Have you ever traveled with your instrument? As a pianist myself, playing on different pianos in different locations had its own challenges. I still have dreams about walking onto a competition stage, not knowing ahead of time how the piano’s action would respond to my pianissimo opening phrase. But as the parent to a violinist, cellist and bass player, I have a whole range of experience when it comes to instruments in cars, on planes and on backs!
Summer travel is almost here. Maybe you’d like your students to practice during extended times away. Or maybe they are wondering how to transport their instruments to music camps. Here are some tips for traveling with an instrument that you might share with them.
Ask to store your instrument in the coat closet of the airplane
When my daughter travels with her violin, she prefers not to put it in the luggage bin above the seats. It could get moved by a flight attendant adjusting bags or it could have other bags or suitcases put on top of it.
Instead, she always asks the flight attendant who greets her as she gets on the plane if she can store her violin upright in the first class coat closet at the front of the plane. She has rarely had this request denied. That way, the instrument is surrounded by soft coats and will be within the reach of the flight attendants at all times.
You or your student will need to decide if you’re comfortable having the instrument in a different part of the plane. And if there’s any chance of forgetting it in the coat closet, don’t use this idea. But with many flights under our belts, my daughter’s violin has spent a lot of time in the coat closet.
Research a travel case
The prevailing wisdom is that expensive instruments should generally stay on board with you as hand luggage or, in the case of larger instruments, with their own seat. And yes, cellos get their own seat belt! But travel cases do exist, especially for smaller instruments like brass or woodwind instruments. And there are travel cases for cellos and guitars too, such as this one.
If you’re traveling by car, remember that instruments should never stay in the car for long periods of time. Even if the weather is perfectly balmy outside, inside car temperatures can quickly get too hot or too cold. Always take your instrument inside with you when you leave a car, even if you don’t intend to use it.
Consider renting at your destination
If you are going to an urban location, there’s a good chance there’s a music store nearby that rents instruments even by the week. With a little research and a phone call or two, you can have an instrument delivered to you or have the adventure of going to pick it up yourself. And rental instruments can sometimes be very good! We’ve had some surprisingly special instruments when renting cellos overseas. It can also be fun for a student who usually plays their own instrument to try out a different one in a different context.
And if you are carrying a string instrument on a plane be sure to loosen strings. I warped the neck of my violin once when flying on a commercial flight. My violin was in the overhead bin. Had to get it reset.