We’re all getting excited about the upcoming NAMM Show. To help make your trip smoother, more economical and safe for you and your instrument, I checked in with veteran industry travelers to get a few hot ideas. (Note: These are not official NAMM Show travel guidelines.)
Bringing your instrument on the plane. There’s now a federal ruling that says you can bring your instrument on the plane. Download the attached letter from the Transportation Security Administration, place it with your instrument and keep a copy with your travel paperwork. TSA doesn’t have to honor the letter if the United States is on high alert, so check with your airline first. The letter tells you whom to contact if the airline doesn’t cooperate. Tip: As you enter the plane, there’s a closet area where business passengers can hang their suits or store other items. Ask the flight attendant to store your instrument safely in that space. Put in a request ahead of time.
Packing your instruments and accessories. Detune stringed instruments, as they’ll be under hundreds of pounds of pressure during your flight. A hard case offers the most protection. Bring a clip-on shoulder strap for stringed instruments. Air inside the case is your enemy, so fill the space with pliable material. For brass and woodwinds, make sure to put your oils and creams in a plastic zip bag, so they don’t leak inside the case. If you load your instrument into the overhead compartment last, be careful to leave enough room, so the flight attendant can safely close the compartment during a final check. Pack a sax strap for trying out saxes at the show. Tip: Bring your own mouthpiece and a small Sani-Mist if you’re trying out flutes or recorders.
Traveling by car. If driving makes more sense and you’re hauling gear, remember a car trunk can get up to 120 degrees quickly. With stringed instruments, high temperatures cause warped necks, cracked finishes and glued joints to become loose. With woodwinds, the adhesive on woodwind pads can warm up and shift pads, causing air leaks. Have a repair tech block down your keys for a small price. Tip: Pack your vehicle so that nothing can shift when there’s a sudden stop or a quick turn. Use padded blankets and empty cases to wedge everything tight.
Collecting at the NAMM Show. While attending NAMM U sessions or visiting exhibitors on the show floor, you’ll no doubt be collecting vendor literature, fliers, price lists, magazines and swag throughout the day. Bring a foldable, reusable bag to carry it all. Also bring a ruled pad to take notes during the educational sessions. Tip: Each day, consolidate what you collected into one pile to bring home.
Staying hydrated. When flying, bring an empty water bottle that slides into your carry-on bag. (Many carry-ons have an open-end pocket on the outside.) Once you get through security, you can fill it in the bathroom or ask a waiter at a restaurant to fill it. It saves money and keeps you healthier. Tip: Dry packets of tea, soft drinks, liquid flavors or vitamins can be added for a quick drink or boost.
Taking healthy precautions. Immune boosters such as Emergen-C and Airborne are popular. Tip: Use individual prepackaged antiseptic wipes to wipe down airline seats, armrests and other surfaces.
Keeping it simple. Don’t wear jewelry or carry anything in your pockets during travel. Tip: You can always transport certain items in a plastic zip bag in your carry-on to put back in your pocket or wear once you land.
Choosing your shoes. Slip-ons are the easiest option. Pack smaller items, such as socks and jewelry, in a plastic bag inside your packed shoes. If you pack boots, place smaller shoes inside of them. Tip: Changing your shoes partway through the day refreshes you.
Taking advantage of smartphone travel apps. I use TripIt. The app lets all of your travel arrangements be sent to your smartphone; organizes and alerts you to each segment of your trip; keeps your boarding pass, rental cars or shuttle information; and even sends you info on travel delays. Tip: Keep your smartphone charger with you throughout the show.
Ladies take note. Wear a shawl, scarf or wrap instead of a coat, sweater or jacket while traveling on an airplane. It’s much faster to remove to get through security. It’s also easier to remove when sitting down and to put on when you arrive. You can tie it around the strap of your carry-on purse. It can protect your hair from sudden rain, can be something to sit on in a dirty area, or you can wrap your head with it on a bad hair day or style for an exotic look.
Guys take note. Rolling your suit in the plastic bag from the dry cleaner keeps it from wrinkling and saves space. For rockers, it’s not a good time to wear your heavy metal gear and chains on the plane. When traveling, go simple. Tip: Remember that you’re representing your company, so bring plenty of business cards.
Traveling with a disability or impaired mobility. Airlines are helpful if you’re a disabled passenger, from the curb through security. Airline customer service will accommodate your needs, or you can indicate your status when booking your flight. At The NAMM Show, there’s disability parking convenient to elevators on every parking level. Tip: Remember to pack your disabled placard.
With these tips, you’ll arrive in good shape and ready to enjoy a great NAMM Show!
Rebecca Apodaca, accredited senior appraiser of musical instruments and president of A & D Music, is a music retailer, technician and business writer.