Have Clarinet, Will Travel: Essential Tips for Travelling with Your Clarinet

It’s no secret that I love to travel!

I’ve travelled around the world (40 countries and counting!) for concerts and recitals. Along the way, I’ve picked up several tips and tricks to make travelling with your clarinet(s) smoother and stress-free.

(Psst! I mostly travel with my B-flat and A clarinets. If you’re travelling with a bass clarinet, check out this excellent article from the International Clarinet Association.)

Here are my top tips to travelling with a clarinet

Air travel

  • Choose your clarinet case carefully. Choosing a durable and protective clarinet case is a non-negotiable when travelling with a clarinet. When selecting cases or case covers, select the one that best suits your travel needs. Do you prefer to keep all of your accessories and music in your case/case cover? Do you prefer to use a micro case and store your accessories/music separately? Do you prefer a backpack case or over-the-shoulder? Do you prefer smaller or larger cases? Each musician should consider these points before choosing the case they plan to use while travelling. (Pro tip: I rotate a couple of different cases and case covers depending on my travel. I’ve used my Altieri case cover for quick weekend trips and can pack most of my clothes and toiletries in the case cover, along with all of my musical accessories. For longer trips, I use the Henri Selmer Paris Prisme case and case cover, which can easily store all of my musical accessories in the case cover.)
  • Avoid checking your clarinet on flights. This shouldn’t be an issue with soprano clarinets, but always avoid checking your clarinet cases when flying. I’ve heard too many horror stories about broken and damaged clarinets that were checked or gate-checked. (Pro tip: Use airline loyalty programs to your advantage. Some membership tiers include early boarding – if you have access to this, board early to ensure you and your clarinet both make it on the plane.)
  • Know your rights. Familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations for musical instruments of the airline company before your flight. Bonus points for printing or screenshotting these in case they’re needed.
  • Notate your clarinet’s serial numbers. This is a good idea whether you’re travelling or not! Keep documents with your clarinets’ serial numbers and any other important information. (Due to CITES laws, there are heightened measures on some materials such as grenadilla, so it’s never a bad idea to keep documents proving the clarinets’ date/location/vendor of purchase in case they’re needed.)
  • Track your clarinet. I use Apple AirTags so I can keep track of where my clarinet is at all times (not that it’s ever away from my sight when I travel). Be sure to hide the AirTag or other similar tracking device somewhere unnoticeable in your case so thieves can’t locate it.
  • Ditch the reed knife. Before travelling, remove reed knives and any other prohibited items from your case so they’re not confiscated at airport security. (I’ve had several instances where security was curious about my K&M clarinet peg, but after showing them what it was, I’ve never had it confiscated.)
  • Regulate humidity. Planes are drying for both people and instruments. I use Boveda humidity packs when I travel to maintain humidity for my clarinets and reeds. (Learn more about my thoughts on reed storage.)

Once you’ve reached your destination

  • Leave your clarinet somewhere safe. Oftentimes, I arrive too early to check in to my hotel room. Most hotels will offer to store your luggage, and I take them up on this offer for my suitcase only. I’m sure most hotels are safe, but I’d rather not take any chances. (And this has allowed my clarinets to be tourists until we can both check in!)
  • Never leave your clarinets out of your sight. Even if you’re “only gone for a minute,” this is still an opportunity for trouble to strike. I never leave my clarinets in a car, at a table, or anywhere else – if I’m going somewhere, my clarinets are going there too.
  • Utilize hotel room safes. If your room has a safe, store your clarinet there. If the safe is too small to fit your case, you can take the pieces out and carefully place them on a towel inside the safe.

General advice

  • Use a name tag. Simple, but often overlooked! Make sure your clarinet case has a name tag with your name and contact information typed or legibly printed.
  • Make sure your clarinets and accessories are insured. Some homeowners, rental, and other insurance policies cover musical instruments. (If not, there are dedicated musical instrument insurance companies.) Before travelling, make sure your clarinets are covered, or consider purchasing a policy.
  • Be careful on public transit. Never lose grasp of your clarinet case. If you do remove your clarinet case from your shoulder/back/carrying position, wrap the handle around your wrist. Do not lose contact with your clarinet case even for a second, and keep a careful eye on everyone around you.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings. When I travel somewhere new, I do a lot of research beforehand to know what to expect. I try to blend in as much as possible and not look like a tourist.

Bon voyage!

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