As the world opens up, more musicians are starting to travel with their instruments. If you’re looking to fly with a flute, you need to take some precautions to protect it.
That way, you can enjoy your trip, and you won’t be stressing about losing it or having someone steal it. And you won’t have to switch flights to avoid checking your flute.
Before we get into the tips, this post contains affiliate links. Click here for my full disclosure policy.
Pack It in a Bigger Bag
If you want to fly with a flute but don’t want to carry it separately, pack it in a bag, like a backpack. That way, you can still get your flute on board the plane (i.e. not have to check it), and it won’t take up our personal bag or carry-on.
At the airport, you may need to take the flute out of the bigger bag. If the security employees need to look at it, it will be easier for everyone.
You can always put it back in your bigger bag, so you can minimize what you have to carry around the airport and on the plane. When you get to your destination, it also won’t be obvious that you’re carrying a potentially expensive instrument.
Add Other Items to the Case
On the flip side, you can add other items to your flute case or bag. If you use a Fluterscooter bag, there’s space for some smaller items, like socks, medicine, or even your keys and phone.
I did this when I had to put my backpack in the overhead compartment but knew I still wanted easy access to a few things. My flute bag fit under the seat, and it had everything I needed.
Now, don’t do this if you just use a hard case (no flute bag over it). You shouldn’t keep anything in the same case as your flute. If you do that, you could damage the flute, which is true of those fluffy swabs you store inside the instrument.
Keep Your Receipt
Long before you travel with an instrument, make sure to keep a copy of your receipt. This will show that you truly are the owner, so you aren’t trying to run away with someone’s instrument or smuggle it across borders.
It can also be useful if you own a wooden piccolo that you need to travel with. Some woods are under strict international regulations, and you don’t want to get your expensive piccolo confiscated.
If you don’t want to have a physical copy of your receipt, take a digital scan of it that you can access on your phone. Then, you can still show that you own the instrument, especially if the receipt or invoice has your name on it.
Get to the Airport Early
Arriving at the airport earlier than necessary can be annoying. However, it will give you more time to go through security in case they need to check your flute in more detail.
And if they don’t need to check it, you’ll have even more time to find your gate, get a snack, and relax. Plus you can have time to talk to the gate agent about your situation to see if you can board earlier than your boarding pass says.
I’ve never tried that, but being nice to the people working is also just a good thing to do. You don’t want to be that stressed out traveler who makes everyone working equally as frustrated.
Bring Your Backup Flute
If you want to fly with a flute on vacation, consider bringing your backup instrument. Your backup flute will still allow you to practice, but it won’t be as devastating if something happens to it.
Of course, the exception to this is if you’re flying to an audition or performance, or if you’re going to a convention where you might try instruments. You want to bring your current flute so that you can sound the best for that concert or audition.
And when going to a flute convention, having your current flute will help you compare your options. That way, you can determine if you really do need to upgrade.
Board as Early as You Can
If you want to fly with a flute safely, you need to board earlier rather than later. The sooner you get on that plane, the more space there will be in the overhead bin to put your belongings.
Now, you can do a few things to increase your chances of boarding early. First, you can buy a first class ticket if they exist. Another option is to get a window seat when you can choose your seat because they tend to board earlier.
If you’re flying on Southwest, neither of those things are available. But what you can do is upgrade to the Early Bird Check-In. This means you’ll be automatically checked in 24 hours before your flight.
You don’t have to rush to check in that soon, so you can get a good boarding position. When I did this, I was one of the first 30 or so people to board. I had plenty of space for my flute.
Use an iPad
While this tip won’t help you fly with a flute, it can help overall. If you need to travel with your flute and a ton of music, consider putting it on an iPad. That way, you can save space, and you can get your flute and music on the plane.
Because of course, your flute shouldn’t go in the cargo hold. But neither should your music on the off chance you lose your luggage.
An iPad is much smaller and lighter than a set of books and loose sheet music. You can put it in the same bag as your flute or the other carry-on. That way, you’ll have everything you need for a successful performance.
Keep It Close
This tip can help you drive or fly with a flute, and it’s to never let your flute out of your sight. If you’re flying alone, don’t set it down if you still need to grab a snack or use the restroom. When flying with others, you can leave it with someone you trust, but they need to be careful.
I’ve also used this tip when driving with my flute. When I was in grad school, I would drive home occasionally, and I’d bring my instruments. However, I would usually stop to use the restroom about half way.
NEVER leave your flute in a car unattended. I’m sure I looked weird to employees and other customers, but I always brought my backpack (with my flute in it) into the gas station. It didn’t matter if I wasn’t going to buy anything.
How Will You Fly With a Flute?
Knowing how to fly with a flute is essential for any musician. You have to figure out how you will get that instrument on the plane and avoid checking it. But you also have to be able to pack your music and other belongings.
Luckily, there are plenty of tips you can use to make traveling as a musician less stressful.
Do you want some sheet music you can easily travel with?
2 thoughts on “How to Fly With a Flute”
Hello! I’m a 19-year-old student who occasionally practices the flute. Mine is a Pearl PF-505 and I have been practising with it since I was 14 years old. Next year, if I pass my IB grades, I will fly to the UK to further my degree. However, as you mentioned, keeping a copy of our receipts is a good idea. Unfortunately, I lost the receipt since I was still a kid when this flute was purchased and all responsibilities are up to me. Is the receipt absolutely necessary? If it is, then how should I recover my receipt?
I think it’s fine if you don’t have your receipt. So far, I haven’t been asked to show proof of my purchase when flying with my flutes. It’s also not as much of a concern with a student flute. If you want a similar document in case, I’d recommend taking your flute to a technician for an appraisal.