How to Pack for a Tour

As a working musician, a big part of the job involves travel. Out of town gigs, big tours, weekend festivals traveling by plane, train, gondola, donkey (don’t ask), car, bus: you name it, we’ve probably done it. And when you travel as much as I do, you get pretty good at knowing what to pack.

Don’t make the mistake of overpacking and getting hit with pesky airline fees, or running out of space in the van. Your fellow band members will not look fondly upon being squashed in the back seat because you needed to bring your brand new Swedish deluxe ergonomic neck pillow. Austerity is the name of the game for the touring pro.

Hot Jazz Jubile

Let’s pay homage to the great Bucky Pizzarelli, who packs nothing but his guitar. The suit he’ll perform in? He wears it on the plane. And if anyone knows the biz, it’s Bucky.

So in honor of the great tradition of the traveling muso: here’s the Professor’s guide: How to Pack for a Tour.

Let’s start with a list of essentials, and then discuss the luxury items.

2.Copy of Syncopated Times

Reed Suitcases11. Reeds. Sax reeds, clarinet reeds. Enough is never enough. What if one breaks? Or worse yet, what if you left that perfect reed at home because you foolishly thought “200 reeds is enough to pack for one gig?” And if you don’t play a reed instrument? My advice: pack reeds. And give them to the reed player.

2. Copy of the Syncopated Times. (NB: I’ve never actually read the paper. I just read my own articles over and over in public areas while laughing and saying out loud “this article that I, myself wrote is both well written and hilarious!!!” It’s a great way to pick up chicks.)

3. Passport. The most useless item you’ll pack. It does nothing to contribute to you doing a great solo. But it does get you into other countries without getting asked a lot of questions like “where is your passport?” which can get annoying after a while. It’s also comforting to see that even the hottest member of the band looks ugly in their passport photo. It’s a great leveler.

Now, if you have a little room left over, here are some luxury items to consider:
A change of underwear can be a good thing. Let me stress: only pack them if you’ve got room left over after packing reeds. After years of trial and error, I’ve developed a touring underwear formula to maximize use:

Day 1: Front to front (traditional)
Day 2: Back to front (avant-garde)
Day 3: Inside out front to front (fresh as a daisy)
Day 4: Inside out back to front (not recommended for date night)
Day 5: go commando, rinse and repeat.


Toothbrush? Sure, why not. And after a 10 hour flight, I’ve found it’s best not to bowl over your fans with breath reminiscent of economy airline food that’s been sitting on the dashboard of a car in the hot sun. It can bring a tear to the eye. If you don’t pack a toothbrush, gargling the hotel shampoo can be a good substitute.

And here’s a list of the “don’t even bother” items:

Deodorant? Waste of space. Just do what I do: do as little work on stage as possible, so you don’t sweat. But if you have a tough bandleader who works you hard and you need some deodorizing, I recommend a liberal application of a urinal cake from the men’s bathroom. (But rinse under the tap before applying. C’mon; I’m not a savage.)


If you’re on tour, and you’re a guy, you’ll get some stubble growth. Forget about packing a razor. If anyone complains, just tell them the George Michael look is coming back. If it’s a really long tour, tell them the Jesus look is coming back. And if you’re a girl: tell them you’re European.

So now you’re set to take on the world with your lightweight baggage.

What about my emotional baggage?…I hear you ask? Well, that’s a whole other article.


Oh…and also…don’t forget your instrument.

Reedman extraordinaire Adrian Cunningham is the leader of Professor Cunningham and his Old School Jazz Band, based in New York City. Adrian Cunningham was voted in a 2017 Hot House Jazz Magazine readers’ poll the Best Alto Sax Player in New York. His most recent album is Duologue, issued on the Arbors Jazz label. Visit him on the world wide web:

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