While Im not a road warrior, I easily log 50 flights a year for my job. Ive had to travel with equipment all over the world for both photo and video projects. Traveling just gets more and more expensive these days. Here are a few rules that I apply to getting there safely with my sanity and equipment intact.

Carry It

I always carry these things onto the plane.

  • A roll-on bag with all my lenses and camera bodies. I have had luggage stolen, the thieves know what gear bags look like.
  • A laptop shoulder bag. With laptop, power supply, 2 TB of portable storage, and spare cables for all items.
  • The Internet. I have an iPad, an iPhone, and a Wireless Modem. Why do I have 3 internet connections at all times? Because its cheaper than paying for WIFI at the airport and hotel. Plus its much more reliable than counting on clients and coffee shops.
  • A change of clothes. Because your bag will get lost at the worst time.

Check It

When it comes to checked luggage, here are some tips to try to stretch your budget.

  • Weigh your bags. Weigh your bags before you fly. A simple bathroom scale is worth keeping near your gear.
  • Prepay. Some airlines offer annual passes for baggage, while others give you a free bag with their branded credit card.
  • Choose wisely. One of my favorite airlines is Virgin America. Not just for their lovely service and planes (with Internet), but for their $25 per bag and up to 10 bags policy.
  • Pack a bag. Overweight bags are more expensive than checking another bag. I carry a very lightweight bag inside my suitcase for overflow.
  • Skycaps are your friend. Those great folks out front of their airport are often nicer than the folks inside. Just walk up and hand them a five or ten dollar bill with your drivers license.

Rent It

Don’t feel you have to lug all your gear with you. All those bags can sure add up.

  • Rent and ship. I’ll frequently place an order with lensrentals.com and have it sent to my hotel or the clients. They’ve never missed a shipment or deadline and have a great selection.
  • Hire local. Find a local crew person or assistant for the market youre traveling to. These can be a lighting assistant or someone to help with gear on the shoot.
  • Find a peer. Use the ASMP Find a Photographer app or site to find a colleague to rent gear from.
  • Look for a grip house. We typically rent lighting equipment and support gear. from a grip house, which are used by the video and motion picture industries.

Why all this hubbub? These days every dollar counts. Clients don’t really look at your rate plus expenses, they just see the bottom line. In my experience, the better a traveler I am, the more money left over to go in my pocket.