So you booked a destination wedding?! CONGRATS FRIEND!! Truly, that’s so dang exciting! Now it’s time to think about how you’re going to get all of your camera gear with you.
We know it can be stressful if you’ve never done it, but take it from us (who both fly at a minimum once a month with all of our gear), it’s pretty simple once you get the hang of things!
Where to start:
We always suggest looking into what plane you’ll be flying on first. This will determine what you’re packing your gear in. Usually all you have to do is look on your reservation.
Generally, if you’re flying into a regional airport, or on a plane that has less than 6 seats per full row, we suggest upgrading to the first boarding group if you’re not already in it (we will talk more on this later).
Determine what gear you actually NEED with you for this wedding / shoot. Most of us, when we’re doing a local wedding, bring a bit more gear then we actually need. We both have a condensed travel gear list that we are comfortable shooting weddings with on the road.
What to pack your camera gear in:
Obviously, you need some type of bag/case to travel with that will keep your gear safe. We both use either the Wandrd PRVKE 21L Photography Bundle. This is our go-to camera backpack when traveling especially on smaller planes. It fits under the seat in front of you and counts as a personal item. This is perfect if you like flying minimally because you can still use a roller carry-on for your clothes!
We can fit 2 DSLR cameras, 2-3 lenses (depending on the lenses), battery chargers and batteries, laptop, all computer accessories, flash, film camera, super 8, and all the film we need in theses. It’s a tight fit – but nonetheless it does work!
Our favorite option for trips where we need our full gear settup and don’t mind checking a bag for our clothes is our Pelican Air 1535 Cases with the Trekpak insert and Lid Organizer (we both have these in black). These are what we use for all of our local weddings and when we can, we love traveling with them. They *typically* fit in the overhead bin (more on this later) as your carry-on item. We talk about what all we can fit in them in this blog post. These are hard cases so your gear will be incredibly protected and you can put locks on them!
How to pack your camera gear:
Take your batteries out of your cameras (we put them in these for organization). While there’s nothing that says you can’t keep them in your cameras, it’s just easier (especially if you’re bringing your Pelican case) to have them on you in your carry on bags.
Keep all of your film (including polaroids) in one bag close to the top of your camera gear. If your cameras have film in them, keep them in a spot that is easily accessible for TSA (more on this later).
Make sure everything is organized, nothing’s worst than getting to your destination and being stresed because you haphazardly packed.
How to make TSA a smooth process:
Get TSA PreCheck. It’s $78 for 5-years.Truly, if you’re going to be flying more than once a year we HIGHLY suggest getting it. Not only do you get to skip the general lines (which have been INSANE lately), it makes your process of getting through TSA smoother. You keep your shoes on and you don’t have to take anything out of your bags (except film – we do this no matter what, always). Trust us, it’s WORTH it.
If you’re not doing TSA PreCheck, you’ll need to take your laptop out. No other gear needs to come out.
Ignore the signs that say film under 800iso is fine to go through the scanner, have them hand check everything. If they give you crap about it – keep consistent, make them hand check it. Once again, remember if your film cameras still have film in them hand them that too (and don’t feel bad, we’ve handed them 2 film cameras, a super 8, and like 35 rolls of film before haha). Just keep in mind, give yourself an extra 10 min during TSA just to be safe – they have to check every roll.
Boarding your plane with your camera gear:
This is where the plane size comes into effect! If it’s a smaller plane and you have your Pelican case – be prepared for the gate agents to try and check it. Some of the smaller planes that go into regional or smaller airports in general, your Pelican case truly can’t fit up top in (even though it says it’s carry-on size). This is why we always suggest checking what plane you’re flying on first to see – like we mentioned above, generally if it has less than 6 seats across, we don’t risk it and we pack our gear in our backpacks.
Recently though, we’ve also run into an issue on larger planes if you’re in one of the last 2-3 boarding groups, they start checking carry-on bags because they’re out of room. We always suggest upgrading your boarding group if possible. If not, let the gate agent know that you’re Pelican case is full of camera gear and you’re not comfortable putting it under the plane. Sometimes they work with you, sometimes they don’t. IF they don’t MAKE SURE you take all of your batteries out of your case (this is why we do it ahead of time). If this happens – while we know your anxiety and stress will be through the roof, keep in mind this is what Pelican cases are made for – your gear should be fine we just like avoiding this at all costs.
Our Favorite Camera Gear Accessories for Travel:
Film Guard Bag : We don’t always use these – but if we are flying international I would 100% use them since it’s pretty common that International TSA Agents literally refuse to hand check film).
Small Film Organizer : We mainly use this on the actual wedding day to keep our film organized. We don’t use any specific bag for all of our film normally – we just suggest something that is black or has a dark liner!
Battery Case : We love having all of our batteries organized in a pouch and it helps them not get lost
Camera Bag : While fanny packs are cool, we really love using this bag, especially with shooting film. It doesn’t hurt our backs and has loads of pockets and organization.