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Traveling with Electronics : CASE LOGIC - LESS IS MORE

Back in the day you could tip a skycap a hundred bucks at the curb at LAX and your band's gear (in anvil cases) would get on the plane no questions asked. Well, back in the day is long gone. Now - Traveling Sucks!

If you are doing a solo tour or are traveling with a small group, humping your own gear, international travel these days is a very  intense experience and thats what I'd like to address in this first of a series of blogs about gear and more specifically electronics.

If you are traveling with a musical instrument of any kind I would suggest doing some serious internet searching and talking to people who travel with that specific instrument to arrive at a solution. This was my solution for traveling with a lapsteel dulcimer "fold it in half".

What I want to address today is  traveling with electronics, controllers and effects. Things that can travel in more standard size cases, but it's not about putting a bunch of fx pedals in a milk crate and throwing it in the trunk of your car. Here are a few facts that you'll need to work with:

* A safe max carry on size is 45" (linear inches) and the configuration most airlines want to see is 22" x 14" x 9" (although some European airlines go 41" - 18" x 14" x 9"). Max weight for a carry on is not so standard and can range from 15 lbs up to 40 lbs (20 to 25 lbs is a pretty safe place to be in most situations).

* Most American companies let you carry on one 22" x 14" x 9" case plus one personal item (read) a "small" laptop case, but again allot of European companies ONLY allow one item period.

* If you have ever had a connection on one of those tiny regional prop jets then you know that they "will" make you gate check your 22" x 14" x 9" carry on so I would strongly advise against traveling with a soft carry on case if it's going to be full of electronics - if your gear is not packed tight and safe it will let you down when it's time to play the concert.

* A safe max checked size is 62" and 27" x 21" x 14" is pretty standard as well, but the weight issue is where you'll get hit again and again (like $100 at each airport if you are over by any amount). In the U.S. max weight for a checked case is 50 lbs - BUT - If you are doing multiple stops in Europe as well, max weight is 20 kilo (44 lbs). You can see where this is going, and we're just getting started.

* I would suggest a smaller than max size checked case for two reasons: 1- electronics add up weight wise very fast and 44 lbs isn't that many pedals. 2- if any part of your European trip is going to be by train smaller cases are much easier to deal with on trains and in train stations. I am a big fan of Pelican cases and use a 1510 for carry on and a 1610 for checked.

* I would suggest finding a cardboard box 18" x 10" x 7" just to get a reality check on how small the interior of a carry on case really is. One way to cut down on weight is to use "foam-core board" (2 layers of 1/4") and velcro for your pedal boards.

* If you check gear and have "any connections" there is absolutely no guarantee that your gear will end up with you at your final destination. My suggestion is to carry on the short list of what is "essential", check the rest and hope for the best. If you check gear "the case will be opened", so pack it in a way that anyone can re-pack it without damaging anything.

* If you carry on electronics you "will get extra attention" at every security check point. Be cordial at every check point and you will get through faster - this becomes an even more challenging zen exercise when you're a week into a tour with a 5:00 am lobby call, a bit of a hangover, a case full of electronics and the realization that the first espresso you will encounter is "after" the security check point at the airport - maintain your zen veneer no matter how thin it may become.

One of the true joys of being a performing artist is the hour you get to spend on stage playing music for people in venues around the world. What you get paid for is dealing with the other 23 hours in the day.

Safe Travels.....dino