Airline travel is always hectic and as a film maker or videographer traveling with your equipment can make this experience even more stressful. This is because our equipment is often overweight, oversized, or requires extra screening. Also as good as pelican cases protect cameras, drones, and all of our other equipment airline baggage handling is still a rough process for any precise or delicate equipment to handle. On top of that many TSA officials are not yet familiar with the regulations on drones, LiPo Batteries, Full sized gimbals, etc. So what is the traveling film maker supposed to do when faced with transporting expensive and often delicate equipment?
1. Be sure to check the regulations of your specific airline and destination well in advance and print out a copy
As mentioned many TSA agents and other officials do not fully understand the regulations surrounding precise equipment especially that equipment which uses LiPo batteries. Make sure to have a copy of the regulations and rules of your airline and destination that way if there is any trouble at the check point or bag drop you can be sure you are well within your rights. Its also a good idea to take pictures of all of your equipment inside and outside of their traveling cases not only to clear it with officials but also as a form of inventory to make sure none of your equipment was mishandled or stolen during transport.
2. Travel with all of your equipment in hard-sided, shock proof, water proof cases
Companies like Pelican, GoProfessional, and others make hard sided cases that will stand up to almost anything. It is important to protect your investment in your equipment so a good quality case is a must. Many cases are lockable with TSA security locks and some even come with warranty coverage for your equipment in the event the case fails to protect its contents. It is also a good idea to label all of your cases with "Property of ______________" and a fragile label to let baggage handlers know to treat the cases with care and caution. As a side note most airlines do consider these cases oversized and sometimes overweight so be prepared to pay anywhere between $50 - $100 extra in baggage fees.
3. Depending on how much equipment you need to travel with check out travel insurance policies for your equipment
Some airlines and insurance companies offer a form of renters insurance for your equipment depending on whether or not you have existing coverage, the worth of your equipment, and many other factors. Generally this is un necessary but it might be worth it depending on your specific situation.
4. Be careful when packing batteries and be sure to follow recommended regulation and instructions when traveling with them
Disconnect and remove all of your batteries place them in a case or container preferably one that you can take on board with you. For LiPo batteries travel with them at about half charge and store them in a LiPo safe bag.
Note: When purchasing LiPo safe bags be sure to purchase a quality bag not a cheap knockoff brand. YouTube is filled with videos of cheap .99 cent LiPo bags that fail due to poor quality. Generally expect to pay between $10-$15 for a quality bag that will protect you and your property in the event of a LiPo battery combustion.
5. Be extra cautious while going through the security checkpoint and waiting at your gate
You should always be aware when you travel. When traveling with equipment however it is even more important to know your surroundings. You will be able to take some of your gear on board with you as a carry on this means that you will have to take it through the screening checkpoint and sit down with it as you wait to board your plane. Your equipment may require extra screening and most likely you will have trouble finding a place to wait for your plane once you are through. This means that being extra cautious, and constantly checking yourself to make sure you have everything is a must. Also it is ok to ask questions and explain you situation. Generally TSA officials try to be understanding and will usually help you as best as possible to get through the checkpoint with all of your equipment and gear intact.
Following these simple steps should make traveling with you equipment easier and less stressful. Let us know what you think, and tell us about your travel experiences in the comments section below!