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Traveling with Cameras and Electronics Under A Travel Ban | A Photographer’s Recount

By Kate Hailey on April 10th 2017

On March 21, 2017, the United States implemented a ban on bringing certain electronic items in your carry-on luggage from 10 airports based in the MENA region. This affects direct flights to the US from these airports. 

Items include: 

  • cameras
  • lenses
  • iPads
  • laptops
  • any electronics larger than a cell phone. 

Shortly after the US announced their ban, the UK followed up with a ban of their own, affecting airports in 14 carriers flying into the UK. 

For a bit over a year I’ve been based in Dubai, teaching, and leading photo tours for Gulf Photo Plus, and in early March I’d booked a flight back to Seattle. I had already mentally prepared for how I would pack up my life into two suitcases and my Think Tank Airport Advantage roller, but this announcement immediately set me on edge. 

I had so many questions rolling through my head! 

  • What will happen if they throw my suitcase around and my laptop is demolished?
  • What will happen if my bags are lost?
  • What will happen if my camera or lenses are stolen?
  • Will the airlines cover my gear for theft or damage?
  • Will my insurance cover it?

With my brain buzzing around I started formulating a plan to get my gear back home as safely as possible. 

My first step was to contact my insurance company to check on my policy and be sure that my gear would be covered if something happened. If you don’t have insurance on your gear, get on it! 

For camera gear, I travel pretty light. I shoot Fuji and have only a handful of lenses, so packing was relatively easy, but I was still worried. Of course, any of these things can be replaced, but it can be such a hassle. I did decide to split things up across two suitcases, especially my iPad and my laptop. 

Full Gear List:


If you’re traveling from any of the affected countries here’s a few things to keep in mind. 

  • Insure your gear! (Do this whether you travel or not…)
  • Lenses are currently considered electronics larger than a phone (I know, it doesn’t make sense)
  • Pad your gear as best you can
  • Take the batteries for your camera (or accessories) in your carry on
  • Carry on your external hard drives (if they are smaller than your mobile phone), I had 4 – G-Tech portable drives in my carry on
  • Pack as light as you can, in Dubai, my carry on luggage was weighed twice before getting on the flight.
  • If your phone is larger than an iPhone 7 Plus you may need to check it, max dimensions are 16cm X 9.3cm X 1.5cm, they may check this at the gate before you board.
  • Have your luggage wrapped in plastic wrap, this can help deter someone trying to get into your bag

The Experience

I feel lucky that I had time to prepare for a variety of scenarios. People at check-in were nice, people at security were nice, people at the gate were nice, and patient. I know not everyone will have this experience, but my hope is that we all will. There were flashes of time when I worried about what would happen to my gear but then I’d step back and remind myself, it’s just stuff, it can all be replaced. Although, there was one moment, at baggage claim, where the crowd was thinning and my bags still hadn’t landed on the conveyer belts… and I thought, no… where’s my stuff?! And then it appeared, I had an immediate sense of relief! Whew!

I think it’s fair to say that we will go through periods of time when new systems like this will be put in place, and probably more common that not int he near future, so the most important take away from this is to be prepared and adjust accordingly.

Pack safe, travel smart, and you’ll be fine!

For more details on the enhancement check out the Department of Homeland Security FAQ

Featured Image Credit: Megan Hirons Mahon via Gulf Photo News

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Kate Hailey is a portrait photographer based in Seattle. With a true love of travel and street photography, when she’s not creating images, she’s travelling, teaching or writing about photography and life!


Q&A Discussions

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  1. Rich Watson

    I was under the impression that passengers haven’t been allowed to take batteries on board — since the Samsung cell phone battery problem. 

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  2. Jeff Brown

    What do you mean by plastic wrap?  Are you meaning to use that stretchy plastic I would use to wrap skids for shipping?

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    • Kate Hailey

      Yes! That, in the Dubai airport there are several places you can get this done. I’ve seen it in other airports as well. 

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  3. Brent Schmidt

    I flew Emirates from AMM to DXB on the 24th. I’m blonde hair, blue eyed, so I stuck out at the airport like an arab in typical middle eastern drab does in at an airport back in the states. I of course was using my camera backpack as my carry on. With me was my D610 w/ vert grip, lenses, SB-910, my medium sized air blower (that of course looks like a mini rocket), three triggers, batteries, laptop, etc. Immediately got pulled to the side by a Jordanain police captain with two other officers and interrogated about the gear. Had me open battery trays, laptop (showing them my desktop) and all bag components. Questioned why I was bringing this through. I showed them my ticket, continuously telling them I was not flying to the United States. They couldn’t understand that, why an American, with official business passport (I was traveling through the diplomatic line too, btw) would not be flying back to the States. Super stressful, and had to have two additional personnel brought over to finally have them realize that I was only going to the UAE and not flying elsewhere. Honestly thought they were going to take my gear away. Just not a fun experience at all. Thank God my eventual return flight to the States isn’t on a commercial plane.  

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    • Kate Hailey

      Wow, what an experience. I think for me I wanted to avoid entanglements so I packed it all up. Sorry you had such an ordeal. :(

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  4. inca t

    thanks for sharing, Kate.
    Do you have any suggestions for insuring our gear, excluding the homeowners insurance?

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    • Kate Hailey

      Hi Inca, 
      reach out to your existing insurer to see if they will cover the gear in something like a personal articles policy. Some companies won’t do this, depending on how much gear you have plus if you need things like Liability insurance. 

      Check out ASMP for some links to options as well:

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  5. Patrick Oconnor

    Good to know. I don’t care for Fuji gear but it probably made it easier for you to deal with than someone with much bulkier gear.

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  6. Kenny Van

    [Kenny Van has deleted this comment]

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