Written by & under teacher resourses, teaching.

It’s springtime and summer is right around the corner. Time to pack up your instruments and head out to summer camps and vacations. Here are some tips to make sure your instrument arrives safely and in pristine performance condition:

Flying tips:

The rules relaxed a smidge in the spring of 2015 and you can carry-on small instruments like flutes and clarinets, maybe even a trumpet sized case with little issue, as these can fit under your seat or in the overhead bin. Larger instruments will need to be “checked” so make sure they are in a hard case, and your name is on the inside and outside. It is safer to check these at the boarding gate as this will insure it gets onto your plane and it will be the last thing that is loaded onto the plane, maybe with a bit less “handling” on the conveyor belts inside the airline terminals. Also consider purchasing an additional seat for any large and valuable instrument and have your cello sit beside you on the plane. Make sure your instrument is insured for it’s full value in case of damage by the airlines.

Make sure your case is tightly constructed (DO NOT CHECK YOUR INSTRUMENT ON A PLANE IN A SOFT CASE, not your guitar, trumpet, NO SOFT CASES EVER) and that your case firmly holds your instrument securely inside and that your name and address and contact numbers can be found inside the case and outside. You should really consider gaff tape to secure your case from opening and having your instrument fall out of the case. Or if you have locks on the case lock them, but make sure you have spare keys and do this only AFTER the TSA screening is done looking inside. Use bubble wrap in and around your instrument, in its case, to securely keep your instrument from wiggling any inside it’s case. Add some wrap beside the neck and the around the saddles of string instruments. Loosen your strings and bow hair before taking on a plane as the temperatures and air pressure changes in the cargo bay and on the airplane could change drastically enough to cause some major damage to your instrument if left at full tension. Make sure anything loose like dampits, valve oil, mouthpieces, strings, reeds and any metal or plastic objects are wrapped and secured in such as a way as to keep them from getting loose inside the case and scarring your instrument. Be early and be super nice to all the airport people, as the TSA will likely have you open your case to inspect what is inside and the people at the boarding gate will be more helpful if you are kind and helpful first. Call your airlines and ask for any specific details to help you prior to buying tickets if you really want to stay ahead of the game. Some more airline info is available at: www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-issues-final-rule-regarding-air-travel-musical

Consider purchasing and transporting a “beater instrument” that you will not be as concerned about if it gets broken during transport. Brass players check out the new pBone plastic horns for travel. They actually sound pretty good for an all plastic and cheap horn and come in a trombone and trumpet model. These may not be a good substitute for a gig, but they are great to take on vacations. With all wooden instrument, find and fill up your humidifiers and dampits and pack those in the case to keep your instrument comfy. Something to consider, your small flute, clarinet or piccolo case can fit into your normal suitcase and be checked at the main baggage terminal.

Car and Taxi traveling tips:

Do not pack heavy things on your instrument case and take and use a sturdy case to protect your instrument. Pack things around your instrument in the car so your instrument is not flailing about in the rear seat. Never pack your instrument in the trunk, as that is usually not climate controlled and can be too hot or too cold for your instrument. Loosen your strings and bow hair. And take your instrument with you into restaurants and hotels so that they do not get cooked, frozen or stolen in the unattended car.

Bus traveling tips:

Do not let your instrument be stowed under the bus, as there is no climate control there. Buy another seat if you must. When you leave the bus take your instrument with you and follow all the guidelines already listed for packing and safely in the airplane and car segments described in detail in the above paragraphs. Put a label on the inside and outside of your instrument’s case. Call ahead and ask specific information before you purchase your ticket, but I found this online at Greyhound’s webpage:

You may take one piece of baggage will be free for each adult and child. One additional piece of baggage can be accepted for a charge of $15.00 for adults only. One small bag, up to 25 pounds, plus one personal item (purse, handbag, etc.) can be taken aboard for each adult or child. Carry-on bags must fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat. Baggage must not exceed 158 centimeters (62 inches) when adding the total exterior dimensions of the (length + height + width). Any Bags exceeding the 158 cm. (62 inch) limit will be assessed oversized baggage charges. The “no charge” allowance for baggage is restricted to 23 kilograms (50 pounds) per bag. Baggage exceeding fifty (50) pounds per bag will be subject to overweight baggage charges. Baggage over 32 kilograms (70 pounds) per bag will not be accepted. Acceptable baggage includes suitcases, duffel bags, toolboxes, trunks, backpacks and securely tied cardboard boxes. https://www.greyhound.ca/en/ticketsandtravel/baggageinformation.aspx

Train travel tips:

Follow all the guidelines already listed for packing and safely in the airplane and car segments described in detail in the above paragraphs. Call ahead and ask specific information before you purchase your tickets. Here’s a link to Amtrak’s baggage rules: http://blog.amtrak.com/2015/09/baggage-101-what-you-can-bring-on-board/ and https://www.amtrak.com/baggage-policy