Last year, my wife and I went on a trip to Israel and Hong Kong. While I wasn’t planning on doing any real ‘work’, I took a fair amount of gear, as you can see!
From Melbourne to Hong Kong to Tel Aviv, we didn’t have any issues with my ThinkTank Airport Takeoff. That all changed when we got to the check-in at Ben Gurion Airport to fly back from Tel Aviv to Hong Kong.
Let me start out by saying—“I know I was in the wrong”. I knew that the 22kgs of gear I had packed in my carry on bag was a teeny weeny bit over the 8kg limit. Imagine my horror when the check-in clerk said, “Let’s weigh your carry on bag.” Needless to say I was told the bag and I could not go onboard with things as they were. I politely asked if there was a solution and was ushered to a manager.
After explaining that I had very expensive, delicate gear in the bag that I really didn’t want to put in the hold and my dad screaming at them that I am a professional photographer (I’m a videographer, but at least my dad remembers that I work with cameras), the nice manager proposed a compromise. If I had another bag and could split the weight between those two bags, she would allow them on the plane as carry on. Great, problem solved.
Until we went back to the check-in clerk and she asked us how many batteries we had in the carry on bags. Like an idiot, I told the truth. I told her I had about 18 batteries, at which point she informed me that the airline’s limit was two per person. Back to the manager.
This time the manager would not budge and informed us that we would have to leave the batteries behind. So I handed a whole bunch of batteries to my dad and asked him to ship them to me. I was a little miffed that I would be without all the batteries for our five days in Hong Kong on the way back, but at least Hong Kong is a good place to get cheap batteries.
Ironically, when we checked in with Cathay Pacific, with whom we were flying back to Melbourne from Hong Kong, their policy is that each passenger can carry 20 batteries with them in their carry on.
So what lessons can you learn from my mistakes?
1 – Check your airline’s policies** before you pack your bags and pack to the strictest rules. While Cathay Pacific had no problem with my gear, I should have checked all the airlines we were flying to make sure I didn’t overpack.
2 – Put as much as you can in your check-in bags**. Of course, cameras, lenses and batteries aren’t going to go in there but you can pack chargers, cables, hard drives and sliders in your check-in baggage. Clothes are useful for cushioning any gear (Okay, most people don’t travel with a slider, but I got some awesome slider timelapses on this trip thanks to that bit of kit).
3 – If you can, bring a roller as well as a small camera bag. Both of these are allowed as carry on for most airlines (check first), which will allow you to spread the weight.
4 – Also, if you can, have someone local hang around while you check in just in case you have to leave some gear behind. As in our case, they can take it and then ship it back to you. Fair enough, this may not always be possible but it’s nice if you can!
5 – Pack as light as you can. This is easy for some, and almost impossible for others (me).
If you’d like to see some of the timelapses I created on the trip click on this link.