How to fly with your camera

How to travel with camera equipment

In March 2017 the US and UK governments announced a ‘carry on’ ban on some electrical equipment on some travel routes. Depending on the source it looks like this ban does include cameras. Normally camera insurance doesn’t offer any cover for damage or theft to equipment stored in the hold of the aircraft, so this ban does offer photographers a bit of a headache.

I’ve travelled a lot with my cameras, and I know how frustrating it can be so I thought I would write a three step guide on how to sidestep these rules and still ensure you are able to create the images you want to.

1. Travel with your oldest gear.Old Camera

When you bought it, you thought it was the best thing ever and was going to do everything you needed it to. The chances are it probably still does. Worst case scenario, if it gets stolen or lost you’ll still have your best gear at home.

2. Take two bags to the boarding gate.

Peli 1510The main one should be a good solid camera flight case. I use the Peli 1510 which they say is bullet proof (we’ll call this the strong box for now). The second should be a cheap shoulder bag. Put everything in the strong box, with the lenses and cameras separated.

If the security team won’t allow you to board with the camera, don’t argue or complain. It’s their plane and you want to get on it.

Remove your lenses from the strong box and place in your cheap shoulder bag. Leaving your camera bodies in the strong box to be placed in the aircraft hold. I’d definitely recommend you have a couple of small TSA padlocks to place on it. If you are unlucky enough to be at the mercy of a bad baggage handler; a small padlock can be the difference between an opportunistic theft and them looking elsewhere.
Explain what you plan to do, ask them if they have a quiet corner you can repack. There’s no need to patronise and explain what the difference between a lens and a camera is because they’ll have this discussion 15 times a day.

3. Worst Case Scenario

If the worst has happened and you arrive to no strong box, either because of theft or loss. You’ll need a camera quick, most airports will have an electronics store and because you’ve got your lenses in your shoulder bag; all you need is a new body that will fit your lenses.

In my experience, being polite and happy to comply has surprising results.
Never argue with security or airline staff, they may understand and even agree with you; but if they have a policy it’s your job to live with it.