Question for frequent traveling photographers


TPF Noob!
Jan 7, 2016
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I have recently upgraded to a higher end camera and some really good lenses. I don't fly much, but when I do I would like to take my camera with me. My question is for those of you that travel (fly) frequently and take your equipment with you. Looking for advice on whether to check everything in my suitcase or should I carry it on with me? My preference is to check everything, but I don't know how safe that is. Any tips, suggestions, advice from frequent travel photographers would be appreciated. Thanks in advance for any help you care to provide.

T -
I always, ALWAYS, carry my camera bag and laptop comptuer as carry-on luggage. No exceptions.
If you value it, don't check it. That goes for everything you value, not just your camera gear.
OMG, carry on. Even if it is not stolen, more than likely will get damaged.
I've checked camera gear but only in pelican cases with TSA locks and extra insurance. Also I've shipped the same case via UPS and have had good luck.
Stuff gets stolen out of suitcases, no sense in taking that risk. Also, be sure to have insurance on the camera gear. For non-commercial photography use, this is inexpensive to add to home owners insurance.
Also, be careful where you set your bag down in airports, especially in restrooms. Never take your eyes off it or there's a good possibility it will go home with someone else. One of those retractable key rings are handy. Clip one end to your bag and at least you'll know if someone tries to grab it.
Always carry it on. Except when you carry it on. Or then in the exceptions when you carry it on. I've been to 49 states (mostly by air). I've been to lots of countries. The last time I checked photo gear (in 1987) it was all stolen (and this was on a direct flight).

I will take a soft-sided duffle bag, throw some clothes and essential toiletries in there as padding. And then get a tripod, a soft box and stand, a couple of speed lights, some lens, a body plus some toiletries (unless I've put the body and lens in my backpack) and then carry it on. Never had a problem.
I've known people to:

1) Wear a large coat with large pockets to put some things in like modest lenses to get around some weight limits.

2) Camera around your neck - again to get around weight limits in carryon bags.

3) Posting the camera gear or some of it to the destination - this is often not only faster, but safer and more reliable than putting luggage in the hold! Of course it relies upon a reliable acceptor of said packages at the other end.
It always goes on the plane with you, overhead or under the seat. My backpack weighs around 30 lbs, I've never had any problems with weight, but then no one has ever asked me how heavy it is. The only person I trust handling my gear is me.
I think you're getting the hint here, but I'll add yet another vote for ALWAYS keeping it with you.
If I'm traveling light, my smaller camera travel bag goes into a large backpack which also holds my tablet and purse and fits under the seat so I can use my carry-on suitcase for my clothes and tripod. If it's a longer trip and/or I want to bring a lot of gear, I use the carry-on suitcase to hold all of the camera gear and I put my clothes in a suitcase that I check. This has the added bonus of the heavy gear being in a wheeled case rather than on my back or shoulder.
Carry-on. TSA both domestic and international are used to seeing it. I've never had a problem going through security.
Carry-on. TSA both domestic and international are used to seeing it. I've never had a problem going through security.

My camera bag was searched more thoroughly entering Gillette Stadium than it was at the airport. They actually had me open the front and rear lens caps of both the lenses I had with me. I guess so they could confirm that it was really a lens and not some type of fake container.

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