This is a very important subject and perhaps will save some people the aggravation of having to deal with insurance claims. More times than not, when a banjo is damaged in transit, it's due to improper packing. If the carrier's adjuster is able to verify this, you'll not be paid for the claim.
After having relaxed the string tension, and having laid the bridge flat, follow the instructions below and your shipment will most likely arrive at its destination intact.
"If it rattles when you shake it.......Guaranteed they're gonna break it".....I made up that saying, and truer words were never spoken. The instrument needs to be packed FIRMLY. If you're packing within a hardshell case you'll need to pack around the banjo with newspaper......and I mean use newspaper. Don't try to substitute materials unless they are at least as resilient as crumpled newspaper. When you think you have enough paper packed around it, put some more in. It will have the resiliency to absorb the shock of being dropped...maybe.
The more important part is packing the firmly packed case into the carton. For this you'll require a carton that's at least 8 inches longer than the banjo case and at least 4 inches thicker than the banjo case. You HAVE to have at least 2 inches of packing on all sides for UPS to pay a claim, but if you expect it to arrive at it's destination unscathed, then 4" at either end is my reccomendation and I've shipped an awful lot of banjos in 7 plus years. It's also important that the carton be reasonably fresh and strong. don't use a carton that's "broken down" and become mushy. It won't have the strength to contain the instrument confined within the packing material. Again....UPS won't pay a claim on an instrument that was shipped in a "mushy overworked carton".
Now that you've selected the proper vessel in which to ship the instrument, and have packed it firmly within the case, it's time to "put it in the box". You need to begin with crumpled newspaper, or something similarly resilient, and put a lyer in the bottom of the carton. It will need to be about the bottom 6 inches of the carton since the packing will compress under the banjo's weight. The idea is to end up with the banjo suspended (under its own weight) on resilient material about 4 inches from the inside of the carton's bottom. If you are using styrofoam peanuts, you'll need to add a cardboard "seperator" after this bottom padding is accomplished to prevent the heavy banjo from settling down through the packing material. It will need to remain suspended for the duration of its journey.
Now then, with the banjo sitting on a resilient base, it's time to pack around the banjo. You can use peanuts, but must pack them tightly. Most manufacturers of that stuff will tell you that 20% "overpack" is sufficient. Again the idea is to "trap" the parcel within the carton so that it can't move easily, but will have a shock absorbing cushion around it. I use newspaper for this packing also. Its cheap.....usually free from small "mom and pop" grocery stores who know what it's being used for. They may need to get permission from the newspaper publisher who will require them to remove all "valuable coupons" before giving the papers away. Banks will also sometimes give you garbage bags of shredded documents and that's excellent packing material also.
You'll know you have enough packing material around, and on top of the packaged instrument when you have to "force" the flaps to close. Then it's time to tape it shut. Tapes that are to be avoided are "Duct tape" which under certain weather conditions (primarily cold) will release prematurely. Masking tape is also to be avoided, though it's preferable to duct tape if you use ALOT of it. The best sealing tape is cellulose or vinyl tape, and the "strapping" tape with fiberglass strands running through it can't be beat. A few pieces of that stuff traversing the carton will keep the shipment together. Tape ends should extend about 6" over the carton's edges to ensure that the tape seams don't burst. Tape all arounmd the carton's edges to prevent water from entering.
Place a clear tape over the mailing label so that in the event it gets wet, the ink won't run. Put arrows on the carton, labelling it "this end up" and mark the carton prominently and profusely with the word "FRAGILE". UPS will not pay a claim on a carton NOT so marked.
There you have it......your banjo will most likely arrive intact. In the event that it doesn't, the carrier will HAVE to pay the insurance claim. The thing most important to remember is the resiliency of the packing material. Your instrument is gonna be dropped and rolled along tha way, especially via UPS whose system is fully automated.....you know....big uncaring, unthinking conveyor belts. The carton and the packing need to be able to withstand some pretty rough handling. If you follow thes instructions....you'll be "pluckin at the banjo" rather than "cluckin' at the carrier".