For most photographers, traveling by plane is usually an exciting process. But if you factor in bulky camera equipment like tripods, this turns into an intimidating and often scary task.
Are you even allowed to bring a tripod on a plane? And if you are, can you pack it in your carry on bag or do you have to check it in at the airport security?
Well, the short answer to the first question is yes. It’s totally fine to take your tripod with you when traveling by plane. However, this freedom has one caveat as you’ll see below.
Based on their website, this is what TSA has to say about this:
Carry On Bags: Yes
Checked Bags: Yes
The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.”
This means that for the most part, the TSA has legalized carrying tripods in planes; be it in a carry on or checked bag.
That said, a TSA officer also has the right to confiscate this item, if they find it necessary to. For instance, if they consider the tripod a risk item or a hazard, then they may prohibit you from taking it onboard.
How to Pack a Tripod for a Flight
While you’re free to pack your tripod in either a carry-on or checked luggage, we recommend using a carry-on for several reasons.
For one, it lets you keep a close eye on your camera equipment; thus, protect it from potential damage. Secondly, it’s cheaper as you won’t have to worry about checked baggage fees.
Packing it in your carry-on bag also offers massive convenience. Once you land, you can leave the airport instantly without having to look for your luggage.
That said, you’ll want to purchase a spacious carry-on bag. It should have ample space to fit your tripod and any other camera equipment you’re planning to carry such as a duffel bag.
Now, there are instances where you may be forced to pack your tripod in your checked luggage. For instance, if your tripod exceeds the weight or size regulations stipulated for carry-ons, then you’ll have to check it.
The good thing is, tripods aren’t half as delicate as other camera equipment like lenses and flashes. This then means that you can pack it at the very bottom of your suitcase.
The fact that it’s not fragile also means that you don’t have to keep it in any padded case before keeping it in your suitcase.
Can I Bring a Tripod Through Airport Security?
Sure, you can. But keep in mind that you’ll likely have to remove it from your carry-on bag for individual screening.
Usually, any item that’s bigger than a cell phone ought to be removed and placed in a separate bin for screening. This is due to the fact that the tripod’s size can hinder the screening process.
Can I Bring a Tripod on an International Flight?
Yes, you can. The TSA does not have any restrictions on carrying your tripod while flying internationally.
That said, it’s good to err on the side of caution. For this reason, consider calling the airline ahead of time to find out whether tripods are allowed on international flights. If they don’t, you may have to look for an alternative airline.
Tips for Bringing a Tripod on a Plane
Invest in a Travel Tripod
If you’re a photographer who flies frequently, you can save yourself a lot of hassle by buying a travel tripod. Such a tripod is lightweight, small and often foldable.
This allows you to fold it into a compact size, so that it’s able to fit in either the overhead storage compartment or underneath your seat.
Aim to Board Early
Another tip that really helps is to board your plane early. This way, you have a higher chance of getting ample space in the overhead bin to store your tripod. If you’re one of the last people to board, your bag will likely end up in the hold.
Several airlines offer Priority Boarding (early boarding) at a small fee. So be sure to research before your scheduled takeoff day.
Get your Tripod Insured
No matter how careful you are, you can’t be 100% certain that all your camera equipment will arrive in one piece.
A reckless passenger might accidentally drop your carry-on when trying to get to their seat. Or, another passenger may end up taking your bag thinking it’s theirs. So as a precaution, invest in a good insurance policy that covers your tripod and other camera gear.
A little friendliness can go a long way. So when you’re talking to the airline staff, and expressing what you’re carrying, be as polite as you can be. By doing this, the staff will be more willing to help you and make your traveling experience comfortable.
In case you’ve been wondering, yes, it’s legal to bring a tripod on a plane. However, the final decision depends on the TSA officer you find at the airport.
If your tripod exceeds the weight/ size limits or contains features that make it a safety risk, then there’s a slight probability that it will get confiscated. To avoid such a scenario, consider buying a travel-size tripod that can comfortably fit in the overhead bin space. Also, get your tripod insured and be friendly when explaining your situation to airline staff.