How To Travel With A Guitar (And Get It Back In One Piece)

Traveling with a guitar can be a nerve-racking experience. Your guitar is one of most valuable possessions - you don't want to ruin it in transit.

So I've scanned the internet and compiled a list of the top 10 bits of advice out there on how to travel with a guitar.

1. Never, Ever, Check It In

The first and most important rule of thumb is never, ever check your guitar in. 

I made this mistake when I brought an Epiphone semi-acoustic back from Japan a few years ago, when I didn’t know better.

Sure, it’s easier to just hand it over and cross your fingers, but you’ll regret it. I certainly did. I swear that Epiphone never sounded right again! Playing open chords just sounded plain awful.

I love the advice that Josh gives over at GuitarAdventures.com for how to travel with a guitar. He says to tell them at the check-in desk “You know, I don’t mind checking my guitar onto the plane, but could I please gate check it? It’s an expensive piece of equipment that I don’t want going down the conveyer belt.”

Jedi Mind Trick

GuitarWorld.com also advocate the same approach saying: "The delivery of these lines is crucial. I guarantee if these lines are delivered kindly and in "Jedi mind trick" form, they will let you walk your precious cargo all the way to the to the gate. Nine times out of 10, they will have room in the overhead and will allow you to bring it on the plane and place it in the overhead compartment yourself.​"

By the time you get to the gate they may well just let you take it on. If they don't, and insist on tagging it, fine. But still insist on taking it to the aircraft.

Smile nicely at the boarding staff and you should be able to charm (or jedi mind-trick) it's way onto the plane!

2. Use A Solid Guitar Case

Goes without saying, if worse case scenario it has to get thrown in the luggage hold, your precious axe is going to stand a better chance of getting out unscathed if it's in a hard case. 

It surprising how many people stick their precious guitar in a flimsy, material bag. Then they wonder why it sounds like a pneumatic drill when they get it out the case.

Solid case is a must, these days they aren't expensive. Don't be a nerf herder, just get one 🙂

3. Loosen Your Strings

busker with guitar

My next tip for how to travel with a guitar comes courtesy of the people over at Truefire.com  who recommend you loosen your strings before you send your guitar on it's merry way. 

That's because "Temperature and pressure changes in flight can put enough strain on your guitar to snap that perfectly angled mahogany neck — unless your strings are loose."

Ouch. Snapping necks doesn't sounds good at all.

Loosen them up then. Taut guitar strings have over 130lbs of tension! 

I did not know that!

4. Be Picky About Your Airline

We all like to travel on a budget, and no one likes paying over the odds to get from A to B. Well maybe you wouldn't mind if you knew the airline was going to take the upmost care with your beloved guitar. 

Here's a list of the travel policies of a handful of the more reputable aviation companies (thanks to Josh for the pulling together the list)

5. If All Else Fails, Buy An Extra Seat

If money is no object, the sure-fire way of getting your guitar on board is buying an extra seat.

Yes, it sounds a bit excessive I agree, but if your guitar means that much to you why wouldn't you?

And while you're at it, you may as well treat it to a gin and tonic :-)​

6. Consider Buying A Travel Guitar

Of course another option is to take a travel guitar - that's a guitar much smaller in size and therefore much more portable- essentially designed for the road. Some of them play pretty well too. Check out five of the best ones here.

Check out the story about United Airlines. The guy’s guitar got trashed and he ended writing a song about it:

Update: I've just been informed that inside the US “Carriers must allow passengers to stow their small musical instruments [guitars, violins, etc.] in an approved stowage area in the cabin.” according to Forbes.

Featured image source: Jared LynemCC BY-SA 2.0

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2 thoughts on “How To Travel With A Guitar (And Get It Back In One Piece)

  1. On a related note, if travelling internationally, The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora is an international law (172 member nations) that prohibits import/export of products from endangered species like Brazilian rosewood. You need a permit, and a permit takes 60 to 90 days to obtain otherwise your guitar will probably be seized and you won’t get it back. Additional reading/information can be found here: https://www.fretboardjournal.com/featuresmagazineguitar-lovers-guide-cites-conservation-treaty/

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