How To Travel With Your Guitar And Carry The Guitar On The Plane

by Tom Hess
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If you’d like to know how to travel with your guitar and carry the guitar on the plane...

... (without having to check it with your luggage, check it at the gate or buy an extra seat for it)...

... then this article about traveling with your instrument will show you how to do just that.

With the process I’ll show you...

... I’ve been able to carry the guitar on the plane, while flying all over the world on all types of airplanes.

(Big and small.)

And I’ve even seen this method work when carrying not one...

... but TWO guitars onboard a plane!

Double Your Guitar Speed e-Guide

By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

I’ll show you how flying with your guitar works when you want to take 2 guitars with you near the end of this article.

(It's easy.)

Just follow it exactly and I'm confident you’ll have the same results flying with your guitar as I do.

Ready to start?

Watch the video below that details all the steps about traveling with your instrument:

Video Transcript:

Step 1 For Flying With Your Guitar: Pack Your Guitar In A Gig Bag, Not In A Hard-Shell Case. Here's Why.

When you show up to any airport with a guitar in a hard-shell case (playing to carry the guitar on the plane), as soon as those people see the hard case, they're going to say: “Are you flying with your guitar? You can’t carry the guitar on the plane - you've got to check that with the luggage. Or you can check it at the gate.” 

Maybe they're not going to let you bring that big hard-shell case onto the plane... which makes traveling with your instrument very inconvenient.  

But when you pack it in a gig bag, they're not going to usually make that fuss or disallow you to carry the guitar on the plane. 

If they do - I've got a plan to get around that (so you can still carry the guitar on the plane if you plan on flying with your guitar). 

But if you're bring it in a gig bag, you have a much greater chance of successfully flying with your guitar (and being able to carry the guitar on the plane) without any hassles.

Step 2 For Flying With Your Guitar: Add A Luggage Tag To Your Gig Bag In Case You Lose Your Guitar While Traveling With Your Instrument. 

This can happen to you even if you are a pro and you travel with your guitar all the time. Sometimes you carry the guitar on the plane and you're not thinking about it. It's in a closet somewhere or way up high where the carry-on luggage stuff is, so you just grab your normal carry-on suitcase and you leave. 

This has almost happened to me one time. I did finally remember it before I got off the plane, but I've seen other people forget it. 

So, make sure that when you’re flying with your guitar that the gig bag has the luggage tag on it with your name and your address of where you're traveling with your instrument.

Step 3 For Flying With Your Guitar: Give Your Guitar To Whomever You Might Be Traveling With. 

If someone accompanies you when you are flying with your guitar, have them wait away from the check-in counter. Don't have them come anywhere near that counter. Let them hold your guitar while you check in without that guitar (even though you intend to carry the guitar on the plane).

When you’re at the check counter and you've got your suitcases, your luggage, and you do not have your guitar with you because you just left it with your friend, your girlfriend, or whoever. Don't mention that you have a guitar with you as carry-on luggage (or that you are traveling with your instrument). Okay? 

So, if you have a carry-on, a computer or something else, or bag or whatever, that's fine. If they ask you about carry-on luggage, hold up a bag or a computer and say: this is all I have with me. 

Which is true, it is all that you have with you because a guitar is way back there (and the airport staff don’t need to know that you plan to travel with your guitar).

Step 4 For Flying With Your Guitar: Finish Checking In. 

After you check in your suitcases and you get your luggage claim tag or ticket and you got your boarding pass, you go back and meet your friend or your wife or whoever it is that has your guitar who's standing away from the check encounter.

You go back and meet them, you grab your guitar, and now it's their turn to go check in.

So, this will make the check-in process longer because you've had to wait in line and now they've got to wait in line, but you've got your guitar with you and it's not going with the luggage and being damaged and lost or stolen or anything like that. 

So, now you wait for your friend, your wife, whoever, until they're done checked in, and then you both walk to security.

Step 5 For Flying With Your Guitar: Go Through Security. 

The people who work in security at airports generally are pretty cool. They really don't care if you travel with your guitar or if you intend to carry the guitar on the plane. 

All they want to do is scan it and make sure it's not a weapon or something hazardous or something like that. So, they don't really care about you flying with your guitar, nor will they say that you can’t carry the guitar on the plane. That's not their job. They're just security and they're just making sure that everything is safe and secure. They really don't care about the guitar. 

So, once you get through security with your friends or your wife and you've got your guitar with you past security, now you go to the gate and get ready to carry the guitar on the plane.

