Travelling with an instrument

When travelling, you will find workshops belonging to EILA members in most countries. Your usual violin or bow maker, as a member of the Entente Internationale, will be pleased to direct you to a fellow member whom you can call upon for the same level of professionalism and skill.  Additionally you may want to consider the following suggestions to keep your instruments safe.

Minimize risk to your instruments if you travel with them by air. Contact your airline for specific regulations and requirements.  Whenever possible, ask for a written policy to present at the airport in case you encounter gate personnel unaware of company policy. Keep instruments, especially cellos, out of aircraft cargo holds while traveling, unless packed in a special case. A standard instrument case is NOT adequate protection for a cello in the cargo hold, and destruction of an instrument is likely. You may choose to invest in a high quality “ATA” shipping case, or a padded “super-bag” that fits over cello cases for more protection. These super-cases are much larger and heavier than regular cases and are challenging to use. The best protection while in flight is to carry the instrument onto the plane or buy a seat for the instrument. This should be rigorously checked with the airline before you arrive at the airport. Accidents can result from luggage being stacked on top of the case, impact from luggage handling equipment and conveyors, and temperature and humidity changes. The economics of airlines these days dictate that many flights are over-sold and some airlines may try to bump your cello off a flight to let a person travel. Ask for some assurance that your travel plans will not be interrupted.

Automobile travel is the second largest source of instrument damage. Never leave instruments unattended in motor vehicles; the risk from theft and damage from changes in humidity and temperature are reason enough; but such activity is generally not acceptable to insurers and will void your coverage. When driving, do not leave instrument cases where the sun can cook them, or in the trunk where heat from the exhaust or transmission can damage the varnish.

Any quality instrument should have a good hard case that is utilized as much as possible when the instrument is not being played. The case is the safest place for an instrument not in use. The case should be closed and latched, whenever an instrument is in it. Many accidents result when cases that are shut but not latched are picked up and the instrument spills out.

Many young players carry instrument cases like backpacks. This is risky, especially for cellists. Straps can break, or players can lose their balance and the player and/or instrument can be damaged in the resulting fall. Young children, in particular, need to be taught to move carefully if they have an instrument on their back.