If you’re considering traveling with your instrument, you will definitely need to plan ahead. For some, such as singers and pianists, you don’t really need to worry! You are your own instrument. However, for those musicians playing woodwind, brass, strings, or even percussion, it can be a really big issue! Especially if you try to walk onto a plane with a double bass or tuba!
Once you know where you’re traveling, and how you are getting there, if you’re traveling by airplane, you may want to look at the latest rules and regulations for traveling with musical instruments. The TSA, on their website, outlines all of the general policies for flying with a musical instrument. You will, of course, also want to check with individual airlines. Some have stricter rules, while others are more lenient. Be prepared, in the case of a large instrument, such as a cello, to have to buy an extra seat specifically for the instrument. You will want to let the airline know that the extra seat is for a musical instrument. Without a name attached to the seat, they may give it up!
For some large instruments, you may consider shipping them ahead of time or even researching if they can be rented at your destination. Many harp players, cellists, and bassists do this.
If you play a medium sized instrument such as a guitar, french horn, trumpet, or trombone, you likely won’t need to purchase an extra seat. But, you will need to be mindful of size regulations for storage in overhead bins. Some cases, such as those for a french horn with a fixed bell, simply will not fit in overhead storage. You may be lucky enough to fit it under a seat, or, if a flight attendant is in an especially good mood, they may store it for you in a closet or even the cockpit. Additionally, be mindful of the fact that overhead storage fills very quickly. You will want to board as early as possible. Paying a service charge for early boarding can be worth it to make sure your instrument can board and be stowed securely and safely. When in doubt, as a flight attendant.
Woodwind players with reeds will need to take additional cautions as well, despite size not necessarily being a problem. Except perhaps in the case of contra-bassoons, bass clarinets, baritone saxes, etc. Double reed players should be aware that reed knives are absolutely not permitted to carry on to a plane. You will need to stow these in your checked baggage or risk confiscation.
Lastly, consider musical instrument insurance. This can frequently be purchased as part of renter’s insurance or homeowner’s insurance, and will cover your precious instrument during travel. Though, be sure to verify that with your insurance agent. The small fee can give a great deal of peace-of-mind.
That’s all for now! Safe travels!
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