Unless you are a world famous rock star with a team of roadies and a private jet, you have had to suffer through the daunting, and occasionally in-dignifying, task of managing you gear during travel. There are many options out there to address this and I will touch on a few but, let's face it, this is an ugly beast no matter how you slice it. Most of the time I'm traveling, I have at least one guitar in tow. Now a days, I tend to stick to ground for my traveling needs; but I have flown dozens and dozens of times over the past 15 years or so and if I didn't bring a guitar with me for my stay, I usually brought one back from where ever I went.
The photo below pretty much sums up how I feel during most of my air travel experiences. Any of us who have traveled by plane have had to deal with high fares, added fees, strict security protocols, tight seating, delayed flights, cancelled flights, long lay-overs, or lay overs too short to make your next flight. This list could go on and on. I don't believe I have ever had a flying experience that didn't include multiple difficulties. I would have to say that the worst thing by far is lost luggage, and I have had to deal with this more than once. I did a lot of commercial flying during my time in the Marine Corps, for both my leave time and while traveling under orders. It was during my first leave period right after boot camp that I had to deal with my first lost bag. They did eventually find it and even deliver it to me... the day before I had to fly back. I had to buy buy cloths so I had something clean to wear for my 10 day stay back home. Epic fail.
As the years went on, I got a little wiser to the little things that you can do to make air travel go a little smoother. The best advice I can give is this, be kind and courteous to the staff of airlines, TSA, and the airport in general. They have to deal with frustrated and irritated people all day, every day; and a friendly face can sometimes go a long way. You catch more flies with honey as they say.
This philosophy has served me well over the years, even to the point that I can usually get the flight attendants to make room in there personal storage closet for my guitar. This hasn't always worked out though, there was one occasion where one of the baggage handlers came up to the passenger compartment and snatched my guitar case right from my hands and stormed off without the least bit of explanation. This happened while the flight attendant was making room for my newly acquired vintage acoustic guitar in their personal closet at the back of the plane.
Seconds after it was snatched away, she had finished making room and turned around to see me with flabbergasted look and no guitar. It was the most terrifying flight of my life. I had no claim ticket for my guitar and in the best case scenario it was in the unpressurized belly of the plane (hopefully the same one I was on).
I do understand that airline personnel are often under pressure to ensure the flight leaves on time but this was a real nightmare for me and the plane was still boarding when it happened. The baggage handler in question actually pushed people out of the way to get off the plane with my guitar. My instrument did arrive undamaged but the whole experience was truly unpleasant.
Extreme and unusual circumstances aside, the challenge of air travel is higher if you want to bring a guitar along for your trip. With the ever increasing difficulty of air travel, many innovative guitarists and luthiers have tackled the issue of making guitars more travel friendly.
Pictured above is a Strobel guitar. A very interesting design that allows you to quickly and easily disconnect the neck from the body and fit the entire instrument into a medium sized brief case. I cannot say that I would keep one of these as my primary playing guitar but if I were having to fly several times per month, as some people do, I would definitely look into one of these. The Strobel might not be your ideal guitar but it definitely caters to the convenience of the busy traveler.
If the Strobel is a bit to minimalist for you and you need to have something that is more full sized, the Voyage-Air is great option to consider. It takes up a little more space but it is still within the limits of a carry on bag and it's obviously much closer to a conventional guitar playing experience. These are definitely worth a look, even if it is only to marvel at the masterfully engineered folding neck joint.
Perhaps collapsable travel guitars are not for you and you really need a solution that gets the your classically constructed, "normal person" guitar to your destination with out hassle. If this the case, then a parcel or courier service might work well for you. There are things to consider such as shipping time and cost effectiveness but there is definitely an opportunity here to ease some the stress of travel. I have flown quite a bit, but I have shipped items a whole lot more and I have observed a much lower package loss rate with parcel services than I have a baggage loss rate with airlines. All that being said, you really have to weigh the time and cost factor. Overnight or two day shipping can be pricy, but if you are going on an extended stay trip and can wait a few days the cost of shipping can be comparable to the cost of an extra bag on a flight.
Enough about the air travel nightmare, I'm sticking to the ground whenever possible these days. For me a hardshell case and a little trunk space is the best solution, but I don't mind driving on long trips. I like to take my time and enjoy the trip itself; life's a journey, not a destination. That being said I will touch on one more mode of travel. Travel by foot. There was certainly a time in my life when I enjoyed hiking and camping, but after 13 years of active service in the Marine Corps, I tend to prefer, and respect the creature comforts these days.
Perhaps one day I will eventually come back around to idea of hiking and camping for recreation and, when I do, the Alpaca travel guitar will most likely be a front runner for instrument choice. This has to be one of the most well thought out guitar concepts I have seen in quite some time, outside the box thinking would be an understatement. From material selection to design, the Alpaca has really broken new ground developing an ideal travel instrument. It may appear odd at first glance, but I have taken a good hard look at this and everything about this product was designed deliberately with functionality and practicality of purpose in mind. The Alpaca is a design that holds true to my own principles of innovation and, even though it isn't for everybody, I hold it with the highest respect as an innovative concept.
If you have stuck with me this far through my first "non-guitar pick centric" article, I thank you. I suppose I have to promote my own products somehow so use coupon code TRAVEL10 to get 10% off if you decide to order a Dragon's Heart Guitar Pick. Also, if you have a questions or comments please get in touch with me. Your idea could be featured. That's all for now, and until next time...
Play with fire...
In your heart