Traveling with Photo Equipment on Airlines

I just got an email from fellow photographer Erik Seo regarding the joys of traveling with camera gear. Reading his words, it got me to begin thinking of all the fun travel experiences I’ve had over the years as a professional photographer. The wonderful line ups with the good folks at TSA. I wish I could say that these encounters have been fun, but I can’t even jokingly say that. The fear of not being allowed to travel to a job with your camera gear is not a joking matter and it can quickly turn a bluebird day into a cloudy, crap storm.

But there are a few things that we as photographers can do to help protect ourselves in our travels.
One useful trick to consider is to check fewer bags and bring them on board with your carry on luggage. TSA allows working photographers to bring 3 carry on bags to accommodate the massive amounts of gear we usually travel with. TSA has a link HERE that lays out the rules governing this loop-pole. It’s a good idea to have a copy of this in your travel documents to show to the TSA agent that insists you’re only allowed 2 bags. However, a quick note, some airlines may not allow three bags although TSA will.
Additionally, you may also encounter problems getting your batteries through security. In short, as long as the batteries are in your carry on bags, you’re okay. For a quick summarization of what TSA will allow you, check HERE. Additionally, you can print out the guidelines for batteries by the TSA HERE.
Regardless of where you’re going, it’s a good idea to know what you’re allowed to bring with you on airlines… and even better idea to have proof that you’re allowed to. Chances are, most TSA agents do not know the ins and outs of traveling with camera gear. If you have any problems, show them these documents and ask to speak to a manager. Eventually, they will let you through with your gear… you may have to jump through a few hurdles along the way though.
Happy traveling!
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