On my way to Icicle Creek Music Center in Leavenworth, WA, land of snowy mountains and high desert and beautiful music. My thoughts turn to travel...
As I transfer from plane to plane, starting with big ones flying out of Cleveland and O'hare to a smaller one in Seattle (en-route to Wenatchee, WA), I am reminded of stories from colleagues and friends of baggage mishaps and heartbreaks, especially with regards to precious cargo. For some, the unfortunate item be a fragile souvenir purchased during a vacation, for others, it may be the means by which one makes their vocation.
In the field of music, a damaged piece of equipment, or worse, an instrument, means not only a financial setback that could cost years of a musician’s income to remedy, but sudden painful separation from an artist’s closest friend. Sometimes, a simple repair can do the trick to restoring the functionality of one’s damaged instrument; other times even the most exquisite and complex repairs, no matter how skillfully executed, will never return an instrument to its former glory.
Fortunately, there are some things that are replaceable -- at a cost. But who is there to help? In the world of independent travel, the responsibility (and liability) is largely left to the ticket holder. Some instruments are simply too large to be carried on to the coach section of an airplane. If an instrument must be checked, it is important to know that airlines often do not accept liability for damage and have limited liability for loss. Airlines are not liable for damage to any instrument not presented in a hard-sided case, and also are not liable for damage to the instrument unless the exterior case is also damaged. I have heard more than one story of a friend checking their instrument (with “FRAGILE” stickers pasted all over the case) and watching from their seat on the airplane as it was chucked out of the plane or fell off the baggage ramp. Our cases are built to be strong -- so strong, in fact that a fall like that may not even make a scratch or dent on the outside, but any owner of a fine instrument will immediately envision their precious cargo turning into firewood tinder and scrap metal.
What to do? I don’t play a huge instrument, so I would love for others to share what they have learned from their own travel experiences.
In the meantime, here are a things that I’ve found really helpful.
Insurance: the no-brainer. There are tons of companies that can insure your valuable belongings, and lots of policy types to choose from. You should be able to find plenty of options at an affordable price, no matter where you are in your career. Since my husband and I now own a house, my instruments and music and all equipment related to my work is covered under my home-owner’s insurance, under a special “valuable personal property” rider. Sure, you say, you can afford that now that you’re ‘all grown-up!’ Well, when I was a student, I still had insurance for my musical property, even when I didn’t have health insurance. I’m not necessarily advocating for that path -- I think both are essential -- but at that point it made sense for me.
Imagine it this way: Your instrument disappears while you’re sitting in a train station on your way to your next big east-coast gig. If you’re not insured, you have the police report and the ‘power and flexibility’ of your ‘extremely large’ bank account to fix the immediate problem so you can still play the gig, and the long-term problem of recovery and repair or ultimate replacement. OR, if you are insured, you’ll be able to quickly procure a short-term, equal-value replacement at little or no cost to you, and you’ll have a network looking out for your stolen article. In the long term, if your instrument is recovered but damaged, the repairs will be covered. If your instrument needs to be replaced, that will also be covered. Which door would you choose?
Here are some insurance options (I'll list some specific options on a later post):
Deal ... Or Ordeal?
My husband Andrew and I came into Phoenix on Wednesday night -- or should I say Thursday morning? We originally had a bargain flight from Akron/Canton to Phoenix via O'Hare that was due to arrive in Arizona around 11:30 pm. Naturally, this being the beginning of December, inclement weather is par for the course. Our flight was delayed first by twenty minutes due to weather, then by almost an hour because of a mechanical problem. Incidentally, that hour was the length of time we originally had to make our connection in O'Hare -- one which (naturally) we missed.
Thankfully, United has some pretty helpful people standing behind the service counters. They put us on a plane ("You'll need to hurry, it boards in five minutes at another terminal") bound for Denver, where we were to stay the night (where?) and catch the first flight of the morning to PHX (arriving at 11 am local time). It wasn't ideal for Andrew, who works east coast hours wherever he travels, but it was the best they could do. We found ourselves running the entire length of the airport, because the handy dandy shuttle could only take one more person, and we were two. I found myself not feeling so bad for not making it to the gym that day.
Time to Think
While en route to Denver, we strategized the next part of our trip -- Should we stay overnight in the airport (where there was free but SLOW wi-fi for Andrew to use at work in the morning) or add to our financial losses by booking a hotel in Denver (in addition to the one we had booked in Phoenix for the same night)? Websites like Hotwire came to mind as a way to find a cheap hotel, but we had a ten-minute window once we landed to find a place online before they stopped booking for the night.
Salvation Comes From the... Board
The beauty of the Denver airport and surrounding mountains did much to ease our anxiousness about the situation, and so the eight minutes I had to set up my wi-fi connection and search for a hotel seemed like plenty of time... Plenty of time, that is, for Andrew to have a look around and see on the announcement board that the plane from which we had just disembarked was immediately boarding for (wouldn't you believe it) Phoenix. It had been a delayed flight with literally fifteen minutes turnaround time, so wouldn't have shown up as an option when we booked our re-route back in O'Hare.
Thanks again to United, we changed our flight once more, and headed for our final destination. We arrived at our hotel shortly after 1:30 am AZ time, or 3:30 am EST. Four hours of sleep and we were up again so Andrew could start work on time. I spent a good part of the next day retrieving our rental car and finding my lost luggage, but in the end all worked out. It was a crazy ride, but we couldn't have been more thankful for how things turned out. Seriously.
Business or Pleasure?
While we were making this trip for personal reasons (a friend's wedding), the logistics of the trip had/still has potential to affect both of our work -- mostly Andrew's schedule on the way out, and both of ours on the way back. We have a concert just a few hours after landing back in Cleveland on Sunday (Let's see how THAT turns out...). I've also brought my fiddle along because I still need to practice for other performances later in the week.
While we're not completely out of the woods yet, I'd like to share with you a few bits of wisdom I think I've already gained from this trip:
If you've just GOT to know the outcome of this adventure, come to our concert at SRBC on Sunday at 7pm and see if we've made it. :)
Thanks for reading!
I'm Erica Ward, formerly