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Tips for Traveling with Your Cello This Summer

Traveling with a cello is more involved than traveling with its smaller violin or viola counterparts. For this reason, it’s worth thinking ahead when planning to take your cello along to summer music camp, a relative’s house, or off to your future college.

Purchase instrument insurance

If you have a higher-end cello, odds are you already have instrument insurance. If not, it’s worth calling carriers and obtaining quotes. Your cello is notably more at risk for being damaged, lost, or stolen when traveling. In most cases (check ahead of time with the carrier), you can cancel the policy when your vacation is over if the monthly payments don’t make financial sense once you’ve returned.

Consider getting a hard case

Soft cases are easier to contend with for day-to-day cello maneuvering, but long-distance travel is worthy of a hard case. A hard cello case puts your mind at ease in the event you have to check it with an airline or train line, when a less-conscientious sibling “helps” to load the car, or if it slips from your grip while traversing the uneven terrain of a mountain getaway.

Click here to view CMUSE’s most current list of the top 15 cello cases. Remember that you get what you pay for in terms of quality, so read reviews carefully to purchase a case that gives you just what you need – no more, no less – at the right price.

Provide extra “bump” protection

In addition to a durable case, your cello will be exposed to atypical turbulence via air, rails, or the bouncing around in the car on long-distance drives. Perpetual vibration, and occasional knocks and bumps, make it more vulnerable. You can go the extra mile to protect your cello en route by:

  • Placing a thin piece of hard Styrofoam or similar hard, but pliable, buffer should be placed between the fingerboard and the cello body.
  • Tuning the strings down by a whole-step to decrease pressure on the bridge
  • Using balled socks or other soft materials – taped in place – on either side of the bridge to hold both the soundboard and the bridge in place.

Contact airlines ahead of time

Whether you plan to check or carry your cello on board a plane or train, give the airline a call or visit their website to see what’s allowed – and what’s not. Whatever agreement you make on the phone with a representative is worth requesting in print, so you have proof of what you were guaranteed.

Also, know that airlines that typically allow a cello carry-on may get stricter about the policy if the flight is full and there isn’t enough cabin space – yet another “case” for hard cases when it comes to summer or long-distance travels. Finally, be prepared to pay a fee to check – or carry – a cello, depending on the airline you choose. Again, a personal conversation about these fees ahead of time helps for budget planning.

Did you know you can purchase a seat for your cello?

It’s true. However, this should be done directly with the airline to ensure you’ve secured the seat correctly. In some cases, this may be the most affordable way to ensure your cello arrives safely – particularly in this era of bargain flights. However, in many cases, the cost of travel may be equal to or more than the cost of your cello, in which case it’s not really worth it.

Attach an ID tag to your case

Don’t forget to complete and attach an ID tag to the handle and straps of your cello case. This one simple thing can make the difference between a cello that is lost forever with one that is returned within a day or two.

If you are concerned about loss or theft of an expensive cello, you may also want to get a GPS tracking device, like Trackimo. These devices provide real-time feedback about where your instrument is – and where it’s headed – so authorities can track it down.

Invest in a humidity control device

If you live in a moderate climate, you may be lax about humidification accessories for your instrument case. Now is the time to up the ante and purchase a Boveda kit.

Traveling has the potential to expose your instrument to more dramatic fluctuations in temperature and humidity than it’s used to. Boveda’s patented 2-way humidity control keeps your cello comfortable and structurally sound whether it’s in the humid belly of a plane during a layover in the Deep South or spends time in more arid destinations.

Traveling with a cello is a learning curve. Do your research, prepare as much as you can, and be open to the process. As with anything else related to playing a string instrument, practice makes nearly perfect when it comes to both playing – and traveling with – the cello.

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