for all sorts of weird and arbitrary reasons. Even on a good day, a new passport can take up to a month to achieve. So make the time to take care of this ASAP!
Capt Andre says: "If your passport is set to expire within the next 6 months, get it renewed!"
Whether you need to renew or if you are getting one for the first time, this site will help; https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/first-time.html
Step two: "Are You In a Play?"
For most of you, packing for Portugal will have a few challenges. The easy days of just debating on, “Do I pack for cold or hot weather...” are over. Your traveling as a fighter now. Here is a short list of things to think about;
- Regular clothes
- 14th or 15th century garb
- USA tabard
- Your fighting gear
- the weapons you intend to use
- a luggage scale
- a passport
- an event letter, invitation or festival flyer
- personal medication
- easy to maneuver suitcases and carry ons.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at this list…
1) What to wear
Regular clothes should be the easy part. Take a look at weather temps before you go. There are several sites online you can check with like this one;
2. 14th or 15th Century Garb.
Just this weekend I heard one of our regulars at The Knight’s Hall say, “Oh… we need to wear period garb?” The answer is yes. And even though this will be a festival with merchants that are only too happy to sell you all kinds of cool stuff, bring at least one period outfit with you. Americans, on an average, are bigger than what European merchants are prepared for. They are getting better at it, but don’t leave this to chance. Have a dependable outfit you can fall back on, other than your armor and tabard.
Plus, and this is important, make sure it is, “Period”. For those of us who LARP or do SCA, the “creative” things you can get away with at those types of events, may be frowned upon by the Euros. If you have a question about your garb, (will it work or what to buy), ask an ACL veteran. They’ve been through it all before and can help. Just keep in mind that the Euros take authenticity personally, and those without proper attire may be asked to leave.
3. The ACL US Knight's tabard,
Every year the ACL finds a vendor to make the official ACL US Knight's tabard. You have probably already been informed about this and are making plans to buy one... But in case you missed the memo, you need at least one official tabard to take with you. This is mandatory.
- Money is tight with all the, “must haves” of your adventure, but if at all possible get more than one of the official tabards. There will be functions like opening and closing ceremonies and other gatherings where you will be happy to have a clean tabard to wear that has not been dragged through the mud, while fighting.
- Repeat after me; “This is my uniform. There are many like it, but this one is mine.” Please take a minute and write your name inside your US tabard. Things usually get crazy at events and without meaning to, one of your brother-in-arms will grab your pristine clean tabard and will be heading out to the battlefield before you can even say Jack Flash. Its an honest mistake, (they were after all designed to be identical to one another). But if you have your name on it, you get a better shot of avoiding this little annoyance. In fact, grab a black sharpie and write your name on everything! You never know when your gear will need to be gathered by support staff. Having your name on everything from helmet to cup, ensures that it won’t get packed in the wrong bag.
- Your ACL US Knight's tabard is more than just a cloth that holds your armor together. When you wear your tabard, everyone will know that you are from the United States and that you are there to represent your country. Please treat your uniform with respect and pride. It is not for your girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse or significant other to wear. It is not for that cute Euro girl that has been flirting with you all night or the photographer that promises she’ll give it back after she gets a selfie with her bestie. During the event, this is yours to wear and yours, alone. After the event, some might exchange their tabard with another country’s. This is seen as good will and bringing home another country’s tabard is “da shit!” But during the Championship, your ACL US Knight's uniform is yours alone to carry... Wear it with pride and honor, and be honorable while wearing it. Do us proud!
(4 and 5) Fighting gear and weapons
Every year, someone has issues. They forgot their cup, their titanium legs got bounced by the marshall, their weapon is three inches too long, every single rivet has popped and they are going to miss their fight, because the field armorer has a line of needy fighters in front of him and he can only do so much.
Save yourself some of the headache! Make a list of everything you need and check it twice before going to the airport. Go over the rules and make sure everything you own is up to spec. Have your local marshal re-check your weapons. It may have passed the last time you fought, but a fresh set of eyes will spot the cracked haft or jagged metal edge that you may have missed. And take along a little repair kit. In a pinch, the person who can take best take care of you, is you!
Tips for Fighting gear and weapons at the airport:
There seem to be two modes of thought for this.
- report your weapons and armor as sporting equipment.
- report your weapons and armor as historical re-enactment gear..
Here are some tips from veterans on the team:
Dan Kitka: Depending on the configuration of your kit, put the heaviest pieces possible in your carry-on and personal item. Just not the weapons, obviously This also works for keeping your most customized and expensive gear under your personal care. You could likely borrow everything else you needed if you had a helmet and gauntlets.
