by J. Rae Chip

I'm about to go abroad for some great photography fun! (Are you?)

Obviously, I'm going to pack cameras, lenses, batteries, etc. and depending on where you're going and what you're shooting, your list for what to bring for that will probably be different than mine. 

Before you start packing every piece of photographic equipment you own, there are some things you need to pack and check on first!

Make sure you have a guidebook for the place you're going. Read it. Now pick the places you want to see, and think about what lenses you might need to capture them in images. Set only those lenses aside, along with two camera bodies, batteries and chargers, and at least two memory cards.
ABOUT YOUR CARRY-ON LUGGAGE...
  1. Check on the weight limit for carry on bags on the specific airline you plan to travel on (and any other airline companies.) If you start on one airline and switch to one with a limit that is much smaller, it might not be a problem, but you'll have trouble coming back with a heavy bag.
  2. Check on the dimensions your bag needs to meet in order to fit in the overhead compartment. If you're riding in a smaller jet, the compartments will be smaller. If your bag is too big to fit, the airline will check it plane-side. In case that happens, make sure your bag is sufficiently padded. A bag made specifically for cameras should be fine as long as all the dividers are used. NEVER check your camera bag at the ticket counter.
  3. Once you know what bag you're going to bring, pack the photo gear you have set aside. Now weigh it. Are you over the limit? If you're not at your limit yet, don't fill it up with more camera gear just yet. If your bag is overweight you can consider putting your spare batteries and chargers into your checked bag. If you have other gear like flash kits set aside, try reassigning those to your check luggage as well. 
  4. Most photographers, particularly digital photographers, must have a computer in order to create their images. Computers are heavy, so if they don't fit in your carry-on luggage with your cameras, bring a separate briefcase for that. Airlines will typically allow one carry-on and one "personal item."
  5. Remember that, depending on where you're going, the "airport police" or "airport security" might not wear uniforms. In some places, they will look like everyone else, so don't agree to let anyone touch your bag unless you're sure they work for the airport. Even if they do work for the airport, they might want to rip you off. If you're within the weight limit of a carry-on bag and they say you need to check it after looking at your sheet and seeing "cameras" and "computer" on the declared items chart, ask to speak to their boss! Don't let them rip you off!
  6. Take all your medicine in your carry-on bag. If your check bag gets lost, you want to be able to have access to that.
  7. In case your checked bag gets lost... seriously... throw a few pairs of underwear and some socks into your camera bag so you can carry them on. You don't want to go without clean underwear, and if you're going to be sweating in your socks, you'll want clean ones.
  8. MAKE SURE YOU DON'T HAVE anything sharp in your carry-on bag. No screwdrivers for your filter holder. No liquids either if you plan on travelling in the U.S.A.


ABOUT YOUR DOCUMENTS...
  1. Your passport. Make sure it's current! 
  2. Make a color copy of your passport (the page that has your information on it, and any pages affiliated with your destination), and put that in your carry-on luggage.
  3. Scan a copy of your passport and email it to yourself.
  4. Consider purchasing a cover for your passport if you live in a country that other countries might consider rich or hostile (cough cough 'Murrica cough). A simple black cover works best.
  5. Make sure you have checked about travel visas ahead of time. Some countries might not require a visa if you are there for a limited amount time. Some countries allow a visa to be purchased plane-side upon arrival in the country (NEVER get to another country without a visa at night. Always make sure you arrive during the day when there are a lot of people there to witness your purchasing the visa if you're buying it there, in case they want to arrest you without alerting your home embassy.) Some countries require you to have bought the visa before you left.
  6. Check how much money you will need in order to leave the country, as some countries charge foreigners a fee to leave. Some places don't charge; some do. If you need money to leave the country, make sure you set that aside from your other cash so you don't spend it. Maybe put it in your passport cover :)


SPEAKING OF CASH...
  1. Some locations abroad don't have an access to an ATM machine, nor do they accept plastic money (Credit cards). If that's true, bring cash. American Dollars, British Pounds, or Euros are common enough that you should be able to convert them to the local currency.
  2. Don't keep all your cash in one place. Separate it among your bags, several pockets, etc. If you're robbed, it's best to not have it all stolen. I like to keep my cash in a sock. I don't know if that's common or not, but it's what I do.


ABOUT YOUR CAMERAS...
  1. FILM. You can take film through an X-ray machine, and it will be fine unless it's ISO 800 or 1600. And the higher ISO films are easy. You just have to ask the airport personnel to inspect them separately. They won't take the roll apart or anything. They'll just open the canister and say, "yup. it's film."
  2. Keep in mind that you might not want to take ALL YOUR GEAR with you to every place you see abroad (but I don't know... maybe you do.) I certainly don't like carrying all of it if I know I won't use some of it. I bring a smaller camera bag and leave the bigger one in the hotel with the gear I'm not using.
  3. TRIPODS. If you're below your weight limit, you can attach them to your carry-on bag. If you're not, throw them in the checked luggage.
  4. Are you going somewhere sandy? Bring a lens cloth. And a sensor rocket. Put the lens cloth in you camera bag. PUT THE SENSOR ROCKET IN YOUR CHECK BAG. Duh, right? It looks like a rocket.


PLANNING TO BRING ANYTHING BACK?
Consider bringing a empty soft bag for souvenirs. Ball it up and put it in a different bag.


NOW it's finally safe to pack more camera gear if you have the space and weight :)


GOING ON THE INTERNET WHILE ABROAD?
  1. Make sure you remember to DE-ACTIVATE your two-factor authentication for any site you use it for: Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc. because you may not be able to accept an SMS message on foreign cell towers. Make sure you re-set your password before and after every internet logon. You can brave the realm of codes to take with you. Write them down and put them in your bag, but I've been unable to use them when I'm not on the continent I live on. Or you might not be able to read the computer prompts from some overseas wi-fi without an English option.
  2. Delete your cookies and clear your cache before you go. Internet service abroad might not be what you're used to security-wise. Make sure people can't access your bank accounts by simply going to the site on your computer.
 


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