In Part 1, I wrote about air travel with your instrument. But of course we must take equally good care of our instruments when we travel by car, bus or train, when camping, or when shipping an instrument to your destination.
It doesn’t matter where you live or even what time of year it is; even in winter if the sun is out it can get hot in a parked car. And everyone knows that parked cars get hot in the summer, but do you know that happens even if the sun isn’t out (same reason we can get sunburned on a cloudy day).
On the other hand, in cold weather it could get very cold in a car, and that’s not the best thing for an instrument either.
It’s always a good idea to refrain from leaving an instrument in a parked car at all. But if you must do so, in summer be sure to leave a window open at least an inch. That, of course, can invite theft, so balancing the possibility of losing your instrument to damage vs. losing it to a thief is the consideration here.
In any season, have the instrument in a well-padded case so it’s less affected by ambient temperature. Remember that no matter how well padded the case is, eventually the temperature will get to it, so limit the amount of time it is left in a parked vehicle.
When packing a car for a trip, don’t put anything on top of your instrument except whatever you might use to disguise its presence, like crumpled blankets or a stack of newspapers. If you have a trunk, that’s a better spot to keep it out of sight of prying eyes. It’s best to put it in the trunk before you leave home rather than when you park at your destination, because transferring it from the passenger area of the car into the trunk in a public place invites unwanted notice from anyone lurking. Also notice that I mentioned “crumpled blankets” – if you neatly place a blanket over your instrument, it makes a fairly obvious statement that you are hiding something underneath. But items that look carelessly strewn disguise it better.
Thefts can happen quickly and in unlikely locations, even when your car is locked, so don’t ever assume it’s totally safe even if it’s well disguised. Of course if you have your instrument in an aluminum or hard wooden case, you can stack other luggage and such on top of it, but luggage itself is a magnet for thieves.
Protect the instrument from bumping around in the car when you’re driving. A foam pad under it can preserve its life-span. If it’s inside the car with you rather than in the trunk, use a seatbelt to strap it in; otherwise during even a small accident it can become a projectile.
The best policy is to treat your musical instrument as you would a pet or a child, for its safety and yours.
Here’s some info from Greyhound: Be sure that all items have a Greyhound Baggage Tag with the passenger’s name and destination clearly printed. One piece of baggage will be free for each adult and child. One additional piece of baggage can be accepted for a charge of $15.00 for adults only. One small bag, up to 25 pounds, plus one personal item (purse, handbag, etc.) can be taken aboard for each adult or child. Carry-on bags must fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat. Baggage must not exceed 158 centimeters (62 inches) when adding the total exterior dimensions of the (length + height + width). Any Bags exceeding the 158 cm. (62 inch) limit will be assessed oversized baggage charges. The “no charge” allowance for baggage is restricted to 23 kilograms (50 pounds) per bag. Baggage exceeding fifty (50) pounds per bag will be subject to overweight baggage charges. Baggage over 32 kilograms (70 pounds) per bag will not be accepted. Acceptable baggage includes suitcases, duffel bags, toolboxes, trunks, backpacks and securely tied cardboard boxes.
Geryhound’s website says NOTHING about musical instruments. They make allowances for medical equipment, skis, golf equipment…. but musicians are not considered, apparently.
Here are Amtrak’s regulations for musical instruments: Carry-on 50 lbs., 28″ x 22″ x 14″. Instruments that do not fit in luggage racks will be considered oversize. Checked 50 lbs./100 Linear Inches. Some medium-sized instruments may be transported free of charge in lieu of a piece of baggage. A $10.00 service fee will apply. Oversize instruments may only be carried onboard with the purchase of an additional full revenue seat – no larger than 72”/1829 mm in height.
Tent camping and backpacking: There are instruments made especially for taking with you into the back country. The McNally Strum Stick and the Martin Backpacker Guitar are good examples. Jere Canote makes lovely mini 5-string banjos that are very playable – some are made with flat wooden bodies and others with 9” traditional rims and fiberskin heads.
There are very small harps as well, made by several different companies, but be sure to play the harp before you buy, because some are not playable at all. IMHO your best bet for a camping harp is a 19×2 double-strung harp if it’s well made, because you get 38 strings to play on a very small harp, and the spacing is normal! (If you’re wondering how this is possible, email me.)
If you’re camping in a tent, it can absorb damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun (which can crack an instrument), even on cloudy days and even if it doesn’t feel hot inside the tent. It’s best to pitch your tent in a safe, shady spot so your instruments will be happy. (But check overhead for dead branches that can fall on your tent – no kidding.)
RV camping: An RV may as well be home, when you’re parked and if you’re plugged into electricity and/or have heat or air conditioning. But if you’re boondocking, you should take the same precautions you would with a parked car. When moving, protect the instrument as you would in any moving vehicle. And do keep your doors locked when you’re away from the RV.
If you have a canopy or tarp outside your RV, it can absorb ultraviolet rays just as a nylon tent can, and anything underneath it can be affected. I was once helping at an outdoor show where the vendor used the ubiquitous easy-to-erect type nylon canopy. It was a hot summer day, slightly overcast, but shady under the canopy. However, several instruments in cases were ruined that day because the canopy didn’t filter out ultraviolet radiation, and since they were in cases there was no air circulation to cool them. So be careful if you leave an instrument under a canopy! Even if I have a canopy I always camp in complete shade under trees whenever possible.
Whether you travel or not, having your instruments insured is wise. If you have a good homeowner’s insurance policy that covers your belongings wherever you are, be sure to photograph all your instruments and keep the photos in a safe place, in case you have to prove you owned them. Anderson Group (https://www.anderson-group.com) also insures instruments and their rates are reasonable.
Shipping to your destination:
I’ve written about shipping in a previous post, but it’s worth a mention that you can ship your instrument to yourself wherever you’re going. Check on the cost of shipping vs. airline or extra baggage by bus or train. You’ll need the flight case or heavy box anyway, and chances are insurance is better that way. If they can guarantee it will arrive before or when you do, this can be a great option.