Multi-Stop Travel With Your Bass – Part 1: Physical Preparation

Double basses in flight cases

Photo by whichwould

Most people realize that there are special considerations when flying with your upright bass. These considerations are significantly expanded if your musical journey requires a series of planes, trains, and automobiles, before you arrive back at your home door.

With this in mind, I’d like to address three subjects in this series about Multi-Stop Travel: Physical Preparation, Personal Packing (luggage) and The Bass and Travel. In these columns I will share what I do in preparation for a multi-stop trip to help ensure my readiness for performance at each venue.

Physical Preparation

If you are a marathon runner or bodybuilder, you are ahead of me. Therefore, I always make sure to ramp up my physical activity prior to any series of flights, train rides and hotel rooms with my bass. When travelling for performances, I am likely to be covering a few more miles with my feet than I do in my normal daily life. Airports can be huge, train stations far from my final destination, and performance venues without elevators.

Even though I am engaged in regular physical activity during my “at home” life, I don’t normally do it with a double bass flight case and a piece of luggage in tow. Therefore, if I do not prepare adequately beforehand, I may have sore muscles or some other physical problem when I arrive at the gig. Such things can compromise a performance, which is something I would like to avoid.

To compensate, as the first performance date approaches, I not only increase my walking and flights of stairs on a daily basis, but I add a component that involves carrying heavy items. For example, before my most recent series of dates, I made sure that at least 10 flights of stairs each day included me carrying my bass or some other heavy/bulky object. In doing so, I was mimicking situations that might occur during my upcoming trip. This type of preparation was important for ensuring that I arrived at each venue fresh once my travels began.


I have heard too many stories of musicians who got sick on tour, ended up with some sort of sinus or ear issue and then suffered severely during flight. Such ear and nose issues can be extremely problematic during air travel, particularly during descent. Therefore, I always carry appropriate medication to guard against such possibilities.

Lack of sleep can adversely affect a performance. Therefore, if any of the travels involve significant time zone changes, I carry some sort of medicine to ensure sleep.

I often don’t end up needing either class of medications when travelling but I’d rather have them and not need them, than need them and be caught without them.

Next time, I’ll talk about what I do with my packing and luggage to ensure ease of travel and a stress-free performance once I arrive.

Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at and check out the Bass Coalition at

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  1. What types of medication works for sinus/ear issues? I’m traveling in a couple of days and always have a problem during descent.

      • Donovan – Thanks man. The sinus meds did the trick. This is the first time in a long time that I flew without head pains! Appreciate It!

  2. Mark S B.

    Keeping medications available when travelling but not needing them knowing its there just in case rather be caught without them is the placebo effect.
    The placebo effect is an example of how our expectations and beliefs can cause real change in our physical bodies. It’s a phenomenon that we don’t completely understand. But we can see it working in all kinds of ways, and all kinds of circumstances.
    From Dr. Mark , ha , ha

      • Mark S B.

        Donovan you took my reply out of content , the placebo effect is an example of how our expectations and beliefs can cause real change in our physical bodies , so by you knowing the meds are there can actually cause the symptoms to not happen , this is called ,
        (The Placebo Effect)