How to Travel with a Guitar

Discover the best tips for hassle-free guitar travel. Protect your instrument and enjoy making music on the go.

Most instruments are expertly crafted and finely tuned to create music for our pleasure. Unfortunately, once they leave the music store, we must take care of them and ensure they don’t get damaged, regardless of the travels we take them on.

If you own a guitar, you know how difficult it can be to take a trip with you. It is a large instrument that needs protection, and while it can take a few dents and scratches, you would rather it remain intact while you are on the road and beyond.

Are you looking to take your axe on an adventure and unsure how to safely protect it en route? Here is a guide for how to travel with a guitar.

Soft Guitar Case

Do you have a hard case or soft case for storing your guitar? This is a question not only for travelling with your guitar but for general storage as well. If you are a gigging musician, you probably have both, and they serve you well in specific situations.

A soft case can easily carry your guitar and a few accessories. It works well if you travel locally to a gig or a jam session, where it can be placed in a trunk or back seat without any other items banging up against it.

Soft cases are lightweight and non-cumbersome, meaning carrying around with you won’t be a hassle. Some have shoulder straps so you can sling it over one side or wear it as a backpack.

Hard Guitar Case

A hard case is ideal for maximum protection; every guitar owner should have one. They are typically made from wood, fibreglass or injected moulding so your instrument fits snuggly inside and, when closed, protects from hits, bumps and weather alike.

It is heavier to carry, but if you are on the road playing gigs, you should have it so it can be packed with other instruments without the chance of damage.

Guitar Finishes

Nitrocellulose lacquer is a popular finish on vintage guitars and for those who want the “classic” look. It is beautiful, and the envy of most players, but a softer finish can get damaged in transit.

Take extra caution if you have a guitar with a nitrocellulose finish so it keeps its lustre despite the miles you put on it, but don’t fret if you get some wear. This is part of gigging, and a worn, vintage finish looks more authentic to the hard life of a working musician.

Refinishing is a big project but very rewarding, so if you get some damage, you can fix it or leave it as a war wound on your guitar.


Stowing your guitar in a vehicle is straightforward, but taking it on an airplane is different. There are several things to consider and ask about when you are taking a flight with your instrument.

Some airlines are sympathetic to music travellers and will accommodate you as best. They usually let you bring your guitar into the cabin and safely stow it in an overhead compartment.

Other airlines may not be so friendly, so you must check it as baggage. Find a travel partner that meets your needs and book with them.

Pro Tip

Once at the airline, carry your guitar on your back with the neck facing down. This makes it look smaller, and you may be able to bring it on board without much hassle. This may not get you through security, but it is far past baggage check-in, so they will let you bring it into the cabin.

Prep Your Guitar for Travel

There are not many moving pieces on a guitar, but what there are should be altered for your trip. It is a good idea to loosen the strings because temperature changes in an airplane may cause one to snap. A little slack goes a long way.

Ensure your guitar is cushioned inside of its case. This can be achieved with some towels or a few T-shirts wrapped around it so it has no chance of movement, even if it is dropped.

Also, add a layer between the fretboard and the strings to avoid any scratching. Take out loose items like picks, capos and tuners so they don’t shuffle around and cause damage.

Ask for a Gate Check

This is a good way to safeguard your instrument but still have it stowed in the cargo hold. Ask if you can “gate check” your guitar. This will avoid the maze of conveyor belts and multiple people handling them.

You may have a more complicated process to claim, but it will be better cared for.

This is how to travel with a guitar. You can’t leave it on the wall forever, so you must take your instrument when globe-trotting. So follow this guide and protect your music maker while driving locally and flying worldwide.

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