How to Protect Your Guitar When Travelling
As of 2015, passengers on US airlines are officially allowed to check in small instruments as carry-on luggage. This will have been a relief to travelling guitarists concerned about the security of their instrument when in transit. For, just as you should prioritize keeping your guitar secure when not in use, it is important to think carefully about how to keep your guitar safe when travelling.
This is particularly true if your guitar is custom-made, expensive or has considerable sentimental value. There are certain things to consider before any journey, both in relation to the guitar itself and the type of journey involved. Here are a few tips to ensure your guitar is as safe as possible in transit.
Consider the means of transport
One of the first things to consider when travelling with your guitar is how your guitar will be transported. You will need to make certain decisions depending on whether it is predominantly by car, plane, van, trailer or on foot. Is your guitar going to be stowed alongside other musical equipment or cumbersome luggage? Is it likely to be a tight squeeze and could something fall on it?
Meanwhile, extreme temperature can damage wood, potentially making your guitar vulnerable. It is also worth considering the guitar’s journey from beginning to end. For example, while investing in a heavy duty guitar might ensure a safe transit on a flight, it is likely to be a hindrance should you need to travel some distance by feet at the other end. Whatever vehicle your guitar is travelling in, put your mind at ease by ensuring it is covered for any eventuality.
Prepare your guitar for the journey:
It is worth putting some measures in place before a journey to help prevent any accidental damage to your guitar or theft. These include the following:
Loosen the guitar strings: this prevents strain on the neck if there are changes in temperature. The neck is one of the areas of the guitar most vulnerable to damage.
For flights, try to take the guitar on board with you. As stated above, this is now allowed legally, but as long as the guitar is small enough. Boost your chances by boarding the plane first (which mean booking a seat at the back of the plane)
Ensure that you stow the guitar in an area that is at a suitable temperature, that is, not too hot or cold. This will help keep your guitar neck in good condition while also preventing the guitar needing a costly set-up.
Aim for a snug fit: if you find that your guitar is moving a little in its case, pad it out if possible with foam or soft cloths in order to protect it in transit. Be careful opening and closing the case though; make sure nothing is jammed or scratched in the process.
Lock the guitar case for added security. This will give you more peace of mind while travelling.
Use an appropriate guitar case
Hard cases are extremely resilient. However, compared to multi-pocketed gig bags, they often lack storage space for accessories such as guitar strings and cables. They are also often very heavy. An increasingly popular option is a soft case made of military materials that also provides support for the guitar neck – one of the most common parts of a guitar to break during transport.
Gig bags, or soft cases, have the added advantage of allowing you to wear them on your back. They also have sufficient storage space for extra accessories. You might consider using a brighter-colored guitar case. This makes it easy to identify and also helps deter potential thieves.
Finally, consider the price and/or sentimental value of the guitar itself when thinking about what case to buy. If space is an issue with the mode of transport, or you are limited when it comes carry-on or stowed luggage when flying, one option worth considering is a dual guitar case. This enables you to safely and comfortably carry two guitars in one case.
Keeping your guitar secure on the go: planning goes a long way
Travelling with your guitar can be a daunting prospect, especially if you are unable to keep a watchful eye on it. However, there is a lot you can do to help make its journey a smooth one. Think carefully about how the guitar is being transported and for how long, as well as the appropriate type of case in which to put it. Paying special attention to the neck is important, no matter the nature of the journey.
Finally, try to establish in advance whether you can have your guitar with you while travelling on a plane or bus, and how secure the guitar will be if it is not possible.