4 Tips For Air Travel With Your Photography Gear

September 1, 2011

in Photography Creative Team, Photography Tutorials, Rachel Durik, Travel Photography Tips

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Written by: Rachel Durik

I got my first DSLR in a February. By that March, I was taking it to another country, and ever since, my cameras have gone all over with me. In fact, I just did a one month trip around Europe with all my gear in tow. My camera gear and I are regularly checking in at airports, and after a bit of experience, I’ve learned some tricks and tips on how to travel with your gear.

The Right Bag

First, invest in a good travel bag. I’m opposed to spending money, most of the time. I usually prefer a bargain, but if you’ve invested a lot of money in your gear, a few hundred dollars to keep is safe is an even wiser investment! When I was looking for a good travel bag for my gear, I was looking for something that would fit in an overhead compartment on a plane, something that could withstand a little wear and tear, didn’t scream “I’m a camera bag! Steal me!” and something with safety features. (To be honest, I was looking for something pretty and girly, too, but we can’t have everything!) In the end, the best choice for me was the Think Tank Airport International.

Benefits of a good bag: I can fit everything I need in it. I can take this to a wedding, a workshop, a photo session, even around town. It locks on the side and has an extendable lock that you can attach it to. And, if I’m really creative, I can throw a pair of underwear and a dress in it and not have to pay to check a bag. (Really, I did that once! I told you I was cheap.) I can even fit my laptop in it.

The bag counts as one carry-on. You also get a personal item. I always make sure I’m traveling with a big purse. In the worst case scenario, the big purse might have to become your camera bag, so make it a good one.

(Note from I Heart Faces:  We highly recommend Epiphanie Bags as a sturdy purse/camera bag option.)

Think Before You Book

Before you book travel, consider how you’re getting there. The first flight I took with my gear, I booked my travel without checking what kind of planes I’d be on. I ended up on a small commuter plane which required your carry-ons to be checked as you boarded. This was a shock – I had the right bag! And now what would I do? Luckily, I had a big purse and managed to put my most expensive things in my purse. From that point on, before I booked a flight, I made sure I was avoiding commuter flights so that my gear could stay safely with me.

Give Yourself Enough Time

Most of the times I go through security, the TSA agents barely look twice at my gear. The first time I went through with it, I was certain it would be a big issue because of how much I had in there. But it rarely has been. In one case though, an agent took out every single tiny thing in the bag, swiped it, and x-rayed it separately. It took nearly an hour by the time it had all gone through and I had put everything back in. Be sure to build in time for that possibility when you go to the airport.

Be a Lurker

Before it’s time to board a plane, you know those people who are lurking around the gate for like an hour before it’s even boarding time? And you’re thinking, “What a bunch of idiots! We’ll all get on the plane!” Well guess what? If you’re traveling with gear, you gotta become a lurker. And get those elbows out. No, I’m kidding, but you do need to be on the plane before it fills up. Why? You want your gear in the overhead compartment near you. With airlines charging for baggage, everyone is carrying their bag on. I don’t want over $5,000 of gear in an overhead compartment that’s not within my site. Or worse, under the plane. You can usually buy advance boarding (I don’t – I’m cheap!), or if you’re a frequent flier, you are usually in an earlier boarding group. But if neither applies to you, you’ll do fine if you lurk. (And above all – don’t annoy the people that work for the airline at the gate. You need them on your side for sure!)

Rachel Durik is a photographer located in Southwest Florida. You can learn more by visiting her photography site, Savor Photography, Naples Wedding Photographer, the Savor Facebook page, or by attending her online Photoshop and Lightroom classes.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Pankaj Sharma January 19, 2015

Hi Rachel,

Great work.
I also want to visit Goa on this holiday session via flight.
Thank you for this article…


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Caroline February 27, 2013

This is great! I’m actually doing my first out of state wedding that requires air travel in April, so I’ve been reading up on what to expect.

Have you ever had trouble with the weight limit on your carry on? I’ve never actually had an airline weigh my carry on (despite the fact that I’m ALSO cheap and paranoid, thus one-bag it everywhere I go to avoid checking things). But I really don’t want to gate check a bunch of expensive lenses if I can get out of it.

Also, is there specific paperwork that you’re supposed to have to carry that gear? I’ve heard of people having issues with taking gear for ‘professional purposes’ out of the country, but as far as I know there’s no such policy for interstate travel.


Ana September 5, 2011

That was a good read, thanks. My piece of advice is to make sure you have your batteries charged and with you. on a trip from Madrid to New York last year the security woman made me take everything out of my case, put the batteries in the camera and take a photo. It’s never happened again but worth knowing.


Wenata Babkowski September 4, 2011

4 Tips For Air Travel With Your Photography Gear http://t.co/ArcRLJZ


Gloria S September 4, 2011

My camera bag doesn’t look like a camera bag. It looks just like an over-sized bag or weekender with cute prints on it LOL! It can attract attention but they wouldn’t know there are equipment in there.


Lily September 2, 2011

I love your tips.. I really agree with them.. thanks for sharing!


jonathanfun September 2, 2011

4 Tips For Air Travel With Your Photography Gear :: #photography http://t.co/ShdK8g0


Jamee September 1, 2011

This post came at the perfect time! I am flying to Disney with my family next weekend and was worrying about how to pack my new DSLR so this helped a ton!


Jill September 1, 2011

I have an epiphanie bag/purse and love it! I get compliments on it all the time. Best purchase, worth the money.


heather / h2o photography September 1, 2011

I travel between Canada and Europe regularly carrying all my gear and sometimes alone with my <2 year old. It's tough but doable. My main carry on is a large LowePro backpack (big but not the largest available – cost about $220), then I have a big purse as my personal item, then I have a plastic bag which you can claim as 'food' and maybe get away with – or on my last trip early august my 23 month old had a mini monkey backpack. I got a warning but they let me on. The key is put all the heavy but less expensive stuff in your checked bag (batteries, chargers, cables, maybe even flashes). I also have light stands, portable softbox, reflector and umbrellas checked. Along with camera bodies and lenses and laptop, you can add a layer of diapers and wipes and spare baby clothes. Snacks for the little one go in your purse, as well as small toys and a book – pick up some small, 'new' and novel toys from the dollar store to keep toddler entertained. iPhone and iPad apps are also entertaining for you both. Forget a book or magazine for you – you won't have time! Finally pack patience and strength – don't tell the airline but my carry on pack back in may weighed 18kg!!!! Good luck!


Anna September 1, 2011

I have to admit that I haven’t thought of how suspicious a man/woman could be trying to get through security check with the whole set of camera equipment :). That is so true about those lurkers, sometimes you really need to be a lurker, especially when the plane has free seating and you are traveling with children and a lot of hand luggages.


Katia September 1, 2011

Thank you for this article…it really brought out some issues when I travel out of the country this coming December…now, can you write about traveling with your gear and a toddler? with a child you do NOT want to be in the plane first…any suggestions since you will not be able to board in order to put your gear on your overhead compartment? thank you.


Maki September 1, 2011

Thanks for this helpful article! One more piece of advice – if you’re going to a hot/humid country like SE Asia or other tropical areas, put desiccant pouches in your camera bag. You can buy big bottles of them but I prefer those that sometimes come in snack boxes – the DO NOT EAT pouches (most often in Asian rice cracker and other snacks). No condensation issues :)


Carol Strawn September 1, 2011

Very helpful article Rachel! Lots to think about when you are traveling with expensive equipment. Thanks for sharing!


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