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Blake Harnage (left) and Sierra Kusterbeck (right) are VersaEmerge. (Photo by Raúl Gonzo)

Travel Tips from Touring Musicians

Touring musicians are road warriors. Traveling to a different city nearly every day, often in cramped vans or buses, they become adept at rolling with the punches, getting along with others, and making cultural connections (through their music and otherwise). That’s why they’re the perfect people to dole out tips to us travel dabblers.

Here’s some expert advice from touring musicians on what to do if you’re…

Wondering what to bring:

Sierra Kusterbeck (singer for VersaEmerge): “Get a disposable camera. I get three before every tour, and I usually lose one of them, which will be interesting for the person who finds it. It’s a nice surprise to look forward to when you don’t remember what you took pictures of. I have a giant scrapbook – can’t wait to show the grandkids!”

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Guy Sigsworth has worked with everyone from Björk to Madonna. (Photograph courtesy Guy Sigsworth)

Guy Sigsworth (songwriter, composer and producer; member of Frou Frou)“Sometimes you have to try and grab some sleep in a taxi, a tour bus, or a plane experiencing mid-flight turbulence over the Atlantic. I wear noise-canceling headphones and listen to audiobooks of people with droning, monotonous voices. That usually works.”

(He also recommends a HyperJuice external battery for keeping Apple devices charged on long bus rides and flights.)

Blake Harnage (guitarist for VersaEmerge)“If you’re going out of the country, definitely stock up on all of your essentials before leaving. It’s not fun getting somewhere to realize that you can’t buy what you need.”

Traveling with several people:

Guy Sigsworth: “It’s actually better to be selfish. It’s your day off; you want to go to Père Lachaise, but everyone else wants to go to Disneyland. In that case, split up. Don’t try and persuade the others to come with you to the cemetery. They won’t thank you for the cultural enrichment.”

John Gomez (guitarist for The Summer Set): “Most importantly, understand that everyone has little things that will annoy you. It’s better to laugh at those things and love people for their weird habits.”

Guy Sigsworth: Don’t go hangry. “Rule number one: never skip breakfast. If there’s breakfast at the hotel, and it’s included in the room rate, set your alarm for half an hour before they stop serving. Even if you got home at four the night before, force yourself to get up.”

Trying to stay in touch with loved ones:

Blake Harnage: “I think if it’s part of your job to travel often, it’s your friends’ and family’s responsibility to make an equal effort to keep in contact and also to understand how difficult contact can be. I find myself emailing and texting quite a bit since it’s sometimes hard to find free time to make a call when you’re not completely immersed in noise.”

Jim Adkins (singer and guitarist for Jimmy Eat World and father of three young boys): “The kids are getting increasingly adept at using Wi-Fi to email, talk, video chat, and play games. But just because I am away for a few weeks doesn’t mean my 10-year-old is getting any Words With Friends mercy.”

Sierra Kusterbeck: “As far as friends, just hope they love and understand you enough to not be hurt if they don’t hear from you for a while. I have some really great friends and we catch up on everything when I come home.”

Getting stressed out:

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John Gomez of The Summer Set. (Photograph by Tom Stone)

Sherri DuPree Bemis (singer and guitarist for Eisley): “Bottom line, you have just got to learn to roll with it. Literally, no matter what happens, because it will happen.”

John Gomez: “A lot of times people let the ‘stresses’ of travel (like packing, airport, hotel) get in their head and ruin their attitude. Remember why you planned this trip! It’s supposed to be a time to reflect, to laugh, to taste and enjoy a different way of life. Be patient and gracious to every person who tries to give you some help, and say yes to everything.”

Jim Adkins: “You just have to keep grounded in the bigger picture. So what if the power [at a the venue] keeps shutting off. I am in Manchester! Yes, that happened while we were recording the show. There is a 10-minute section where you hear us start the same song over and over. It was kind of stressful at the time. But then, you realize how funny it sounds listening to whole crowd ‘Ahhhhhhh’ in collective bummer over and over again.”

Hoping to make the most of your trip:

Sierra Kusterbeck: “Meet people! Not everyone is a criminal trying to harm you. Use your good judgment and give people the benefit of the doubt. I’ve made great friends who I get to see every time I come through town.”

Sherri DuPree Bemis: “An extra set of clothes or an extra outfit can do wonders. Sounds so simple right? But you’d be surprised! It can be so tempting to trudge around in the same outfit for a few days in a row because you’re on tour – who cares right? But the joke’s on you. It really affects you when you’ve been wearing that same hoodie for the past 10 days.”

Guy Sigsworth: “It’s fun to add a mission to the mission you’re already on as a musician. On one U.S.-Canadian tour I decided to visit the Chinatown in every city that had one, whenever time permitted. I know it sounds like stamp collecting, but I enjoyed it, really!”

Follow Kayla’s story on Twitter @KaylaFrost.