How a quartet player saves baggage charges on tour

From our weekly diarist Anthea Kreston:

 

 

“What’s in my bag?”

I always think those little articles, “What’s in my purse” in magazines are hilarious. But (and here I must pat myself on the back a little), I must admit that I feel somewhat of an expert – a packing process which has developed into a fine-tuned machine this year.

I remember, on my first of 3 summer camping/backpacking trips to Europe as a young adult, how my huge backpack (sleeping bag and tent tied above and below) gradually became smaller as the summer progressed. I started with a hand towel and a toothbrush, and ended up trimming the towel smaller and smaller until I had a Kleenex-sized towel, and even sawed off my toothbrush (thanks to the guys at the Harley Davidson campground in Toulouse), leaving only a thumb-nail sized brush. And, lost along the way was also the top of my bikini (oh, to be 19 again….sigh).

So – here I am on my way to London (Wigmore Hall tonight), then to Brussels, Vienna, and Paris. At the beginning of my time with the Artemis Quartet, I would check a suitcase (just like everyone else), and carry only my violin on board. But, I began to realize how much I was spending, checking that one bag (checked luggage here is much more expensive than in the States). A person can often fly quite cheaply here – I flew my entire family, round-trip, to Florence the other week for €150.  But – with luggage it would have been quadruple. I thought to myself, 8 months ago, if I can just pare down my packing, I could be saving €75 per leg of my journey – imagine how many croissants and hot chocolates that is for the girls!  So – I began to bring only a messenger bag, and to utilize my coat pockets and any violin pockets. 

Here is my list:

Toiletries: toothbrush, paste, flossers, hair gel, deodorant, razor, bandaids, neosporin, needle and thread, small scissors and nail clipper, emergency medicine (ibuprofen, tums, Claritin, sudafed, hard-core cold medicine, Vitamine c and echinacea, ear and nose drops) – all fits in a ziplock

Clothes: concert clothes (rollable), one underclothes per day (3 maximum, then wash in sink if longer tour), one slip shirt per day (goes over tank top, under day-jacket I wear on plane, 3 maximum)

Wear on plane: dark jeans and shoes that can walk and also look ok for post-concert parties, light jacket, winter jacket (in pocket are wallet, passport and phone, gloves), big scarf (can double as pillow on plane)

Entertainment, etc.: noise-cancelling earphones, podcasts updated on phone (TED Radio Hour, Coffee Break German, The Daily (NYT) and BBC News, Wait…..Wait, Don’t Tell Me), blank notebook, three books (one fiction, one music-related, one non-fiction), iPhone and cord, extra teeny foldable backpack, snacks (chocolate and veggies, rice cakes)

Music: folder with music for concerts, music to practice for the future, scores for study (hole punched and in folder), pencil and highlighters, stand

Today I bring my Trinity Violin Case on its maiden voyage. This is an exciting new case, with three interconnected segments.  The first, a snuggle fitting backpack case, just the size of a violin (small pouch under the neck holds my rosin, hotel mute, and makeup (which is chapstick)). The second is a bow case, which either straps on to the violin, goes separately to for a rehair, or forms the deceptive handle for the rolling backpack.  The third (which I did not purchase, but my first violinists travels with always) part is a rollable suitcase, in which the violin case nestles at an angle, is the right dimension for a carry-on – clothes are packed around violin, and the bow case is the handle (which unclips for storage). Brilliant! 

Just got called for boarding – concerts are packed this week – the program (Beethoven, Bartok, Schumann Quintet) is a total pleasure. Until next week!

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  • Every professional violinist should check the Trinity-case, it gets rid of many headaches and also backaches for that.

  • That integrated locking cable looks great too. For years I’ve locked my guitar cases to train overheads (long before Frau Kreston’s fiddle got pinched), in hotel rooms, and sometimes even back stage. A locking cable that keeps the case closed is much better than my jerry-rigged setup.

  • I’m a great listophile (if there is such a word) and I found this instalment of Anthea’s quite fascinating.

  • One other big benefit I found, as a constant business traveler when I lived in the US, was not having to hang around waiting for luggage to be offloaded. My home airport had to be the absolutely slowest in the world, And of course, no lost luggage or having it sent to Madrid instead of Montreal. Love the clothing list – must be a bit more difficult in winter though with heavier clothes needed.

  • Wow, I’m impressed with your packing Anthea! Any suggestions for a decent music stand that can work with an instrument and carry on scenario? A pleasure to read your column and catch up with you and Jason. All the best!

    • We use the K&M folding stand, ultra light and sturdy. To fit into my bag I detach the two segments, otherwise it is too long. Great to hear from you, Jill!

  • Great column, as ever. And marvellous concert last night at the Wigmore – thank you to you & your colleagues.

  • Anthea, you are a woman after my own heart! Having read this I will definitely try the Trinity case. I am curious; how do you manage to get small scissors through customs? I have had to part with many nail scissors and tweezers even if I tried to hide them in my violin case. Your list is scarily similar to mine (we use Yamaha light stands). Possibly even more extreme; I have caved in and now use Kindle for books and Pdf scores for study on my Samsung phone….thus saving EVEN more space!

    • Hi Suzanne –

      I have scissors with a plastic handle so the metal part is small enough, and a teeny nail clipper and tweezers and somehow, when they are together with my toiletries, they never complain. I used to download my books, but then realized I was spending so much time with a screen, I switched back to paper books. Do you have any other great ideas? I would love to hear them!
      Best,
      Anthea

      • Brilliant, I’ll look out for a pair of those! Other than that you probably have these tips already on your list but here goes: a small folding hairbrush (it works and I have hair a bit like yours!), folding toothbrush, folding mirror out of a Christmas cracker, plastic spork for eating on the run, a stunning cashmere scarf which keeps you warm AND you can dress up your black jeans and top for any after-concert do with…for on-tour laundry wrap your wet washing tightly in a towel and walk on it – that really helps (as does hanging over the back of the minibar for extra warmth). We have taken to scanning our parts and attaching them to an email to self for worst-case scenarios…That’s all I can think of for now. Hope you are having/had a good tour!
        All the best, Susanne

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