checking photographic equipment

Discussion in 'Travel' started by noreen, Sep 12, 2010.

  1. It looks like I will have to check some of my photo gear (DSLR; 4 lenses; large-ish P&S) on a flight from the USA to Egypt next week. The airline, Royal Jordanian, permits a single carryon weighing no more than 7 kg; the additional "personal item" cannot be an item such as a bag, or even a laptop carried in hand.
    I'm struggling to get my carryon (which would additionally include my laptop, portable HDs, and perhaps a portable flatbed scanner, not to mention my wallet and important papers) down to 7 kg. It seems inevitable that, even if I place the scanner in checked baggage, I will very reluctantly have to do the same with some of my lenses, which I've never done before.
    Beyond providing the lenses with ample padding, does anyone have any suggestions?
  2. Hopefully you have a very good equipment insurance policy. Putting *things* of high value in luggage in the aircraft hold (as checked baggage) gives the airline a so-much-per-pound (or kilo) of liability. Is your camera worth $2.75 or $3.25 as the weight of lost or misplaced luggage?
    You might check with FedEx and see how much it would cost to send your high-value gear to your destination in Egypt.
  3. In fact I have no insurance, alas. What I do not check will have to be left behind, and I will be in Egypt for at least a year without returning to the USA (and with no visitors to bring the items to me later). Fedex isn't an option because shipping things into Egypt is prohibitively expensive; customs is apt to charge exorbitant fees and I know from anecdotes related by friends and colleagues that delivery is... erratic. Even Fedex. And Fedex will not ship personal effects into Egypt, anyway. I did calculate the cost of shipping--assuming a commercial package--and it comes to more than $200. Customs fees, which could equal the cost/value of the goods, would be on top of that.
  4. I've had good luck taking my gear to customs before I depart with all of the gear in cases and printed copies of the inventory. I then have customs check, clear and sign off on my gear. That way I know it will make it to my destination. I also have insurance to cover theft/loss etc.
    Pelican cases are great for packing gear. I usually remove the cube foam insert and throw a towel or something in to keep the gear from whacking together.
    I usually carry my camera bodies, a mid-range and a tele zoom, and cards in a thinktank belt system as my "personal" item, and a daypack with two flashes, a laptop, chargers, and a card reader and 1 set of clothing as my "carry on". Everything else gets checked as mentioned above. I want everything essential to my work to be with me and not delayed/lost.
    Your mileage might vary.
  5. That sounds like a great system, Jake, and not unlike what I ordinarily do. But Royal Jordanian allows only a single carryon. The personal item can be a walking stick, umbrella, pair of crutches, small camera, or binoculars. Even a laptop or a "small video camera unit" is treated as your carryon.
    Royal Jordanian Carry-on Luggage Policy
  6. david_henderson


