Things We’ve Learned On The Road
Volume I : Air Travel

In keeping with our theme of being America’s foremost singing educators, I’ve begun compiling a list of Things We’ve Learned On The Road. It is my hope that somebody somewhere will be saved some degree of heartache and/or humiliation by the knowledge I am about to share with you.

Today’s theme is: AIR TRAVEL.

– Whenever possible, try to reserve a window seat toward the back of the plane. Window seat because you can sleep without having to get up for anyone, back of the plane because (a) you board first and have a better chance of finding space for your luggage in the overhead compartment, and (b) your odds of surviving a crash jump from .000000001% to .000000002% relative to the kids riding shotgun.

– If you’re going to be flying with a guitar, check with the specific airline to see what their carry-on policy is. Southwest and jetBlue are generally pretty good about letting you take them on, while we’ve had some knock-down, drag-out awfulness with the people at Delta. If you aren’t able to take your guitar on the plane, at least try to “gate check” it – this is where you bring it through security to the actual gate, then give it to a flight attendant to be hand-stowed along with the strollers, wheelchairs, and other things just inside the door to the luggage compartment. It’s still going to get cold and depressurized, but at least this saves it a trip through baggage handling. Either way, make ABSOLUTELY SURE you loosen the strings. People told me this before, and I kind of half-loosened them down to where they jangled, and it wasn’t enough. Metal shrinks a lot relative to wood and plastic when it gets cold, and if you don’t want the tuning pegs and bridge getting ripped out at 30,000 feet, your best bet is to take the strings out entirely and then either reattach them or change them once you land.

– Chew gum during takeoff and landing for a happier, healthier ride. Most people know that chewing gum helps pop your ears during the altitude change, but fewer people know that the relatively rapid changes in cabin pressure force gallons of recycled air into the mouths and noses of everyone on the plane, and that a mouthful of freshly flowing saliva creates a surprisingly effective filter for the entire plane’s worth of germs you’ll be inhaling by just sitting there.

– If you’ve got a long layover and are seriously on a budget, bring a granola bar, a packet of ramen, and an orange, then ask for a cup of hot water and a spoon from the friendliest looking barista at the in-terminal Starbucks. Voila, instant meal.

And that just about covers it for air travel. Stay tuned for more road science in our next installation, where we’ll cover: CAR TRAVEL.

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