Air travel with a guitar

Air travel with a guitar is freaky business. Flying on a regional plane in the States, you’ll at least have to gate check a full sized guitar. And even that freaks me out without a flight case.

So as I prepared to fly out for the Catskills Irish Arts Week last year to give a presentation on the Dunn Family Collection, I decided to not bring a guitar. I already had to bring a laptop, A/V gear, a couple visuals… I decided I should skip the guitar, especially since I didn’t have a flight case for my tru sty Martin D-15. Hey, I was going to be busy, so I wouldn’t miss the guitar, right?

Of course I was wrong and should have known better. CIAW always has some legendary sessions throughout the week. I made some good friends the first day I was there and was kicking myself for not having a guitar at hand to play tunes.

Luckily I ran into a fellow guitar player from Michigan who’d I met via email a couple months before–and he happened to have two guitars with him (thanks, Dane!). So I was able to join in the fun a bit the last couple nights I was around.

Dane and I chatted about air travel with a guitar (he’d driven out), and he mentioned that he’d tried a Voyage-Air guitar. He was surprised that a guitar that could fold in half could sound that good. I stored that info in my memory bank.

After getting back home, I started researching some options, more focused on getting a beefy flight case. At some of the festivals I attended last year with the archives, I got some opinions and experiences from other guitar and bouzouki players.

I heard some pretty harrowing stories. Even with some serious flight cases, I heard of some serious guitar destruction. And of course, I couldn’t forget the United Breaks Guitars song and video.

Knowing that I’d soon be traveling to Toronto to visit the friends I made at CIAW, I ruled out the flight case idea. I’d already tried the smaller travel guitars on the market and wasn’t really digging them.

After reading more reviews, I decided to give a Voyage-Air a try. I opted for the VAD-06, since I do favor a dreadnought size, and they’d gotten favorable reviews on tone and playability.

After a good setup, my VAD-06 plays very nicely. It has a pretty distinct tone, with a more prominent high end than my D-15. It doesn’t have a big boomy low end, which actually is a blessing when backing Irish music (I don’t want to feel like I’m blasting away at the other players in a session). Does it “beat” the Martin? Overall I’d say no, but I’m satisfied with the tone for casual playing and road gigs.

The best thing about this guitar, of course, is it’s portability. When folded up in it’s case, it fits in the overhead bin of a smaller regional plane. On one flight, I was near the emergency exit, and it even fit in the smaller compartment (which did require a bit of arrangement gymnastics, but it worked in the end). However, if your bin already has a couple larger roller suitcases, you’ll have to find another one to stash the guitar in.

So overall, I’m happy to have an easily transportable guitar to take on flights. I won’t have to chose to leave a guitar at home any more!

*a quick note: I’m not endorsed by Voyage-Air in any way, this review is just my opinion.

Jeff Ksiazek in Milwaukee

*Voyage-Air Owner’s Club Note* Jeff is very active in Milwaukee’s Irish community, working as the archivist at the Ward Irish Music Archives and teaching flute and whistle at the Irish Fest School of Music. In 2007, Jeff recorded a duo album with Milwaukee-based fiddler TJ Hull entitled Éist. This is a post from his Blog.