So you got the call and you’re going to the coast to do the gig. Congratulations! Have you thought about how you’re going to get your guitar there?
Traveling and especially flying with your guitar is always stressful. A successful trip with your guitar starts at home. We’ll run through some suggestions on how best to pack it and get you prepared for the security gate at the airport if you’re flying.
TRAVEL BY AIR :
First the good news. Since the beginning of 2015, the DOT has harmonized rules that require airlines to allow small instruments such as guitars or violins as carry-on bags in overhead storage or under seats. These rules further state musical instruments should be stored just like other carry-on bags, on a first-come, first-served basis. Nobody has to remove a bag to make room for a guitar, but once the guitar is in the overhead bin, its owner doesn’t have to move it for anyone else.
So get to the airport on time, to the gate early, and board as early as you can. Pay for Priority Boarding to make sure there is space for your guitar in the overhead bins when you board. If there is no space available, you still may need to check it at the gate. There is always the fall back of asking if there is space in the crew’s luggage closet.
The foolproof way is to buy an extra seat for your guitar. For larger instruments like tubas, double basses and even double gig bags for electric basses, this may be the safest option.
SECURITY CHECK :
Remember that if you’re flying you need to go through airport security. So check your gig bag for all things that may delay you passing through security. The obvious things to check for are bottles of liquid like polish and water, tools and other sharp implements, and of course anything else that you may carry in your gig bag that may not be legally welcome on board. A set or two of spare strings, a few picks, maybe a cable or two, and a tuner is all you really need to pack in your gig bag with your guitar. Anything you pack in the bag is just extra weight you’ll be carrying to and from the gate. Always to put as much as you can in your check-in bag if you are checking a bag.
PACKING IT :
With the new flight rules in effect, a good quality gig bag should suffice. However, if there is not enough room on board and your guitar needs to be checked then you’ll want a gig bag with at least some ABS panels for extra protection to protect it in transit and on the belt.
The advantages of a good gig bag are that they are light weight, easier to carry than a hard shell, very protective, plus have many pockets and other features that can better organize your stuff for gigs and rehearsals.
Some features to look for in a gig bag that can come in handy in case you have to check it at the gate are high density foam padding, an ABS shell, neck support, a luggage tag, and stowaway shoulder straps. If you always check your iPad or tablet with your then a detachable bag can also come in handy.
Another option is to use a flight case. A flight case will protect any instrument the best. These are usually custom fitted to your guitar so you should not have to worry about the guitar being damaged. The downside is the expense of the case, the extra fees of checking an over-sized item, and the weight of lugging it to, and from, the airport and into, and out, of vehicles.
A third option is the hard shell case that came with your guitar. This is the middle ground. You’ll need to take a few precautions to make sure your guitar arrives safely. First, find some bubble wrap and wrap it around the headstock, neck, and anywhere else there seems to be a bit of room between the guitar and case. Then you want to make sure the guitar is not rattling around inside the case. Make sure the case closes well and tape the latches shut with packing tape. This will help prevent the latches from opening accidentally. And don’t forget to put your name, phone number and other contact details on the case.
ON ARRIVAL :
You’ll need to do a quick check of your guitar’s set-up on arrival. Often the temperature and humidity are much different at your destination, not to mention the different conditions on board the plane. These sudden changes in environment can wreak havoc on your guitar. The neck is especially vulnerable to these sudden changes. If you have an acoustic guitar and are checking it, you may want to consider using a guitar case humidifier as the conditions in the hold of an airplane are extremely dry. A little prevention goes a long way.
Even when traveling on the ground, changes in temperature are something to consider. As a rule of thumb, if your guitar has been in the trunk of your car in the freezing cold for a couple of hours or more, open the gig bag when you get inside and let it warm to room temperature while you’re setting up. There’s nothing like putting on a cold guitar and then having to tune up after each song until the strings warm up.
In very extreme cases the neck may need to be adjusted when traveling from one climate extreme to another. Find a good shop with reputable repair ship and they should be able to adjust the neck.
PEACE OF MIND
If you follow these steps and prepare at home before you travel, rather than on the way to the airport, you’ll have some peace of mind so you can focus on playing instead of worrying about your guitar.
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