My wife and I are planning a cycling trip through Europe. This will be our second, and we're planning to build a pair of dedicating touring bikes for this (and other) adventures. We'd like suggestions on how to most cheaply and reliably get our bikes from the United States to Europe.
On our previous trip, we ended up having to change carriers, as Delta wanted to charge us a total of $1,600 ($200 per leg per bike, with two bikes and four legs round-trip) to get our bikes back and forth. We switched to Continental, who thankfully only charged an extra $400, but the experience makes us worry about future travel. What we're most worried about is the uncertainty: we may expect the fees to be one amount, but a change in oversize baggage surcharges or a disagreement over the policies with airline personnel could result in us being charged far more than is reasonable. And we may only find this out at checkin, which would be far too late to alter our plans. Thankfully, after getting conflicting information from two Delta staff members over the phone, I confirmed the excessive bicycle surcharge in time to change our flight. Next time, we might not be so lucky.
Since we've decided to build our bikes, my first thought was to spend the extra money for S&S coupled frames (the awesome Surly Trucker DeLuxe) and a matching S&S hard case. This right now seems like the best approach, but it might be annoying with hub dyno powered lights. Two problems come to mind with this approach: 1) I ride a 62cm frame, which still may not fit into a regulation-sized case, and 2) airlines lose baggage all the time. I can't think of a more depressing situation than to wind up in Europe ready to go, with our bikes nowhere to be found.
Another option is to skip the couplers and simply our bikes. From what I've seen, this is simply prohibitively expensive. For instance, Bikeflights quoted us over $2,000 to round-trip our two bikes in standard hardshell cases.
Neither of these seem great, so I feel like we're stuck between a rock and a hard place. Does anyone with experience in traveling with bikes have suggestions?