There are three options when it comes to transporting photography equipment abroad: you can take it as hand luggage, it can be checked-in and carried in the hold or it can be shipped ahead of yourself.

Each option has its pros and its cons depending on your equipment and your circumstances.

photographer

Hand luggage

The best way to ensure the safety of your photography equipment is to carry it onto the plane as hand luggage. This way you can watch over your equipment yourself and be sure that it is safe and is not being mistreated. Because cameras and photography equipment is fragile it is easy for them to break. The only way you can achieve true peace of mind is to keep your camera cases in your sights at all times throughout your journey.

Pros

Although the safety of your photography equipment is your responsibility, as is any potential damage, it is much less likely that it will come to any harm. You are bound to experience a much more relaxed flight if your equipment is safely transported by yourself than if you spend your journey worrying about its condition in the hold.

Cons

You may be subject to difficult questions when going through security procedures and scanners. Photography equipment is allowed to be taken on-board the aeroplane but it could still attract the attention of airport security. This could be problematic if you are travelling through foreign airports in countries whose languages you don’t speak. It may be difficult to explain the nature of your equipment if you don’t speak the native tongue; but, even if they have to complete thorough checks on your camera case, you’ll still be able to transport your photography equipment aboard in one piece.

luggage

In the hold

This option can be risky but it is sometimes necessary. There are horror stories about the treatment of passenger luggage by airport staff but sometimes it is the only option. If your camera case is too large to be taken onto the aircraft as hand luggage, this is the only option.

Pros

While it can be risky to place your valuable equipment in the hands of the airport staff, there are pros to this decision. Luggage checked-in by the airline is traceable; should your camera case go missing, it is the fault of the airport or airline. If you take your equipment onboard as hand luggage, you are completely responsible for it; in this case, you are not.

Cons

The most obvious downside to putting your photography equipment in the hold is that it may be get damaged. If you have travel insurance, you will be covered for damaged caused while your equipment is in transit; however, it will be your word against theirs as to whether the damage occurred while it was in their care. Another con is that your equipment is not accessible until you reach your destination and collect your flight cases from the conveyer belt. This means that, should your case be misplaced, you may be hindered if you need access to it as soon as you reach your destination.

cameras

Shipped ahead

As with putting your equipment in the hold, this option is also not the best idea if you will need access to your photography equipment as soon as you land. As your cases will have likely arrived before you, they will probably already be at your hotel, home or final destination. Although they are more likely to get arrive after being shipped than if they are transported in the hold, there is still a chance that the cases won’t arrive or that they will be damaged when they do.

Pros

As long as you have arranged for your equipment to arrive at a reputable hotel or destination it should be in safe hands once it arrives. This takes an amount of stress from you and allows you to focus on getting yourself, and your other luggage, to your destination.

Cons

Shipping expensive equipment ahead of yourself can make many people feel uneasy. It is always a risk to have your valuable equipment removed from your sight so only fly with trustworthy airlines. As you are not responsible for your photography equipment while you cannot see it, it can make for a tense flight and arrival. The only way to keep this peace of mind is to carry your camera case on as hand luggage.