Travelling with your DJ equipment can present a few roadblocks along the way, but there are some basic guidelines to follow that will help your airline travel be worry-free. There are a lot of questions surrounding best practices and what is allowed, so we wanted to uncover some new ideas to help DJs get to their next gig.
How do you travel with DJ equipment on a plane?
Most airlines will allow musical instruments to be checked or carried on, even if they are slightly larger than normally permitted. DJ gear will be included in a “musical instrument” category. Requirement for what to bring vary among airlines and airports, so contact them in advance. Use their requirements to help you plan how to pack your gear.
The prep work will be key. Doing research on the logistics and packing everything efficiently will keep your travels hassle-free with your equipment. When you’re dealing with such a vast list of equipment and high price items, you want to be confident every time you head out the door with your kit.
Guidelines for DJ Equipment aka Musical Instruments
The first thing that is worth pointing out when it comes to airline guidelines is that they are constantly changing. So, the best thing you can do before your next gig is to check a few key sources to ensure your plans will be viable per their rules.
DJ equipment is considered under Musical Instruments for most major airlines. Here are some of the main resources you will need to have handy, depending on the region you are traveling to.
This will be your main resource for any UK travel. They give additional information on traveling abroad that includes luggage information and tips based on which country you are flying to.
The Transportation Security Administration will be your best resource for any trips to America. You will find rules, regulations, and luggage guidelines as well as some helpful travel tips.
The Airline’s Website
No matter where you are traveling, you will want to check with the specific airline as well. Their guidelines may slightly differ from national guidelines. This could mean a little more leniency, or it could mean stricter guidelines due to a smaller plane or other variables. Always check with the airline (or airlines if you have connections with other airlines) to ensure your plans will be acceptable for them.
The Airport’s Website
Like checking with the airline themselves, you may also want to look into the whole airport. Some airports will have different rules based on domestic or international flights.
Airports will typically have much of this information highly accessible on their website since it is something that saves them time and hassle at the airport as well when people can come prepared.
While you may not always have to check all these sources, they are good ones to have handy and be aware of. If you book mainly local gigs, some of this won’t be as important. But if you are booking globally and want to have a checklist of resources ready to go, this is a great list to refer to.
Standard Rules and Guidelines for Luggage
Different flights will require different guidelines. But some stock-standard rules apply in most situations when it comes to luggage.
Most airlines will allow the option of checked bags or carry on when it comes to musical instruments. While this will vary based on the size of the equipment, some airlines will be a bit more lenient in allowing you to carry something on that is fragile. This is especially true if it also has a big price tag.
Once you find the dimensions that airlines will allow for checked bags vs. carry on, you can usually count on a little bit of wiggle room with your equipment. Your chances of getting a regular suitcase on as a carryon are pretty slim if it exceeds the standard size requirements.
But airlines have been known to have a bit of a soft spot when it comes to traveling musicians or athletes who have awkwardly shaped, larger gear that they do not want shoved below the plane where anything could happen to it.
They understand this equipment is expensive, fragile, and it’s literally what pays the bills for that person. So, always remember to be kind to airline and airport staff. (Spoiler alert: that is a good rule of thumb for anyone traveling!)
A little rapport between you and an airline employee could be the difference between your equipment is safely stored in a cabin above your head or beneath the plane where employees toss luggage onto ramps, and you have no control over it.
Plan for Extra Time
No matter the airline, the country, or the airport, you should always plan on a little extra time at the airport when you’re travelling with your DJ equipment. While they may allow you to get away with a larger carry on or give small allowances to help make it easier for you, they will still most likely need to do a thorough check through your bags.
When you’re travelling with that many electronics, they will want a more thorough security check for you. Even standard passengers traveling with their laptops need to take them out of their bags as an extra precaution. The same train of thought applies here.
This is especially true for international travel, but even shorter domestic flights can get pickier when it comes to electronics getting through security. Planning for some extra time will allow for any of these additional checks.
You may be required to take all larger electronics out of their cases while they go through security. In other cases, they may have you step to the side so they can do a complete check of your bags and go through each of one of the electronics in your possession.
These checks are not only for safety concerns and making sure there are no weapons of any kind in your luggage, but it can also present an issue with customs if you travel internationally. Sometimes they may think you have purchased this equipment for the sole purpose of selling it in another country.
That is a rare occasion but can happen when you are traveling with high ticket items. So, the real moral of the story when it comes to the rules is to just always be up to date and aware of any new guidelines that the airport, airline, or local government has enforced. Knowing all of this will save you a lot of time at the airport.
Where Should Your Equipment Be Kept During Travel?
There are two answers to this question. There is the answer to “Where we would like it kept” and “where it will have to be kept.” Of course, we would always love our equipment to stay as close to us as possible.
Not knowing if other large, heavy items are knocking it around in storage or if an airport employee is tossing it carelessly from place to place can be torture. And let’s not even get started on the worries when you have a layover and the thought of your equipment ending up in Edinburgh while you end up in Heathrow.
But unfortunately, due to size issues, it’s not always possible to keep the gear with us. When you do your research regarding the airport and airline guidelines, you will be able to start planning what you can carry on vs. checking. You may have some pieces of equipment that are on the bubble of being able to fit.
Always try to make those work for carry on. The worst thing they can do at the airport tells you no.