If anyone from the airlines asks you how you’re flying with your guitar or if you intend to carry the guitar on the plane, just tell them that you'll check the guitar at the gate. 

They may give you a little gate check tag for traveling with your instrument. If they give you the tag, wonderful - you got the tag. Now, once it's your turn to board and you swipe your boarding pass and you're going on to the plane, you might just ‘forget’ to check your guitar at the gate and simply carry the guitar on the plane. 

You might just accidentally forget you’re flying with your guitar and just walk right on the plane with your guitar. I seem to do that every time. 

So, I don't check my guitar at the gate, even if I have a little gate check tag, I don't do that. I just carry the guitar on the plane.

Step 6 For Flying With Your Guitar: Talk To The Flight Attendant 

Only once you are actually on the plane, when you actually walk through the threshold through the door, there’s going to be a flight attendant right there, standing there, probably two.

At that point of your travel with your guitar, you turn to the flight attendant with a smile, very polite, and you say, Dear miss, or Sir, do you have a closet where I might be able to put my little guitar? It's very fragile. It's very precious. Do you have maybe a closet? Do you have room to accommodate you flying with your guitar? If they say yes to that, great, give them the guitar. They're not going to lose it. They're just going to put it in their little closet. Just make sure that you know exactly where the guitar went.

Don't just give it to them and walk away, because now you don't know where it is. If they say no that they don't have a closet, or there's no room in the closet that they have for the guitar, say: “No problem. I can put it in the overhead.” 

Great. So, in that case, you go find your seat and you want to put the guitar in the overhead compartment above your seat. Now, obviously you would never, ever put your guitar in there first. So, if you open the door and you say: “wow, look at this, it's an empty space. My whole guitar fits in there perfectly. I'll just throw it up there.”

Yeah, by the time you finished flying with your guitar for that trip, your headstock probably going to be busted as other people jam and cram their carry-ons, which are all overweight anyway on your guitar neck. 

And if you've got a Gibson guitar, you know that headstock is going to snap right off. If you got a Fender, you got a chance it's going to survive. 

So, point is this: When you travel with your guitar, before you put the guitar in the overhead compartment, just put it on your seat. You don't have to sit down immediately after you carry the guitar on the plane. 

Let everybody else put all their carry-on in the overhead bin. Once they do, there'll be some space on top of their suitcases, which is perfect for traveling with your instrument. You might have to take someone's carry-on and lay it flat. If they don't lay it flat, just rearrange it. Stick your guitar above, close the door, perfect. 

You're done. The guitar is secure. 

You know exactly where it is. It's right by you. It's above your seat, it's above your head. 

There's nothing on top of it. Nothing's going to break it. You close the door and you're good. Mission of traveling with your instrument accomplished.

Step 7 For Flying With Your Guitar: Do Not Forget The Guitar When You Leave The Plane! 

If, during your travel with your guitar you gave it to a flight attendant to put it in a closet, be sure not to forget it. 

Because once you step foot off that plane and you take even two steps out that door, you cannot walk back onto that plane.

You could have a baby on board and they're not going to let you walk back on there and your -otherwise perfect – travel with your guitar will come to a disappointing end. Okay? 

So, make sure you do not get off that plane without your guitar. Tie a string around your finger. Do whatever you got to do. Don't forget it. 

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Alright, so everything we've talked about so far works when you travel with your guitar and you only have 1 instrument. 

But what if you're on tour somewhere and you're going to be taking two guitars with you? I've never found a way to get three guitars on the plane by yourself, but you can get two.

And here's what you do. You do all of the exact same steps that we just talked about, except you need to buy or have made for you a special gig bag that holds two guitars.

Basically, it's like two gig bags fused together. Now, don't use duct tape and try and, you know, make this homemade or anything like that. Buy a real, double guitar gig bag, okay? 

And what happens is you have one guitar facing one way and the other guitar are facing the opposite way.

So, it just looks like you've got one guitar. It's just a little thicker. Having a closet would really help on the plane. So, if you're flying a bigger plane, you can probably get away with this. 

If you're flying a smaller one, you might need all or most of that overhead bin compartment. 

So, I've seen many people do this, people I've toured with who brought two guitars with them with the gig bag, and that's how they got it done. 

If you try and bring two guitars independently, that's not going to work unless you're flying with a friend or something like that, and you have a guitar and you give them the other guitar and you do the same process. But if you're flying solo, you're going to need a double gig bag. 

You now know pro-level secrets for flying with your guitar. The next step is to mastering your guitar playing and learn to play like a pro, even if you are stuck right now and are having some self-doubts about your potential. 

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Tom Hess
About Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

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