Tips for travelling by aeroplane with a guitar

Are you flying with your guitar these holidays? If you are, be careful: guitars and planes don’t play well together. I’d hate for something bad to happen to your pride and joy, so I’ve put together these tips for by aeroplane with a guitar.

 These musicians had a bad experience when flying with United Airlines.

Aim to carry on

Whenever possible, aim to take your guitar as carry-on luggage — most airlines will let you do this. Also, once you board, ask a steward/stewardess nicely if they would mind storing your guitar in the coat closet at the front. Explain to them how fragile your guitar is; hopefully, they will understand.

Use a hard case

When travelling with a guitar by aeroplane, there is no guarantee that you can take it as carry-on luggage. So, don’t risk using a soft gig bag. Instead, get a good-quality hard-shell case. If you’re a professional guitarist and fly often, consider investing in a flight case; they’re not cheap, but they offer excellent protection.

“My guitar is not a thing. It is an extension of myself. It is who I am”—Joan Jett.

Pack well

In the worst-case scenario, and your guitar is must go in the cargo hold, all is not lost. Take these precautions:

  • Fill cavities: To reduce movement and provide cushioning should someone drop your ‘baby,’ fill the spaces inside your guitar case with old t-shirts or packaging.
  • Protect the fretboard: Air travel can cause guitar strings to vibrate rapidly, which will wear them out and also wear down your fret wires. To prevent this happening, place a cloth between your strings and fretboard.
  • Wrap well. As a final precaution, cover your guitar case in bubble wrap and attach ‘fragile’ stickers.
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Loosen your strings

Thankfully, I have not experienced this myself. However, I have heard horror stories of guitar necks snapping due to fluctuations in air pressure and temperature on aeroplanes. You see, guitar strings generate more than 100 kg of tension on a guitar’s neck, and a slight increase can be devastating to your guitar. To be safe, tune your strings down a semitone or more.

Get a stunt double

Most movie stars don’t risk their health and good looks by performing their own stunts, so why subject your valuable guitar to unnecessary risk? If you’re not planning to play a professional gig and just want a guitar to strum on while you are away, consider getting something cheap but playable, like an Aria.

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Other posts you may enjoy

Essential things to look for when choosing a guitar

How to improve your electric guitar tone

Useful tips on how to look after your guitar

Andrew Healey


Andrew is an Auckland-based writer and musician.

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