Traveling With Your Guitar: A Comprehensive Guide to Air Travel Guitar Rules

Ever wondered if you can bring your beloved guitar on your next flight? You’re not alone. Many musicians and hobbyists face the same question when they’re planning to travel.

The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. It depends on various factors such as the airline’s policy, the size of the guitar, and whether it’s packed in a hard or soft case.

Stay tuned as we delve deeper into this topic, providing you with all the information you need to travel stress-free with your guitar. After all, music shouldn’t have to take a backseat, even when you’re thousands of feet up in the sky.

Key Takeaways

  • Every airline has its own policy regarding traveling with guitars. Some allow guitars as carry-on items, some may place them in hold, or even completely ban them. Always check the airline’s specific regulations before traveling.
  • The type of case used to transport the guitar can play a critical role in its protection. Hard cases offer the best protection for checked guitars, while gig bags provide lightweight portability for carrying on. Hybrid cases offer a mix of the two.
  • It’s recommended to loosen the strings on the guitar before a flight, as shifts in temperature and pressure can put stress on the instrument.
  • It’s crucial to thoroughly inspect and document the condition of the guitar both before and after the flight to identify any potential damage incurred during transit.
  • Avoid storing extra items in the guitar case, as they might become damaging projectiles during flight turbulence.
  • Always have a backup plan and familiarize yourself with the regulations for connecting flights, if applicable, to prevent unexpected situations which could affect your travel plans.

Navigating air travel with a guitar can be challenging, but proper preparation can ensure a smooth experience. CabinZero offers a cheat sheet for understanding airline rules regarding musical instruments, including guitars, which can be invaluable for planning your travel. For more detailed advice, Guitar World explores everything you need to know about flying with your guitar, from carry-on to check-in options. Additionally, the YouTube guide provides practical tips on how to ensure your guitar’s safety throughout the flight, whether you’re checking it in or bringing it as a carry-on.

Airline Policies Regarding Guitars

Every airline has its policy when it comes to bringing guitars onboard. While some airlines expressly allow guitars in the cabin, others may place them in the hold or have a complete ban on them. Thus, it’s crucial to understand the specific airline’s regulations before traveling.

American Airlines, for instance, allows guitar as a carry-on if there’s available space in the overhead compartments or under your seat. On the other hand, Delta Airlines allows you to bring your guitar onboard without an extra seat purchase, provided it fits in the overhead bin or another approved storage location in the cabin.

Airlines such as Southwest and Alaska Airlines are generous with their policies. They not only allow guitars as carry-on items but also allow them in a hard case without an extra fee. However, Southwest insists that the case must fit into the overhead bins.

Here’s a glimpse of the regulations from various airlines:

AirlineGuitar Policy
American AirlinesAllows as carry-on, with space availability
Delta AirlinesAllows as carry-on, requires space in overhead bin
Southwest AirlinesAllows in hard case, must fit in overhead bin
Alaska AirlinesAllows in hard case, no extra fee

While it’s good to know your airline’s policy, it’s important to note that enforcement may sometimes vary. Unforeseen circumstances might lead the flight crew to insist on checking in the guitar due to lack of space, even if the airline policy typically allows for it in the cabin. Contacting the airline in advance and preparing for such possibilities can prevent last-minute stress.

Types of Cases for Transporting Guitars on Airplanes

Once you’ve understood your airline’s guitar policy, next you’ll need to determine how to transport your guitar. The case you use to carry your guitar can play a role in whether your instrument survives the journey intact.

Hard Cases

When it comes to protecting your guitar, a hard case is your best bet. It’s designed for maximum protection, making it the ideal choice if your airline requires guitars to be checked. The sturdy exterior shields your guitar from physical damage, while the cushioned interior prevents damage from shock and vibration. Most companies, such as Southwest Airlines, would allow hard cases without extra fees, provided they fit in the available overhead bin spaces.

Gig Bags

Gig bags are a lightweight alternative that could be more practical for carry-on purposes. They’re flexible, compact, and usually have backpack-style straps, making them an easy option for moving around airport terminals. Recognize, though, while gig bags are splendid for convenience, they don’t offer the same protection level as hard cases.

Hybrid Cases

Can’t decide between a hard case and a gig bag? Opt for a hybrid case, arming you with the protection of a hard case and the portability of a gig bag. These cases are harder than gig bags because they have a rigid foam structure but are significantly lighter than traditional hard cases. Hybrid cases might be your ideal compromise if you’re going to be lugging your instrument around but don’t want to compromise on protection.

Remember, while the type of case you choose can protect your guitar from potential damage, it’s also crucial to check your airline’s regulations concerning guitar transportation. Knowing exactly what your airline allows can save you plenty of time and stress at the airport. Don’t be shy to give them a call in advance to verify their policies.

