Traveling any distance with your violin could lead to damage if your instrument isn’t properly packed and cared for along the way. So should you leave it behind? No way!
Whether you’re traveling over the hills and through the woods to grandmother’s house or just around the corner for a gathering with old friends, you can use these tips to make sure your violin and bow arrive at your destination undamaged and ready for a song.
Learn how to travel with your instrument and pack your violin for air or road travel!
How to Travel with a Violin by Air
Check your insurance coverage.
Is your violin covered under your homeowners or renters insurance policy? It might be. Call your insurance company to check coverage and limitations. Surprises and accidents are just as likely on local trips as on international ones! You can also purchase an independent violin insurance policy that covers everything from accidental damage to theft.
Leave your bow at home if it is made with ivory or tortoise shell.
Your bow could be confiscated at the airport if it contains ivory or tortoiseshell, as these are banned materials. If you must travel with a bow featuring ivory or tortoiseshell, apply for a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) certificate. A CITES certificate provides proof to customs that all materials from protected species used in the bow were either legally acquired or used at a time when the material was not yet protected. A CITES certificate is valid for three years.
On the flip side, a negative certificate or materials declaration from the bow’s manufacturer can serve a similar purpose in proving there are no materials on the bow from a protected species. Contact CodaBow for a materials declaration for any CodaBow violin bow.
What about Pernambuco bows? Traveling with a finished violin bow made from pernambuco wood is alright, reports the American Federation of Musicians. “You do not need documentation to travel with bows containing pernambuco wood as long as these instruments do not also contain ivory or other endangered species material.” The Federation recommends bookmarking or printing this letter from the U.S. government in case your TSA agent or airport official is unaware of this allowance for pernambuco wood bows.
Plan for extra security screening.
Allow time in your travel schedule for extra security screening. Assume that your violin case will be opened and inspected by a TSA agent (and that the agent may need to learn how to handle a violin and bow properly).
“Musical instruments transported as carry-on require a physical inspection at the security checkpoint. Inform the TSA officer if your instrument requires special care and handling,” reports TSA.
Invest in a sturdy violin case.
Avoid traveling with a soft-cover violin case that can’t bear much weight. You need a protective, durable, and weather-resistant case. Once you put your violin in an overhead bin, another airplane passenger could sling their suitcase into your instrument or place a heavy bag on top of it.
Check out these top violin cases for traveling from Great Violin Cases. No matter how sturdy your case is, you can also add padding to limit jostling. Just put a little bubble warp around the neck, bridge, fingerboard, tailpiece, and between the sides of the violin!
Loosen your violin strings and bow hairs.
Loosen your violin strings and bow hairs to avoid breakage. At flying altitude–even in a pressurized cabin–the tension in your violin strings can increase and damage the instrument’s body. This travel tip applies when traveling with any stringed instrument, not just a violin!
Buy a humidifier.
Airplane cabins are notoriously dry. You’ve felt the effects of it, too! The dry air dehydrates your skin and body, causing dry skin irritation, thirst, and headaches. Your violin can also “dry out,” fall out of tune, and crack.
With the help of a violin humidifier, your instrument can better maintain its integrity and be kept in the 45-55% humidity range. Violin humidifiers range in price from $10-$100. Consider removing the humidifier from the case once you reach your destination, especially if you’re traveling to a humid climate.
Note that changes in humidity aren’t as big of a deal if you have a carbon fiber bow as opposed to a wooden one. Humidity and temperature swings can change the camber of a wood bow, affecting the sound of your playing. A carbon fiber bow, however, is engineered to hold its shape no matter what.
Avoid putting your violin in checked baggage.
Sure, the plane’s baggage hold is pressurized and temperature controlled. One travel website reports that temperatures are held between 45-65℉. But your violin could be thrown about and damaged by baggage handlers along the way, and violins are genuinely happiest in the 60-70℉ temperature range.
Check-in early, and don’t be the last one on the plane.
This tip is crucial for musicians traveling on Southwest, where the seating is first come, first served in designated groups. Airline staff could start checking or moving bags to the cargo hold as overhead compartments fill up. You don’t want your instrument case to find its way down there, and you don’t want to make another passenger check their luggage because you were the last one to board, and now there’s no room for your violin case in an overhead bin. Board as early as possible and pay attention to your nearest overhead compartment.
How to Travel with a Violin by Car
Driving with your violin is much easier than flying! You control almost every aspect of your trip, from temperature to luggage setup.
- Similarly to flying with your violin, loosen the strings and bow hairs before hitting the road to prevent expansion and contraction damage.
- Don’t put your instrument in the trunk where it could get jostled about or crushed by other luggage.
- Go with a durable, weather-resistant case.
- Don’t leave your instrument in the car overnight. Consider taking it with you when leaving the vehicle if the A/C or heat will be off for more than 30 minutes.
- Again, check your insurance coverage!
Is Your Violin Ready to Travel?
With the proper preparation and care, your violin can fly or drive with you to any destination. Carbon fiber violin bows are especially well-suited for the rigors of travel and fluctuating temperature and humidity levels. Upgrade your bow (right alongside your violin case!) to one that’s more durable and reliable than your average violin bow. Request an at-home trial of a carbon fiber bow today, and get ready to pack your bags. CodaBow is there for you with some of the most durable and highest-quality violin bows. Feel free to sign up on our email list for additional information for top orchestral instrument traveling tips.