Tips to Pack Your Camera Safely for Travel

Protect your camera from bumps, spills, and theft

Man packing bag for trip

Lumina / Stocksy United

Neither serious nor amateur photographers ever leave their photography equipment at home when they travel. Traveling provides a great opportunity for capturing memorable photos, but it does pose risks to that expensive gear. Use these tips to pack your camera bag for travel, ensuring that your photography equipment arrives safely.

Tighten Everything Before Packing

Make sure all the covers are tight on the camera: USB ports, lens caps, battery compartment panel, etc. Jostling and bumps can tear off or break loose parts.

...But Remove the Lens

If you're flying with a DSLR camera, don't travel with the lens attached to the camera body; shifts during your flight can stress or damage the threads that hold the lens to the camera. Carry the lens separately, and make sure all lens caps are tightly secured on both ends.

Power Out

Remove the battery and memory card from the camera for travel. This way, you won’t have to worry about the camera inadvertently powering on while you travel, draining the battery before you arrive. Do keep the battery handy, though; airport screening personnel might ask you to prove that the camera is a working piece of equipment.

Don't Check It

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) allows camera gear both checked and in carry-ons. Don't check your camera equipment, if at all possible; carry it onto the plane. If you must check it, consider purchasing a specialized protective case to secure it. Check with your airline before your flight, of course, but check the camera equipment only as a last resort. This way, that expensive gear stays close by, where you can keep an eye on it.

When Going Through Security

If you have to take your camera out of a bag or pocket when you're going through security, make sure you have a good grip on it. You'll almost certainly be juggling multiple objects in the rush and stress of the process, increasing the possibility of dropping the camera.

Don’t worry about the imaging equipment used at the airport damaging your digital camera, memory card data, or camera components.

Film is a different story, however, X-ray imaging can damage both exposed and unexposed film, so keep that in your carry-on bag. The screening device for carry-on bags should not damage it. If you're nervous about carrying film through security, ask the personnel to inspect the film by hand.

Airport security imaging equipment
Baerbel Schmidt / Getty Images

Choose the Right Bag or Case

Consider purchasing a hard-sided case with ample padding. Some padding is made specifically for certain types of lenses and camera bodies, so take some time to find the best case for your equipment. However, such cases can be expensive.

Altura Photo Camera Case for DSLR & Mirrorless Cameras
Amazon.com

As an alternative, pack the camera in some sort of cushioned bag, or wrap it before it goes in your carry-on bag. If you still have the original packing and box for your camera, consider packing it in that box for your travel.

Guard Against Leakage

If you'll be packing the camera in a carry-on bag along with toiletries, put the camera in a sealed plastic bag to protect it from spills.

Doublecheck That You've Packed Everything

Don't forget your battery charger. You’d hate to have a trip scheduled for multiple days and have a dead battery after day one with no way to charge it.

And Just in Case...

Finally, protect expensive equipment with insurance before you travel. Contact your insurance company or agent for a quote.