musical instruments

Tips for travelling with your musical instruments – A complete guide

It is understandable to be concerned about your musical instruments when traveling, especially if their sizes are bigger than a flute. Travel life is particularly hard on your instruments and gear, but taking the opportunity to care for them on the road or by air, can present opportunities for icebreaking and fun; even though the logistics of doing so can look complicated and messy.

Therefore, it is worth looking into ways you can travel with your gear while lowering or eliminating the chances of the instrument suffering damage, which we will discuss in this article.

Tune-up before you set off

Getting your instrument repaired while you are in the middle of nowhere is not a fun experience. One of the best preventative measures you can do is to have your instrument cleaned and maintained before you set off on your travels. Of course, you may still need to clean your instrument whilst traveling, and you can use articles like the following to help with that:

Get a hard case

Regardless of the specific instrument, you must set aside some money to purchase a hard case for it, also known as a gig bag. Hard cases will provide additional protection due to their exterior shell, which prevents damage and squashing of your instrument.

Different instruments will have different requirements for their travel cases, with most hard cases consisting of fiberglass, injection-molded synthetics, or wood. For instance, if you own a clarinet and want to travel with it, many clarinet experts will tell you to get a hard case from well-known clarinet brands that fit your instrument tightly.

Be careful if you are taking flights

If you plan to take your instrument on a flight, you must apply extra caution when dealing with it. Since most instruments will be too big to keep on the overhead lockers, you must check them in as you would for your other luggage. As many airports suffer the reputation of carelessness, ensure the hard case you use for your instruments has plenty of visible stickers showing it contains fragile items.

Airports are also very strict in what they allow you to have as your carry-on luggage, so you can keep the instrument with you if it fits the size requirements. You should also consider carrying the more fragile instruments such as the saxophone, snare drum, clarinet, and so on.

Book a seat for the instrument

If you play larger instruments that tend to be fragile, such as harps or cellos, you can purchase a seat for the instrument. While this is an expensive route to take, it is worth doing if you have an expensive instrument that you do not want to check in with the rest of your luggage.

If you are choosing this method though, you need to keep some considerations in mind, which are:

  • Inform your airline that you are flying with the instrument at least 24 hours before your flight
  • Aim to get to the airport at least 30 minutes earlier than you usually would. Always prepare for potential problems as well, as the airline may refuse your request.
  • Choose the airline carefully if you want to keep a large instrument with you on the plane. There are airlines you should avoid because they are stricter with their policies.

Loosen your stringed instruments

If your instrument is one with strings, you should loosen them by one or two tones. This will help to reduce the tension your instrument experiences due to changes in temperature and pressure, especially on flights, as well as eliminate the chances of warping that causes strings to snap. 

Consider renting

It does not hurt to check whether your destination allows musicians to rent instruments, which is particularly important if you have larger gear and instruments. You can find out whether the destination venue has large gear similar to yours that you can use. If you can, consider doing a pre-performance scouting trip to see if you like the gear the venue offers.

Additionally, you can rent gear from somewhere close to your destination venue, as some can bring them to you and set them up. This will also reduce the expenses that would go into bringing your gear along.

If you must check the instrument:

Get a ‘beater’ instrument

These are cheaper alternatives to your prized instrument, and you will not feel as terrible if they experience some damage or get lost.

Get travel insurance for your instrument

Airlines are not responsible for your luggage or instruments, so make sure you get solid insurance covers for your instruments.


Traveling can easily become stressful when you are unprepared, especially if carrying sensitive items like instruments. Using these tips should help you protect and have fun using them on the road.

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