What is the best way to travel with a ukulele? Travelling with a fragile string instrument is not easy, even if it’s something as small as a ukulele. It’s a bit of a hassle, like travelling with a pet. Do you really want to take your beloved ukulele on your road trip or overseas holiday? And do you have no idea how to go about it without breaking your ukulele or losing your sanity? Well, I’m here to help. Once you’ve bought your ideal ukulele, here’s how to travel with it so you can play it everywhere you go!
How to travel with a ukulele? Invest in a quality hard-shell case
A soft, padded gig bag or carrying case is great for daily runs around town. But it won’t offer much protection for your ukulele when you’re travelling long distances, trying to make your way through a crowd of people and going through airports.
I highly recommend getting a snug-fitting, padded, hard case with a lock fastening for your ukulele. Why? Because instruments do get dropped, tossed and banged around a lot on the road. My all time favorite case is the tweed case by Kala. I use it to store my limited edition Kala tenor ukulele with solid golden acacia in. I only have one though as it’s quite expensive at $95. More affordable options that I were able to test in the past and get my recommendation are the tweed case GCX-UKT by Stagg and the black one from Gator Cases.
While I would suggest using a hardshell case almost all the time, it can be a bit bulky and most of the time doesn’t have the ability to wear as a backpack. This can be quite annoying when you are traveling by bike for example. The free gig bag you get with your ukulele rarely offers decent protection to your beloved ukulele. These colorful HOT SEAL backpack type ukulele gig bags come in at only $20 and are padded very well to protect your ukulele.
Protect your ukulele from heat
If you’re travelling by car, a gig bag is good enough protection since you probably have more space in the vehicle. But even so, you need to protect your ukulele from heat. So you should avoid leaving your ukulele in the trunk of the car whenever it’s in full sunlight.
What is the best way to travel with a ukulele? Cover it with a light-coloured towel or blanket. If you’re getting out of the car during the day, it’s best to take your ukulele with you because temperatures can shoot up really high, really fast. Trust me, you don’t really want to come back to find a warped or cracked ukulele.
Can you take a ukulele on a plane?
Different airlines have different regulations when it comes to travelling with musical instruments. A smaller ukulele, such as a soprano ukulele, can be taken on a flight as carry-on baggage most of the time. You should only surrender your ukulele to the conveyor belt as a very last resort. Aside from risking damage during transportation, you’ll also be running the risk of possibly never seeing your ukulele again.
Will you be travelling with a ukulele? Get to know the airline regulations
Do you have no choice but to give your ukulele up as checked-in baggage? In that case, make sure it’s in a hard-shell case that contains your contact details. And then hope for the best.
This is why it’s helpful to start by finding out your airline’s regulations about taking musical instruments on a flight. Do your homework so you can prepare, either by getting a carry-on backpack that will fit your ukulele and meet the guidelines, or by buying a hard-shell case.
Most airlines have published guides for carry-on item size and weight. On Delta for example, a ukulele is accepted as a passenger’s free carry-on baggage item. The only condition is that it needs to fit easily into the overhead locker or other approved storage areas inside the plane.
If you put your ukulele in the overhead storage locker, it’s best to make sure it’s in last so that nothing falls on it or crushes it during the flight, especially if it’s in a soft gig bag. And unless your ukulele is safely tucked away in a hard-shell case, we don’t recommend stowing it under your seat where you or the passenger behind you might accidentally step on it.
Tip: If your ukulele fits, you can put it under the seat during take-off, then move it to your lap during the flight to prevent it from being kicked or stepped on.
Whether you’re checking your ukulele in or taking it onto the plane with you, it’s crucial to loosen the strings first and other parts that will contract or expand with extreme changes in air pressure and temperature. Doing so will help to prevent disaster: a ukulele with a broken neck.
Safe travels for you and your ukulele!
Hopefully this will help you on your way to make sure your ukulele is prepared to travel with you.
Need more input?
Feel free to contact me whenever you need more information about travelling with a ukulele.
Maybe you are interested in knowing how to change ukulele strings?