4 Travel Tips Every Photographer Needs to Know

Custom SLR Contributor

Guest post by Custom SLR Pro Team Member Andre Magarao

At first, traveling for work can be very exciting. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like it will get boring or anything. But after a while you definitely learn a few things that make traveling easier. I’m going to give you some tips I’ve learned from my experiences. Two of them don't deal with photography specifically, but they definitely made long trips more enjoyable for myself!

Choose an airline or at least an alliance that works for you, and stick with it.

If you live close to the hub of a particular airline or if you tend to travel to the same places, join their miles program and try to fly with the same airline as often as possible. Every airline has its own miles program and they all have different rules. I’m definitely not a pro on them all, but I found out that usually if you are affiliated with the program from said airline you get more miles and perks by flying with them when compared to using a different program from that same alliance. The objective here is getting to a high status that allows you to check in more bags, board first, have access to the VIP lounges and, every now and then, get an upgrade. By doing that, in the long run you will end up saving money when compared to just flying the cheapest available flight every time on different airlines. When you have a high status on a certain airline, they will treat you a lot better if something ever goes wrong.

Buy tickets on the website of the airline with which you have the frequent flyer program.

Of course always check the price on websites like google.com/flights. But if you find the same ticket on the airline’s website and the difference isn’t absurd, buy it on the airline's website. You'll usually get more miles if you do it that way, and if you have to change the ticket later for some reason the fees are usually smaller. Also avoid buying “crazy” itineraries. Remember that there is always the chance your bags won’t make it. So avoid getting tickets that have changes of airlines, super tight connections or flights that don’t happen very often. For example, as I write this I’m at the airport in Miami going to the Caribbean. If you think about it, I live in Brazil so I’ve just flown 8 hours north to get here and now have to fly 3.5 hours south. I could have done a way more straightforward flight from Brazil to a major Caribbean island and then off to my final destination. But that would involve a change of airlines and the flight from Brazil to the Caribbean isn’t a daily flight. So if my bags don’t make it to the plane for some reason, I probably would need to wait a few days to get it. 

Pack all essential photography gear in your carry-on.

Now let’s talk a bit about photography and gear. Most of the time when I travel for work it is for a longer shoot, definitely more than one day. I always try to pack in a way that I have enough gear on my carry-on to go straight to the shoot. It might not be all the gear I would like to have, but it’s enough to start things off in case my bags get delayed and don’t arrive with me. In other words, take full advantage of the two carry-ons you are allowed. If you followed tips 1 and 2, you will board first and will have room in the overhead bins to put your stuff, and if you are not flying any crazy flights on small planes the bins will be big enough to fit those bigger photo gear bags.  

Backpack with the more fragile stuff. It’s always good to take advantage of the carry-on allowance. This one is packed with a Canon 1DX, a 24­105mm, a 16­35mm, a 8­15mm and a 70­200mm. You might not recognize them at first because they have the zoom gear to work with the water housing. I always keep the zoom gear on the lenses to not forget them. And also some more radio triggers.

Second carry-on with a Canon 300mm, the backup body, some filters, hard drives, cables, card reader and a computer.

Buy good cases/luggage.

Cases made for photo gear are great, and I recommend you use them for the more fragile stuff. But they are also very heavy. So sometimes it’s wiser to mix it up. I tend to travel with one or two of those cases, but I also have one hardshell regular luggage. Nowadays you can usually get a regular hardshell luggage that’s about the same size as a photo gear case, but it’s a fraction of the weight. I usually use those to pack my clothes, tripods, chargers and all sorts of not-so-fragile accessories.

Basically everything that’s inside the cases. Sometimes I take 3 flashes and the Hasselblad.

Regular luggage with plenty of space for clothes, tripods and flash modifiers.

Sometimes I need to take some more fragile things in the regular suitcase. So I put the Pelican paddings on it.

Pelican number 1 with 2 flash heads and one battery plus the radio triggers

Pelican number 2 with the second flash battery, a water housing for a Canon 1DX and 2 ports. One for a fisheye and the second one for a 70­200mm.

Have any travel tips of your own that you'd like to share with your fellow photographers? Tell us in the comments!

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