Daniel Eriksen

Travel With Guitar

Guitar players , like myselfoften face several challenges while travelling with their beloved instruments, and all can be potentially devestating to the instrument !

Examples are careless gate personell, ruthless baggage handlers , baggage belts , humidity, rapid changes in temperature, accidents, falls, rain and much more!

A lot of guitars can be replaced, but a lot of guitars just can’t – even if you get the same model and brand – they’re just not the same as that one special, sweet sounding baby.

This article will hopefully serve as a "guide" for guitar players travelling with their precious "geetars". Here, you will find tips and info on how to easier get your guitar aboard the aircraft, how to check it and much more.

Whether you are just starting out, want to bring your guitar for vacations, or have travelled a long time as a professional musician or artist, I hope you find some useful info and tips here!

The tips and information you find here, only serve as helpful suggestions, and is to be used as a guideline. I can not take responsibility for your instruments, or whatever may happen to them. 

Most of the tips I'm sharing here, I have learned the hard way... Broken guitars, broken heart, tears, rage, negotiations, quarrels, fights, workshop bills, glue and lots of stress and anxiety. But I also talk to guitar case manufacturers, musicians, airlines, luthiers, and read articles, forums, books, websites, airline policies and whatever I find on the subject. 

I guess I am overly interested in "guitar safety"... I freaked when my no.1 Dobro got messed up during flight transport. Hell, I even had a workshop, that builds submarines for oil companies, build me a bullet proof 100% kevlar case for it after that!


General tips for travelling with guitars


-if you are playing concerts, consider bringing two guitars. Your guitar might break down or have an accident, or strings will break before the show ends. You could keep one in open tuning for slide, and use it as a backup. 

-if you can't bring two guitars, bring spare parts and basic tools. Tuning machines might break during sound check or in the middle of a show, it has happened to me! And where did that bridge pin go?

-keep extra picks, slides, strings, set list and capo on you or with your guitar. Your suitcase might not always make it there in time for the show (or ever...)

-GPS trackers are small and cheap these days. If the airline loses your guitar or someone steals it, you might be able to follow it on your phone or pad.

-Padlocks are useful. When travelling by train, lock your guitar case to your suitcase (or to a luggage shelf) and thieves will have a hard time dragging them both around. Get the TSA ones, in case security needs to check your case. 

-Insure your instruments, pedals, amps, cables and gear. 

-If you're travelling with ceramic, glass or porcelain slides, buy a small fishing lure box with separate compartments to keep them from breaking. 

-Tape over latches and locks to prevent them from opening during transportation

-Case humidifiers in "dry areas" will keep the guitar from drying out and crack,  and silicon packs in "wet areas", will absorb moist. This will help keep the guitar stable.

-Check that hotel room one last time for small items


Flying With Guitars

This is, by far, the most relevant topic. On any other means of tranportation, you'll usually be able to bring your precious guitar with you. Travelling by air, however, is highly unpredictable, and you're in the mercy of changing laws, rules, policies and most of all: the daily mood of the airport/airline personnel!

Here are some tips on how to get your guitar safely there and back again, hopefully with a little less finger nail biting, stress and anxiety!

Get your guitar aboard the flight

Before leaving home

-insurance! Insure your guitar and gear. Some music unions offer cheap instrument insurance. Get a music store or workshop to value your instrument before contacting the insurance company. Also, have travel insurance. 

-get a high quality gig bag like Mono or Reunion Continental with neck support and shock resistance, just in case they make you gate check it. Usually, you will not get a hard case with you aboard. A good gig bag will protect your guitar more than a cheap cover. A polyfoam case might be an option, as many of them look like gigbags.

-read the airline's policy on musical instruments. The US recently passed a law on this, and a similar law is going through the EU system right now. Not all gate personnel know about this law, you should print it and bring it in your guitar case. Some know about it, but ignore it...

At check in:

-if they tell you to check your guitar, say you agree but ask politely if you can gate check it. Tell them it's an expensive instrument and you want to avoid the luggage belts. Of course, you won't gate check it but it might get you one step further. Don't be rude or insistant, you will not win the argument...

At the gate:

-Never wear your guitar on your back, it makes it look huge. Keep it standing on the floor, preferably hid behind you, until boarding. Do not bring any other hand luggage with you!

-Always stand first in line, or at least first in your boarding group (you can also buy yourself earlier boarding). As long as there is free space in the overhead compartment, they usually let you board with you guitar (see the US law regarding this)

-If they give you the green "gate check" tag, and tell you to leave the guitar by the stairs, hide the green tag in your palm and try to bring the guitar aboard anyway. Most often, it works... The person at the gate and the person taking your guitar at the aircraft is not the same person. 

-Consider a travel guitar (see travel guitar page)

-If the tickets are really cheap, consider buying the seat next to you. If you tell them it's for a guitar, a lot of airlines just charge you 50% of the ticket price. 

-If all else fails, "delivery on aircraft", will at least keep your guitar away from baggage belts and handlers. The guitar will be delivered to you when you walk off the aircraft. Also, a last option is to ask to speak to the captain, as he will have last say. He might even be a musician... 


Tips on how to check your guitar

-Spend some money on a "bad ass" guitar case (see case page). Humidity and rapid changes in temperature are just as dangerous as direct blows and falls. 

-stuff the case, especially around the headstock. This is the weakest part of the guitar. Detune the strings a little, to take some of the tension off. 

-ask if you can gate check to avoid luggage belts

-GPS tracker in your case is a good idea. If your guitar gets lost or stolen, you can track it on your app.  

