Band Luggage Tags – Why and How

Before getting into the “how to”, let’s consider 3 reasons “WHY” getting customized luggage tags on all your students’ cases is AWESOME.

REASON 1: When you’ve got literally hundreds of instrument cases coming and going in your band room, it’s extremely convenient to see, in an instant, who they belong to. This not only helps your students grab the right cases, but after school, when random cases are left scattered around the edges of your room, it helps you quickly find out who the lazy bums are!

REASON 2: Customized bag tags can be given out as rewards for those who reach certain benchmarks or make it into your top ensembles. If your tags also have spaces for award stickers, mark-offs, or punch-outs, then they can allow students to show off their achievements throughout the year.

REASON 3: Matching luggage tags support efforts to create a sense of belonging and team spirit–and they are a very inexpensive way to do so!

These reasons convinced me to invest some serious money into getting luggage tags for each and every one of my band students. I had spent months brainstorming what little trinket I could give out to serve similar purposes (I had considered keychains, bumper stickers, refrigerator magnets, locker magnets, etc.), and determined that the tags would be most useful, motivating, AND cost-effective. If you ever come up with a little, cheap something that you feel does the job better, PLEASE leave a comment and share!

Now, for the “HOW TO”…

Online Store #1

I first searched for the cheapest luggage tag option at my favorite “personalization” website (for details, click here). In past years I have gotten pencils, sticky notes, and banners from them, and have been pleased with their quality and cost. After sifting through dozens of options, and examining several free samples, I settled on 2”x4” luggage tag which offers a full-color personalized print on one side, with space for students to write their name in permanent marker on the reverse side. With a 250-qty minimum order each tag is listed at $0.79 each, but when you add on the required $40 artwork fee the cost becomes $0.96 each. Not bad for a full-color, durable plastic luggage tag!

Online Store #2

I next went to an online company that specializes in luggage and incentive tags for schools and teams (click here for details). They have an amazing variety of shapes, sizes, and pre-fab designs, but in order to compare apples-to-apples I chose their standard 3.5”x4” tag which is similar to the first tag. When you are getting 250 tags with the all the same graphics, the cost is $1.25 each, making the first tag a better deal. However, if you want to get a VARIETY of different tags (i.e. 20 tags for Jazz Band, 100 tags for Symphonic Band, 80 tags for Concert Band, and 60 tags for Symphonic Band) then this is the ONLY way to get them produced by a 3rd party for a reasonable price ($1.65 each). But, hold on to your hats! This company also offers a VARIABLE DATA option, which allows you to get tags that are personalized with EACH STUDENT’S NAME and instrument. You’ve got to admit, that is pretty cool! However, the cost for this service is $2.19 per tag (when getting 250).

Homemade Tags

As I was weighing the above options and making a final decision of which company to order from, I happened across an inexpensive industrial-quality laminator and shouted, “Eureka – I can make my own tags!” I soon found pre-cut luggage tag laminator pouches that make it a snap to turn card stock cards into “plastic” luggage tags. Now that is affordable!!

Here are the steps to easily produce your own homemade tags:

    1. Buy a laminator (such as this one)
    2. Buy a few hundred luggage tags laminator pouches (such as these)
    3. Print your own double-sided tags on cardstock (free graphics here)
    4. Cut out the tags using a paper slicer (and trusted student helpers)
    5. Have students write their names on the back side
    6. Insert tags into the pouches and run them through the laminator

Graphics for Homemade Tags

But what about the graphics? While the first online store requires you to provide an image that fits within certain technical requirements, the second one lets you choose from among dozens of cool graphic styles and then they personalize the image (or multiple images) for you. If you want to make homemade tags, but don’t feel you are particularly Photoshop-savvy, I’ve created a set of generic “I’m with the BAND” luggage tag graphics that you are welcome to download for free from StepWisePublications.com. There you will also find a variety of other free graphics that may help you create your own super-cool customized tags.

Bonus Features

On my tags you may notice there are 8 little circles along the bottom. These are a major part of my mastery and pass-off system. Throughout the school year I have eight things each student must pass off to achieve mastery, such as 1) Sight reading with the first 5 notes, 2) The B-flat major scale, 3) A technical exercise, etc. As students pass off each item they get to put a jaguar paw sticker on the correlating circle. This incentive system is simple, cheap, and highly visible without providing too much sensitive information. For many students the desire to fill all the circles with stickers will motivate them to work ahead and pass off the required playing tests as quickly as possible. You could alter this idea by providing spaces for mark offs, initials, or punch-outs.

If you are like me, you are always searching for new ways to enhance your band program and increase student motivation and dedication. I hope these ideas prove helpful in more ways than one, and wish you greater success in your next school year!

Curtis Winters is a jazz trombonist and is in his 19th year teaching band and orchestra at Orem Junior High. While completing his MM at Brigham Young University he became obsessive about leaving “no musician behind”, developed an unquenchable thirst for new and more effective pedagogy, and created the NinGenius Music app. He composes for orchestra, jazz band, and concert band, and has presented clinics at Utah, Colorado, Ohio, and North Carolina music educator conferences. 

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