V.com weekend vote: Did you/are you traveling with your violin over the holidays?

December 28, 2018, 7:19 AM · The holidays often bring travel, and the question arises: to bring the violin (or viola or cello), or to leave it at home?

violin on plane

For some, there is no choice because the traveling will also involve performing. For some, this might be a time for a little break from the instrument; for others it is the perfect occasion to actually spend a little more time practicing.

At any rate, it is tricky to travel with a stringed instruments due to the fact that they need to be kept at a reasonable temperature - not locked in a freezing car or airline cargo hold. They also must be handled with care, i.e. "get your hands off my fiddle, buddy." Many of us have anxiety over the idea of airline workers roughing up a fiddle, even though most tend to understand the delicate nature of the instrument.

For me, I am actually visiting family in Cincinnati, Ohio this week, a nice long flight from Los Angeles. But as much as I don't like to fly with the fiddle, I just didn't want to be away from my violin for that long. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

How about you? Have you or will you be traveling with your violin over the holidays? By car, or by plane? If so, What measures have you had to take, to keep your instrument safe and warm? Or, is your violin at home? Please answer the vote and then describe your travels (or travel travails!) from this year, or you can tell us about previous travels!

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December 28, 2018 at 03:34 PM · I travel with my violin on airplanes at least two or three times a year. I've never had a problem. I don't know about other airlines, but Delta airlines have always been accommodating to the storage of my violin. When I enter an airplane, I hold the violin case in front of me and ask, "Do you have a closet where I can place this violin?" Usually, there is a small closet for the coats and the luggage of the crew. I've never had a problem placing my violin there, and recovering it when I get to my destination. If, on rare occasions, I am in an airplane without a closet, they have always found space. Indeed, my violin has flown first class, while I have been sandwiched in a middle seat in coach. The only problems I've come across are when I'm carrying the case around an airport. Several people have come up to me and asked what orchestra I am with, or whether I'm a soloist. I could fake it, but I simply tell them I'm a grandpa taking my violin to play some tunes for my grandchildren.

December 28, 2018 at 05:56 PM · I always fly from Sacramento to Houston for the holidays. It's extra important for me to be here because Christmas Day is my grandmother's birthday. As an amateur orchestral player in two orchestras, I find vacation is the only time I can spend a lot of time on technique and solo rep, so I always bring my viola. I've flown with my viola for various other reasons, not all of which I remember at the moment.

On a full-size airliner, my viola case fits in the overhead bin, so I don't worry too much about finding space for it. If I'm in the last 1/3 of the boarding process, or if I'm flying on a regional jet or prop plane, I ask about closet space at the airplane door. (Although my viola case does fit in most regional jet overhead bins as well, I take no chances.)

So far, cabin crews have been accommodating. Just in case they aren't, I keep a copy of the relevant federal law (currently 49 U.S.C. § 41724) in my case's music pouch, but I've never had to take it out in the 13 years I've flown with my viola.

December 28, 2018 at 08:50 PM · I flew with family to see more family, but this is a trip I make often and I have the use of my sister's violin at my destination. So I left my violin at home but I performed at my mother's nursing home on a different violin.

December 28, 2018 at 09:04 PM · My not flying has nothing to do with the violin. I stopped flying back in the late 1990's as I was sick and tired of the hassles back then. Then again, I don't perform, don't have extended family that I would want to visit, and after over a decade of weekly business travel,.. you get the picture.

December 28, 2018 at 09:10 PM · "No, I stayed home and my fiddle stayed home." I did most of my flying in my student days, 13-21 y/o, and took the fiddle with me. Security was quick and simple -- carry-ons went on a conveyor belt, and you walked through an archway and picked them up in the next room to board. No hassles -- it took about 10 seconds as I remember.

I don't fly anymore -- but not because cabin crews might be ignorant of -- or try to get around -- 49 U.S.C. § 41724. I actually managed to find a bit of fun in flying, back in my student years, but I never liked being airborne. So I don't do it anymore.

As for road trips: Between November and April, I don't take any -- even to neighboring Tennessee or Georgia. You never know what kind of heavy weather you're going to hit here the Northern Hemisphere during these months. No living relatives within 1,000+ miles now, so I stay put.

December 28, 2018 at 11:34 PM · Air Canada has a great policy to accommodate instruments in the overhead compartment: in their Letter of Agreement, the airline states that "those bringing a musical instrument onboard as their carryon may board before the general boarding process". Our trip this break on Air Canada was uneventful, thank goodness.

December 29, 2018 at 01:40 PM · Knowing I was going to fly with my violin, I really scheduled my plane trip (LA to Cincinnati) around that. Instead of doing the suggested route through Chicago, where I would very likely transfer to a small plane with extremely limited overhead space, I went through San Francisco on the way out, then will go through Denver on the way back. Also, I have a credit card that gives me the ability to board early, even when traveling economy, so that allows me to get one of those spaces. I also moved my violin to a fitted BAM case, which is smaller and very obviously a violin case.

One time when I was flying, there was another violinist on board and she had to board later, after all the space had run out. She was clearly in great distress, as the flight attendants were beginning to tell her that no, there was no room for the violin. I had noticed her before, so I flagged her down and invited her to put her violin right next to mine. The only thing that will really fit alongside one violin in those overhead bins is perhaps a coat, or another violin. We must watch each others' backs!

December 29, 2018 at 10:54 PM · Sometimes I go by car, sometimes by train (It's been quite a time since I went by plane). Generally I have violin and viola with me, though for a short conference I may leave them at home if my playing is not required.

December 30, 2018 at 12:25 AM · Flew with my double case (violin/viola) on United on Christmas Day, no problems. Changed to a 50-seater CRJ-200 plane in Chicago. I knew it would be tight, so I made sure to get on as quickly as possible. Even though I was flying Economy, I was the third person to board. The overhead bin just barely wouldn't close with my case either handle in or handle out, but I had researched the compartment dimensions ahead of time, so I knew it would be close. I also knew that the underseat space wasn't divided, so I put my case under both seats in front of me, and the guy who ended up sitting next to me was very gracious about it.

I've flown dozens of times with a single case, and several with a double, and I've never had a problem. My advice: know the storage possibilities on the plane you're flying on, and get on as early as you can. Like others here, I've been prepared to exercise some polite diplomacy with the cabin crew, but I haven't yet had to use it.

Oh, and if someone asks, just say it's a violin. Even if it's a viola or a double. They usually know that a violin is allowed; the others will probably just confuse them.

December 30, 2018 at 01:42 PM · Yes, by car, to my parents' house with my kids. So -- two violins and a cello.

December 30, 2018 at 09:26 PM · No--my fiddle stayed home while I traveled with my dog as cabin baggage. I can't imagine what boarding would be like with dog and violin, and my folks prefer to see the dog over hearing my violin!

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