Updated: Jan 8
How to Pack for a Beach Holiday, Gig, or Trade show and ensure that your beloved instrument makes it there with you (In one piece!)
First things first: Does the case that you have for your instrument fit and protect it well? Is it a wooden, fiberglass, or carbon fiber case? Many inexpensive cases nowadays are made of Styrofoam and covered with Cordova. These cases are acceptable for regular daily transport of relatively inexpensive instruments. However, if you're traveling with anything of value, we strongly suggest you get yourself a quality hard case!
Q: Are there laws in place for airlines regarding the carrying of musical instruments onboard? Yes, there are laws and regulations in place for airlines regarding the carrying of musical instruments on board. Airlines must transport musical instruments as checked or carry-on baggage, provided that the instrument meets the size and weight requirements for carry-on baggage or checked baggage and is properly packed. Suppose the instrument is too large to be carried in the cabin or as checked baggage. In that case, the airline may transport it as cargo, provided that it is appropriately packaged and meets the requirements for cargo transport. The Department of Transportation (DOT) in the United States has a rule that requires airlines to allow passengers to carry small instruments, such as violins, guitars, and small keyboards, in the cabin at no additional charge, provided that the instrument can be stored safely in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of the passenger. This rule applies to all flights operated by U.S. carriers and flights to and from the United States on foreign carriers. It is always a good idea to check with the airline in advance to find out their specific policies and requirements for transporting musical instruments on board.
We're often asked: "Should a stringed instrument be kept at full tension during air travel?" While there are many differences of opinion here, our experiences all point to.....YES! It is also a good idea to loosen the strings slightly before packing the instrument, as this can help to reduce the risk of the neck or body being damaged due to pressure changes during the flight. When a stringed instrument is under tension, the neck and body are better supported and less likely to be affected by changes in pressure or temperature. If the strings are not under tension, the neck and body may be more prone to movement, which can cause the instrument to go out of tune or become damaged. That being said, protecting the instrument from damage during air travel is also important. This may involve using a hard case, NOT a padded gig bag, and making sure the instrument is properly packed and secured within the case. Suppose you are planning to travel with a stringed instrument. In that case, it is always a good idea to check with the airline in advance to find out their specific policies and requirements for transporting musical instruments on board. You may also want to consider purchasing additional insurance to cover the instrument in the event that it is lost or damaged during the trip.
Here are a few links to publications with articles written on the topic. We suggest you read through them to best understand your rights as a passenger, if you'll need to purchase another ticket, and which airlines are "musician friendly"!
Q: Is there ever any room for negotiation with the airline when at the boarding gate?
It is generally possible to negotiate with an airline when it comes to carrying a musical instrument on board, although the specific terms of the negotiation will depend on the airline and the circumstances. Some airlines have specific policies in place for carrying musical instruments on board, which may include size and weight limits, fees for transporting the instrument as carry-on baggage or checked baggage, and other requirements.
Know your rights!! FAA Rules an Regulations regarding musical instrument travel!
If you are planning to travel with a musical instrument and are concerned about being able to carry it on board, there are a few things you can try:
Contact the airline: Reach out to the airline directly and ask about their policies for carrying musical instruments on board. Be prepared to provide details about the size and type of instrument you will be traveling with, as well as your travel itinerary.
Purchase additional insurance: Some airlines may be more willing to allow you to carry a musical instrument on board if you purchase additional insurance to cover the instrument in the event that it is lost or damaged during the flight.
Consider other options: If the airline is unwilling to allow you to carry the instrument on board, you may be able to transport it as checked baggage or cargo, provided that it meets the size and weight requirements for these options. If this is the case, understand that your instrument is about to get tossed around just like your luggage! Ever buy a new expensive suitcase only to find it looks as if it were dragged behind a truck on the highway for 300 miles? Imagine the horror when you get your instrument case off the belt alongside all the other luggage!
We hope this post helps clear up some basic, common sense questions about traveling with your musical instrument. We're always eager to help and have 65+ years personal experience with this! So, if traveling and concerned about your instrument, stop in and we'll help take a look to make sure you're starting out with the best fit for a positive outcome while traveling!