Packing Tips for Professional Musicians

Summer is here, and that means many of you are probably packing up and heading off to various locations around the world to perform in operas, festivals, and concerts. It’s an exciting time, but you’ll want to make sure you’re also prepared for the journey ahead!


One of the most difficult things to figure out when you’re headed elsewhere to perform is what to pack. What is essential? What is not? This may depend on the program or professional gig you are doing, but some basic rules of thumb always apply. In this post, we’ll give you some general packing tips for professional musicians, and then a checklist at the end to make sure you have everything covered.


Packing Tips for Professional Musicians


Professional Materials

As tempting as it can be to skimp on some scores or that extra pair of heels to save room in your suitcase, your professional materials really need to take precedence over all other packing considerations. This is not to say that you should pack every single item that you might want. Instead, make sure that you consider what professional materials you absolutely need before you begin the rest of your packing. Some examples of what this might include:


  • Music (bound appropriately with cuts and markings already filled in)
  • Performance attire for all performances
  • Pencils, business cards, a notebook and other professional materials for getting the job done
  • Health materials for travel like Emergen-C or Throat Coat tea


For those of you traveling with instruments, be sure to read up on your airline’s policy regarding traveling with instruments. Chances are, you checked when you booked your ticket. Packing your suitcase might be another time to double check though. Furthermore, you might save some weight if you transfer some of your items from your instrument case to your suitcase, or vice versa.


Your professional materials really don’t need to take up a lot of space, and many of them can go in a carry-on. They do need to take precedence though. After all, you’re traveling to do a job!


Living Items

The next thing you need to consider when packing are you basic necessities. Most of this tends to pertain to clothing. How many outfits do you really need? What kinds of outfits should you have (based on weather, professionalism, etc.)? How long will you be gone and do you have laundry facilities?


However, if you are hoping to cut down on other living expenses such as food, or you’re living in a unique situation such as a dorm, hostel, or with a host family, you may want to consider some other items. Will you have a microwave? If not, do you want an electric cooking device like this  to help you make quick and easy meals? Do you want to bring any spices or basic ingredients? Will there be a fridge of any sort? If you won’t be gone long, this may not be as much of a factor. However, those of you traveling for several weeks may want to consider ways that adding a little extra weight to your suitcase can save you some money in the long run.


Luxury Items

Got any space left in your suitcase? If so, this is the time to consider which extra items you might want to bring, if any. If it’s very important for you to be able to do your hobbies while you travel, then by all means bring them! There’s nothing wrong with adding that ball of yarn and that extra book. Again though, just like with your professional items, consider the need of your luxury items. Will you really make it through two books? Or do you have an e-reader you can add some books too without the added weight? How many crafting supplies will you need exactly? Questions like this can be the difference between making the weight limit and not making it.
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Testing it All Out

Once you believe you have all of your materials in order, be sure to test out your items in two ways. First, find out the requirements your airline has for suitcases and carry-ons. You’ll be looking for information such as


  • How many carry-ons or checked bags are allowed/included in the price of your ticket.
  • The weight limit for checked bags.
  • What can be in a carry-on bag versus what needs to be checked.
  • What kinds of bags are considered carry-on vs. extra. For example, oftentimes airlines will allow a bag such as a backpack and a purse on without counting them as two carry-ons.


Once you have this kind of information, you’ll want to weigh your bag. You can either purchase a weight such as this one, or you can simply weigh it with a bathroom scale. The best way to do this is by weighing yourself first, then weighing yourself while holding your bag, and subtracting the difference. If it’s close to the weight requirement, you may want to consider removing a few items (or simply moving them to your carry-on), just to be on the safe side.


Now that you’ve considered all of the items you might need to pack, here’s an easy checklist to make sure you really have everything you need. Feel free to download and use it for every trip you need! With any luck, you’ll get so many out-of-town job offers that you’ll have this process down pat soon.


What do you make sure to pack with you when you travel for performances or auditions?


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