Travelling with a vibraphone to BRAZIL

Hey everyone, I am new to the site and pretty new to the vibraphone. I am excited to be able to get some ideas and learn from this site.

I have dual citizenship and have been living in Brazil for the past five years. I studied in highschool with Jason Adasiewicz in chicago but stopped when i moved to brazil in 2009. I just got an M55 while in the states working this summer and want to bring it back with me to Brazil.

So far, my plan is to take the bars inside a carry on mini suitcase with me, and then package the frame in one excess check in andd the resonators in another. Has anyone travelled oversears with their vibes? I am pretty worried about customs stopping me once I arrive in Brazil, so I'd appreciate any experience with any similar situations.

you might have a lot of problems with an m55 and an airplane. be careful!

could you expand on that tony? What kinds of problems are you referring to?

it's too big. it's not normal sized luggage.

now i think joe locke just took an m55 in soft cases on to an airplane and it made it through fine. but it will cost at least oversized baggage fees. and i thought i remember hearing about someone getting turned down for luggage.

the m48 is easy to get on the plane. you might consider that.

otherwise i would really get measurements and weights and figure out costs, unless money isn't a problem!

Yeah for sure. I'm probably going to spend around 300 $ in oversized luggage, and not that money isnt an issue, but i did factor that in prior to purchasing the vibes.

I guess im more concerned about packaging ideas especially for the resonators.

Hi Victor, I'm chiming in here because I traveled a lot in the 60s and 70s with the M55, until mid-80s when the M48 came along. I had cases made for the M55, of course, since I traveled constantly. It probably would not be economically worth it to pay for one trip. But, no matter how you package it up, say in cardboard boxes with lots of packing materials to protect against damage, you will still face challenges. UPS says they will box up "anything" for shipment, no matter how large or whatever. So you might look into paying them to box them up for you. They would have the materials and packing experience. But, to travel on a plane you need to be able to open the packages for security inspection, so that's a concern. So, two issues.

#1 Airlines have a maximum weight for checked baggage of 70 pounds. Anything over 50 pounds is charged extra, usually double. But over 70 and they are likely to tell you it has to be shipped via air freight. As for size, the dimensions are another issue. Because the M-55 is about 5 feet in length, airlines may likely charge extra for oversize, as well as overweight. And they may again say they can't accept it. I had only a few instances of airlines refusing my M-55 cases, but that was back in the 60s and 70s when air travel was much looser. I think your estimate of $300 excess for a flight to Brazil is way too low. Probably $600-700. Maybe more.

#2 I believe you mentioned concern about customs, as well. No problem taking the instrument out of the USA of course, as long as it can be inspected at the TSA checkpoint. But when entering Brazil, or any other country, you can easily catch the attention of customs, particularly if it is your own country of residence (you are bringing home something of value from abroad), and if it is obviously something big and expensive looking. Usually regular luggage passes through customs without notice. But two big cardboard boxes or special looking cases? Definitely the customs will want to be involved and will charge you whatever the appropriate duty might be. That is sometimes as much as the cost of the instrument itself. I don't see any way to avoid being noticed by customs, whether you are traveling with the instrument, or sending it as freight. I usually can avoid being hassled by customs because when I enter a country I can show that I am on tour, just traveling through, and not intending to stay with my instrument.

I'm afraid I don't have any great secrets to pass on to you that will help you meet your challenge. Welcome to the world of vibraphone players, and best of luck! - Gary

Hey Gary, Thank you so much for your input. It is very appreciated!

I just talked to a few people who have traveled into Brazil with instruments. I think customs won't be a problem. The instrument is used and visibly has some wear and tear so that helps the process by alot. I can claim it was mine and technically they can't really do anything.

I have my fingers crossed for the checking of the boxes. We'll see what happens. I will keep everyone updated on what happens. I just hope I can get it there!!!

Hey! Just wanted to let you all know I did it! Luckily, I did not pay any excess baggage charges (I got someone extremely nice and willing to help and apparently had a fare that allowed me one extra item to travel with)
I had called the airlines TAM prior and was told I would $600 in excess fees, but successfully got the two boxes on with no issue or charge!

I did run into some problems at Brazilian customs and payed 1000 dollars in taxes. I did prove that I work with music and that the vibraphone would be a tool in order to help my profession (I play drums professionally and teach general music to children down here) however as many Brazilians say, it is a flip of the coin. If the customs officer is having a bad day they will charge you as much as they want.

Even with the charge though, The amount I spent on the m55 with transporting it and everything is still 1/3 of the price I would pay if I were ever to try to buy one here! I am so happy and excited to embark on the journey that is this instrument. Looking forward to learning from this site! thanks again for the help