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5 Top Tips for Traveling with Musical Instruments

Commercial air travel is the fastest and most convenient way to see the world, but traveling with a musical instrument can sometimes be a hassle. If you plan on traveling with your instrument, however, the good news is that it can be done easily just by following a few simple tips!

#1. Insure Your Musical Instrument

Whether you’re a professional musician or just like having your instrument with you when you travel, it is an important part of your life and an expensive item that you want to protect. There are always potential hazards when traveling with your instrument, so it’s a good idea to get the right music instrument insurance.

There are insurance policies for everything from medical to homeowner’s, renter’s to life, auto, and everything in between. Insurance can protect your valuable assets against damage or loss and insuring your musical instrument is no different. 

Airlines tend to have limits on their liability when it comes to lost or damaged passenger items, meaning they will only pay a small amount in a worst-case scenario. So before you and your instrument take to the skies, proactively protect yourself with insurance for any eventuality.

#2. Research Airline’s Policies Before Booking

Before making your booking, it’s a good idea to research the airlines’ carry-on and checked baggage musical instrument policies before selecting an airline or booking a ticket. Some airlines are more friendly to travelers with instruments than others, so talking to musician friends or reading reviews can really help you make a decision.

If you have a large instrument and the means, you can also consider purchasing an extra seat for anything larger than a guitar. Some musicians have even blogged about their cello or harp’s frequent flyer account! Just make sure the airline regulations allow you to do so. 

Measure your instrument in its travel case, noting the dimensions and weight, before contacting any airline staff. That way, when you book your reservation you’ll have all of the essential information at hand. 

Do musical instruments count as hand luggage?

Yes! Although it does depend on the size of the instrument. Recently, the US Department of Transportation changed its policies to require airlines to allow passengers to carry on musical instruments, just like any other piece of luggage. 

As long as your instrument is small enough to fit in the overhead compartment, you’ll be able to carry it on and let it ride just above your head. This goes for items like violins, violas, and even guitars!

#3. Plan Ahead

If you plan to carry your instrument onboard, you may consider requesting (or purchasing) priority booking in advance when making your booking. This way, you will have extra time to secure your instrument and be certain you’ll get space in the overhead compartment.

Print out a copy of the DOT’s guidelines as well as the airline’s policies and carry them with you when you travel. 

#4. Pack Smart

It should go without saying, but always pack your musical instrument in a hard case when traveling. If you don’t already have one, this is the time to invest in a good quality, hardshell case for your cherished instrument.

Be prepared for your instrument to go through security, so make sure not to pack any liquids in the case or any other items that may necessitate additional security checks. As you pack, it’s a good idea to take a lot of pictures of your instrument and its case in its pre-flight condition. That way, in the unfortunate situation that loss or damage does occur, you have concrete documentation.

You can also buy some “FRAGILE” stickers to adhere to the outside of the hardshell case. Your instrument is much less likely to get knocked around if it is covered in attention-grabbing stickers. 

#5. Give Yourself the Gift of Time

If you’ve been to an airport recently, you know that airport security requirements have only continued to increase, multiplying the time it takes to get from the entrance to your gate. Avoid unnecessary anxiety by giving yourself plenty of time and arriving extra early at the airport prior to your flight. 

So, with a bit of research and preparation, you and your musical instrument can fly safely and get to your destination without casualty or worry.


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