gear, travel

Top 5 Tips: Best ways to travel the world with your camera gear


We’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world several times now for client work. Along the way we learned a bunch of valuable lessons, which we thought we’d share with you. Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes without having to make your own!

Whether you’re travelling exclusively for work or for pleasure, it’s completely understandable that you’d want to pack your good camera and video gear so that you can capture those special moments and share them with friends, family and clients. But what should you pack, and what should you leave at home? How much is too much? And do you really want to lug around a heap of gear with you through airports, onto buses and into taxis?

Here are our top 5 tips to help you decide what to bring along on your next trip.

1. Be clear about your goals

Think about your upcoming trip and its purpose. If you are travelling for work, there will be gear that you simply have to bring. For example if you are travelling to shoot interviews, you will need to pack appropriate lighting, sound and all other associated gear (unless you will be renting the gear at your destination; in which case, you may want to consider bringing back-up gear just in case). If the trip is a holiday and you simply want to shoot some footage while you’re there, then don’t overdo it. What will you actually use – more than once – and what is easy to travel with?

What are your media goals for the trip? If time-lapse is one, be prepared to pack cameras, tripods, intervalometers, etc. This photo was taken in Singapore as we shot time-lapse of the very busy port.

2. Less is more

On our first big trip to the USA, we packed almost double the gear that we actually needed. We packed extra cameras, two sets of lights (in case one set failed), multiple power boards, multiple power plug adaptors, four tripods, three GoPros… you get the idea. Although it felt safe to have this extra gear, it resulted in us having to lug around very heavy and bulky gear through airport security checks, into taxis, onto trains, onto buses, up and down stairs and into and out of elevators. The extra gear also resulted in extra charges for excess baggage (despite the USA’s generous luggage allowances!). As we’ve been on more trips we’ve learned to pare down our kit. Think about what you absolutely need, and what you could buy if you had to. Obviously the priorities here are cameras and any specialist gear that would either be too expensive to replace or too difficult to rent. I often think that as long as you have your passport and a credit card, you can manage any situation when you are travelling!

3. Be realistic

Following on from the above point, think about your itinerary and imagine moving through it. Just close your eyes for a few moments and walk through your itinerary, step-by-step. When you leave the airport will you have to walk to a train, change trains, and then walk for a while to reach your accommodation? Will you be boarding a bus at any point? Will there be long flights of stairs at your accommodation? Do you have a busy trip ahead with multiple flights and airport check-ins? Picture yourself with your luggage and question whether what you are planning to bring is reasonable, given that you’ll be carrying it with you the entire time.

Also think about what you can be comfortable with leaving at home. If you only pack one intervalometer and it fails, would you be comfortable with buying a new one? Given that they’re so small, perhaps it’s worth packing an extra one? This happened on our recent trip to Italy: we only packed one intervalometer. It failed, and the new one cost us $230 AUD. And to buy it involved a mad dash from our accommodation to the camera shop as they were closing, so that we could have it in time to shoot the sunset on our last night in Rome.

4. Look after your body

Following on from the exercise above, think about all the gear you plan to take with you. Will it be manageable to carry around from place to place? Also consider that you may go shopping, and may even be carrying food and water, which will add to the load. Will your body be able to handle it? On our recent trip we started off with a manageable load, but after some shopping we ended up carrying two extra bags which resulted in my shoulder getting injured.

Me, carrying a heavy and uncomfortable bag in Milan. It resulted in an unfortunate shoulder injury!

Thankfully I recovered in time to help move our gear to the next destination! The experience made me really think about the fact that we had taken a gamble on this trip: if one person got hurt, the others would have to manage the entire load. It’s best to plan things so that you will be OK if someone injures themselves on the trip: which does happen! In fact, on our very last day in Italy I slipped on some marble steps in Rome, which could have resulted in pretty horrendous injuries. Fortunately I was fine and was able to help carry all our gear the next day so that we could fly back home without dramas.

5. Be aware of security and regulations

Review the rules of your airline and be aware of which batteries can and cannot be checked in. Also consider the security of your luggage. Don’t check in any items that can’t easily be replaced. In our case, all of our gear is insured and there is some gear that we are comfortable packing in check-in (for example small inexpensive cameras and cables). Think about what you cannot replace and ensure that you keep it on you at all times. In our case, Data Is King. If our data is packed in our checked-in luggage and it goes missing, this is all of our work, gone. So, in our case, we always bring at least two external hard drives with us: each with a copy of all the data. If we are travelling with a client and they are departing on a different date we will provide them with a third copy of all data. Remember though that as important as backups are, you also wouldn’t want your precious data to fall into the wrong hands. So, be vigilant about how you protect and safeguard your data to prevent it from getting lost or falling into someone else’s hands.

 

Hopefully these tips are helpful! Let us know if you have questions or had similar experiences you’d like to share!