Some people plan trips around where they’re dining, others around the sights they want to see. Then there are the vinyl enthusiasts, who plot travel itineraries around where they will shop for records, which are more popular than ever. Record sales surpassed CDs in 2020 for the first time in nearly 35 years. Last year, vinyl album sales grew for the 17th consecutive year in the United States, totaling more than 43 million vinyl albums.
Pumping up the volume of your record collection when traveling is almost as easy as putting the needle on the record — if you’re smart about it. If you have flexibility on your destination, Tim Murrah, owner of Noisy Records in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, suggests planning a vinyl hunting expedition that steers clear of major cities and heads off the beaten path, where there’s a better chance of finding great deals. Another way to plan a vinyl-centric trip is to research rare pressings from beloved bands, then go to the country where they were released. He notes Japan, Belgium, and Holland all have traditions of creating limited edition runs of highly collectible records, making them good places to explore.
No matter where you go, don’t leave without a plan. “Before you go, do a little bit of homework to make sure you maximize your time,” says Charvis Campbell, co-owner of HR Records in Washington, D.C., who recommends doing a Web search for record stores in the area, asking for recommendations from fellow collectors who have traveled to the destination, and mapping out an itinerary.
As soon as you get to a shop, Campbell advises connecting with an employee to let them know what you’re seeking. “Believe it or not, some shops have the good stuff off the floor in a back room,” he says. “So, you really need to ask and get to know the people who work there.”
Don’t just target record stores. Murrah suggests vinyl fans consider stopping by antique stores, thrift shops, estate sales, and garage sales, where vinyl might not be prominently displayed or cataloged, but could be hidden away just waiting to be found. “Sometimes you’ve just got to take a chance,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to look behind doors or see what’s in that pile of boxes in the corner.”
It’s helpful to have a pre-determined budget before you start piling up your purchases to ensure you don’t come home from your trip with a credit card debt that will haunt you for months to come. On the other hand, remember this trip may be the only time you might find a particular record. “If it feels good, looks good, and you just can’t put it down, there’s a reason for that,” says Murrah. “Just go for it.”
Hopefully, you strike gold on your vinyl-hunting expedition. Now you need to get your purchases safely home. “Never put records in your checked bag,” says Campbell. “The likelihood of them getting lost, ripped, or smashed are too high.”
Murrah counsels bringing a few cardboard record mailers whenever traveling. Pack purchases in them, then slip them into your carry-on bag or a bag specially designed to carry vinyl, which should be kept under the seat in front of you, so you can keep an eye on them and ensure they don’t get crushed in the overhead luggage compartment. Barring any unexpected misfortunes, you’ll have a killer soundtrack to enjoy while you unpack and decompress from your high-fidelity hunt.
Here are six accessories to maximize your vinyl-hunting experience on the road.
Victrola Revolution GO Record Player
Portable and rechargeable, the chic wax spinner with a built-in speaker can also play music streamed from your phone, has a removable lid doubling as a display for five albums, and comes with a shoulder strap. www.victrola.com
GrooveWasher Record & Stylus Care System
Before you play newly acquired used records, give them a thorough washing with this exceptional kit, which also includes everything you need to keep your record player’s needle clean. www.groovewasher.com
MoFi Archival Record Sleeves
Enamel 45 RPM Adaptors
Tucker & Bloom Cosmo Baker North to South Messenger Bag
Nevin Martell can be reached at [email protected].
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