Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tips to Make Flying a Breeze

It's summer which means that some of us are traveling for vacations or destination weddings. Most of the time, the easiest route to go is via plane but sometimes even thinking of all of the ins and outs of flying is enough to make your head spin. Here's some tips to help you navigate the (not so) friendly skies with a bit more ease!

Before You Fly

• Make sure that the bag you are using can carry enough gear for what you are planning to shoot. Sure the over-the-shoulder bag is great, but can it carry all of your gear PLUS your backup equipment (if traveling for a paid gig).

• Think twice before you choose a backpack, walk around your house with your gear on your back before committing to a full trip with it, it gets quite heavy!

• Purchase/use a bag that is well within the carry on size limits (size AND weight) for the airline that you are traveling. If you aren't sure of the limits, check the airline website.

• If you aren't sure if certain items can be carried on, check the TSA and airline websites. Typically tripods and monopods aren't permitted on most flights as well as some batteries.

• When booking your flight, be mindful of the size of the plane. Many commuter jets will not allow ANY bags with wheels on the plane. If you cannot avoid flying a commuter jet (I often have no choice as my local airport is small) try and either book an exit seat or use a bag that will fit beneath the seat.

• If flying out of the country, be sure to know of all of the laws for working in that country and have all visas if applicable. Be prepared and carry documentation of everything. Ever read the horror story of what happened to one Canadian photographer in Mexico? Don't let that be you and know all the laws ahead of time, even if no visas are required.

• Have a list of your equipment with serial numbers and dates purchased to carry with you when flying. If your gear gets stolen or duties are questioned, it will be invaluable to have this information on hand.

• Subscribe to and read Flying with Fish. Bar none, the best flying advice for photographers on the net.

While Flying

• Carry a bag that is inconspicuous. While you may be a proud owner of your Canon, having the logo all over your gear is just making you a target for theft.

• Don't take your eyes off your bag for a minute. Don't trust that the nice person next to you will be honest and watch it while you run to the restroom.

• With all of the crazy fees for checked baggage, people are carrying on more than ever before. Even if your plane can fit your rolling bag in an overhead bin doesn't mean that there will be room by the time you board if you have a later zone or row. When you get to the gate, go to the counter if you aren't in the first group to be called and explain that you are a photographer with valuable gear and ask if you can board early to ensure that your gear is near you. It never hurts to ask and almost ALWAYS the answer is yes.

• Never ever EVER check your bag unless you don't want to have equipment when you get to your destination. Sometimes you'll have to check some of your gear that isn't permitted on carry-ons (tripods etc.) but never check your camera, lenses or memory cards.

• Never ever EVER plane side check your bag either. I don't care that it locks. I don't care that they promise they put it right on the plane and take it right off. Stuff can and will get stolen. Don't believe me? Read Rachel's story. Don't let Rachel be you.

• If forced to plane side check your bag, make sure you have a backup bag that you can place all of your gear into to carry it on. I carry this bag with me just in case on flights - it rolls up to be about the size of a chapstick and can easily carry what I need it to in a pinch.

• Don't tell authorities in other countries that you are taking pictures for a "friend's" wedding or are there for pleasure unless you really are. Have the proper visas or documentation ready when going through country and be prepared to be grilled or denied entry if they don't believe your "friend's wedding" story.

Do you have any tips to add? Any flying tales of woe you'd like to share?

Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista (runs Clothes for Pros, clothing suggestions for photographers), travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.