Multi-Stop Travel With Your Bass – Part 3: On the Plane, Bass and Travel

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.

To wrap up my discussion on this topic, below are a few ways I prepare for a smooth travel day with my bass, and my person.

On My Person

I like to wear some sort of clothing designed specifically for travel to keep my electronics and personal items organized and secure on my person, while keeping my hands free. Specifically I have a nice Travel Vest that carries quite a lot, somewhat unobtrusively.

This article of clothing helps me reduce unnecessary bags. After all, I am already carting a double bass flight case around an unfamiliar city. This keeps at least one hand free (remember my carry on is a backpack) and my personal items safe while I finagle the bass case through the airport and onto a train or into a taxi. The vest also has a nice place for extra power for my electronics, which proves helpful when the travel day is long and the phone charge is low.

In the Bass Case

Obviously I pack the bass mindfully and take care at each stop. Even so, there is nothing I can really do to diminish the possibility that the instrument will be damaged by mishandling. It’s a real concern, particularly in the United States.

However, I am not only concerned with the potential for damage but I also want to ensure my bass is on the same plane as I am.

A colleague of mine recently had his bass “lost” by the airline for 18 days. Ultimately it was the power of social media, and the generosity of bass players, that tracked the instrument down at JFK airport and not the airline responsible for losing it. I don’t want to have the same experience. So, my precaution on this front is: I outfit my double bass flight case with a GPS tracking device for luggage. Specifically, I prefer the brand which also has a Bluetooth transmitting function.

Such GPS devices are surprising affordable and the peace of mind they provide is well worth the cost. The particular model that I use not only allows for accurate GPS tracking, but broadcasts a Bluetooth signal to my smartphone when I am in range. On my latest trip, the Bluetooth feature allowed me to know, with rare exception, whether my bass was on the plane with me or not. It was an excellent investment that put me at ease in flight.

In truth, there was one flight (out of 6) where I could not detect the bass via the Bluetooth connection. I did not worry, however, because if it was indeed not on the plane, I could track it down with a GPS trace quickly and easily.

So these are some of the things I have learned after 15 years or so of flying with an upright bass. I hope these ideas will help make your next multi-stop travel excursion with your double bass easy and stress-free. I hope you show up to your gig physically and mentally fresh, whether it be your first tour or your 100th.

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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