North of 49 Photography

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Tips for going through security checkpoints at airports

Travelling is my life, I'm on the road for over 6 months of the year. Some weeks I can see an airport 2 times in a week. At first I hated it, I always thought what will they bug me about this time. So I have added some tips to help you go through security checkpoints with camera gear. 


Are you nervous?

Security can be intimidating.

The majority of people I meet really do not enjoy the process of traveling. It's always nice to be at the location of your desired travel but the to and from can really get you down. Try not to be in a rush when you travel, this can only heighten the whole process to stress you out. Arrive early and give yourself some free time, if you don't hit a big line or slow security check point. People make to many mistakes when travelling, the more you relax the less mistakes you can be. 

  • 1, You get to the airport and its a gong show, people are in a rush making you feel like you are in a rush. Just step back and do it all at your own pace! Before you travel go buy some new suitcases or bags, check to make sure they are airline approved. Once you get these new bags home, try putting all the stuff inside your suitcase before you travel like a dry run. This will leave no surprises the night before when you are freaking out because you can't fit it all or you are over weight. If you have a carry on, laptop bag or hand bag make sure its organized prior to travel. Items you should always put in the same place will leave no surprises when traveling. 
  • Pre flight info, print off your boarding pass, or flight info with conformation # 
  • Wallet
  • Boarding pass 
  • phone
  • phone charger and cable
  • earbuds or headphone
  • passport
  • spare change
  • sunglasses

Having all these items in the exact same place every time you travel will cut out so much stress. Trust me on this one! 

  • 2, Make a detailed list of your camera bag inventory, take pictures with your phone prior to travelling, make a folder on your phone just for this. Make sure you have pictures of serial numbers and have them written down on this list. Make sure the list is a hard copy and a digital file, as well make sure somebody you know has a copy of this list if you loose it on your travels. You don't have to include prices on this list but have detailed info like the purchase date, location of purchase. This way if they think you bought something and want you to pay duty on a lens because it looks new you have proof to back yourself up. 
  • 3, Some countries are getting super strict on camera batteries. The best advice I can give you is always keep them in the protective covers they come with. If you do not have these covers then put tape across the terminals. This will at least show that you are protecting them from arching out. Watch all sharp tools in your bag, these are items at the discression of the security officer if they feel are a threat. Security check points can be super grey to what is allowed and what is not. I have had items taken from me that went through check points 20 times. If you feel this tool could be an issue just put it in your checked bag and not your carry on. 
  • 4, What ever you decide to carry on with you make sure you have list of all the items. I'm going to say this again, make a list for all the items you carry on with you. If you are like most people who get flustered in security checkpoints you are already at a loss. If for some reason they start going through  your bag and multiple people are around you this will get you flustered. For no reason what so ever do you have anything to worry about in a security check point as long as you are not traveling with anything illegal. So relax, stop shaking, breath and pay attention. What I'm about to tell you has happened to me and thousands of other travellers each day. So this is where you need to pay attention. You have a bag full of camera gear or electronic equipment, cables, chargers, lenses, blowers, tripod heads, cameras and the list goes on. Chances are your bag will get flagged and sent to a secondary inspection. They can not open your bag with you present and they must ask who's bag it is. Walk over to them and say yes this is my bag. If this is your camera bag, tell them to please be careful as there are fragile items in the bag. Nobody wants an accident with their camera gear. If they are opening your bag upside down or the wrong way, ask them to stop and tell them the proper way to open the bag. This is a big CYA ,Cover Your Ass if something gets damaged. Remember once the bag is in their possession you can not touch the bag unless you are asked to, so don't touch the bag! Let them go through the items and answer any questions they have. Remember that any tools or screwdrivers larger then a credit card are considered a weapon, if you travel with these they will be taken away. So this is where you need to watch when you are in this position. They find what the person flagged in the X-ray machine, sometimes they want to do a secondary inspection on some items back in the X-ray machine. Meanwhile you have another personal bag that is going through the machine and an item gets flagged and they start looking in this bag as well. But now you are dealing with another person, not the same one looking in your camera bag. They want to take a few items and do a test with a swab and run a few items back in the X-ray machine. Not all the time will they stop the bins going through the X-ray machine so your items could be 20 bins behind. The camera gear they scanned comes through and its all clear, you put it in the bag and wait for your other stuff. A bin comes through its your stuff and its all clear. the agent gives you the bag and you walk away to get the heck out of security. But..... you didn't realize the agent put your personal stuff in multiple bins or your camera stuff in multiple bins. And you just walked off without collecting all your stuff. This happens so much to people, I read about it once a week. Don't rush away, there are always tables, benches or secondary areas to pull all your stuff back in the bags. Now, take your list that you wrote off and look through your camera bag, check these items off with a pen if you have to. Make sure its all there, then go to your personal bag and all those items I said put in the same place, do a quick check on them as well. This will ensure you didn't just fly out of a location with your only battery charger sitting in a bin at an airport security 500 miles away. 
  • 5, if you are travelling to a different airport that you have never been to before look it up online. Each airpot will have a legend that will show you the general areas of the airport. This can really help if you are in a big international hub. Print it off or take a screen shot to have it with you. Once you are in the airport make sure you check the gate number on your boarding pass. As well once you pass customs or security check the monitors that show the status and gate number. Airports or airlines are notorious for changing gate numbers on flights all the time.