Traveling with Cameras and Electronics Under A Travel Ban | A Photographer’s Recount
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.
- 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:
- 13” Macbook Pro
- iPad Pro 9.7″
- Fujifilm X-T1
- Fujifilm X100s
- Fujifilm 14mm f/2.8
- Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4
- Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2
- Lensbaby Trio 28
- Fujifilm Instax
- Share SP-1 Printer
- G-Technology 1TB 7200RPM Drives (4-6)
- Sandisk SD Cards (lots!)
- Yongnuo Speedlights (2)
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
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