Amy Graham: There is leeway in charging you baggage fees with all airlines. Most of them have a rule that if you are representing your country in an international competition and have sports equipment to check for that international competition, they can waive the baggage fee for one bag. But...you have to ask for it! It helps to have a flyer with you, and possibly even team photos on your phone. On the way home, I was wearing my medals around my neck, that helped. If you carry on your helmet/gauntlets, wearing a team shirt does go a long way in helping you garner more of a TEAM PLAYER kind of look vs. terrorist that wants to bash through the cockpit door of the plane. (Don't laugh, several of our guys were told they couldn't bring their gear on, even in a carry on because of THIS very reason). A lot of times I claim one bag when I check in online, and hope they will not charge me for the other one but it’s a gamble, and you may have to pay for it regardless, but it’s worth the effort to ask.
Learn the words "FENCING EQUIPMENT". We do not have weapons, axes or swords in our bags. We have Fencing Equipment for a sporting event.
L Dale Walter : Join every frequent flyer plan that you can. Sometimes just being a member will get you a free bag or increased bag allowances. You can also take out certain credit cards that will allow you A free bag as well.
Carefully check the baggage allowances for all of the airlines on your trip. You may fly Delta out of the US but fly KLM or air France on the way back. Their bag allowances may be different.
Lance Hoffman and L. Dale Walter : both agree that; Part and parcel of 'be respectful': learning a few key phrases goes a LONG way. 'Hello', 'Thank you', 'Excuse me, do you speak English?' are key.
agrees with L. Dale Walter about explaining yourself as historical re-enactor.
“That's what we say and it works like a charm. The whole "sport equipment" thing is nice, but confuses airport people. Better to say Renn Festival, or historical re-enactment.”
My recap for emphasis and agreement...Luggage scale. Universal electric outlet adapter. Carry on helmet & gauntlets. Put event flyers in all luggage. Always be respectful. Even if confused. You are a guest. And above all, have fun.
6) The Luggage Scale.
Find out what the airport weight requirements are and weigh your bags. Remember to take it with you so you can weigh your bags coming home, too!
Bill Edward Woodbury II: recommends this luggage scale.
We’ve already gone over the importance of getting and traveling with your passport, but here is just one more thing to keep in mind:
Do not lose it!
Ok, that seems simple enough, but every year, someone has a problem. Think of it this way... Your passport is your lifeline. Without it, you are screwed! Putting it in your back pocket, is fine, until it slips out where you were sitting in the taxi. A jacket pocket with a zipper, is great, until you leave your jacket on the plane. Putting it in the side pocket of your carry on works for easy access throughout the airport… and the pickpocket thinks so too. He just loves your thoughtfulness.
In the words of Gandalf:
8) An event letter, invitation or festival flyer
This may come in handy if you find yourself in a conversation with airport officials.
Check out this clever idea from
L Dale Walter:
"Take a photograph of yourself in full armor, and a copy of a flyer from the event that you were going to and laminate the two together. Place one of these on the, (inside) top of every bag checked. That way when they open your bag, they see exactly what you have, where you're going, and can ascertain what you're going to use it for.You should (also) have, (a photograph of yourself in full armor, and a copy of a flyer) for your carry on if you are carrying any armor."
9) Personal Medication:
Here is a good tip from
"If you have medication make sure it is in a prescription bottle with YOUR name on, all over the counter meds should be in original sealed containers."
10) Easy Luggage:
This is the part where you may draw the line. You’ve already spent oodles of money and buying new luggage is the straw that will most certainly break the camel's back.. or bank… or something… But this is what we learned the hard way. Get good, mobile luggage. You may think that transferring onto your next plane is as simple as finding your gate, but not every flight will be so simple. At some point, you may find yourself staring helplessly at a monitor, sweating out the last seconds before your flight's departure, playing a weird game of "hide the airplane" with the airport and praying that your gate number will pop up in time before your flight leaves without you.
When this happens, the last thing you need is an ongoing argument with old luggage that is threatening to burst every seam or worse, doesn’t have the mobility of wheels. Save your back and save your sanity. Get good sturdy luggage, the kind that will swivel in any direction at a moment's notice. You’ll thank me for this one, later!
There is so much more I could write, but I’ve already pushed past my deadline so I will leave this here. If you have any questions, please reach out to leadership or the veterans on the team. Travel can be fun. Travel can be tricky. And travel with armor can be downright hard. Travel with a friend if you can. But even if you can't, don't worry, you got this! And it is going to be EPIC! Good luck and have fun!
Thank you so much to all the veterans from The Armored Combat League, who's input helped with this article. You all had such great advice! Sorry I couldn't squeeze it all in... Maybe next time!