How to Fly With Musical Instruments

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Flying with musical instruments, as with many other expensive, delicate items, is something that should not be taken lightly.

There’s nothing worse than getting to your destination only to find that your instrument has been damaged/broken in transit.

There are also several other things you need to consider when flying with musical instruments, such as airlines’ rules and regulations, and what the best way of transporting it actually is.

Find Out Your Airline’s Regulations

Every airline has their own policy regarding weight restrictions and baggage fees, and these policies can change depending on where you’re traveling to (and whether the flight is domestic or international).

When buying an airline ticket, don’t forget to think about how much extra you might have to pay in overweight/oversized baggage fees, as the ‘cheapest’ airline ticket might not always be the cheapest overall once you’ve considered these other factors.

Overweight baggage charges usually kick in if your bag weighs over 50 lbs, and will often cost you over $100.

Because of this, it’s a good idea to weigh your musical instrument (and the case/container you’re carrying it in) to see whether it’ll be classed as overweight baggage or not. If your instrument is only just over the allotted weight limit, you might want to try and redistribute a few items (such as a guitar tuner or capo) into your hand luggage so that you don’t have to pay the additional charges.

If you’re planning on taking your instrument as carry-on (as opposed to checking it), you’ll need to make sure it complies with the airlines’ size restrictions. If not, ask whether you can check it at the gate or if the airplane has any special closets for such (larger, delicate) items that you can store it in.

Electric guitar

Pack Your Musical Instrument Properly

Whether you’re flying with a guitar, a bass, a drum kit, a keyboard or a classical (brass/woodwind/string) instrument, you’ll need to have some kind of padded case to put it in so that it’s protected during the flight.

You should also look to add extra padding to the inside of your case by putting socks or t-shirts (or anything soft) in there with them.

Of course, when doing this, it’s a good idea to do it as neatly as possible, as it’s likely that the case will be opened at some point whilst traveling through customs, so having everything organized neatly on the inside will make inspections easier and quicker.

Last but not least, adding a couple of “Fragile” stickers (the kind you can buy from the post office) to the side of your case never hurts.

What About Buying it Overseas?

Depending on what kind of instrument you have, and what you plan to do with it, you might want to consider buying one overseas instead.

For example, if you’re traveling around Europe and you just want a cheap acoustic guitar to jam (and occasionally busk) with as you travel, it might be a better idea to fly over and pick one up cheaply once you get here.

The Big Question – Should You Just Ship It Instead?

Another alternative to taking your musical instrument on the plane with you is to send it separately via a shipping company.

This can be cheaper than the cost of oversize/overweight baggage fees, making it an attractive option to those on a budget.

The problem with shipping, however, it is that it can take a long time, as there’s no guarantee it’ll arrive when you do.

If you’re buying something abroad and sending it home, shipping is fine (providing there’s someone else there to collect it at the other end). If, however, you’re flying to a new city (where you have no permanent address) and you’ll only be there a few days, shipping your musical instrument isn’t a realistic option.

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