If at all possible, don’t travel with vinyl records.
They are fragile and it is too easy to accidentally damage them.
Of course, sometimes you can’t avoid it.
Maybe you’re moving, or you are a DJ who travels.
Whatever the reason, there may be a time when you need to know how to travel with vinyl records so as to minimize the risk of damage.
Keep reading to learn the best way to do it. We’ll cover everything you need o know to ensure your vinyl collection stays as safe as possible.
How To Travel With Vinyl Records
Again, traveling with vinyl records is not something I would recommend. Your records are safest at home on their storage shelves. Vinyl records are fragile, and sensitive to being moved around too much.
In other words, if you can avoid it, do not travel with your vinyl. But if it is unavoidable, here are some important tips and tricks to implement in order to keep your records as safe as possible on the road. And if you are mailing your records, read our article on shipping vinyl records instead.
How To Transport Vinyl Records: Your Options
There are several options for carrying records around. There are vinyl bags, boxes, carry cases, and slings. All of these are better options than just carrying the records with no case or box.
If you are going to be traveling with vinyl records, please make sure you carry them in some sort of bag or case. If you don’t, you are headed for disaster.
I am defining a bag as a carrying device with handles that resemble a tote or padded cooler. There are several options if you are thinking about using a bag to carry your records on the road.
They range from simple tote bags that will hold your records but offer no protection, to padded cases. Here are some of the options you have available if you decide to use a bag.
Travel Carry Bags
These look like art print or small painting carry bags and are rectangular and fairly durable, with a handle opening on top and some extra zipper pouches to carry accessories. They are similar to laptop bags in their construction and form factor.
They don’t have super sturdy walls, but they are made of heavy canvas and do offer more protection than some of the other options. Most of these will not hold too many records, up to 20 or so mostly.
Vinyl Record Carry Case
These are a bit better than the travel carry bag format. Most of them are shaped like a cube, which allows you to carry more records than the travel bag style.
Most of these types of bags also have a fairly thick bottom pad. This bottom pad is extremely important, and it drives me nuts that every single bag marketed as a vinyl record carry bag does not have a padded bottom.
These are convenient and safer than the super cheap options. They have extra storage compartments for your vinyl brush or record cleaning fluid, or anything you want to put in there.
Some have padded handles which come in handy, especially if you have 60 LPs in there, which brings me to the downside of this bag type.
The downside to this type of bag is that it can get very heavy if you fill it to capacity, and that makes it more dangerous for the records inside, since there is more weight if you happen to drop it.
Every three records will weigh about one pound so if you have 60 in this carry-case, your bag weighs about 20 pounds. Just in case you like nerdy facts, the average record weighs just about 5.4 ounces so three of them are about a pound.
I don’t think it needs to be said, but just in case… do not drop your record carry bag. Ever.
These things are the worst possible option, but better than nothing. Do not use tote bags to carry your records, unless your only other option is to use nothing.
Tote bags are just simple canvas, plastic, or PVC bag that has handles and will fit your records inside. They look just like the tote bag you had as a kid for school.
There are various sizes. Some can fit as many as 35 albums in one bag. These are very cheap and convenient to buy, but they are a terrible idea, especially if you have expensive records you plan on carrying around.
There are some problems with these bags, like:
They can’t stand up on their own safely.
If you need to set your bag down for a second to grab something, the bag may or may not stand up straight on its own. It is more likely that it will fall on its face with your records inside. This is a failure.
They offer no drop protection.
If you drop this bag, even from a foot or two above the ground, you will bend your record covers, especially if you drop it on the corner, which will be disastrous.
The transparent ones let everyone see your records.
This may make you feel cool because you can say, “Hey look I have Ziggy Stardust. I am cool”. But it just entices dirtbags to come to steal your records. These tote bags are just awful in almost every way but still better than carrying your albums with nothing at all.
If you can only afford one of these bags, you should at least put something in the bottom to pad your records in case of a drop.
Boxes And Hard Cases
These are better options than most bags. Boxes and hard cases offer much more protection than a soft bag, but some of them do not have any interior padding, so you may have to customize your carrying case or box if you get one without padding.
Old School Vintage Style Carry Case
This type of case looks like the ones my mom used to have back in the day. They will keep your records safe from the sides and front and back, but they have no padding whatsoever inside.
They are still better than a canvas tote bag, but If you get one of these, you will need to do something to make sure your records have some padding on the bottom and top, if you can. It surprises me how expensive these are for what they are.
