How to Take Your Guitar on a Plane: A blog about how to take your guitar on a plane.
A few years back I decided to make good on my long-standing love of guitar, and got myself an electric guitar. Shortly thereafter I started taking it with me on trips. But I was having a hard time finding one specific piece of information: how do you take a guitar on a plane?
So after much research, trial and error, I decided to document what I had learned, and launch this site. If you find it helpful, great! If you have any suggestions or find any mistakes, please let me know!
How to Take Your Guitar on a Plane
Taking your guitar with you on a plane is a skill you must master. The world is full of great guitar players and if you want to be one of them you have to be willing to lug your guitar everywhere and practice constantly.
The following are the rules I follow when taking my guitar with me on a plane.
This time, I’m going to show you how to take your guitar on a plane with no hard case.
I did it once, it was fine, and here’s how.
First, you need to understand what the airlines are looking for. They want to make sure that nothing on their plane can become a missile or a projectile in the event of turbulence or other emergency situation.
So if your guitar is inside a hard case and that hard case is strapped down in the cargo space of the plane, they will have no problem letting it on board.
But if your guitar is floating around unprotected in one of those canvas gig bags, they may not let it on board. This is even true for a padded gig bag.
So what’s the solution?
Get yourself a really rugged soft case. Something like this:
I’ve been traveling around the world with my guitar for a few years now, and I’ve discovered what works and what doesn’t. With a little planning ahead you can get your guitar on the plane worry free!
First you will want to check with the airlines you are flying with to see if they have any restrictions on instruments being carried on. Most allow you to bring your guitar as long as it fits in an overhead bin. You may be able to buy an extra seat for it if it does not fit in the overhead bin. Some airlines charge extra for this, some don’t. If you are not sure about the airline policy, call them and ask before buying your ticket.
The next thing to consider is the case that your guitar comes in. If your guitar came from the factory in a hard shell case, you can bring it as a carry-on without any trouble. If you bought your guitar used or it came with a gig bag instead of a hard case, then there is more of a chance that the airline will refuse to let you carry it on because of safety concerns. If this happens, try asking if you can gate check it; most likely they will allow this since many people fly with guitars all the time and the airline staff must be aware
If you are a professional musician, you probably have a dedicated flight case. But if you’re like me, and you travel with your guitar only occasionally, a dedicated flight case is overkill.
For occasional travel though, I’ve found that any hard case works fine, as long as it can be securely latched. (Guitars are not fragile.) A hard case also has the advantage of being able to hold extra stuff, like sheet music and an extra set of strings. And because most hard cases are black or dark, they are less likely to get noticed by thieves. I’ve even travelled with my electric guitar in a gig bag, by packing it inside my suitcase.
On the plane itself, I always carry my guitar on board and put it in an overhead bin rather than checking it below deck. This protects the instrument from damage and makes sure nobody accidentally takes off with my guitar when they actually meant to take their own. If there’s no room left in the overhead bins when I board the plane, I’ll wait until more people have boarded before putting the guitar in the bin. Sometimes there’s room for one more carry-on item after everyone else has boarded.
More often than not, though, flying with your guitar is no problem at all
I have been flying with my guitar for over 20 years, and I have never had any problems whatsoever. I love the fact that I get to play my own guitar everywhere I go, and usually end up playing a few songs for other people at the airport.
You should bring your guitar in addition to your carry-on luggage, not in place of it. You will need to check your luggage anyway, so you might as well check your guitar and avoid any issues. The only exception is if you are traveling with both a guitar AND a larger instrument such as a cello or double bass, in which case you may be able to take one of those things as a carry-on. If you need to take two instruments on the plane with you, be sure to ask the airline before you leave home!
In order to take your guitar with you on the plane, it needs to be packed in a hardshell case that cannot be opened by anyone but you. This means no softshell cases, no gigbags, and no cardboard boxes (unless they are completely taped shut).
1. I always take my guitar on board with me when I fly.
2. Most airlines allow it as a carry on if it fits in the overhead bin, or under the seat in front of you. It usually does fit, but is bulky and awkward (see below).
3. If it doesn’t fit, they will check it as baggage. This will cost you a fee unless you have an airline card that gives you free checked baggage. You’ll need to bring it to the ticket counter and declare its value (usually $1500-$2000). They will give you a claim check to retrieve it upon arrival at your destination.
4. If the flight is overbooked and they ask for volunteers to give up their seats, offer to check your guitar for free and take a later flight (this has happened to me more than once) – this saves them from paying someone else’s airfare and saves you from losing your seat!
5. Otherwise, simply take it on board as usual, remove from its case, place in overhead bin with neck sticking out (it won’t fit otherwise), and pray nobody stows anything heavy in there that might crush the body or neck of your guitar!
6. If you’re