    I travel a lot but don't travel with a laptop, a scanner or portable hard drives. I use lots of cards whilst away, to avoid carrying these things.
    Back in the days when pretty much all airlines were restrictive on carry on, but less so on hold bags, I used a Pelican case for one of my systems, checked the locked Pelican, and took out an annual insurance policy for my equipment. Today, this route might cost you if it means you exceed your free hold baggage allowance, but you can still buy Pelicans, and insurance policies.
    I have latterly been known to travel with one system in a shoulder bag in my checked baggage, or with a spare body wrapped in T shirts. I always have a tripod and often a head in the checked bag. Naturally I still have the insurance. Others will have tales of woe- I've not had a problem. I'm not saying there's no risk, but that there's a big difference between risk and inevitability.
    My current most used equipment with 2 dslrs , 3 L zooms and bits weighs rather less than 7kg including the bag. In your position, after having determined that I really did need to have all this stuff with me I'd get insurance cover and make sure I had the laptop and sufficient camera gear to function in my carry on bag. Then I'd stuff the compact and a lens or two in my coat pocket. Then I'd pack the rest.
    Your problem is not insoluble- it just depends how flexible you are with respect to what you need whilst away, how much risk you feel able to take and how much time you can spend before you go sorting out insurance and possible Pelican or similar.
  7. I think you would be best of with Pelican and insurance as the others have suggested too. But I would like to recommend you don't put the Pelican "naked" in the hold. Put it into a suitcase or something because I think Pelican cases just scream "expensive equipment inside". Even if it is locked, someone can just pick it up off the conveyor belt and walk off with it to cut up at their leisure with an angle grinder or something.
  8. First, get equipment insurance. Second, purchase travel clothing with pockets, for your wallet, important papers, etc. It's hard to get away with a photographer's vest, which would easily carry your photo equipment plus a pretty nice lunch, but a less extreme travel vest or jacket should get by. Third, prioritize among your equipment, so that you carry on what you can least afford to lose.
  9. I do very much appreciate the advice, thank you!
    Could someone suggest a source for insurance, or should I check with a local insurance agent? The policy offered through is beyond my means, and I need only equipment coverage.
  10. I am sure you have done homework on the airline's carryon policy as well as checked baggage allowance. One thing you can get away with is equipment you carry in your pockets do not count as carryon. I know most airlines today have draconian carryon policies - how the hell do you limit yourself to only 7kg of carryon stuff - the carryon case itself, empty, can sometimes weigh more than half that - what more can you carry inside? Just wear an oversized coat, with lots of pockets, and put your lenses, portable hard drives, P&S, and your travel documents, in the coat pockets. You only have to do this after you go through security (to avoid appearing strange looking with bulging pockets), and at the waiting area at the boarding gate. After you board the plane, put back all the stuff in the carryon case and sit comfortably.
    From my experience, gate agents usually only raise issues with passengers with oversized carryon bags/cases, and require them to gate-check it, but rarely weigh them for overweight unless the passenger appears really struggling with the piece.
  11. Could someone suggest a source for insurance, or should I check with a local insurance agent?​
    The least expensive way to purchase insurance is as a rider to homeowner's or renter's insurance. Since you're leaving, you may not be eligible. Also, some on have expressed the concern that a claim for, say, stolen equipment could trigger the cancellation of the overall policy. A rider will only work for amateur photographers -- professional photographers would typically get insurance through a pro organization, although its prices may be as high or higher than
    Do check with a local agent. Look also into travel insurance that may cover photo equipment you are taking.
    One other possibility depends on your status. Are you a student or other academic? Your student organization may have something.
  12. Have you checked the airline's cargo costs and policy? All airlines have one and costs are usually much, much less than FedEx costs (even though your items usually arrive within a week or so). That way, you could pack all your camera gear in a Peli case, lock it, pack THAT inside a cardboard box (perhaps with a duvet or something around it) and send it thus. I have sent items I was in no particular rush to have within me instantly through airline cargo and they have arrived perfectly.
    But insurance is a must either way. Google "photographic insurance" and you'll see various companies offering policies mainly based on equipment cost (and nothing more) which may get you close to what you can afford.
  13. Noreen, why not just try and give it a shot taking more carry-on luggage than expressed by the rules? I have never ever had a problem with my extended collection of hand-held stuff (small camera rucksack, camera bag, spinner bag, maybe a plastic bag with food or even a warm sleeping bag for long flights...) which altogether sometimes weighted more than my checked luggage. When my checked luggage was over the 20kg limit I had to comply with the rules and put some stuff into additional carry-on bags (provided by the airline or airport) -- but the carry-on rules were never enforced.
    Of course: Your milage may vary!
  14. stp


