5 Essential Travel Tips for Musicians

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Going on the road? Whether you're heading across the country or over seas, these handy tips will put your mind at ease when touring.

1. Papers, Please! Leave a Copy of Your I.D. at Home

If you lose your driver's license or passport, you might have to find an alternative to flying home. Without proper identification, you will not be allowed past the airport's security screening area. Worse still, if you're in a foreign country and your passport is lost or stolen, you won't be allowed to leave the country.

When my passport was stolen, I had a photocopy of it at home, so I was able to get proof of my citizenship quickly before visiting the U.S. embassy for a temporary passport. Even if you're traveling domestically, it's a good idea to leave a copy of your main photo I.D. with someone you trust, just in case of an emergency. (You'll be happy you did if you misplace your wallet or handbag or if it is stolen.)

2.Emergency Paper Trail: Document Everything and Leave a Copy at Home

Many of us use a mobile phone for everything—telling time, boarding passes, and travel info. Yet, there will be times when your battery dies, or the phone goes missing or gets damaged.

As with Tip #1, leave a copy of your tour itinerary somewhere easily accessible. It should include flight numbers and times, hotel names, contact information, addresses for venues—anything that you need to navigate the tour.

I always bring a printed copy with me, and store one in a secure place online. You'll appreciate the redundancy if there's an emergency.

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3. Picture This: Photograph Your Luggage and Cases

If you arrive at your destination but your checked luggage doesn't, you'll need to describe what is missing (including the contents). At the baggage claim desk, there is usually a card with photos of various brands and sizes of luggage: Chances are good that yours will not be pictured. But you don't need to worry if you follow this tip.

Before leaving home, photograph every piece of luggage with your cellphone camera, including carry-ons (just in case you are forced to check one of them). That way, if anything gets lost or stolen, you can easily identify the item to airline personnel or police, and they can share the photo with their staff in other airports. I always make sure the brand name of each suitcase is visible, because that's one of the first questions they ask. Adding a subtle, yet identifiable trait to your baggage (e.g., a colored ribbon on the handle) can help you locate them easily on the carousel and assist the airline if they're lost.

I also make a list of everything that goes into every suitcase and bag, and then store it in the cloud for easy access. Whenever a bag goes missing—and one will, eventually—I know exactly what's in there when I need to file a claim.

And if you haven't done so already: Make a list of the serial numbers on your gear in case any of it is damaged or goes missing.

4. Day Care: Pack for Unexpected Luggage Loss or Delays

Despite well-intentioned efforts by the airlines, checked luggage goes missing from time to time. Whether it's gone for a short period or lost altogether, you will likely be stuck with only the clothes on your back and none of your personal hygiene items.

In your hand luggage,stash a clean pair of socks and underwear, and a travel sized toothbrush and toothpaste. If you've got a gig a few hours after arrival, you'll be glad you brought something to tidy up with while the airline hunts down your bags. Some airlines give you a courtesy grooming kit when your luggage is delayed or lost, but most do not.

(I flew Virgin Atlantic recently, and they gave each passenger a little kit with cotton socks, an eye mask, and toothbrush/toothpaste—much appreciated for the 12-hour flight!)

5. Knowledge is Power: Read the Baggage Policies of Your Airline

Before you pack, visit your airline's website and make sure your bags are within their size and weight allowance. This may seem obvious, but few people seem to do it. Occasionally, the staff at the baggage check-in counter are unaware of the latest policies. Be ready to school them—nicely, of course—with the information you've thoroughly researched.

On international flights, it's not uncommon that you will change carriers when you change planes, and the new airline may have different carry-on and checked baggage policies. If your booking information tells you which airline you're on at each stage of the journey, look them up online before you pack your things, so you can make sure you comply with the strictest of the rules. If you don't, you might be in for a frustrating experience when asked to check a bag that is deemed too large or overweight.

Bonus Tip 1: The sound man for the band Kongos, Mic Quinn, suggests carrying a portable luggage scale so that you can be confident about your baggage weight. (Here are the first examples that came up in our web search.)

To fully understand your rights, read the Department of Transportation's ruling (section 403 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012) about flying with instruments as carry-on and checked luggage. While airline personnel will ultimately have the final say at the gate, at least you will know your rights if you ever have to file a complaint with an airline (and share the experience on social media).

Bonus Tip 2: Before booking your flight, check the Airlines List on the International Federation of Musicians website to see which carriers are more accommodating with musical instruments as carry-ons (within the company's baggage policies, of course).