7 Invaluable Video Production Travel Tips

By Tim Donovan

03/22/2016

I have been fortunate enough to travel around North America for our clients this past year. Some of the places we have been to lately include Halifax, New York City, Washington, D.C., Tampa, Austin, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Since we bring ALL of our equipment with us on every video shoot, we have learned the tricks of successfully traveling with a lot of equipment. Check out our top 7 tips for video production travel:

1. ARRIVE TO THE AIRPORT EARLY!

We’ve all been there. You arrive to the airport anywhere from one to one and a half hours in advance just to wait in an understaffed check-in line and an overflowing security checkpoint line, and then have to make a mad dash to the gate. This is incredibly stressful, especially if each person has one to two heavy carry-on bags with valuable equipment.

Our Recommendation: Arrive to the airport terminal NO LESS THAN 2 hours in advance

2. PACK YOUR LIGHTING, GRIP, AND SOUND GEAR IN HARD SHELL CASES

Your cameras and lenses are important, but your lighting, grip and sound gear is equally as important for a successful video shoot. The last thing you or your client wants is to arrive on-location ready to set up and find broken lights or busted stands. Chances are you will have little to no time to rent or purchase replacement equipment.

Our Recommendation: Store your equipment in Pelican hard-shell cases and secure delicate items with the included foam inserts.

3. USE TSA LOCKS FOR YOUR EQUIPMENT

Luckily we’ve never had any of our equipment stolen (knock-on-wood). I’ve heard horror stories from friends who have lost an expensive lens, camera body, or their entire bag in some instances. Although you may not be able to prevent a shady baggage handler from stealing your gear case, you can easily prevent someone from stealing something valuable inside of it.

Our Recommendation: Use TSA approved locks for each of your equipment cases (this is assuming they are hard-shell cases with lock loops).

4. TAKE YOUR CAMERA BAG AS A CARRY-ON ITEM

A lot of people are nervous to travel with their equipment, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t be. Either you or your company has invested a lot of time and money into the procurement of the equipment, and something as simple as dropping a bag can break lenses. You definitely don’t want to arrive on-location with a broken camera.

Our Recommendation: Purchase a carry-on size camera bag for your camera, lenses, batteries, cards, and other miscellaneous accessories.

5. PACK ALL SPARE LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES IN YOUR CARRY-ON

If you own a bunch of spare batteries, you may decide to put some spares in your checked luggage or other checked equipment cases. DON’T DO IT! Not only do you have the potential of damaging those batteries, but it is also illegal to store spare Lithium-ion batteries in the cargo hold (due to the potential of batteries shorting-out mid flight). If you do store batteries in your checked luggage or equipment cases, they will likely get confiscated and will not be returned to you.

Our Recommendation: Pack any and all spare Lithium-ion batteries in your carry-on bag, or leave the spares at home if that is not an option.

6. IF YOU HAVE A MULTI-TOOL, LEAVE IT AT HOME

It’s easy to forget that your handy Leatherman multi-tool can also be considered a weapon. Most multi-tools come with screwdrivers, corkscrews, and bottle openers which is fine. But if it has a blade, it is not. Under no conditions are knives of any kind allowed in your carry-on bag on any flight. If you do forget to leave it at home, you can always mail it back to yourself prior to entering the security checkpoint, or you can hand it over to TSA.

Our Recommendation: Remove the blade from your multi-tool so that you can take it with you, or leave it at home.

7. HOW TO AVOID EXTRA CHECKED BAGS

My last tip, and certainly one of my favorites, is how to take two bags with you onto the plane as carry-on bags. First off, most airlines allow one carry-on bag and one personal item on your person in the cabin. In order to take two with you beyond security, they both must be within the carry-on bag size requirements. If you have 2 bags that fit this size, say a camera bag and a small luggage bag, take them with you through security. If you are fortunate enough to board the plane first, usually you can take them both into the cabin. If not, you must check one at the gate, but it won’t cost you anything. It’s not always convenient to carry two bags with you through the terminal, but it’s definitely better than paying an extra $25 – $35 for another checked bag!

Our Recommendation: Check only the bags and cases you need to check. You can take 2 carry-on size bags with you beyond the check-in desk and through security. In most instances, you will have to check one of the two carry-on bags at the gate. Keep your valuable equipment with you in the cabin and check your luggage instead.

I hope you find these tips useful for your upcoming travels. I learned all of the above information myself the hard way. If you follow these tips, I can almost guarantee you will have a very smooth experience while traveling with all of your video production equipment. If you’d like more tips on traveling for work, or would like to hear some really interesting travel stories, please reach out to me at tim@figmints.com. I look forward to hearing your stories! Safe travels!