1. Know your airline policy.
In the U.S., the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) permits you to bring your guitar as a carry-on or checked luggage. Here’s a link to the TSA website’s musical instrument page for more details.
You should also know the policy of the airline you’ll be flying. The policy should cover both carry-on and checked options, and it’s usually posted on the airline’s website. For carry-ons, the guitar must fit in the overhead bin or other approved storage locations in the cabin, based on available space at the time of boarding. (Smaller guitars like the GS Mini and Baby Taylor fit without a problem.) It often helps to be among the early boarding groups (more overhead space), and don’t underestimate the power of a smile and a courteous exchange with airline personnel — they’ll be more inclined to accommodate your needs.
2. If you plan to carry-on, check your guitar’s pockets.
A truss rod wrench or string cutter in your case/gig bag compartment probably won’t clear a security check, so if you’ll be checking a bag, it’s a good idea to pack those items. Also, if you plan to travel with Humidipak® humidity control packets, you’re probably better off packing them with a checked bag just to be safe. The TSA’s policy for carrying-on liquids and gels currently limits the volume to 3.4 ounces per container. Although each fresh Humidipak contains about 2 ounces of moisture, the volume isn’t listed on the packet (it can vary depending on humidity levels), so there’s no guarantee that they’ll be accepted. Once you arrive at your destination, don’t forget to take steps to monitor and maintain a healthy humidity level for your guitar. It also wouldn’t hurt to travel with a mini-hygrometer (available through TaylorWare).
3. No need to de-tune before flying.
Whether your guitar is in the plane’s cabin or the cargo hold, the air is pressurized, which means there is no additional stress on the guitar. The idea that you should slacken the strings before flying (or extended periods of non-use) is a leftover notion from a bygone era, when guitars were built without adjustable truss rods, which made it more difficult to counteract the tension of the strings on the neck. Modern guitars have adjustable truss rods, which are factory-calibrated to balance the natural forward-pulling tension of the strings. Any damage that occurs to guitars during air travel usually happens as a result of baggage handlers, not air pressure. And a detuned guitar won’t provide any greater protection from impact in that scenario (we’ve done our own extensive drop tests). In general it’s not good to have your guitar strings heavily slackened for extended periods of time. The neck will start to back bow without the counter-tension of the strings.
4. On road trips, treat your guitar like a pet.
If it’s a summer day, don’t leave your guitar sitting in a hot car for an extended period of time. If you wouldn’t leave your pet in the car for the same length of time, don’t do it to your guitar. If you don’t have an alternative place to store your guitar, at least try to find a shady parking spot to keep the temperature cooler.
5. Don’t forget to wipe.
The warmer it is, the more likely you are to sweat while you play, and that extra perspiration on your strings can reduce their tonal liveliness. During the summer you’re also more likely to play outside, exposing the guitar to dust, campfire smoke, and other assorted grime. Wiping down the strings after you play with a soft, dry cloth will help preserve the string life and tone. Be sure to also wipe the back of the neck and the lower bout (bass side) where your strumming arm rests to absorb any perspiration.