    I met a couple of photographers traveling to Iceland, and they were veterans. They had vests and coats that could carry a huge amount of equipment -- that's how they dealt with these back-door ways that airlines are taking your money (and exposing you to risk of theft at the same time). That's not the whole solution (insurance is important), but it's something that more traveling photographers should do. I can also second what Bueh B. had to say: I left the U.S. after successfully pleading with the airline to let me take more weight/items as carry-on, but I was warned that coming back would be up to the discretion of the foreign airline and likely not allowed. Coming back, the foreign airline didn't ask a question or even bat an eyelash at my extra carry-ons. BUT: YMMV!
  15. By all means buy insurance on your gear, and make copies of your receipts and carry the receipts on you so you can prove ownership and where you purchased that gear. If you can not provide receipts to customs you may be charged taxes again that you have already paid.
    Jim Ducey
  16. If you fly first class you are allowed two carryons and I have nevered been questioned about weight or size when traveling first class.
    Your airline also does air freight which means if there is room in the cargo hold the airline will fill the remaining space with cargo. most big airports have airfreight offices and you can send your things early and they will hold it for pickup when you arrive.
  17. I just got back from a trip around the world and took 25 flights. I had a photo backpack that had a laptop slot. As a small woman, 5'3", nobody ever thought my backpack weighed 11 kilos. It wasn't very big so it always fit into the "slot" used to test the bag, but it was very heavy and certainly violated their carry-on policy.
    Depending on the country, I had widely varying experiences with baggage limitations and fines. Tunisia and Alitalia gave me all kinds of problems, and so did KLM leaving Tanzania. But in Latin America, it seems everyone travels heavy and I didn't stand out at all. I don't know what things are like in Egypt, but it is best to preempt any problems in advance if at all possible, especially coming from the west. Whatever you can afford to do now, you should consider. If that fails, my advice is to keep standing at the counter, looking pathetic, being polite, but asking for an exception and not leaving without one. That worked for me most of the time.
    Coats with deep pockets are awesome. Use liberally. If you have an overcoat, it can not only hold a lot of your gear, but it will double as a blanket to keep you warm on a long flight where they won't always give you a blanket, or you can roll up part of it as your pillow. The sleeves make a great cover for your eyes when you need to sleep.
    Another thing airlines rarely question is a lady's handbag. If you carry a "stylish" large handbag, you can probably get your whole photo kit wrapped in handkerchiefs. This might work for you, and I doubt they'd weigh it if you don't appear strained in carrying it.
  18. In my camera bag, I always have a photo vest (actually a fishing vest) that holds 2 bodies and 3 lenses (including a Canon 100-400mm) and video camera. When they give me a problem at the check-in desk, I pull out my vest and start populating it with the expensive and sensitive items. Every time so far, the the desk clerk has said... oh well... go ahead and take it on-board.
  19. I would like to thank everyone for their good advice, which I am adopting (and adapting) as best I can. (Ah, an excuse to buy a new handbag! <g>) I have also changed airlines, which is easing my concerns somewhat.
  20. As a follow-up: I am in Cairo for the next 12 months, having made it through, courtesy of EgyptAir, with no problems at all regarding my carry-ons. These were a Samsonite "Brights" 20" hardbody spinner, which held my in-the-field backpack, D300, lenses, portable flatbed scanner, HDs, cables, rechargers, etc., and an oversized handbag/tote for my laptop and several other items. I did not weigh the Samsonite but suspect it is a good 20-25 lbs. The tote was probably about half that, or perhaps even less. I did have to gate-check the Samsonite when boarding the tiny Embraer for the leg from Logan to JFK. For this I did take the DSLR out of the Samsonite and put it and the HDs in my tote (which turned out to fit nicely beneath the seat), while stowing a couple of lenses in belt pouches. And of course the New York-to-Cairo flight provided plenty of room for both bags in the cabin.
    I did have a "plan B" involving my small backpack and the more expensive/essential electronic bits and checking the nearly empty Samsonite through as an additional bag, but didn't need to implement it.
    Thank you again. You eased my mind, and I am glad that I took the precautions that I did.
  21. So glad we could help - thank you for the update. Enjoy your year in Egypt!

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