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Jun 11

Safe Travels: 8 Tips for Transporting Musical Instruments

Photo by Zoagli

 

With vacations nearly in full swing, you may be packing your bags to head out on that much-deserved trip to the Bahamas, your family reunion, or a huge holiday celebration. Are you planning to take your instrument with you? Whether you’re serenading a couple down the aisle, fiddling for your grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration, or joining a holiday jam session, here are a few tips to consider when traveling with an instrument, large or small.

 

1. Know airline policies. Most small- to medium-sized instruments (such as violins, violas, ukuleles, etc.) can be brought on board as standard carry-ons. For larger instruments (such as cellos and basses), depending on the size and the airline, you may have to pay an additional fee or even purchase a ticket for your instrument companion to cross the country with you. Check out these airline policies for musical instrument transport for more details:

 

2. Get ready to go through security.

With random luggage items being subject to inspection, TSA recommends including “short written instructions, where a security officer will notice them, for handling and repacking your instrument.” They allow you to check a personal item, carry-on item, and musical instrument through security. Be sure to allow yourself extra time (up to 30 minutes) to get through security with your instrument in case it needs to be unpacked, inspected, and repacked for flight.

 

3. Prepare your instrument and bow.

Before traveling, loosen your strings a little bit–not enough that the bridge may fall over in transport, but enough that should the temperature or humidity change effect the tautness of the strings, your strings won’t snap or put too much pressure on the face of your instrument, which could cause a crack. And, as always, loosen your bow hairs to prevent your bow from snapping due to similar climate changes.

 

4. Pack your case well.

Planes and car rides can be bumpy! If your instrument doesn’t fit snugly and securely in your case, add some extra padding (foam, washcloths, socks, etc.) to make sure it doesn’t get jostled around too much. Consider even wrapping up your rosin to keep it from shattering or wrapping your bow in bubble wrap or carrying it on (if your cello/bass is underneath the plane) in a separate bow case or cardboard tube. Be sure to securely fasten your case shut before putting it into an overhead bin–you don’t want to pull your case out in a hurry to get off the plane and watch your violin and accessories scatter across the aisles. Check out some of Kennedy Violins’ durable and lightweight cases that are great for travel.

 

5. Put an ID tag on your instrument.

A musician’s worst nightmare is losing their instrument on their way to a performance. Put a proper and easy-to-find ID tag on your instrument including your full name and how to reach you: phone number, e-mail, and address.

 

6. Be sure you have an up-to-date insurance policy covering your instrument.

If you’ve never had your instrument appraised, that’s the first step to including it in your insurance policy. Most professional luthiers can appraise your instrument for you for a modest charge, or sometimes for free if you’re a regular customer. If anything happens to your instrument during travel (such as damage or theft), most airlines can do little to replace or repair your instrument, so being covered through a legitimate policy is essential. Contact your insurance agent for more details.

 

7. Consider the elements.

Especially if you’re driving, NEVER put your instrument in the trunk of your car for an extended period of time. Leaving a violin in the hot trunk (or cab) of your car can ruin the finish, melt the varnish, melt your rosin, warp the wood, cause open seams, or render your instrument in need of serious repair. If your larger instrument has to go under the plane, it may get a little cold, but for a short flight it will probably be okay. Also, consider the climate of your destination. If you’re going to a dryer climate, be sure to use a Dampit instrument humidifier to maintain a healthy humidity level in your case. The majority of Kennedy Violinscases also have a hygrometer to measure humidity levels. 40% humidity is a healthy level for most wooden instruments.

 

8. Think about purchasing or renting an instrument specifically for travel.

Kennedy Violins has a great selection of affordable violins, violas, and cellos that are perfect as backup instruments for travel and touring, which is a smart idea if you don’t want to risk traveling with an extremely expensive, antique, heirloom, or collector’s instrument. Our affordable instrument rental program, starting at $14.97 per month, is also another great option. We can even ship your rental instrument to your destination location (as long as you or a friend/family member were available to receive it) for your convenience.

 

As usual, feel free to contact us at Kennedy Violins with any questions. And wherever you’re headed with your instrument, enjoy your trip! Bon voyage!

8 comments

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  1. petermckechnie

    I find your site very interesting and informative, I would like to repost one of your videos to my site.Is this ok?
    Peter

    1. Rachel Davis

      We don’t mind if you share our article as long as there is a link back to the original post. Thanks!

  2. Mariam Tadrous

    I’m planning to travel over sees to Egypt this summer, and I’d like to take my viola with me. The main flight is 7-10 hrs long. If I take my Viola with me as a carry on, will it be ok that long? Thanks

    1. Liz Lambson

      Hi Mariam, your viola should be fine as a carry on. If you’re worried, stuff some soft padding (socks, scarves, handkerchiefs) into your case around your viola for extra protection. You can also insure your instrument if that will make you feel more confident about traveling with it. Enjoy your trip!

  3. Jess

    Hi, I live in Utah (very dry) and will be traveling to Spain and Italy in a week. Do I need a Humidifier? Also I own a featherweight case. Will that be sturdy enough to fly with/go on tour?

    Thanks.

    1. Liz Lambson

      Apologies for the belated reply! You must be in Spain! Please tell us about your experience traveling with your violin. The featherweight case should be fine as a carry on — avoid checking your instrument. For extra protection, you can pack some extra material (scarves, socks, bubble wrap) in the nooks and crannies of your case around your violin and accessories. If your violin is used to dry Utah weather and you haven’t been using a humidifier, your instrument may react to the changes in humidity in Spain. You may need to tune more frequently, and regularly look over your violin to watch for open seams or cracks. And most importantly, enjoy your trip!

  4. Amit

    Hi,
    I know we’re talking mostly about violins here, but I have a question about a different instrument maybe you can help me. I have a Cajon and I travel around with it playing gigs (the Cajon is in a gig bag of course). sometimes I can’t take it around on me and I have to leave it in the car…. Is it ok to leave the Cajon in a parking car (on a hot sunny summer day) for around 3-4 hours? Or can the Cajon get damaged by it?
    Thank you!

    1. Liz Lambson

      Hi Amit, thanks for reaching out. I’m familiar with cajons. Generally, it’s not a great idea to leave wooden instruments in hot vehicles because wood can crack, contract/expand, warp, or otherwise react to abrupt changes in temperature or humidity. I wouldn’t recommend making a habit of leaving your instrument in your car.

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