Tips for Safely Traveling with Your Guitar

Traveling with a guitar should not be a hassle. If you’ve chosen your case wisely and researched your airline’s rules, you’re halfway to a smooth journey. However, some extra precautionary measures can add an additional layer of security.

Firstly, consider loosening the strings on your guitar before you board your flight. Shifts in temperature and pressure during a flight can put your guitar’s neck and body under stress. By loosening the strings, you alleviate some of this tension, potentially preventing damage to your instrument.

Another paramount step in keeping your guitar safe is a thorough inspection before and after the flight. Take a moment to examine your guitar with care, making sure to document any pre-existing scratches or imperfections visually. A before-flight inspection helps you in two ways: it provides you a detailed record of your guitar’s condition just before the flight and aids in evaluating any potential damage post-flight.

Similarly, perform a detailed inspection as soon as you retrieve your guitar from the airline, especially if it was checked. Any major damage should be immediately documented and reported to the airline.

When packing your guitar, avoid adding too many additional items in your guitar case. These added items can become potentially damaging projectiles when turbulence comes into play. If you must pack items such as cables or smaller instruments, ensure they’re secured properly to avoid movement within the case.

If you’ve got a layover on your itinerary, recheck your airline’s regulations for connecting flights to ensure no surprises midway. As airline policies may differ, consider reassuring yourself by contacting customer service for clarification.

As any seasoned traveler would tell you, always have a backup plan. In case you encounter unforeseen circumstances, like a lack of overhead storage, be prepared to check your guitar. This guidance makes sure your travel plans aren’t affected by sudden airline decisions.

Your guitar’s safety starts with you. Crafting a detailed, efficient routine for your travel plays a significant role in ensuring your guitar’s safety as much as a sturdy case does. As musicians, we regard our instruments highly, and rightfully so. Safeguarding them during travel requires a touch of meticulousness but guarantees peace of mind.

How to Prepare Your Guitar for a Flight

By now, you’ve seen the importance of meticulously planning and attending to detail when traveling with your guitar. Great! Let’s delve into the specifics of preparing your guitar for a flight.

First off, loosening the strings is a key aspect of pre-flight guitar preparation. This should be done prior to boarding the plane, right at the airport ideally. Why, you ask? Turns out, the strings on a guitar react to changes in temperature and pressure. If the strings are too tight during the flight, it could potentially warp the neck of the guitar or even break the strings. So, to avoid this, ensure the strings are loose but still held in place.

Once the strings are taken care of, it’s time to eyeball your guitar thoroughly for any pre-existing damage. This is important. In the unfortunate event that the airline does damage your guitar, you’d want to have a baseline to make your claim from. It’d be a good idea to take detailed pictures of your guitar from every angle to document any preexisting dings or scratches.

In the hustle and bustle of packing, you might be tempted to stuff some extra items in the guitar case. Resist that urge! Anything extra in the case could move around during the flight and act as a projectile potentially damaging your instrument. Work on the assumption that your guitar will not remain in the upright position throughout the flight.

Finally, let’s talk about connecting flights. Frequently, these may have different airlines with different regulations for handling guitars. Don’t skip checking those. Always have a backup plan prepared for unexpected situations. The more extensively you prepare, the less likely you are to encounter unanticipated issues.


So, you’ve learned that guitars can indeed fly. But it’s not as simple as just buying a ticket and hopping on the plane. You’ve got to prepare your guitar for its journey, loosen the strings, and check for any pre-existing damage. You’ve also got to be mindful of the different rules each airline has. And don’t forget – always have a backup plan. Traveling with your guitar requires careful planning and attention to detail. But with the right preparation, your guitar can safely travel the world with you. Now, it’s time to hit the road and make some music!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Why is it important to loosen the guitar strings before flight?

Loosening the guitar strings can prevent potential damage due to changes in temperature and pressure during the flight. Keeping the strings tight might cause them to snap due to these changes.

Q2: What should be checked before packing the guitar for a flight?

Before packing, it’s crucial to thoroughly inspect your guitar for any pre-existing damages. Doing this will help you determine if any new damage occurs during the transit.

Q3: Can I pack other items together with the guitar in the case?

To ensure the guitar’s safety, it is advisable not to pack extra items in the guitar case. These items can move around during the flight and potentially damage the instrument.

Q4: How should I prepare for different airline regulations for connecting flights?

Being aware of different airlines’ regulations can save you from unexpected problems. Different airlines may have different rules for handling musical instruments, so research and preparations are necessary prior to your flight.

Q5: Why should I have a backup plan when traveling with my guitar?

A backup plan is vital for handling unexpected situations that may jeopardize the safety of your guitar. This might include alternate transportation, finding local repair shops, or even sourcing a temporary replacement.