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The April 2010 issue of Acoustic Guitar features an article on flying with a guitar, written by bluesman Chris Smither (click HERE for a link to the article). As someone who travels with his Collings 12-fret year around, Smither has some very specific tips to offer, and some run contrary to another article on the topic, written by our senior editor Scott Nygaard in the April 2009 issue (click HERE for a link to that story). While Nygaard (who used to log thousands of air miles as a member of Tim O'Brien's band) prefers to check his guitar as luggage, Smither makes a case for carrying his guitar onboard in a gigbag. Obviously, there's more than one way to go about getting your guitar in the air, and we'd love to hear from Acoustic Guitar Community members about their experiences, so here's your chance to let your voice be heard!

Tags: air, carry, chris, flying, guitar, nygaard, on, scott, smither, travel

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Two very good articles! And also interesting that Smither and Nygaard differ on approach.
Due to guite a bit of discussion on "travel guitars" and "traveling with guitars" I have recently started a group on Travel Guitars. The vast majority of responses have been from non-gigging players. Obviously, the professional faced with transporting not only an expensive instrument, but something that took a lot of effort to evaluate prior to purchasing is in quite a different predicament than some one traveling with a Martin LX (HPL).
We welcome all input and discussion on the "Travel Guitar" group.
Some of the stories regarding getting a guitar through airport security or on board a cruise ship have been interesting.
Good idea, Teja. Here's a link:

Travel Guitars Group
Chris Smither's article was (is) excellent. Just a suggestion that works for me is pad the inside of the gig bag with the soft
pads you find with camera bags. I use velcro snd line the interior, top, sides and back with them
Very interesting articles, I've never tried to"fly" an acoustic so far. I toured in the 1970's and managed to sneak my Les Paul into the cabin until a gig in Texas, had to have an Anvil case sent to the airport before the gig was over. I traveled with a Hamer solid body about 12 years ago in a generic Anvil-style flight case. The morning after I got back I opened the case to see all but two of the strings broken at the locking (Floyd tailpiece) nut and a big splintered dent in a lower bout. Clearly the case had been thrown so hard that the strings broke while inside the case. I didn't know that there was a 24-hour limit on damage claims until I called the airline 26 hours after I picked it up in baggage claim. After a 20 year break from touring I had forgotten to walk straight from the carousel to the baggage claim counter and open it for the first time in their presence. If I was to fly now with an acoustic I'd stuff my Composite Acoustics Cargo guitar into the overhead bin (fits easily) and not worry about it. Based on my experience gig bags don't protect wood necks. A custom neck on a Strat of mine was broken while in a gig bag. Good thing I'm not touring these days!
They are both good articles, and worth a read. I travel several times a year with a guitar. I don't have flight cases, and I don't use gig bags (*shudder*). My goal is to get the guitar in the closet at the front of the plane, or gate-check it so it doesn't go through the automated guitar-mangling baggage handling system. I'm not a fan of trying to stuff a full-sized dreadnaught in a hard case into an overhead compartment. Here is what I do.

1. I use a hard case; padding the headstock. I usually leave the strings at normal tension. I've tried detuning and it seems like a waste of time to me.

2. I arrive at the airport well in advance of the flight. I check all my baggage other than a small backpack.

3. I get to the gate when the people working the gate get there. After they get settled in, but before they start making announcements, I approach the counter, guitar in hand. I'm friendly and polite. I tell them I'm travelling with a guitar and that I'd like to carry it on, but I'd like to have a gate check tag "just in case". The idea is to give the impression that I won't be a problem customer and that I do this all the time, no problemo! Attach the gate check tag to the guitar.

4. I board when I am supposed to and when I get to the door, I ask the attendent I can get it into the closet. If I can, great! If not, I take a quick look down the plane at the overhead compartments. If the ailse is clogged with people trying to stuff their huge wheelie suitcases into the overheads and the plane is full, I step out of line and put the guitar at the end of the jetway, with the car seats/wheelchairs/etc. Don't believe the attendant when she says you can put the guitar under your seat!

4. When deplaning, don't forget to retrieve the guitar. Check it in the airport to make sure it's OK (especially if you gate checked it).

If I have multiple guitars, I ship the most sturdy one via UPS. I put it in a hardshell guitar case, inside a guitar box. I insure it. This is the way guitar companies ship their guitars to the store or to you, if you buy online. Expect to pay almost as much as a plane ticket to do this.
a question:
can anyone recommend a particular brand or model of gig bag? I have an old Martin 018, and cringe at the idea of putting it in a soft case. But, hey, if Chris Smither does it, who am i to second guess?!?
I'm just wondering if there are any gig bags that offer more structure/protection?
Just as a way of updating this thread, I just returned from a quick six days in Germany, where I carried my guitar--in a Calton case, no less--on all three flights. It was Lufthansa from San Francisco to Munich, then Munich to Dusseldorf, and then United from Frankfurt to San Francisco. Lufthansa stashed the guitar in the closets, United had me use an overhead bin, though not the one right above my seat, as it was too small. I offered to gate-check every time, but the flight attendants encouraged me to find a spot onboard. Nice.
Perhaps a sign that airlines are courting business once again given the economic downturn? In any event, it's good to hear positive experience from a fellow guitarist/traveler.
Interesting articles.

I've carried a few (3) guitars on planes, and I must confess when you travel in Business Class it's not a problem at all, even if you carry your guitar in a hard carry case. But times are now tough, and I'm no longer at the front of the plane. On my last journey in Virgins' Premium Economy, I was asked to check in my brand new Gibson Les Paul Supreme, and after practically begging the lady at the desk not to allow Sydney baggage handellers to get there hands on my pride and joy, I gave in, while loosening the strings getting ready to hand it over, the nice lady said, that looks like a nice guitar, just carry it on.... I was so relived. But here's my problem, I now want to carry a 1931 Martin OM-28 from London to Sydney later this year, and I can't afford the business class flight, I am travelling for free on air miles in economy. If I turn up with this guitar in a padded case, and then find I can't hand carry it, I am sure it will get broken by baggage handlers - I'm not even sure that the original hard case is up to it either.. So what advice or suggestions do people have about getting vintage guitars from one country to another?
Do you REALLY need to take a 1931 Martin OM to Sydney? I myself would look at alternative instruments rather than fly with something like this.
If you really have to have it on the other side of the world I would invest in a premium lockable case and have it shipped by independant carrier and insured.
Another alternative is to buy a seat for it. I once had a cello as a seat mate. The owner had the window seat. She was a proffessional concert cellist and always bought a seat for her instrument. In retrospect I wish I had asked if she got any special break in ticket cost. I doubt it.
I agree 100%, but I'm not sure the extra seat option is still available. If you are relocating and need to have the guitar in Sydney I believe there are companies that specialize in shipping valuable and fragile instruments. Make sure they deal with the current rare wood regulations also. If it's for performing, shipping could cost as much as buying a working-quality instrument in Oz from an Australian manufacturer, especially after insuring it for full replacement value, assuming you could ever find another Martin OM. Check new instrument reviews in this magazine, an Australian maker is getting good reviews.
Bottom line: my advice is to NOT fly the Martin unless you can put it in a seat next to you.
Thanks for your reply Mike E,
Yes buying a seat is an option that I am seriously considering, if I can't find a cheaper, and as safe way of doing it. Thanks for the suggestion about shipping, it might be an option, but I think I agree with you, and should sit next to it, unless I can get a better suggestion.

No I'm not a professional performer - so it's coming over so I can use it daily.


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