Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Travel with the instrument

Hello folks, just wanna ask you about yr (air)travel experiences with your banjo, guitar, mandolin or whatever. Do you carry it into the cabin or do you check it in as regular baggage? Do you had any trouble or damages?

@Tom_S, if the flight isn’t full, you will have room in overhead bin to put the guitar/mando, not sure if banjo would fit in smaller flights. If space constraints due to crowd, I would leave it with the air-hostess to keep it in the front with them. Both had worked in the 2 or 3 occasions I had to carry. I would never check it in at the ticket counter. Valet check in while boarding may be safe but not sure. Hard case would be better but I had used gig bag as well for carrying.

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Someone posted a link in the Spring Camp thread saying that apparently airlines can’t refuse you to carry on a standard sized instrument. Ben used to travel on Southwest a ton and said he’s never had a problem carrying on his instruments. That was also my case when I took my banjo to Camp. I just checked my other bag.

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I have heard that Mark, but I would find it surprising that it is an absolute. I would think that they can refuse it in the cabin, “they” are kind of king of that domain, and if the Captain doesn’t doesn’t want you on the flight, you aren’t getting on. However, they will typically accommodate you when they can. Typically, if the flight is fairly full, I ask a flight attendant as I am boarding and they stick it in the front closet. I have had to gate check a handful of times. One time, my case was significantly damaged, but the instrument was fine. I always detune a few steps to take the tension off the neck. A shock to a tuned instrument can cause a headstock fracture pretty easy. In short, I have traveled with instruments a fair amount and have never had damage to the instrument itself (knock on wood).

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Good idea! What kind of work did you do musically, when traveling?

I have traveled internationally with my instruments, and never had problems. I’ve carried on my mandolin and fiddle no trouble, I did have to check my banjo, but that was my dad’s decision not the airlines. My banjo suffered no damage (aside from the case getting scuffed) so I’ll probably go leave a good review for that case :joy: I would not travel without at least one instrument, cuz I’m addicted :roll_eyes::joy:

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If you’re traveling domestically you don’t have much to worry about, unless you’re flying the small regional jets–they simply don’t have the room. However, unless I have my instrument in a case designed for checking (like a Calton or Hoffee), I never check the instrument at the ticket counter. I always carry it all the way to the gate, then very confidently carry it onto the plane with me. If an attendant tells you you can’t bring it on board, politely tell them it’s worth a lot of money and ask for closet space, as Mike said. I’ve recently had to put my instruments in closets and even behind the very last row of seats (had to do that more than once). When that fails, they’ll demand me to gate check it. I’ve always had good results with this as far as I can remember–just don’t forget to wait for it when debarking!

And yes, I don’t care what the law says, the captain controls that airspace and ultimately it’s up to them.

Traveling internationally is a different ballgame. It depends on each airline. I just flew several instruments to Israel on United and it was a great experience…brought them all on board (had a few people carrying them). Air Canada is also good. Lufthansa is NO BUENO, or however you say it in German. My sisters once had to leave a mandolin in a locker in Munich–a MANDOLIN– because Lufthansa wouldn’t let them bring it on board. Thankfully they had friends flying out of Munich on American later that day who retrieved the mandolin and brought it with them. I’ve also flown instruments on Qantas and Emirates and had great experiences, as well as American. It’s a good idea to call the airline and speak to more than one person.

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FWIW, I was on air France (I wouldn’t recommend them, but they didn’t say anything about my instruments)

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NO BUENO = NICHT GUT rough translation,

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hmm… I once had bad experience with Lufthansa with carry on weight several years ago. This was during a change over in Frankfurt and you can’t transfer items to your check-in baggage. In fact they subjected many to that weight checking. After that I never had the motivation to check out Lufthansa flights.

I liked Emirates, Jet Airways, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Etihad etc. For short travel any aircraft is fine except for the “express” planes with “propeller”?? engines in the US! Scary ones!

I like Mike_R suggestion of de-tuning which I sometimes forget.

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I’m not like Ben. There are few that aren’t either married to me or related (or both :crazy_face:) that would pay me to play, so I wouldn’t call it “working”, I was just playing :grin:

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Your wife and relatives would pay to hear you play!?! Wait,

Are you saying you married your sister or your cousin? I didn’t realize you were from Kentucky… :wink:

Bingo!

BTW, Just because I am married to Carolyn, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are related.

Thank you all for your suggestions, i asked flight attendants here in FRA how they tread passengers with instruments and they told me the same as Ben wrote, don,t check it in, carry it to the boarding gate and into the cabin. They,ll do their best for you to store it in an overhead bin or anywhere on an empty seat or locker. Worst case, someone hand-carry it down to the hold/compartment. I traveled a lot in my life but never with a banjo, till last year, I had a lightweight Goodtime in a gigbag within the cabin to LAS, (American), no problems at all but a heavy Banjo in a hardshellcase might be another story. Also a good suggestion is to reduce the string tension cause of possible (amazing) temperature diffrences. …Lufthansa NO BUENO = “nicht empfehlenswert”. Also be carefull with United…do you know Dave Caroll,s story? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo :wink:

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While we are on topic, any suggestions for traveling with instrument by car? A friend of mine warned against long trips because she tried and her guitar was so out of tune that she broke a few strings trying to get them back on note. I’ve heard remotely of humidifiers for in your case, what’s your opinion?

If the temperature is within normal range (45-85 degrees) and not rapidly changing, there’s nothing too much to worry about or guard against. Yes, a humidifier is always a safe bet but I do not use them in my cases personally. The most dangerous thing about traveling with instruments in the car is that folks leave them in the car and the temperatures get extreme.

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I took my guitar with me last summer to a family camp that other people would bring their instruments too. It untuned a good amount on the way there, but it was better on the way back. On the return, I figured out to take it into the restaurant with me instead of leaving it in the car and it did a lot better. I did get a lot of odd stares though!

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Maybe they were just hoping you’d pull out your geeetar and give them a good old gospel song Taryn, that’s what i#d be hoping for

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For me, bringing an instrument depends where I’m going and how long I’ll be there. If I’m driving I may bring along my good banjo (don’t forget to bring your underwear though < New Northfield Mandolin Dealer>). In the fall I like to fish the Gulf Coast and I’ll be there long enough to bring my “travel banjo” a Deering Goodtime Special. My experience getting a banjo on a plane hasn’t been as wonderful as others have reported. In a few cases I was able to bring it aboard and there was adequate overhead space. Seems like most flights from the west coast are virtual sellouts and nobody checks bags anymore so there is never overhead space available. Generally, I’ve had to check the banjo at the gate. There are no closets at the front of the planes I’m on, that seems to have gone the way of the bison. The airline crammed in another row of seats.

Lately, I just avoid the whole thing and mail the banjo to a post office at my destination as “general delivery.” I reduce string tension, box it up, pack a couple of sweatshirts in for padding, and drop it off at my local post office. It takes about a week, the instrument is insured, and it is there waiting for me when I get there. It really is pretty convenient. I’ve checked UPS, Yellow Freight, FedEx, etc. the USPS parcel rates are much cheaper. It isn’t cheap, but it allows me to bring an incredible amount of fishing tackle rather than hauling the banjo on the plane.

The general guideline I follow with an instrument in the car is to treat it like a child or a dog (or a hermit crab if you prefer cold blooded pets). If it is too cold or too hot to leave a kid in the car, I don’t leave the instrument. This time of year, I often carry a guitar into restaurants as Texas is a wee bit warm.

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