Traveling by car, rail, or plane with handbells can be a challenge.  Cases of bells, tables, music, stands, cover cloths, etc. take up a lot of room ... but FOAM seems to be the greatest challenge.  It is light, but it is very bulky! The question keeps arising, "How do you travel (by plane) with all that foam, etc.?"

The following narrative explains how to "suck the air" out of the foam, compressing it to much smaller dimensions.  You will need a vacuum cleaner with a hose attatchment, large plastic bags, ties to secure the bags.  Be sure to take extra bags and ties with you, and make arrangements at your destination for a vacuum cleaner so you can prepare the foam to return home.

Thanks to Gail Berg and the California Contingent for sharing this with the Handbell World!

In hb-l0495.069, Gailjberg writes to the list on 95/04/14:

You've asked at least one well seasoned traveler!  You ought to be introduced to the Hawaiian Foam-Sucking Bird, and I'll tell you a few other hints as well.

Figure out how many boxes (music, covers, stands, percussion), "containers" of foam (see foam sucking bird below) and bell cases you need to take.  Figure out how many people (including significant others and family) are
traveling with you.  Each person will be responsible for at least one "bell" box/bag as part of their luggage.  (The smaller 6/7 cases can be carryon luggage - you will have some explainging to do at the x-ray machine.)

First, if you have foam attached to tables (e.g., Perry), leave them at home and borrow (or buy) some foam for the trip.  If you can avoid it, do not travel with your tables!!  Try to arrange with all of your hosts on your trip
to provide 30" wide banquet tables.  Almost all organizations have them available.  (Attempt to ensure that your there is enough length to accomodate your group and that the tables are near to the same height; otherwise you'll
be using hymnals to balance the tables.)

If you do have loose foam, you might want to consider having them covered in cotton or cordoroy - with a handle - for durability (that won't affect what I'll say later) and at home, it will protect the foam.  (You can put velcro
along two sides to attach a skirt.)

Now, the foam sucking bird!!  (Rudy, you did this so well in Hawaii!!)  Area XII had it's 1992 (my, it seems almost yesterday!) conference in Hawaii.  The majority of the travelers were coming from California.  I think we had only two or three choirs from Hawaii join us during the conference.  Just before we left, our choir learned the greatest "reducing" technique!!  (Borrowed from the model airplane hobby)  Take your foam, fold it in thirds both ways, place it in a heavy large-mil garbage bag.  Wrap the end of the garbage bag around the end of the hose of a vaccuum cleaner and start it up.  Watch the air come out of the foam!!!  Tape shut this new reduced foam.  Place reduced foam in another bag and repeat the process.  Now place these much smaller pieces of foam in a suitcase - you might be able to get four 3x3 pieces in a "large" suitcase.  (Cardboard boxes reinforced with tape with also secure the foam.)  This process is good for about 24-48 hours (the bag and tape seals eventually start leaking, but the container "contains" the expansion further).  When you get to your destination, unwrap the foam and in about 15 minutes it's up to full "fluff" again.  It does not hurt the foam.

(Ed.  This last statement is debatable.  With repeated applications, the foam may break down.  However, the benefit might outweigh the consequence)
If you're really tight for space, you can nest your bells.  Yep - take them apart and nest the casings - with a small layer of padding between.  One choir in Hawaii had their lower fifth octave in pieces and it fit into about three carry on bags.  (Don't attempt this unless you are comfortable with taking apart and putting your bells back together.)

Gail Berg

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