People from different cultures, countries and ethnic groups can often bond over music. Sometimes no common language is needed; the melodies are enough to break down communication barriers. It’s not surprising, therefore, that many people choose to travel with musical instruments.
Although the most common instrument for travelers is the guitar, there’s little to stop you from traveling with any instrument that you like. Barring, of course, a grand piano! It’s generally not as difficult to travel with musical instruments as you may at first think.
1. Ensure Your Instrument is Insured
Whatever your mode of transportation is, make sure that you have adequate insurance cover for your musical instrument. Instruments are pricey! Do you really want the bills if your instrument is lost, damaged in transit or stolen on your trip? Plus, if you rely on your instrument to make a living you will also need to consider lost earnings if your instrument is out of action or unavailable.
2. Pad Your Instrument Case
Instruments can get bumped around a fair bit in transit. Whether you’re flying, taking a train, traveling by road or going on a ship, make sure that there is a good amount of padding in your instrument case. The case should be packed enough that your instrument sits snugly inside; it shouldn’t move around inside its case. Depending on the type of instrument and the size of the case, you may consider using foam or bubble wrap for extra padding. Small items of clothing, like socks and t-shirts, can also be ideal.
3. Slacken Strings for Transit
If you’re traveling with string instruments, remember to slacken the strings to prevent them for snapping during the journey. Don’t forget to do the same for bows too.
4. Take Accessories and Spare Parts
Especially if you’re traveling overseas, getting necessary accessories and pieces for your instruments may be difficult. Think things like spare strings for string instruments like guitars, cellos and violins and reeds for wind instruments like clarinets and saxophones. If you’re a drummer, spare drum sticks should also probably be on your list. Even things like rosin for bows can be difficult to source in some parts of the world.
5. Be Weather Wise
A change in weather conditions, temperature and climate can affect some types of musical instruments. It is well worth, for example, purchasing a special dehumidifier for your cases. Wooden instruments especially can fall foul of environmental changes. Make sure to avoid extremes of temperatures when you travel with musical instruments. Also avoid carrying your case through the rain. Don’t be tempted to start playing as soon as you arrive in a new destination; instruments need around a day to acclimatize.
6. Check Airline Rules
Different airlines have different policies when it comes to flying with musical instruments. Check before confirming your ticket to avoid any potentially hefty add-on fees. Some airlines, for example, may require that you actually purchase an extra seat for exceptionally large instruments. Some airlines will insist that instruments are carried in the hold. Some carriers permit musicians to take their instruments into the cabin as hand luggage, though they may or may not allow additional pieces of carry-on baggage. Do your homework before finalizing your flight plans.
7. Consider Space Availability in Cars
If you’re planning a musical road trip, consider the size of your vehicle and the trunk space. Nobody wants to find themselves crammed in next to a bassoon! You might want to consider various external storage solutions for your vehicle, such as a roof rack or cargo hitch carrier. Ensure your instrument is properly secured for your journey.
If you own a particularly expensive make of instrument, it can also be well worth considering purchasing a second instrument solely for travel purposes. If your instruments need electricity to work, for example keyboards and electric guitars, don’t forget adapters and converters!
Do you regularly travel with musical instruments? What secret tips do you have to stop the music from being silenced in transit?