-make sure you tag it with name, phone number & email (more than one place)

-"Handle with care" stickers might work, or it might just catch the attention of that baggage handler that just got dumped for a guitar player. Your call!

-lock your case with TSA padlocks. Only security personnel need to be in there!



Even original cases that come with the guitars, often don't hold up. I have seen cases that came with Fenders, Gibson guitars and even National that I wouldn't dare send my guitar in.

Also, I have seen guitars in flight cases where the neck has broken off, even though the flight case is unharmed. Often this is caused by rapid changes in humidity and/or temperature, and not blows to the case. 

Regular plywood cases are just not solid enough to take that critical blow.

Wooden flight cases protect your guitar well and are very solid, but are often too heavy to travel with, too big to fit anywhere and too expensive to buy. 

Check out these sturdy cases instead! 

SKB Injection

A military grade guitar case. Available for several guitar models. Super solid and water tight, with pressure release valve. 

Pros: solid, water tight, wheels for easy transportation, protects against humidity and rapid changes in temperature.

Cons: Expensive, big (you might need the whole back seat of a car), a little heavy

Link to SKB

  • Ultra high-strength polypropylene copolymer resin
  • UV, solvent, corrosion and fungus resistant (MIL-STD-810F)
  • Complete gasket seal makes these cases absolutely watertight (MIL-STD-C-4150J)
  • Automatic ambient pressure equalization value (MIL-STD-648C & IP67)
  • Resistant to corrosion and impact damage
  • Molded-in hinges
  • Patented"trigger release" TSA Locking Latch system
  • Reinforced locking loops for customer supplied locks
  • Rubber over-molded cushion grip carrying handle and pull handle
  • Convenient quiet-glide wheels


Hiscox Cases

These are tough cases. Standard model has a crush resistance of 500 kilos, Pro II series can withstand 1000 kilos, and the Artist model 2000 kilos. All models are thermally insulated and protects well against humidity and changes in temperature. All hinges, locks and handles are top quality. Produced in the UK

Pros: solid, thermally insulated, light weight, nice price, good quality

Cons: a little dated appearance, no arch to protect resonators or archtops

Link to Hiscox Cases


Hoffee Cases

Super tough carbon fiber cases. In their videos, they throw them off buildings, out of driving vehicles and even park their car on them. You can get these insulated for an extra 100 USD. They are quite expensive, in the area of 1000 USD but they are custom made for your guitar. 

Pros: Super solid, custom made, many options

Cons: quite expensive

Link to Hoffee Cases


Calton Cases

Same features as Hoffee. Super strong, custom made carbon fiber cases

Link to Calton Cases

Case Extreme

This is a "plastic shell" that will go outside your other hardcase or gig bag. They have C-shaped foam pads that makes the guitar almost float within the case. Pretty cool! Light weight, but will make your guitar case "bigger". Ok price!

Link to Case Extreme



Battle Cases


Quite similar to the SKB Injection series, but uses Pelican shells. Same price range.

Link to Battle Case

Karura Case

Carbon Fiber case, again similar to Hoffee and Calton. 

Link to Karura



Timbre Cases

Manufactured with tough yet lightweight Kydex thermoplastic, this premium case fits all standard dreadnoughts and features recessed latches, torqued hinges, a water-resistant seal, and recessed transport wheels.



I also like this idea from SKB again. The ATA Roto Electric bass case

If you put a Mono or Reunion soft case in here, you should be well protected (bass and electric guitar). 


Case Cover/Loophole

Here's a loophole! You can buy a case cover from companies like www.coloradocase.com 

In addition to protect your hardcase from schratches, it will add some insulation to the case. Also it will make your hard case look like a gig bag, and you may actually get you hard case aboard the airplane! Probably works best for electric guitars...


Travel Guitars

I have tried many travel guitars through the years. I like the idea of a travel guitar, but most manufacturers of these guitar models, seem to think "How can we make this guitar as small as possible?" Some make tiny bodies, some take the headstock off, some have detachable sticks as armrests etc. 

When you get to your destination, get out on stage and have your audience in front of you, screaming girls and all, you want to look cool!!!

You will not look cool with a tiny, headless guitar with sticks coming out of it!

If you just need to bring a guitar for your cabin, the beach, or for hotel practice that's another matter...

Here is a full size travel guitar that works and looks good!

Voyage-Air Guitar

I have travelled a lot with my Belair model, and I am really happy with this guitar! It plays well and looks good. You can feel that it's a high quality instrument. It folds in half with a patented, self lubricating hinge with lifetime warranty. The strings even stay on the guitar as they go through little holes on the nut. When you take the neck back up the guitar is almost in tune!

When folded, the guitar in the suitcase, is no larger than a large laptop case and no airline can deny you bringing this aboard the aircraft! I truly love it! There's even space for your ipad, vinyl records or clothes. They also have acoustic guitars!

Pros: easy transportation, high quality guitar, nice price, several models, looks good

Cons: You need to change strings before every show, as opening and closing the guitar several times, will weaken the strings, and will cause them to break. But the no-stress, no-anxiety, no-hazzle weights up for everything!

Link to Voyage-Air

Machine Screws: 

Did you know that some guitars, like the National Resolectric, uses machine screws to attach the neck to the body? That way, you can take the neck on and off as many times as you want without tearing on the screwholes, neck or body! 

Other manufacturers:

Strobel Rambler Guitar

I have not tested these, but I know Roy Rogers travels with them!


Not tried


Not tried

Snap Dragon

Not tried