Losing your checked baggage is always a possibility. So when it comes to essential gear, keep that in your carry-on. (For us, this is generally the cameras and lenses.) However, planning is only half the battle. If the flight is fully booked, overhead bins will become full and the airline will then offer to check carry-ons for free. To avoid this (especially if you’ve got a last-to-board ticket), consider upgrading your place in line to guarantee that your gear will have a safe spot overhead. Don’t forget; you also get to bring a “personal item” or bag that will be stored under your seat. This is a great place for smaller shoot essentials…and of course flight snacks!
For non-essential gear, shipping can be a great option! Compare the rates online for USPS / Fedex / UPS to see if the cost works out better than checking your remaining bags. If you prefer checking your bag and have lots of heavy ones, we always recommend flying Delta or Southwest. With Delta, as long as you prove you are a media company, they will allow you to check bags over the 50lbs limit, for the same normal rate (as long as it’s under 100lbs). With Southwest, you get two checked bags free with any ticket.
If neither of those options are available, look at the first-class tickets for the airline you’re using. On some flights, first-class is actually cheaper (or about the same price) when you factor in the two checked bags that may come free with the upgrade.
Sandbags are one of the heaviest things you may need. Our tip? Buy sandbags that are fillable and empty them before the trip! Once you arrive at your destination, go to a local hardware store and fill them with coarse sand. Then, empty your bags once more before heading home.
When traveling, more gear means more weight; more weight means more cost/clutter; and more of that often meant less profit and organization. Don’t weigh yourself down with gear you know you won’t use. Sit down with your team and figure out the least amount of gear needed to still deliver an incredible product. (As travel becomes more of a priority, you may also want to consider upgrading some of your tech to the newer, lighter model.) While packing light is essential, remember the number one priority is always your client and your shoot. If something is absolutely essential to your shoot, then it’s worth the weight to carry a spare. (Most of the time this is our camera, and we always pack at least two.)
Sometimes, everything will go wrong despite your best efforts. Before you begin your trip, search for video and photo gear rental companies near your destination just in case a checked bag does not make it or breaks in transit. (Or, like me, you simply forget a piece of equipment.)
Also, always bring power packs for charging your batteries or phone. This is a commonly overlooked item, but sometimes on-site power is limited (or nonexistent).
There are many tricks to flying with media production gear, but we hope these five tips give you some confidence and help you succeed. Let us know if there’s something you’ve learned along the way!
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