The end of the year is coming up quickly and many are looking to travel for the end of 2018. Usually, once we think we have everything together, we don’t. And that’s when TSA comes over and pulls you away to tell you half your equipment can’t come on board with you or your film may be damaged. Generally, many of us don’t have private jets to combat this.
So, what’s the best way to pack and protect general equipment without getting pulled away for half an hour or fearing damaged goods?
1. Carry or Check?
The conundrum starts when you decide the first thing to worry about: do I check in my equipment or do I carry it on with me?
Normally, you want your equipment on you. That means, bringing it with you onto the plane. If you check in your equipment, chances are you do not know who will have a hold of them. Airport staff may toss around your equipment without knowing or caring what’s inside.
You want to know where your equipment is at all times. Moreover, you need to know if it’s being handled right and if its safe. You may be the lucky few to have tons of equipment locked up in a nice, safe locker sized bin to check in as luggage. For everybody else, security relies on putting it all in your own hands, however clumsy you may be.
Your best bet is traveling with a camera bag or anything that has a special compartment for cameras or small personal items. Airlines allow two bags, a personal item, and a carry-on bag. That means, any small bag within 22″x14″x9″ but may vary depending on what airline you choose and where you are going.
To point out what you already know, you do not want your camera sitting loosely. Make sure its packed tight and securely with its lenses and other apparatus checked and secured.
2. Working With TSA Security
Probably the most troublesome for many, TSA restrictions can be extremely frustrating to work with. Knowing the rules and working with the restrictions rather than against them will help you run smoothly through the entire process.
The rules tend to gravitate overweight and size, so making sure you follow up with necessary luggage or cabin baggage limits are key to a smooth ride. This varies by each airplane or airport and can be accessed through their website or attendant at any time.
Also, each airline has special limits for luggage in general so its best to check up on them and plan accordingly. Separate gear or only bring what is essential. Do not overpack and go overweight limits, that will only cause you more pain and frustration!
What also helps, especially when processing film through the conveyor belt security, is talking to them. TSA staff can be helpful when they want to be so its best to speak to them on the side about doing a private or alternative screening for film and analog equipment. Putting it through the heavy X-Rays can risk damage to your precious film so make sure you take precautions!
3. Insure Yourself
You want to make sure you have a backup, always. This goes for your camera or even external space for memory and photos. Most camera companies and tech companies offer long-term insurance for any damage or loss you may experience with the product, so its best to use that to its full advantage.
You never know when something may happen. Theft and robbery can happen at any time especially while traveling so it’s always best to keep an eye on your equipment at all times.
You may want to go the extra mile and ensure that your gear is protected in some way or form. That means shock resistance for drops; water resistance for water damage or leaks; general cushioning for moving around especially in heavy turbulence flying.
Acting safely and securely before and during traveling will help you fly knowing you’re absolutely not an idiot letting airport staff throw your $10,000+ equipment along with the rest of the suitcases.
Sometimes, if you’re traveling with packs or cases that allow it, locking your equipment serves a great purpose. If you’re thinking about shipping your equipment beforehand, this is vital to both the safety of your equipment and your own wellbeing. You do not want to ship off or check in unlocked equipment that can be opened at any time without warning.
If you’re traveling overseas, its best to stop by US Customs beforehand to register any fear or valuables that you do not want to be charged for. They may even break your lock if they suspect anything strange about your bags. It’s best to also keep a log of all your padlock information and serial/model numbers in case you need to match or pass it on to airport staff.