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Photography Question 
Gianna Stadelmyer
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2004

Travelling by Plane and Tripods

I know this isn't the perfect category for this, but I couldn't find a perfectly appropriate place to pose this question and comment, so I apologize ahead of time for wasting anyone's time if they thought this was trouble with equipment. It's actually trouble travelling with equipment. I also apologize for the length of this, but I wanted to get the pertinent details in....

Recently, I travelled to Venice, Italy from Zurich, Switzerland with a layover in Milan, Italy.

I have traveled to and from many countries in Europe over the past two years and even to and from the States from here a couple of times. I have never had trouble carrying-on my camera bag and my tripod...until Milan.

I carry my tripod in the carrying case that it came with... basically a made-to-fit nylon sack with a drawstring and shoulder strap. The tripod folds down to around 26" and very easily fits into overhead compartments. It is also lightweight, so it's never been a weight issue either.

I always travel with my three young children whether my husband is with me or not and at this time, I had my hubby and three little ones with me. When travelling with my kids, I have found it easier for each of us to carry an individual bag - backpack or pull bag - that we can carry on the plane. This saves us from having to drag the kids further through the airport to baggage claim and such. This is what we did on our Italy trip.

I went through Zurich's security with my camera and tripod with no trouble. Got on the plane with no trouble. Got to Milan and went through security for my connecting flight to Milan (had been checked through for the whole trip in Zurich, so hadn't had to do that again) and got stopped by security. They told me I couldn't take my tripod on the plane with me. Said I had to check it. I asked them why and they said I could hit someone with it.
I treaded VERY carefully as I didn't want to end up being arrested or detained, but I showed them I had nothing to put it in and to check it as-is would probably mean a damaged tripod at the other end of the flight, but they didn't care. I persisted just a bit further, again carefully, and they took me behind a divider and tried to stuff it into one of my carry ons. It was just a tiny bit too big and wouldn't fit. They eventually told me to put it under my coat so the other passengers would see it, but in Venice, I bought another suitcase it would fit in and packed it with my laundry for the trip back. Wasn't going to go through that hassle again - especially since the Pope had died while we were on our trip and I didn't know how air traffic in and out of Rome was and security might be even tighter.

So, my question is, has anyone else had trouble travelling with a tripod when trying to carry it on the plane?

Any suggestions for travelling with one in the future (I plan on having to check it now) or for one to purchase that isn't a fortune, but folds compactly enough to fit into a backpack yet still extends up to about 5 or 6 feet like mine does?

And I guess a warning to those who do travel with tripods.... be prepared to have to check it if security doesn't let it through. At least have some bubble wrap tucked in a suitcase that you can pull out and wrap around it should you end up having to check it.

I was careful enough to make sure I didn't have a razor, nail file or clippers, pocket knife, etc with me, but never thought my tripod would cause an issue.

I was also travelling on a diplomatic passport with three little kids... hardly a person that would likely fit a terrorist profile, but it didn't matter either.

I'd love to hear about other experiences re travelling with equipment and any suggestions would be most helpful. I thought I was seasoned in this area, but now realize I am not.



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4/18/2005 12:44:30 AM

doug Nelson   Remove the head from the tripod and put it in your baggage. Buy a case with some extra space and wrap the tripod legs with a layer of foam. It proably will be tossed around if not thrown. Its better to check it. And no jokes about taking out three terrorists at once if they space themelves just right.

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4/18/2005 8:04:55 AM

William Koplitz   Take the head off the tripod and put it and the legs in a checked through bag. I also carry a magic arm in my checked through bag. I haven't found anything to photograph inside a commercial airliner yet that needed a tripod.

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4/19/2005 6:15:03 AM

Gianna Stadelmyer
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2004
  Well, I'm not saying that there is a need for the tripod on the plane! Surely you realized that:-) What I was saying is that I usually didn't check bags and I usually kept my equipment with me to prevent theft or damage. I usually don't use my camera on the plane either, but that doesn't mean I am going to check it. I was mostly wondering if anyone else ran into problems carrying a tripod on the plane and how they usually pack it if they have to check it.... in a suitcase, or some special carrying case of some kind that's for tripods.

I guess I will just plan on having to check a bag from now on since ONCE I AM AT MY DESTINATION, I usually find the need for my tripod and leaving it home is not an option.

Thanks for the helpful comments:-)


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4/19/2005 7:27:45 AM

Robert Hambley

I have been investigating this question for an upcoming trip to the Florida Keys (I am in Wisconsin). I wanted to try and avoid any checked baggage as we have a couple of plane switches.. and the airlines .. well they don't always seem to get the bags there with you.

Anyway, from what I have read, with tripods, you shouldn't have a problem with it as a carry on, but it comes to the individual screeners nuances at that moment.

What I am thinking of doing is taking the camera/lens as carry on, leaving the tripod at home and purchasing an 'cheapo' there that I will either mail home or toss. I really don't want my good tripod lost in airline baggage.

Before I do that, I plan to call the airline I am travelling to get the 'official' word on a tripod. I am also thinking of going to the airline security desk (on a non busy time/day) with my equipment and just explain to them my situation and ask if the camera bag and/or tripod would make it on as carry ons.


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4/19/2005 7:39:55 AM

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