What do you think about when you hear the word “touring?” Does it conjure up images of expansive landscape speeding past, the smell of fresh canyon wind wafting through an open car window, walking through exotic airports, having a coffee inside a cozy train compartment, meeting the bracing crowd after walking onstage, or does it stir up feelings of travel related stress and conjure up memories or imagined scenarios of spending most of your show earnings on travel and food, balancing your tour budget, trying to convince the airline staff your instrument will indeed fit in the overhead bin compartment, going through the nightmare of delayed bags or worse, lost bags, etc?
Fortunately, we live in an era perhaps best suited for travel. We have at our fingertips the kind of information that only travel agents had access to in the past. The US airlines are now following the footsteps of European airlines and making flight prices more affordable. Just being in the know of a few helpful tools and tips will help you banish any remaining fears and doubts when it comes to tour planning.
Tip # 1: Play with Google flights to get familiar with flight paths.
There are some cities that you can fly to from your home city at a very attractive rate. To find and get familiar with flight paths from your home city, go to Google Flights and enter only your starting point, leaving the destination blank. Choose flexible dates and enter something like “1-week trip in the next 6 months.” You’ll see in the map view cities with prices next to them. Move the map around, zoom in and out, to explore. For example, your tour strategy is to fly to one of these cities that’s too far to drive to yet super cheap to fly to, then from there rent a car and tour the other cities within a 90 mile radius. You do the search and find out that from your home city you can fly to Seattle, Washington DC, or Austin for less than $150 RT. You now can go find what towns are located within a 90 mile radius of those cities and determine whether you’d like to do a tour there. You won’t always limit yourself to only flying to these destinations of course, but this is a good way to plan especially when you’re first starting out, building your audience, and want to make a smart budget and plan.
Tip # 2: Obtain a credit card with travel benefits that fit you.
The world of travel has certainly gone through some change in the past few years. Even major airlines are now offering cheaper fare, they skim on your checked baggage and other amenities instead. This is not so great for musicians and performers because we have our instruments, props, wardrobe etc. and we most likely will have a checked bag or two. This can easily add more than $140 to your ticket roundtrip, but if you have rewards status with the Airline or purchase the fare on a credit card that offers baggage allowance perks, you’ll be able to enjoy the cheaper fare and not pay for any of your checked bags. Some examples of credit cards that come with free baggage allowance are Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, United Explorer or Mileage Plus Club Credit Card, Alaska Airlines Credit Card, American Express Platinum Card, and Chase Sapphire Credit Cards. Most of these cards will have an annual fee ranging from $95 ~ $500, and you will need to do 1 ~ 4 flights per year to make this fee worthwhile on checked bags alone. But note that most credit cards that offer free baggage allowance also offer other benefits that a traveling musician might find attractive, such as insurance for cancelled trips, bag delay, bag loss, cell phone damage / loss, extended warranty on equipments purchased, theft and damage reimbursement on new purchases for a certain number of months, award miles, award points, etc.
Tip # 3: Get creative when it comes to accommodation.
The world of travel has advanced in both transportation and accommodation. We have so much more choices besides hotels now. AirBnb and Couchsurfing are pretty much household names, and I’m sure you look into those when you are lining up accommodation while on tour. There are other options as well. Especially if you are adopting the aforementioned example strategy, where you fly to a city and use that as your base and tour all the cities within a 90 mile radius, it may work to your advance to just have one accommodation in the same city, and longer stays will open your options up to include house swapping and house sitting as some alternative options that will greatly reduce your accommodation spend, perhaps even eliminate them altogether. Also, this way you don’t have to re-acclimate to a new place every day, you can have more time alone to rehearse before your show instead of hanging out with your couch surfing host, and most importantly you won’t have to be concerned as much about rehearsing too loud for others in the hotel / AirBnb.
These are just some small tips, things you can start playing with and thinking about today. We get into in-depth touring strategy and how to build one successfully for yourself in The Artist Roadmap Accelerator.
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