You will agree with me without a doubt that flying with your guitar is a pretty big deal. Despite the law that allows flying with musical instruments. The fact that you are allowed to fly with your fragile guitar doesn’t guarantee it’s safety through the flight. They will most likely ask you to check it alongside your carry-on baggage before you board the plane. When traveling with your guitar, you need to use all the protection you can get.
You need to check all the safety tips that will give your guitar a fighting chance in the luggage bay. I have put this post together to ensure safe travel for your guitar. All the tips I share are things I do and that works for me, have a look
Get The Right Guitar Case
Traveling with a guitar gig bag should not even be an option unless you are trying to get the flight crews to sympathize with you. It puts the guitar in a very vulnerable state and you should avoid this as much as possible. The best option is a hard guitar case.
When flying with your guitar, one of the first things you need to put in place is your guitar case. Your choice of guitar case should have a balance between durability and weight. it should be durable and light.
When choosing a guitar case, one of the first things you need to do is to find out whether your guitar fits into the case. Also, if the guitar doesn’t move at all when you place it in the case then this is the best scenario. Before the travel date, ensure you have made the appropriate research regards the guitar case most suitable for your guitar. Also, I would recommend taking the guitar to the local shop and trying different cases.
Ensure that the guitar case is strong enough. Ensure that it can withstand the changing weather condition. As you travel, temperature, humidity and other elements of weather vary along the way.
Loosen The Guitar Strings A Little
Though there are a handful of travelers who don’t deem it fit to do this before flying. I find it very helpful and highly effective in keeping my guitar protected during a flight. Temperature causes the strings to expand or contract. Also, Tuning down your guitar a little will make it a lot less difficult to get the fretboard guard. When the guitar is kept in the luggage bay, there are different conditions form your room at home. The air pressure and temperature changes as the plane flies, your guitar and its strings may expand or contract during the flight. as a result, it will put more pressure on your neck. Though there are quite a lot of planes whose luggage bays are climate and pressure controlled. But you should know that most planes aren’t and you may even don’t know exactly. As a result, I recommend turning it down a little.
Protect The Important Areas Of The Guitar
When keeping your guitar in its case, ensure that you keep something soft under the string so that the guitar’s fretboard, pickups, and frets. This will ensure they don’t get damaged if thrown. believe me, there are a lot of careless baggage handlers that will just fling your bag. To give this area a little you can simply use a paper towel or any soft cloth that will fit between the frets and the strings. Whatsoever you chose to use, ensure that it doesn’t stop the lid from crossing. I usually use a ⅛ inch foam wrap for this. it is thick enough to prevent the strings and frets from touching and that it is long enough to cover the entire fretboard.
Put The Guitar Humidifier Inside Your Guitar Case
I put a guitar humidifier even if I don’t fly with my guitar. It is in there just if I put the guitar back to its case at the end of the session. Thus, it is most recommended when flying, especially needed if your guitar case cannot be tightly sealed. A humidifier helps keep your guitar in a comfortable state no matter if the temperature and pressure changes as the plane flies.
I recommend D’Addario Acoustic Guitar Humidifier available for just under $5.
Secure All Your Guitar Accessories
If your guitar case doesn’t have lockable compartments, then the accessories should be kept outside the case. Because these items can come out of the compartment and into an area where they can damage the guitar. Hard items such as a screwdriver, string cutters, etc should be kept out of the case for two reasons. If for any reason they come out of the compartment it will damage the guitar. The second one is when you go through security you will need to show these items. It is better that it will be outside the guitar so they will not mess with the inside too much.
Protected The Inside Of The Case
Pack your guitar as you would pack baggage you’re shipping. The last thing you need for your guitar is for it to be sliding and bumping around in its case as the plane moves. Thus, ensure that you fill all the empty space with bubble wrap or any other soft material. When filling the spaces inside the guitar case, ensure that you pay some attention to spaces and areas around the head-stock.
If you don’t have any bubble wrap you can always use clothes as padding. This will give the guitar all the protections it needs preventing it from moving during the flight. The downside of using clothes is that it also makes the case a lot heavier than papers and bubble wrap would. But it gives firm padding, and you can use the clothes you planned taking with you anyway.
Don’t Lock The Guitar Case
I have seen a couple of times where the security has to force open the guitar case while trying to see what inside. To avoid getting your case damaged when they want to open the guitar to check while you are not around. Ensure that you don’t lock the guitar case with the key. Instead of locking with keys, you can give your guitar and its case more protection. You can take it through that machine that gives luggage additional protection by wrapping them with plastic films.
Consider Getting A Travel Size Guitar
Traveling with a full-size guitar doesn’t use to be so big a deal. You could carry your full-sized electric guitar with you in the overhead bin and no one will stop you or even ask questions. But that is not the case anymore, you need a travel guitar to do this. Some of these travel guitars can be folded, fit into bags, and very affordable. There are some flexible travel guitars that can be used for gigs and not-too-serious sessions. Though this may not sound like a very good idea, it is pretty nice. Nowadays, we have travel guitars with vastly improved sound quality. Traveler Guitar offers top-quality travel guitars.
If you are looking for an electric guitar then they offer the Ultra-Light Electric guitar. It is the lightest full-scale fretboard electric guitar that has. It weighs only 3 lbs and 28 inches long. It has a dual-rail humbucker for an amazing tone. There are also 5 more types of guitar you can choose from that resembles Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul.
If you are more into acoustic guitars then they have one as well. The Traveler Acoustic AG is a full-scale fretboard. It 34.5 inches long and weighs 5 lbs. Also, it has a build int headphone amp and a tuner.
