Essential Bagpipe Traveling Tips

The bagpiping and drumming competition travel season is upon us. The solo boards and pipe band circles across the seaboard and around the globe beckon. Traveling to a contest can certainly be a logistical ordeal. Whether you’re traveling with a group or alone, domestically or internationally, nothing can take the place of good planning. Here are some helpful hints and reminders for those bands and performers planning expeditions this season.


Make sure that your passport is current well in advance of your trip. Go to the U.S. Passport page of the U.S. Dept. of Sate for forms, application and renewal schedules, and local offices in your area. Renewals can take two weeks and new applications six weeks.

Car Rentals

If you are renting a car for an extended stay in parts of North America or Europe, or renting a passenger vans for group travel, spend the extra money and get an on-board global positioning system (GPS). If you’ve never used one of these, you’re in for treat. It will make getting to your hotel or the games site a breeze. And the friendly voice interface will explain everything to you in any language (except Glaswegian).


Take advantage of the fare wars that happen from time to time. Many larger airlines are now competing with their own low-cost carriers. If you know you will be traveling to a contest at a certain time of year, check the airline or travel websites or newspaper ads as far in advance as you can—and regularly. Keep your eyes open for deals and jump on them.

Maps and Directions

Make sure you have a road atlas or map of your destination area with you. If you chinced on the GPS rental, or are traveling in your own vehicle, plot your course in advance. Google Maps or Mapquest can give you detailed driving directions to anywhere you wish to go. And, if you’re feeling really intrepid, Google Maps will give you the option of viewing a satellite photo of the entire area along the whole route (just in case you need to recognize a landmark or two from 80,000 feet up).


Airport security is certainly not what it used to be. It’s important to have all your reeds seated properly, as it were. Make sure your pipe case meets the airline’s carry-on measurements. Also make sure that your case is free of all the “tools of the trade.” Pack away the razors, X-acto knives, awls, screwdrivers, scissors, skean dubhs, what-have-you, away in your checked-in luggage. Best to keep only your pipes in the case for the trip. Also, international trade restrictions require you to apply with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an exemption from ivory transport rules. If your band is traveling and hauling drums, check the weight restrictions with the airline and make the necessary cargo arrangements ahead of time.


Wherever your competitive travels take you, keep these essentials on your packing list at all times.

Plenty of water. It’s hot in the summer after all, and you’re wearing wool!
Fruit or other healthy snacks (and bananas for the nerves (they contain natural beta-blockers). Stay away from the “festival food” until after your performances. Stick to your normal eating habits.
Sunscreen. Even Scotland has blazing sun occasionally.
Collapsible chairs. They’re cheap, light, and available everywhere. You never know whether a far off games will have suitable seating close to your “home base.”

Good traveling!

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