Preparation is key when traveling as a musician. The endeavor doesn’t have to end in a fight at the gate, added costs or worst of all – a ruined instrument.
There are great differences in the way airlines handle musical baggage. Some care, some are completely oblivious to the needs and worries of working musicians. You can’t foresee the mood of the people at check-in, or the flight attendants. More often than not, though, you will find them to be quite understanding, but there are always exceptions.
To get you prepped, we collected vital pointers to help minimize the risk of instrument breakage. Obviously, they won’t keep a disgruntled baggage person from thundering down on your hard-case. Still, they might open your eyes.
Let’s start pre-flight.
If possible, try to book seats near the rear-end of the commuter plane. You’ll probably be able to enter the aircraft earlier, moving quickly to the back, stuffing your instrument in the overhead.
You might even want to think about paying extra for priority boarding, just to get ahead of the mass. Find the vacant seats in the last rows. Travelers tend to prefer getting in and out of the planes quite quickly, so front row seats are usually preferred.
Of course, it’s kind of sneaky, stashing your bulky instrument in the overhead. It beats paying an extra seat though, right?
Prior to boarding, make sure you prepare your hard- or soft-case properly. This means no liquids, no sharp objects, no accessories and definitely add some extra cushioning.
Be well aware of the fact that if your instrument is destined to travel in the lower deck, a hard-case will definitely be the way to go. That’s just a decision you have to make. Polyfoam cases, for example, manufactured by MONO, can be a decent compromise.
Still – a hard-case will deliver most safety, yet it will be hardest to get on board. Evaluate your options, act accordingly.
Be policy ready
Written confirmation, combined with a polite, diplomatic manner can work wonders.
Check the airline’s policy on hand luggage online, and get whatever written confirmation you can obtain. Sometimes just the act of being prepared can change the way you engage in argument.
Think about downloading the documentation to a mobile device, like cell phone or tablet. Don’t think of it as a weapon of choice, more as a friendly reminder to any stressed out flight attendant.
You did your homework, that’s the most important thing.
Photograph your gear
Always remember to photograph your gear or instruments prior to traveling. The pre-flight state is essential.
This can greatly help you out when dealing with airlines or insurers later on. Also, be honest about blemishes already present on the instrument. The more realistic you present your case, the higher the chance of achieving a fair settlement.
Many instruments are made of or at least partially contain rare materials. These can be types of hardwood, or strings that are made from certain animal hair, and they might be restricted. Blindly importing them into a zone that is very protectionist can get you into a lot of trouble.
Prepare extra well when traveling to the USA in terms of instrument documentation. You can read up on the subject at CITES, the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
When talking to customs, remember to stay polite and underline your musical legitimacy.
Permits & Merch
Some countries are incredibly strict in presenting working permits to foreign individuals, even short-term. It’s a no-go that happens to a lot of touring musicians.
You should definitely make sure you have all of your activity permitted under legal counsel.
In terms of introducing merch to foreign countries – be aware that tax regulations apply. You might get pulled out at customs and interrogated. Stay cool and find out exactly what the regulations for merchandise are, meaning invasive factors concerning quantity and pricing.
Time to get travel-smart!0 be the first one to show some appreciation for this!