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Excited to attend the 2020 Guitar Gathering, but looking for tips to get my guitar back and forth on Southwest Airlines.  My guitar is too large for Southwest's carry on policy and customer service suggests buying a separate ticket for the guitar, which is cost prohibitive.  I thought about buying hard case and checking as baggage, but am afraid baggage handlers will beat the tar out of my guitar.  Then I thought perhaps I could get a hard case and box and protect the guitar and check in baggage check.  Then I thought perhaps if I bring it in my gig bag as carry on, the flight attendants might be cool and let me store in overhead space, which is a bit of a gamble, because they may force me to check in with soft gig bag.  Looking forward to some Guitar Gathering veterans wise travel advise.




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I have flown with guitars twice.

The safest was, as you mention, when I booked an extra seat and it sat next to me and was handled by me.

The worst was when it was checked in. PRS guitars have strong, heavy rectangular cases. My guitar was fine but the case was damaged when I could see that it had been thrown and landed on a corner. It reminded me of Dave Carroll's now famous experience, encapsulated in his clever and hilarious song United Breaks Guitars:

What do I suggest? Be the person who handles your guitar, do not leave it to someone who may not love and care for guitars as if they are their own.

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@KDPEDH if you don't have a hard case, get one that's good TSA approved (but really any hard case)

Back the strings off 1 to 2 steps low.

Chances of over head room is slim on any airline,  they all use the same planes

Edited by Eracer_Team-DougH
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What sort of guitar are you planning to bring? An electric would travel by air a lot better than an acoustic, I would think.

Even so, almost everyone attending the Gathering will have an acoustic. I have seen a few people there with something like this: https://www.amazon.com/Gator-Acoustic-Dreadnought-Approved-GTSA-GTRDREAD/dp/B01BGX82G8?ref_=ast_sto_dp&th=1

Of course if you want more protection there are Hiscox cases and even better available - depends on how much you want to spend.

That being said, if I were flying with an acoustic I would definitely gate-check it. Then it's carried from the jetway down to the cargo hold and back again at your destination, and should avoid a lot of the handling that checked bags get.

I have heard of some people getting guitar cases onboard the plane due to a kind gate agent or due to it being summer and there being ample space for the guitar in the coat closet. It might be worth asking.

I'll be driving, but for me I would buy the best case I could and then gate-check the guitar if I were made to check it.

Edited by colder
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I travelled to the conference from the UK last year and was similarly worried about transporting my guitar. I took a Martin DRS2 acoustic, not one of their expensive models but expensive enough if it needs replacing. My personal thought processes and  experience were:

1. Make sure it is insured and check it is appropriately covered under the insurance

2. Make sure it is a guitar that I'd be ok with replacing under insurance if the worst happened, not one with emotional attachment

3. Some people said try to take on board or check at the gate - but what if you can't when you get there? Prepare to check it with other bags

4. Buy the sturdiest flight case I could reasonably afford - I wasn't sure the wooden Martin hard case would be sturdy enough. The TSA Approved Gator Case in moulded ABS that Colder mentions looked the best option to me but I couldn't get hold of one. Instead I went for a TourTech Pro ABS Acoustic Guitar Case ('fits most dreadnoughts'), which I bought online. It looked really robust in photos, description was good and the guy on the phone said my Martin should fit. When it arrived, it looked less sturdy than I'd hoped, but not bad. The internal padding was not very deep though and the guitar sat loosely inside. I decided to risk it, but pack the heck out of it with bubble wrap. By the way it had a TSA approved lock.

5. Check it in at airport with other bags and pray. 

6. On check in I was glad to be told to hand it over at the 'special' luggage place rather than put it on the belt and to receive and recheck it in Atlanta in the same way before picking it up in Nashville. It did not come out on the carousel at Nashville but was brought round by hand. What happened behind the scenes? I'm probably better off not knowing. 

7. On arrival at Nashville, and again at home, the guitar was completely unscathed. However, it was apparent that TSA had opened and inspected the case on both the outward and return flights. They had re-packed it ibut the sheer amount of bubble wrap caused the hinges on the case to buckle slightly after they re-packed it.

If I went again (would dearly love to, but can't afford it) then I'd do everything the same but try to find a similar case that actually fits without all the bubble wrap. I'd accept that something bad might happen and I might have to replace the guitar on insurance. I wouldn't take one that is irreplaceable.

I hope that is of some help.


p.s. I flew with Virgin Atlantic (superb) and Delta


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It has been suggested in past Conferences of renting a guitar in Nashville for the week, instead of bringing your own with all the possible hassles. 

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If it was Canada you'd have no issues renting anything from Long and Mcquade cheaply including high end Gibson J45's for like $145 for a month 

But since this is Nashville and you have to rely on Guitar Center , only a few GC rent gear in the USA.

And only a select couple of guitars,

I checked a couple yrs back,  bottom of line guitar would cost something like a $100 for just a few days.

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