Make the best of your travels Writer shares his experiences, offers tips

I crack the aluminum lid off my mini wine bottle as I watch the airplane’s altitude drop on the seat monitor. I’m the only passenger on the plane, descending alone into the land of travel writing.

Writing about world travel in the midst of a pandemic when 33 countries are barring U.S. visitors doesn’t really make sense. Then again, 2020 hasn’t made any sense.

To find a middle-ground, these first few columns are an ode to our worst travel experiences. Why self-flagellate with daydreams about clear Caribbean waters or how perfect the snow is in the Jackson Hole? Let’s toast the times that drained our wanderlust.

This is the first of three parts of my worst airline experience. This column will be in our Lifestyle section on the last Saturday/Sunday edition of each month. It will feature foreign and domestic travel experiences, tips and ideas.

I was in Germany, bound for Baltimore. After two years living abroad, I was ready to be home with my family. A good friend drove me to the Hamburg Airport and accompanied me inside. We arrived at the counter with my 24.5ã polyester, orange suitcase, a black backpack and a soft-shell case with a hard interior holding my flamenco guitar I had bought years prior in Seville.

When I didn’t put my guitar on the conveyer belt, the airline employee looked at me askance. “You’ll have to check that,” she said.

For a second, all I could imagine was some disgruntled loader hurling my instrument like a javelin into the plane’s cargo area. I decided to negotiate: I explained to her that the last time I flew with this airline I was able to take the guitar as a carry on item. After some discussion, she offered two options:

âYou can either check it as a “fragile item” or try to do carry on,ã she said. “But if you try to do carry on, they may stop you at the gate and make you check it as normal luggage.”

I decided to risk it. I imagined the fragile item check simply being the weakest employee hurling the guitar into the plane’s cargo area. The risk seemed better than arriving in Maryland to a case full of splinters.

So, I picked up my guitar, said goodbye to my friend, and sauntered over to security. All I had to do was get through the check without incident…

Travel tip 1: Airlines have rules on how they store special items like musical instruments, which also depends on the size. However, this can change from year to year. It can also wholly depend on who you’re dealing with (I once took my guitar through security because the counter said it was fine, just to be told by an attendant two minutes before boarding the plane that I should have checked it).

If you’re not sure, call ahead to your airline’s office at the airport you’re flying out from. They will know what to do and someone there will speak English if you’re outside an Anglophonic country.

Travel tip 2: If you’re traveling by plane, hard-shell instrument cases are a much safer bet than soft-shell ones.

The next column (part 2 of this story) will run in the Sept. 26-27 edition of the paper.


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