Traveling by air can be traumatic at the best of times but for the solo photographer or video filmmaker, encumbered by valuable camera equipment, it can present an interesting challenge. I’m going to share with you some of my tips on how to pack and travel light for that low cost short haul flight.
Check out how videographer Laurie Hedges packs his iFootage kit in his latest video
So, first dilema: Hand luggage only or hold and hand luggage? This absolutely depends upon the job you are undertaking and budget you’re working to. Three day shoot in the Pyrenese mountains, staying in local hotels, with lots of walking and a low budget requires hand luggage only, saving you up to £50 each way for the pleasure of bringing your wardrobe. Seven days filming for a client at a series of holiday resorts in the Maldives on a decent expenses budget means that you can still go to the ball because you’ve brought along your 20kg suitcase. Many of the short haul flights that we all enjoy, initially look low cost but as soon as you start adding on hold bags, seats, priority and exclusive use of the executive toilet - you’ve potentially nearly doubled the price on many of the journeys.
So, here’s my recommendations for travelling with hand luggage only:
Make a plan
Use your location schedule and shot list to determine your essentials only kit list. Be clear about what the job entails and therefore what camera and lenses and support equipment you actually need, not what you ideally would like. Lay them all out on the floor in front of you.
Pack the essentials
Keep a note of the weight of the main items - frequently you will be limited to between 10kg and 12kg. Now add your other essential kit such as batteries, chargers, powerbank, adapters, hard drive, laptop and cables.
Check with your airline
Check your airline’s baggage allowance-many now allow a second much smaller laptop size bag, so this can be taken out of the equation along with a few other items. Pack this to its max weight and size.
Select lightweight clothing that can be layered and ensure that you wear the bulky or heavy clothing eg hiking boots, fleece and coat for the flight. Flip flops are great too as indoor footwear.
Plan ahead for security
Put your toothbrush and other personal essentials in a sealable plastic bag as required by many airports and keep them handy as you’ll need to produce them at security.
Pick the correct bag
Ensure that you select a bag which is the correct dimensions for your flight. A rucksack is best because it weighs so little. Carefully and logically pack your things (in the order you may need them) then, using good quality scales, weigh the whole lot.
I tend to use a bag which is soft and flexible and possibly larger than needed, but can still be shoved into one of those airline hand luggage dimension checking cradles. This allows me to then unload some of the items that I have on me back into my rucksack once I am on board. It also means that I have a larger bag to use when I arrive at my destination.
If room allows, pack a lightweight bag into your rucksack such as an ‘across the shoulder sling bag’ as this can be useful later, especially if you are already carrying kit which you can then transfer into that bag as you settle down for take-off. You can also use it to keep your clothes in later if needed.
A good quality camera bag or rucksack will have padded compartments for your gear. Check the weight of any bag you may be interested in buying...some weigh more than others.
If using a regular rucksack, pack all your fragile gear into a padded camera sleeve to protect it and this also allows you to transfer to another bag later. Note: as with many things, with rucksacks, you generally pay for what you get.
Finally, weigh your bag once again!
My six travel top tips:
- Never put your valuable camera equipment into the hold luggage-always keep it with you. Tripods and monopods can be put into you suitcase, however.
- Purchase a good quality bag that more than meets your needs.
- Back-up everything to your laptop, external hard drive and storage cards. You can never have enough copies!
- Take plenty of power with you. You never know when you may need it. Plug adapters and powerbanks are essentials and literally worth their weight!
- Never go over the size or weight limit for your luggage.This could cost you dearly especially if the airline insist that your carry-on is placed in the hold.
- Always check current luggage policies with the airline you are travelling with as they do change the rules and you don’t want to be caught out.
If you have any packing tricks or tips please share them with us.