Flying with Camera Gear

Having spent a significant portion of the past year on the road, I wanted to comprise a primer for airline travel. There are a number of packing lists and rulebooks available from fellow photographers, but this is information that I have found useful.

 

To start, this article from Matty Vogel covers the basics of solo travel with a camera system of up to 3 bodies: Flying with Camera Gear 101

Here are some general rules that I might add/agree with. This list is not comprehensive, so I would be happy to add any additional information others deem important.

In general:

  • Pack light - only what you need and can carry. Vogel's article mentions that size and weight restrictions vary by airline and destination, so it's worth looking up each leg, especially if you're traveling to a remote area.

 

  • If at all possible, do NOT check the bag with your bodies, lenses, and media equipment. Checked bags are subject to uncertainties, so pack your essentials accordingly. If you're on a regional jet, your essentials bag dimensions would be best served as smaller than (18Lx14Wx7D), which equals around one body, three lenses, tablet, and a few accessories.

 

  • If confronted to check your bag by an airline employee, show them your media pass (mentioned below) and explain that you are carrying expensive, breakable equipment and cannot take the risk to check it. (Though, please be considerate of others' situations on the flight. As many will attest, kindness goes a long way in these circumstances.)

 

  • Batteries must be in your carry on bag or jacket, as they are a fire hazard.

 

 

  • Don't stuff your bags to the brim, as you might need to transfer items between them at some point due to weight and storage limitations.
    • Everything should be easily accessible for inspection (i.e. your laptop), because you will likely be inspected when traveling with that many electronic devices.

 

  • If you do find yourself overloaded, bring a jacket like the one recommended by Philip Bloom in this article: 

 

  • If you are traveling with lots of gear where you will need to check baggage. It's worth looking into a media pass, for discounted baggage rates.
"Camera, film, lighting, and sound equipment will be charged a rate of $50 USD per piece when tendered by representatives of network or local television broadcasting companies, commercial film-making companies, professional photographers ... A maximum of 25 pieces is allowed per organization/company per American Eagle flight or 40 pieces for American Airlines flights. This policy is subject to seasonal and permanent baggage embargoes. The maximum size and weight allowances are subject to the policies in place for the destination."

 

 

 

 

  • Don't leave your lenses attached to your bodies while traveling. Most of the time, it likely won't result in damage to keep them on, but IMHO it's not worth the risk.

 

 

  • Lastly, as a general travel rule, make copies of your IDs, travel records, etc, and keep them in a safe place. Some people recommend a travel wallet for physical items and packing a separate record of backups.




Bag makers that I've used and would recommend:

Also, check out: Langly Camera bags and holdfast | B&H Photo Video

Quality doesn't always connote a high price, but as you have probably discovered right now, photography is an expensive endeavor. The links I've included are items/services that I feel are "buy once, buy right" in nature. There are plenty of reliable baggage makers that offer inexpensive items, but if you are paying thousands of dollars for bodies and lenses, why would you not have the right gear to maintain and protect them?