Updated: Feb 25, 2019
Talk about scary, flying with a guitar is a gut wrenching, clumsy experience.
This is your baby that we are talking about, and the last thing you want to do is stick it underneath the plane in the cold and dark, being thrown around by the herculean baggage handlers.
My opinion, get a gig bag. If you can afford it, invest in a quality mini/travel guitar. Personally I picked up a Taylor GS Mini and it is great (small enough to transport with ease, but good enough to actually gig with). You can read the full review of that puppy here, or shoot me a message if you have any additional questions.
Some folks swear by the hard case approach, and that is what airline websites traditionally tell you to do (so there is that). However that means you will most likely be checking that puppy and sweating the entire plane ride, hoping that it is alright and doesn't miss you too much.
The reasons I choose a gig bag and smaller guitar:
1. It's cute enough to ask to put in the closet up front.
- A gig bag and a smaller guitar are cute looking. Not on a uke level, but alas, it's cute. This means always ask if you can put it in the coat closet first. It won't scare off the air stewards as much as a big bulky hard case.
2. I can throw it in the overhead even if I am towards the back of the line.
- It's small enough and the case is less bulky that I often luck out and can nestle it on top of a couple soft bags in the overhead. Sitting in the back of the plane makes that even easier. That is normally that last area to fill up, meaning it could be groups that don't have two carry-ons.
3. It's easy to juggle alongside other baggage.
- If you are traveling light or for just a day or two this may not matter, but if you have a big piece of luggage, being able to throw your guitar on your back is huge. Just having the option to wear it like a backpack has come in handy more times that I can count.
4. Other passengers don't throw as big of a fit.
- This is going to happen. People are jerks while they travel. Every little thing grinds their gears, so a guitar taking up their bag space is no exception. However a gig bag helps get them off your case a bit. I am not sure if it's because it's a bit smaller, or has an air of delicacy to it, but people pay less attention to my guitar in a soft gig bag that they ever did in a big black hard-case.
5. I can stuff clothes and other crap in it.
- Since the bags are cloth, they have some gig that a hard-case just doesn't have. So after I loosen the strings, I stuff an extra day worth of clothes or my undies all around the guitar and in any of the extra space in the bag. That helps keep everything safe, but also frees up a little space in the rest of my luggage.
Ok, so you have decided on the best case, what else?
- Always loosen your strings.
- Stuff crap in there around the neck or anywhere there doesn't seem to be supported.
- Some folks stuff the actual body (if acoustic). I don't because I don't want any of the electronics or wires to be goofed up. I have an acoustic/electric, so that wouldn't apply to everyone.
- If you are going to check it, get a hard-case made for flying. I don't know if I would really trust the case that a new guitar normally comes with. I hate to suggest buying things, but this is a tool you need, so it's worth investing in.
- Try to get in the line for your boarding group early.
There are a slew of blog posts out there with all their top tips and the regulations of each airline etc. etc.
Here is one I came across that I found really helpful http://truefire.com/blog/guitar-lessons/tips-for-flying-with-a-guitar/.
Also I normally fly on United. Here is their big long policy about guitars and related objects. Each airline has this somewhere, google powers activate.
Any of your own tips? Share them in the comments. I am sure there are a bunch more (and I want to read them too).
Ben Gage is a songwriter from Akron, OH.
You can find out more about him here.
Join his mailing list to stay up to date on anything new.
Songs, videos, and more can be found here.