Both the electric and the acoustic comes with a special gig bag so you don’t have to worry about buying one.
Consider The Airline
Some airlines are guitar-friendly. They will make your flight with your guitar stress-free, while others will not. in my opinion, a guitar-friendly airline is an airline that will allow you to bring in your guitar even if you are flying economy. In fact, some airlines will even take your guitar into the business/first class. they will store it in their compartments where it will be more secure.
When you board a guitar-friendly airline, you most likely have no issue whatsoever boarding with your guitar. Your guitar will be going overhead and even if the plane has no space. They will still help make room for your guitar in the upper compartment. A good example of a guitar-friendly airline is British Airways, Air China, Turkish Airlines, and many others go by the book. One of the airlines that are not guitar-friendly is United Airlines.
When Flying Economy Check-In Your Guitar
If you are flying economy, I recommend that you check in your guitar. I don’t have to lay emphasis on the importance of going with a good case when you are certain you will be flying economy. Unless you are very polite and lucky, most flight attendants will not allow you to keep your guitar in the cabin. That being said, to save yourself from some unnecessary troubles and stress, check in the guitar. My advice, if you are flying economy, do not even consider flying with a guitar gig bag, ensure you have a good hard case. There is a very common trick that people use, they go with a gig bag and instead of checking it, they beg at the counter. Though, this trick work sometimes, but most of the time, it doesn’t. don’t put yourself through that, check in the guitar.
When Flying First Class Or Business Class, Board With Your Guitar
If you have bought a first-class or business class ticket then you can take your guitar with you into the plane. There is more than enough space for you to keep your guitar if you are flying first-class or business class. No one will stop you or prevent you from taking it in. the flight attendants will place the guitar in the wardrobe or somewhere near your seat. Your guitar will be well protected and kept close to you the whole flight.
Check-In At The Gate
It is tempting to want to drop all your luggage at the luggage counter. Yet, I don’t recommend it, instead take it with you to the gate and there you will pass it to be stored in the plane. Ensure you have your airline musical instrument policy with you. in case you are being mandated to check in your guitar with your other luggage. Here is the official document of musical instrument policy in the US. But in case you don’t have it, tell them that it’s a fragile musical instrument. But make sure you inform them humbly and politely.
In my opinion that the longer my guitar is out of my hand or out of my sight, the more its chances of it getting damaged or worse, getting lost. It is for this reason that I keep it in my hand as much as I can. When you check your guitar at the gate, you will be able to get it at the plane’s luggage compartment after you deplane. The truth about using the conveyor is that it exposes your guitar to the reach of thieves. If you flying with connecting flights, then there is a good chance that your guitar will be at the mercy of conveyors and carriers. In that case, I recommend that you move to the luggage claim once the plane lands at the destination. Also, try to take note of how the bags are coming onto the conveyor.
One thing I believe is that if you are polite, respectful and stand on your ground, you will get through everything and almost everyone. I am certain that you know that no matter how well prepared you are for your travel, you can’t be prepared enough for every possible scenario. For instance, when the flight is too full to accommodate your carry-on baggage. When you find yourself in such rare instances, your best bet is to be cool and very smart, in other words, be polite. You will have to politely explain to the flight crew that your guitar is fragile and vulnerable. if he/ she can do anything to help accommodate it.
When flying with your guitar, it is better for you to be polite to the attendants and try as much as possible. Sometimes, the attendants would go out of their way to help you keep and protect your guitar.
Consider Boarding Early And Book Seat Towards The Rare
Boarding early means you will still have enough space in the overhead bin. When flying with your electric guitar, ensure that you board the plane as early as you can. This will ensure that the storage compartment is not completely filled up.
Also, you will improve your chances of having enough space to keep your electric guitar if you book a seat at the front of the plane. Not only does this put you at an advantage in getting storage space in the overhead compartment. It also means that you get to get off the plane early when deplaning. And this helps ensures that you can easily get your guitar at the plane’s luggage compartment. If for nothing, it keeps your guitar out of the reach of guitar thieves.
Don’t Open The Guitar Case Immediately At Arrival
This tip if you checked in your guitar with other luggage. If you have your guitar with you in the first-class or business class cloth closet you can ignore this tip.
If your guitar is flying with you in first-class or business class, feel free to open it anytime once you arrived. Otherwise, hold on for some time and let the guitar transition into the new environment. Some planes have the temperature and pressure control in the luggage bay while others do not. Even if the temperature is controlled, it is still not wise to open the guitar case immediately once you arrived. Allow the guitar to warm up and get acquainted with the temperature before you bring it out. Wait for at least 30 minutes after getting to your destination before opening your guitar case. Usually, it will be time it will take you to pick up the rest of your luggage.
Put Identification Tag Inside And Outside Your Guitar Case
Having an identification tag inside and outside your guitar case could be your saving grace should your guitar case be misplaced. Though misplacing a carry-on bag or guitar case is extremely rare. But if yours gets misplaced, having a tag will without a doubt makes it easier to identify you and return the case/bag back to you as quickly as possible. There are many sites that you can easily generate a baggage tag. All you need do is complete the form and place it inside and outside your guitar case.
We all have an idea of the dynamism and expenses involved in an airplane trip. Keeping your electric guitar safe, close by and in one piece has proved to be difficult. As a musician or guitar player who travels both locally and internationally, you need to know the tips I have given above. Plan for the worst scenario so you can give your guitar the most protection you can. Ensure you remain cool, pleasant, professional and polite to the flight attendants. Often, they can go out of their way in helping you protect your guitar.
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