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If you’ve been playing the saxophone for a while, sooner or later the issue of travelling is going to pop up. More specifically, how can you take your instrument on a plane or train whilst ensuring it’s safe?

Read on to find out.

Traveling with musical instruments can be a hassle when the regulations of so many airline companies don’t allow for musical cases as carry-ons.

People try to avoid paying extra baggage fees so they usually pack smaller luggage as carry-ons, resulting in overstuffed compartments, so even if you could get your instrument past the check-in gates, you still risk damaging the case as it’s usually crammed between bags.

If you’re a saxophone player, you’ll definitely want to take your instrument with you as a carry-on, but you have to be prepared for any surprises at the check-in gates. So let’s take a look at the best options to travel with your saxophone.

Buy A Compact Case

You may already have a hard case for your saxophone, but it may not be suitable for an airplane. If your case is bulky, it won’t make it past the check-in gates, so buying a less bulky hard case is the best option.

Make sure to get one that’s as streamlined as possible and avoid stuffing the exterior pockets because gate agents may reject your case as a carry-on if it appears bulky.

The carry-on dimensions of most airlines are 22 x 14 x 9 inches, but it’s a good idea to double-check before traveling. Another tip is to bring a tape measure with you to prove your case fits these measurements.

A compact case also ensures you find enough space in the compartments and still allow other people to fit their luggage next to your case.

Avoid using a soft case for your instrument as it can bump into other luggage in the overhead compartments, possibly leading to bent keys or other parts. Make sure to pack it tightly in the case by covering it with bubble wrap for extra protection.

Since there’s always a risk of having to check in your saxophone, it’s better to keep the removable pieces with you, like the strap, reeds, and mouthpiece.

Protect Your Instrument

Even when using a hard case, there’s a lot of movement in the plane compartments, which may damage your instrument.

Make sure to buy bendable key clamps to keep your pads well-sealed. They help keep the pads seated and shaped to the tone hole, preventing leakage and keeping the keys from moving around.

Another handy tool that locks the saxophone in place is the extended end plugs. These ensure there’s no wiggle room between the case lining and end plug, which prevents the receiver from bending.

Many saxophone players like to store their reeds wet so that it’s instantly playable. This could be difficult due to the liquid limitation requirements on an airplane, so make sure to get a reed storage case with a humidification system and an air-tight gasket to protect your reeds.

Board Early and Be Friendly

With people crowding the plane compartments, it’s best to try and board as early as you can. You can purchase priority boarding to ensure you get on the plane while there’s still ample space in the compartments.

Another great tip is to book your seat toward the back as most planes start boarding from the rear end, which gives you a better chance at boarding early and finding empty compartments.

Bear in mind that once you safely place your case, nobody is permitted to ask you to remove it to accommodate other bags, even if your case is taking more space than the average carry-on.

However, it’s best to keep a friendly tone when you’re speaking with other passengers or flight attendants to avoid trouble.

Sometimes, they may stop you as you enter the plane because the case looks bulky. If this happens, be cooperative and assure them you’ve traveled many times with your saxophone, and it always fits the compartments, and if not, you’ll have to be willing to get it hand-checked.

You can ask passengers to place their bags on top of your hard case if the compartments are full. Most people will be cooperative if you ask nicely.

Hand-Check Your Saxophone

If your instrument has to be hand-checked on the plane, a luggage handler will carry it to the baggage compartment and bring it back to you when the plane lands.

This option is less risky than getting your case checked at the gate, where it might be handled by several people and tossed around on conveyor belts.

If you have to check your case at the gate, ask for a hand check, which gives you the chance to ask the handlers to take extra care. Sometimes, they even allow you to place your instrument in the cargo yourself.

To ensure the safety of your instrument, it’s best to exhaust all options. You can also add a “fragile” label as an extra precaution.

Get Instrument Insurance

Getting your saxophone insured is a good precautionary measure, especially if you are a frequent traveler. If you’re a homeowner, you can include your instrument in your insurance plan.

Make sure the plan covers the expensive pieces in your saxophone, like the mouthpiece and recording equipment.

Alternative Options

Some airlines allow you to book a seat for your instrument, which can’t be taken from you to seat another passenger. This may be a more expensive option, but it’s still a viable one in case you don’t want to compromise your saxophone.

A cheaper option is to ship it, especially if you’re traveling a long way. This option usually offers you an insurance plan on your package.

You can carry your expensive mouthpieces, reeds, and strap and rent a saxophone in the city you’re headed to instead of carrying your entire saxophone case.

If you don’t have a live gig and just want to practice, you can purchase a travel sax to take with you. It is compact and lightweight and is a great way to avoid carrying a heavy instrument and going through the hassle of check-ins.

When traveling with your saxophone, you need to be prepared for all circumstances to ensure your instrument is safely transported. Make sure to take advantage of the tips in this article and travel comfortably knowing your sax is safe.

Looking for more saxophone related content?

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Discover Jazz
Discover Jazz

The label ‘Discover Jazz’ is attached to articles which have been edited and published by Jazzfuel host Matt Fripp, but have been written in collaboration with various different jazz musicians and industry contributors. When appropriate, these musicians are quoted and name-checked inside the article itself!