Once you have an idea of where the items will have to go, you should start making sure you have the proper luggage for each scenario. Here are some items to keep in mind when you pack for each option.
The main benefit here is, of course, knowing where it is at all times and ensuring it is being handled with care.
Strong but small cases – You need to keep size in mind to be sure that the case will fit in the overhead bin or underneath the seat in front of you. You will want to ensure the safety of the equipment and pack it as securely as you can, but the size will be the biggest issue.
So, plan to have a case that is durable but tight-fitting, so you don’t take up a bunch of extra room. As nice as you are to the flight attendants and airline staff, they won’t be able to make something fit that is simply too big.
Easy to access in security – As we mentioned, there is a good chance you will need to take many of the electronic components out of their cases to go through security. Finding the best ways to pack everything so that it is secure, but also easily accessible will be a big timesaver.
If the equipment is simply too big, there isn’t much you can do other than plan to keep it as safe as possible while it is out of your control and your eyesight.
Make it strong and secure – For any of your larger equipment that has no chance of fitting as a carry-on, you will want to make sure you have the strongest cases, additional padding, and meticulous planning as you pack everything to make sure it will be safe no matter what conditions it goes through.
While you will want to consider the total weight at the end, as that will vary on a sliding scale for how much the luggage will cost, you shouldn’t skimp on this step. Don’t worry about the size or the weight as much as making sure it will be safe. The extra cost for an overweight item will be worth it if it helps keep it safe from damage that will be far more costly.
Use “fragile” stickers – Your best hope for people to be careful with your equipment will be to let them know that it is not a bag or case that should be tossed. Always have some sort of sign or sticker that is visible and grabs their attention to let everyone know it is fragile.
Insure Your Equipment
For some reason, a lot of people forget about insurance unless it’s their health or their car. The fact is, we could use insurance for a lot of different aspects of our life. Expensive DJ equipment is one of them.
If you are a travelling DJ, insurance is going to be well worth the money. Consider the value of all the equipment you are traveling with. That number can get staggering with larger kits. As with any insurance, you can cater it based on the total value of your equipment and how much you would like covered.
Doing some basic research on the type of coverage you would need will be time well spent and will help keep your gear covered without the worry of last-minute replacements costing you thousands of dollars.
To get you started, here are a few different companies that insure DJ equipment:
Best Practices for Packing Your Equipment
Aside from the actual travel aspects and planning for their guidelines, you also need to make sure you are packing everything properly and with care. When you spend as much as you do for the equipment itself, it’s no time to get cheap when it comes to the cases that will protect everything during travel.
1. Plan Ahead
Marie Kondo has become famous for her organisation and tips on how to pack your clothes when you travel to save space and consider what you will wear. She may be onto something. People tend to pack more than they need. A proper checklist for each piece of equipment you’ll need can help organise and save space.
If you’re headed out on a tour where you could need any piece of your setup at any given time, you may very well need to overpack and bring everything. But if you have a specific gig you’re headed out of town for, and you know exactly what you will need, there may be ways to save space which will in turn, also save time and money.
Have a checklist ready for everything you need, the sizes of the equipment in their cases, and pack everything effectively to try and save space.
2. Buy Cases That Offer Organisational Features
We’ve all experienced the nightmare of untangling cords, wires, and hard drives that have been tossed into a case carelessly. Look for cases that have additional storage pockets and compartments to store the little things.
All those smaller components can easily get lost in the shuffle when packing or unpacking, and they can also get tangled and mixed up with other things way too easily. Opting for bags, cases, and luggage that provide additional smaller storage will save you a lot of time and hassle.
3. Don’t Sacrifice Safety for Space
If you have a little extra space in one of your cases, it may be tempting to toss something else in there. But unless it is something that you can guarantee will not damage the equipment, it is best to opt for an additional small bag or piece of luggage.
Even something in carry on can get jostled around and if you shove something into your case at the last minute, it could end up causing damage throughout the flight.
4. Photograph Your Equipment
If you purchased insurance for your gear, this will be especially helpful. But even if you didn’t, it could help in proving to the airline that something happened to it in flight. Take pictures of your gear and the cases before each flight and inspect them upon arrival.
If there is any damage, you can take those pictures to the airline themselves or your insurance company if applicable.
5. Consider Purchasing an Extra Seat
If you have a larger piece of equipment that may have issues fitting in carrying on but you are completely against checking it, this may be your literal ticket out.
Purchase another ticket in the seat next to yours. This may get tricky with some airlines, so it is something you will want to reach out to the airline about ahead of time.
If they give you the go-ahead (we recommend getting it in writing to avoid any issues at the airport), then the extra seat may be the best way to keep your larger equipment near you.
Having a Worry-Free Flight with Your DJ Equipment
At the end of the day, the most important element in your travels will be to keep your equipment safe. You want it in proper cases to ensure its safety to damage, and if possible, you should try to keep it with you on board.
When considering the logistics, understanding the guidelines and regulations will save time, money, and headaches at the airport. Do your research ahead of time, pack efficiently, and consider insurance before any of your next travel gigs.
Can you bring a DJ controller on the plane?
Some airlines will allow DJ controllers to be brought onto a plane as hand luggage. It is advisable to check with the airline before proceeding to take your DJ controller on a flight with you.