Travelling with a Guitar
October 21, 2004 7:52 PM   Subscribe

HaveGuitarWillTravelFilter: Has anyone flown with a guitar lately? How did you secure the case? Any tips? What did you do with it at the hotel when you wanted to go out without it?
posted by mischief to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm told you should loosen the strings, or the pressure could cause the neck to snap.
posted by Succa at 8:30 PM on October 21, 2004

You might find this a good reference - lots of anecdotes. I'd personally suggest trying to make it carry-on, but securely pack it - it should not wobble around - in a hardshell with maybe a zipped cover, just in case. Then buy a travel guitar for next time for an easier time at having a carry-on instrument.

Now me, I'm a union musician (though not a guitarist) and this is a big legal issue. You might find some additional resources here - several policies and guidelines per airline.
posted by Sangre Azul at 10:49 PM on October 21, 2004

I've usually done carry on. Sometimes there's a little closet/luggage cabinet the stewardfolk have stashed it in, sometimes I've fit it in the overhead compartment.

The few times I've handed it over to the luggage department folks, I have indeed loosened the strings (the tension changes with cabin temperature and can be all haywire), made sure it was marked fragile, but in a sturdy flight case.

Never had a problem so far, despite the horror stories I've heard.

As for the hotel.... are you worried someone, maybe the staff, would walk off with it? I've never had this problem in the US, and rarely anywhere, but I'm not sure what I'd do if I thought I might...
posted by weston at 2:20 AM on October 22, 2004

If memory serves, you play a Fender Stratocaster, right? If so, the fellows at the Telecaster board advocate pulling the neck off and stashing the guitar in a hardshell suitcase. The neck comes off a Fender with either three or four screws and I've never had a problem with set-up or adjustment when I've removed and reinstalled my own.

Anecdotally, I've check my Stratocaster a half-dozen or so times with strings loosened and had the guitar come through fine. This was in one of the late 80s Fender cases (probably built by SKB) that's a big rectangle with Fender embossed into it. The case is basically trashed by now, thanks in no small part to the airlines. I would not check a guitar I cared about in one of those tweed/tolex/whatever playwood cases that Musician's Friend and the like sell for ~$70US. I'd only be happy with a form fit case.

It's important to pad the neck and the headstock in the case to that the weight of the guitar isn't supported by a six-inch section of the neck. That's bad. In the good old days, one could pad the guitar in the case and duct tape all of the hinges and latches. That's no longer an option since the TSA monkeys need to fondle your gear. I've no solution to that.

And if you're flying with an acoustic you'd like to keep, Calton is the case to have. They ain't cheap, but they're very, very good.

Good luck.

(I think that's probably the biggest factor at work.)
posted by stet at 10:08 AM on October 22, 2004

Ditto all that's been said, but you might consider a good flight case. They are an absolute pain in the ass to drag around, but if you're worried about your axe getting damaged, it's the only way to be sure. They can be a bit spendy, but you can get one case, and get the foam inserts customized for whatever type of guitar you play, as well as cases made for more than one axe at a time.
posted by psmealey at 2:22 PM on October 22, 2004

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