Traveling With Expensive Musical Instruments

Musical instruments are a large investment and it pays to consider your traveling options carefully before taking a trip to your next performance. Keeping your instrument with you at all times provides the best insurance against damage. However, airlines and buses often require that you check anything over a certain weight and size.


You can purchase renters or homeowners insurance to provide financial compensation in case your instrument gets lost, damaged or stolen. In the case of theft, you must complete a police report and provide information to your insurance company immediately after the theft to ensure compensation. You can also purchase travel insurance that specifically covers your musical instrument. Musician performing rights organizations such as ASCAP and BMI usually provide discounted insurance for members.


Prepare your instrument by wrapping it inside the instrument case using a lint-free towel and then packing any loose areas inside the case with paper or Styrofoam. Make sure that all caps, oils, rosin and other lubricants for your instrument are secure. Since items have a tendency to shift and rattle around during travel, secure any lubricants using tape to prevent the caps from coming open. Once the instrument has been secured, close the case and lock the instrument. You can use the locks pre-installed on the instrument, or purchase a wire bicycle lock and wrap it around the case and through the handle to secure your instrument.


While every musician should insure his instrument against accidental damage, when traveling you should also consider transporting the instrument via an air courier. If transporting the instrument via an air courier service isn’t possible, then get a letter from TSA stating that you are allowed to bring your instrument with you through security checkpoints. While this won’t allow you to take the instrument on the plane, it does allow you to take the instrument to the gate. Upon arrival at the gate, you can ask the baggage handler to load the instrument on top of other bags or isolate it from the rest of the baggage. You can also request to have your instrument manually removed from the plane and left in the security center of the receiving airport. Often, instruments aren't damaged until they fall down the conveyor belt in baggage claim.


Bus drivers may allow you to take your instrument on board if the bus hasn’t reached full capacity, and you can ensure that the instrument doesn’t obstruct the driver’s view or put other passengers at risk. If the instrument is too large to fit on the bus, you can ask the attendant to load the instrument last. In some cases, the driver may allow you to load the instrument yourself.

Rental Cars

The ideal situation for traveling with your instrument involves using your own car or renting a car. Long distance and international excursions make this possibility unrealistic. However, if you can rent a car, then you have more control over how you store your instrument. Make sure that your auto insurance policy covers loss or damage to your instrument. If it doesn’t, check to see that your homeowners or renters insurance will cover loss or damage.


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