If you’re thinking about traveling soon and can’t imagine your next holiday without your guitar, you’ve come to the right place. While commercial air travel can be a stressful affair and traveling with your guitar doubly so, the good news is that bringing your guitar on holiday is not only possible but painless too — just by following a few simple tips.
1. Invest in Insurance
Always be prepared for the worst, especially when it comes to your instruments and flying. Having insurance for your trip is always a good idea, especially since flights and travel restrictions have started to shift quite frequently.
If you have a general insurance policy, check to see if travel or music instruments are covered. Most general policies have some sort of travel add-on, but musical instruments are rarer. It’s worth looking into specific music insurance to have peace of mind while traveling and to know that your instrument will be covered.
2. Do Your Research
As airline travel has become more commonplace, rules can change often, sometimes by the day. Before traveling with your favorite guitar, it’s best to check with the individual airlines themselves. It’s often difficult to get a representative on the phone or in-person in today’s world, so sending out an email checking the rules and their regulations is a must.
Keep in mind that the cheapest flight isn’t always the cheapest price. Budget airlines often tack on fees for extras you might think are included in the ticket. An expensive ticket with a more reputable airline may save more money in the long run over a bare-bones budget flight.
In 2015, the US Department of Transportation adopted new regulations concerning transporting musical instruments on commercial flights. This new legislation allows passengers to carry on small to medium-sized instruments like guitars or violins, provided they fit securely in the overhead bins.
3. Booking Your Ticket
When booking your plane ticket, it’s a good idea to get a nonstop flight, if possible, or fly between major hubs to avoid small regional aircraft with limited baggage space. Either way, the fewer plane changes or stops mean your guitar has fewer opportunities to get damaged.
Nowadays, most airlines give passengers the option to request or purchase priority boarding. Getting a priority booking or Zone 1 boarding group ticket will ensure that you have plenty of time to board and stow your guitar with plenty of room to spare.
If the airline does not offer priority boarding, priority seating, or boarding zone upgrades, then make sure to book a ticket in the very back of the plane. Passengers seated in the back tend to get to board first, which will give you more time to stow your guitar safely in the overhead compartment.
4. Pack Smart
If you don’t already have one, it’s time to invest in a hardshell case for your guitar. There’s no question that these types of cases are sturdier and safer than gig bags for traveling.
Even when using a hard case, however, things can still move around inside during transport. In order to avoid unwanted shifting, pack t-shirts or towels around your guitar in its case to protect it from possible damage.
Make sure to detune your guitar by loosening the strings a day or two before the flight as temperature and pressure changes could damage a tightly tuned instrument.
Take photos of your guitar while packing, including pictures of it inside and outside of the case.
Finish up by sticking some “FRAGILE” stickers to the outside and labeling the guitar case with your name and contact information.
5. Plan for Delays
In today’s world of TSA regulations and Covid-19 health and safety policies, the lines at the airport just seem to keep getting longer. For your own peace of mind, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to navigate the lines, screening, and any conceivable airport delays.
Arriving extra early is a great way to be prepared and make the whole process a lot less stressful. Be sure to familiarize yourself with TSA’s notice on carrying instruments through security checkpoints and what to expect.
Afterward, all that’s left is to have a fantastic holiday with your guitar!