Tips for Flying with Guitars and Other Instruments

Everyone knows that strolling through the airport as the guy with the guitar case in hand automatically makes you the coolest person in the corridor. It's one of the laws of aeronautical engineering. But beneath that collected facade that tells everyone you're being flown out to some emergency gig at Budokan (when you're probably just visiting grandma), there's that stirring anxiety, that incessant voice that screams: "please don't let my guitar get damaged in transit."

Late last year, a new law went into the books in the US that allows travelers to take a guitar or other instrument as a carry-on commercial flights. This is great news for musicians, as it does away with any debate as to whether instruments can qualify as carry-on baggage. This development, however, is far from a cure-all for the broken headstock blues. There are still plenty of preventive measures you should take next time you fly with an instrument to ensure it arrives at your destination safe and sound.

Detune Your Instrument

When flying with anything with strings, there are always going to be variables that are outside your control. Prepping the instrument properly, however, is something you should always find time to do. The easiest step is to detune the strings as a means to reduce pressure on the neck. The constant in-flight pressure and temperature fluctuations wreak havoc on string tension. Simply loosening the strings will make this much less of a threat.

Get A Humidifier

Much like the constantly shifting air pressure within an airplane, changing humidity is another natural enemy of wood. Getting an in-case humidifier is a no-brainer for any player, but it is all the more important when traveling. There are a lot of great options out there but the Planet Waves Humidipak is always a good choice.

Consider A Structured Gig Bag

While hardshell cases offer great protection for guitars on the move, they may not be the best solution when working within the confines of an overhead bin. There's a growing number of case options out there that fall somewhere in between hardcase and gigbag, forming what we might call the "Structured Gig Bag" category. These cases offer the weight, size and flexibility of a gig bag while still providing ample padding and protection.

For the best of the best, we're big fans of the offerings from Mono. Their bags have solid supports along the neck to keep it well-elevated and stable. They even have models with extra padding on the bottom to protect specifically against drops and shifts on the bottom of a guitar.

Fill In The Empty Space

Much like our recommendations for shipping a guitar, taking the time to remove any negative space in the area between your instrument and the edges of your case or gigbag is another smart move. The idea is to remove the possibility of the instrument shifting around too much. You can always use bubble wrap or other packing materials, but some rolled up T-shirts will also do the trick. Think of it as a way to save space in your normal luggage.

Check out our video on how to ship a guitar. Most of the same principles apply:

Ask About The Closet

Most commercial airplanes have a closet near the entrance way, and this is prime real estate when it comes to stashing instruments. Keep in mind these closets are the dominion of the flight attendant staff, so do what you need to in order to get in their good graces. An invitation to store your case in the front closet will save you the frustration of having to find an overhead bin with enough room to squeeze it in.

These are just some general guidelines, but I have a feeling that some of our readers may have some great tips of their own to share. See the comments section below? Have at it!


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