A guitar player’s dilemma: You are going to be taking a flight somewhere and you have to bring your acoustic guitar along. Or even if you don’t really have to bring your guitar with you, leaving it behind at home is out of the question. Either it comes with you or you don’t fly at all.
But what about baggage check-ins and regulations? What if it gets damaged in transit, like other guitars in years past? Would the check-in counter be the last place you would ever see your guitar in good condition? Would that little counter with the stern-looking ground crew be the last place you would ever see your guitar, period?
These concerns are why many guitar players prefer to bring a travel acoustic guitar that’s lighter and more compact than their full-sized acoustic. The smaller, more portable instrument counts as a carry-on and fits easily in overhead bins. If you don’t have one yet, you should seriously consider getting one for your next trip.
If you are keen on taking your guitar along with you on that plane ride, here’s what you need to know.
Policies differ from airline to airline, from country to country.
And sometimes the staff don’t really know what the policies regarding musical instruments are. Do your research beforehand before booking your flight to determine whether the airline will allow you carry your acoustic guitar in the aircraft cabin. If it does, check the requirements and make sure you can comply. Make a printout of that policy so you can show it to the ground crew as proof.
You will most likely be asked to check it in.
Regardless of the airline, in most instances, acoustic guitars would have to be checked in. The safest way to go is to actually buy an extra seat on the plane for your guitar, but unfortunately this is far from reality for most musicians.
It is still wise to revert to the default mode of checking in your precious guitar, which means you’ll have to physically prepare it for the trip so it has a fighting chance against handling mishaps. Follow these tips:
Get a flight case. The hardshell case your guitar comes with may look sturdy, but while it’s good for everyday protection, it probably won’t be able to keep your guitar in good condition when faced with the challenges that come with air travel. A soft or padded gig bag, too, will surely fare worse. It would be best to invest in a guitar case that has been specially designed for air travel.
Pack the guitar properly. Give your acoustic guitar a good in-case protection by doing the following:
- Loosen the strings a little to accommodate changes in temperature and air pressure.
- Fill any empty or air space with foam, soft clothing or bubble wrap to keep the guitar snug and prevent it from sliding or moving in any direction.
- Put a soft item between the strings and frets. Good options include PE foam, folded-up paper towels or a clean piece of cloth.
- Secure small accessories. Check that the accessories that you store in the guitar case such as clip-on tuners, string packages, wrenches and other items are firmly secured and won’t get jostled out of the accessory compartment.
- Get a two-way humidification system that protects your guitar against both dry and wet conditions. Acoustic guitar humidifiers/dehumidifiers are easily installed in the soundhole of the guitar.
Taking these precautions can help you make sure your acoustic guitar arrives with you at your destination in good condition. Have a safe flight!