What’s worse than leaving your guitar behind because you didn’t know how to pack a guitar for flight? Or, though you bring your guitar with you, the airport authority is not bothered with how close you are with your guitar.
So flying with one may need you to part with it before boarding the plane. While it is sad to separate from your beloved guitar for a while, it must be infinitely worse to lose it for good at the hands of cruel airport rush/airplane abuse.
Stay tuned as we simplify and walk you through all the steps you must take to ensure that you can safely travel with your guitar without a broken fretboard and snapped strings. Let’s start!
Tips & Tricks On Packing A Guitar For Air Travel
1. Make a list
Nothing can replace planning and list on pen and paper. No matter how good your memory is, you’ll always seem to miss out on one thing or the other if you simply shove random things in your case as you please.
We strongly suggest that you put packing your guitar to the side, and sit down with a pen and paper. List down everything you need. The guitar (DUH!), extra picks, extra strings, any pickups, etc. Don’t forget to carry your personal essentials like a cleaning rag, note papers, etc.
2. Gather what’s on the list
Alright, with that out of the way, now it’s time to scout out each of the things on your list from all over your room and place them together on the bed. Place them nice and neatly side by side and check your list to see if you’ve missed anything, or need to make any quick purchases.
With that done, we recommend carrying out a quick wiping and cleaning action of each of the elements on your list for good measure.
3. Choose the right guitar for travel
This is one of the most important parts of pre-flight packing. Not every guitar can travel well. Choosing the right guitar to travel with you is therefore very important.
However, if you have just one guitar, then whatever. Mind you, an acoustic is always easier to travel with than an electric one thanks to the absence of an amp, transducers, etc.
Also, a travel guitar is a better option for carrying a guitar on a plane.
4. Invest in a bloody good flight case
Do not get a gig bag! The gig bag you use to carry your guitar from your place to your friends isn’t a proper case for a flight! There is so much impact and push and pulling and kicking involved when your guitar is going through customs or check-in.
And God have mercy on those unnecessarily pissed-off baggage handlers. So, stop playing with your luck and get a proper, high-quality, TSA-approved hardshell case for your guitar.
Related Post: To help you finalize your purchase decision, we have reviewed the best available guitar flight cases that guard the guitar inside the case. Check out the full article here.
5. Loosen the strings
Any sort of push or impact against very tightly tuned strings can cause it to snap and tear. It is therefore very useful to loosen up the strings before packing and wrapping up the guitar for air travel.
Also, there has an opinion against completely detuning a guitar in transit, and some manufacturers recommend loosening the truss rod at the same time when you unbound the strings slightly.
Whether your guitar is in the airplane’s overhead bin or the cargo hold, the continuous in-flight pressure and fluctuating temperature may put enough strain on your guitar and become a threat.
So, loosening the strings a little seems a safer option to us to take a little bit of tension off, even if the risk is only hypothetical. We suggest using your best judgment (regarding guitar value and condition) when it comes to flying with your guitar.
Also, use a guitar case humidifier to cope with the high and low moisture levels inside the case.
Related Article: To humidify several guitars stored in a room, you must use a room humidifier. Check out our article about guitar room humidifiers.
6. Bubble wrap, bubble wrap!
Bubble wraps are going to become your best friends when you are moving or traveling with your precious babies. Drive to Home Depot and get as much as you need.
This will be used to line the guitar case, very liberally if we may say so, in order to create a cushion for it against the oncoming impacts through the traveling process. You will also be using bubble wrap to wrap and cover pretty much the entire guitar.
7. Start packing!
Now that everything is set, it is finally time to start packing your stuff into the hardshell case. Pack everything orderly and neatly. Don’t stack things on top of one another, and don’t just shove things in and shut the case.
This is a total no-no! This type of packing not only invites scratches and dents but there’s also the best chance you could break or tear something inside.
On the other hand, your flight case has plenty of space and specifically designated slots and chambers for everything. So take the time to place things where they need to be placed.
You should also find a small compartment box to carry tiny items like guitar picks. To prevent any damage to the guitar finish due to bumping out smaller items from the accessory compartment, fold those items together in a paper towel or bubble wrap. For best protection, put those small accessories in a sealed plastic bag.
Do not keep any liquid items and sharp contents like guitar polish, cleaner, screwdrivers, string cutters, etc. inside your guitar case to pass security and gate checks.
8. Extra protection
It is crucial to important that provide extra protection on certain vulnerable parts of your guitar. This includes the curved edges, the neck, and the headstock. Pay special attention to those delicate guitar body parts and wrap these places up with extra bubble wrap for more protection.
Instead of bubble wrap, you can also use some other packing materials like old t-shirts or soft towels to provide additional security and extra padding for guitars’ fragile components.
9. Label your case
A guitar case may not be the most blending-in sort of other baggage in the airport, but it helps tremendously to have it labeled. This label could help you find it back just in case it gets lost or stolen.
Labeling the hard case or gig bag with a ‘FRAGILE’ tag may increase the probability of receiving more care and attention during luggage handling.
10. Lock it!
We highly recommend that you buy TSA-approved locks or any sort of lock for that matter to lock your guitar flight case. Apart from the obvious event of theft, there’s also a good chance that the case can come undone from any sort of impact. Locking ensures that you get into none of that mess.
Do You Really Need to De-tune the Guitar for Flight?
Though there’s a debate about detuning a guitar and some guitarists advised doing so in preparation for a flight. But complete detuning is not necessary for each and every guitar for air travel.
We have previously mentioned that one of the tips you need to do before packing a guitar for a flight is to loosen the strings like a half step or a whole step. This is due to the fact that tightly wound strings can easily snap when it’s moving around the carrying case.
More importantly, tight strings can also cause damage to the guitar’s neck. The string’s tension and other in-flight factors can easily cause it to pull on both ends, and that can be detrimental to the neck. Thus, slightly de-tuning your guitar and loosening its strings before the flight will help with its preservation.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to bring a guitar on a plane?
The cost of bringing a guitar on a plane depends largely on whether you’re allowed to have it as a carry-on or as checked baggage. In the case of carry-on luggage, most airline companies do not charge you extra for one carry-on, as long as it fits the overhead storage bin or coat closet.
In the case of checked-in luggage, the value for checking in a guitar will cost you somewhere between 300 to 150 US dollars, depending on the airline company’s rates.
Is checking the Guitar a safe and reliable option?
Generally, flying with your guitar as checked luggage or carry-on baggage is quite safe. But, make sure to observe the tips we’ve narrated, like picking a secure travel case for your guitar and loading up on bubble wrap to make sure that it won’t move around during the flight.
As long as you observe these guitar safety tips, there’s nothing for you to worry about.
Should You Buy Travel Insurance for Your Guitar?
Yes, it is recommended to buy travel insurance for your guitar, especially if it’s the main source of income for you.
If you’re a musician who’s frequently on the go, getting insurance coverage over your guitar ensures that you don’t have to suffer from a loss in case the guitar is damaged or lost in the course of the travel. And that can surely give you peace of mind.
At the end of our discussion, here is a related video that you can check before flying with your loved musical instruments.
That’s all. Now you know how to pack and carry a guitar in flight and its action time. Pack your loving guitar and catch the early flight. Wish you good luck.