Travel Tips: Packing and Flying with Camera Gear
packing camera gear
The most important items (camera bodies, lenses, drones, monitors) will always be in my carry-on bags. Additional items such as batteries, travel tripods, etc. I typically wrap with clothing in my checked luggage.
When it comes to camera bags and cases in general, I find padded dividers that are modular to be more intuitive, as they provide custom cushioning to my camera gear, and they can be re-fitted if I vary my gear by trip. Cases with dividers also tend to have pockets, so the large and small items can be nicely organized and within reach. This makes checking your inventory when heading home a simple process.
Camera cases with foam inserts provide even more protective cushioning (especially for flying), but it only makes sense if you are dedicating a case to specific gear and do not plan on interchanging it. If you are traveling for a shoot with foam inserts, you will find yourself with several cases that you are going to have to check with the airline.
When traveling, plan on bringing only the essentials. Occasionally I fly for my work - which happens to be videography/photography - and I need to pack a little more gear. If I am traveling for a shoot, I will take the Pelican 1514 Carry-On Case with padded dividers (and the added lid organizer).
If I am going to be hiking, you can pretty much guarantee I am bringing minimal camera equipment. Hence my "personal item" for the plane will be my REI Trail 25L daypack. It is nonsensical to bring a regular backpack or camera bag not conducive for hiking. I typically only bring a camera bag when I am traveling for a client shoot and not really adventuring. Here are my go-to items when I need to pack light:
Flying with Camera Gear
I always, always, always carry-on my camera. No exceptions. There are hundreds of videos floating around of checked luggage not being treated well - tossed around and dropped with utter negligence. Although I have production insurance to cover my gear, I am not going to take the risk of 1) having my gear damaged and 2) not being able to use my gear on an important trip. Not to mention, the average traveler will not have production insurance for their camera equipment.
Most airlines will allow you to carry-on two items (a personal item and an overhead bag). Depending on the nature of my trip, my "personal item" is typically a daypack or camera bag with my camera, lenses and entertainment for the flight, i.e. books, iPad. I prefer having at least one camera ready-to-go in the pack under my feet should I want to get any spontaneous shots.
My "overhead bag" is often my drone with other camera equipment I need with me. I will drain any Lithium batteries (often found with gimbals and drones) prior to flying to reduce any risk that may occur, unless I have a shoot soon after landing and do not have time to charge them after arrival. I have personally never had any issues going through TSA/Security with these tips.