Traveling can be stressful enough, add taking your guitar with you and not having it get damaged takes things to a whole,
It's really simple, just take your guitar as a carry on. However, be sure to put it in a gig bag (soft-shell) bag. If you take your guitar in a hard shell case the airline will definitely want to check it at the gate. I'd also recommend not taking an acoustic but either a travel guitar or an electric guitar. The bigger the guitar the bigger chance the airline will want to check it.
Isn't safe to check your guitar at the gate?
Short answer H*** no!
** Personal story
Years ago (before SLC Guitar existed) I had a job where I would travel for extended periods of time. On one particular trip to Minnesota I took my Taylor 214ce with its standard HARDSHELL case and planned to bring it as a "carry on. " Come to find out, it was a full flight and there was no room to put the guitar in the overhead bin or in the little closet at the front of the plane. So the lady at the desk give me a pink tag and assured me that my $1000+ guitar would be safe as the'd just GENTLY lay it on top of the luggage and it will be the first thing off the plane.
Reluctantly, I handed them my guitar and the entire 3.5hr flight to I was freaking out as we've all seen how they handle luggage. As soon as we landed and as soon as I was able I opened the case to check for damages.
The lid falls completely off as the metal hinge on the back had been totally damaged. It looked like someone got a nail and a hammer and struck the hinge in the perfect spot. WTF? Nothing else was damage and my guitar was fine. Totally dodge a bullet on that one... And as you can imagine, no one wanted to take any responsibility for my now broken guitar case.
Now when traveling with my guitar, if the ticket lady puts the pink tag on my guitar I graciously thank her as I walk down the jet bridge ripping off the pink tag before anyone has a chance to see it..... 🙂
Lesson learned: Whether its carelessness, luggage falling, or someone trying to break into your guitar case, best take your guitar as a carry on item!
How To Travel With Your Guitar
Guitar Mastery Secrets, Guitar Practicing Secrets