Storage Box With Handles
Storage boxes are not much different than the vintage style carry case, except they are cheaper, and the top can come off by accident. Wind or getting jostled can remove the lid on the box easily, exposing your records to the elements or prying eyes.
These boxes are still better than bags, but not as convenient as the old-school style carry case. They have holes on the side for handles, which are not very helpful.
Hard Cases And Road Cases
These are by far my favorite option. They are heavy and bulky, but they are padded on the inside and can be dropped with no damage to your records inside (provided you have filled any void space with paper or foam or some kind of padding.)
Not all of them have foam padding, but the expensive ones do.
Make sure to check for interior padding before you plunk down a hundred bucks on one of these. If you are planning on traveling more than a few times with your records, I highly recommend you spend the big bucks on one of these road cases.
They are constructed like the road cases that bands use to carry their expensive gear. They have hard metal corners, and you can kick them with no ill effects.
The downside to most of these is their price, size, and weight. You may not be able to carry them on planes as carry-on luggage, due to size and weight. Of course, if you are serious about protecting your records you should consider using one of these big burly road cases.
Protecting The Records Themselves
Using the right kind of protective cases and storing your records for travel is not difficult, but it can make a huge difference in how safe your records are while you are out roaming.
Thick Outer Sleeves
- Made with Archival Quality, High Clarity Virgin Polyethylene
- HEAVY DUTY 3mm thick, Fits Single AND Double Gatefold Records
- 100 Sleeves Total
- 12-3/4" x 12-1/2" (323.85mm x 317.5mm)
- Flush Cut with Lip For Easier Insertion (no flap)
If you don’t already store your records in thick outer sleeves, you should, even at home. If you are going to take some of your records on the road, definitely invest in thick outer sleeves for them.
You can get these transparent outer sleeves in different thicknesses. I recommend as thick as you can afford. I have some 4 mil sleeves and some 2 mil sleeves.
Non-Scratchy Inner Sleeves
- Three-ply, anti-static, premium record sleeves
- Used in Mobile Fidelity LP packaging for the last 35 years
- Personally used by more music reviewers & record labels than any other
- The finest protection for all of your valuable records
- Keep your collection clean and dust-free
Most records ship from the factory in awful paper inner sleeves. Some don’t, though. I buy a lot records from websites and some do ship them well packed.
I got the new remastered Abbey Road and it has a nice paper/poly inner sleeve which is perfect. For once, I won’t have to replace it.
Replace your scratchy paper inner sleeves with some soft poly or rice paper inner sleeves, if you are going to be traveling or transporting your records. These materials are less likely to scuff your playing surfaces. I replace all of mine even if they never leave the house.
If you don’t mind spending a bit more get the MOFI-style sleeves. These are the archival sleeves they use for masters. They cost a bit more but are worth it. I use them on all my expensive records. They are the ones shown just above.
How To Pack Your Records
This is somewhat controversial, but it is time to talk about it. You may not want to keep your vinyl discs inside the cardboard album cover at all. This goes for normal long-term storage as well as traveling storage.
There is another, and some say a much better, way to store, ship and travel with your records. Take the disc out of the cardboard cover and leave it in the inner sleeve.
Place the disc and the inner sleeve inside the outer sleeve on the back side of the album cover. You will end up with a clear outer sleeve with the album cover (empty) inside, and behind it, the actual record itself inside the inner sleeve.
This serves a couple of purposes.
- It keeps the record from sliding around and weakening the cardboard cover.
- It stops the appearance of ring wear over time since the disc is not rubbing on the cover.
Some say it is a safer way to transport the record (some disagree). I would travel with the records inside the cardboard covers and store them at home the way I described above, outside the cover but inside the outer sleeve.
Whatever case, box, or bag you use to transport your albums, make sure they are not lose inside it. Fill any empty space with padding, like paper, foam, styrofoam, etc.
How To Transport Vinyl Records: Final Thoughts
Traveling with vinyl records is always a bad idea. But sometimes it is simply unavoidable. In that case, you want to make sure you keep your albums protected as best as possible, to give them the highest chance you can of surviving the trip.
Get a good case for your albums and put each one inside a higher quality inner and outer sleeve. Pad any free space inside the carrying case or bag, to ensure the albums do not get jostled around. You want everything to be a snug fit. Do all this, and your records should make it through the trip just fine.