Meri’s Musical Musings

Travel Tips for Musicians

Posted on: November 7, 2011

Although I rarely travel outside of the city, I almost did travel outside of the country a few years ago (and finally did in May 2012 to Southern California) and needed to  bring my pair of clarinets (Bb/A) to do clinics and performances at the places I was visiting. However, I did ask for musician travel tips on a clarinet discussion board I have been a part of for about 15 years now, my experiences on this trip, and have found other ideas in doing an online search. So here are some of the tips I have found in my research.

1. Label with a sticker on your case with “This Side Up” on the top half of the case that you open to reveal the bottom half.

2. Label your instrument with the following information on your case: First and Last Name, Address, State/Province, Postal Code, Country, phone number, and email address.

3. Label your instrument with another sticker that says “Handle with Care” on the same side as the “This Side Up” Label.

4. Remove everything except the instrument(s) from your instrument case and either bring it on your carry-ons (if possible) or pack it with the checked luggage.

5. Take out the batteries out of metronomes and tuners you bring. (People who don’t know what they are may think it’s a timing device for bombs, especially the clicks of metronomes)

6. Bring 1 extra pack of strings or reeds for every two weeks of your visit. (Pack it in the carry-on luggage)

7. Minimize the number of instruments you carry, to only one if possible.

8. Know the dimensions of your case in inches.

9. Wrap woodwind and brass instruments in bubble wrap, especially for air travel. (not sure if this works for strings)

10. Loosen the strings on string instruments.

11. Arrive early to catch your means of travel, especially by plane.

12. Be sure you are able to play the national anthem or patriotic songs of the places you are visiting by memory on your instrument. (at least they know you are DEFINTELY a musician!)

13. Pack your sheet music that you are bringing along carefully. Cover and seal it in strong plastic, with another cover over the plastic cover, to protect against moisture and other damage. Take it with your carry on luggage, especially if you have rare stuff or are visiting a place where sheet music is not readily available. Make backup copies of your solo parts if you have a scanner or an all-in-one printer on at least a USB stick, and preferably both a laptop computer that you bring with you and the USB stick. (I somehow lost my solo parts of at least 4 of my pieces on this trip, and one was a rare one, though the other three were printouts of parts I had made!)

14. Inform the airlines which you’ll be using on each trips at least two weeks in advance that you will be carrying musical instruments on the plane, it may help you get through security a lot faster.

15. Learn the best musical instrument repairers (at least 1, and if possible, 2)  for the places you will be visiting, and try to make contact with them prior to leaving. Consider getting recommendations from your local repairers, especially if the place you repair your instruments is only for a specific instrument or group of instruments. (eg: violin shops, woodwind-only music stores)

16. After arriving at your new location, don’t play your instrument (or sing too soon), especially if you are a wind player or singer. Give yourself at  least 3-7 days to adjust, depending on the time zone difference  between your home and the location you are visiting. It can be unsettling to have to deal with breathing and digestive issues while your body is trying to adjust to new eating and sleeping patterns, which may cause problems in practicing and could be disaster if you perform too soon after arriving. (Potential music majors applying at schools in different time zones especially take note, miss up to a week of school so that you play at your best at the audition of a school in a different time zone!)

17. If you play, compose, or arrange music using conventional music notation, take a pad of music paper! In case parts go missing, you get inspired, you are performing at your new site and have to transpose pieces (I was playing at the church of a long time music friend and the book for the B flat instruments went missing, and I lost the parts I created, the printouts, didn’t have them on a USB stick either), or your laptop computer charger dies! (that happened to my laptop charger on my trip!)

18. Bring your musician’s or music teacher’s association card, or instrument organization card if you are members of any of these types of organizations to show them if you need to. (and it could help you clear security at airports quickly)

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  • None
  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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