With so many beautiful sights and so much to capture all around the world, and if your phone’s camera just won’t cut it, you might be wondering if you can bring a camera on a plane.
According to TSA regulations, you can bring a camera on a plane in both your carry on and checked bags.
But does the type of camera you want to bring matter?
What about camera lenses, batteries, tripods, and other accessories – can you bring those too?
Do the rules change when flying internationally?
Whether you’re a hobbyist or professional photographer who owns all the latest, most expensive gear, in this article we cover everything you need to know about bringing your camera and all your equipment on your next flight
Table of Contents
- 1 Can You Bring a Camera on a Plane?
- 2 Remove Your Camera at Airport Security
- 3 Be Careful With Camera Batteries
- 4 Be Careful With Camera Lenses, Too
- 5 Don’t Worry About Memory Cards Getting Damaged
- 6 How to Pack a Camera for Air Travel – 8 Tips
- 7 Bringing Other Camera Accessories on a Plane
- 8 Be Respectful When Taking Photos During the Flight
Can You Bring a Camera on a Plane?
Type of Camera
There are many different types of cameras, including:
- DSLR Cameras
- Compact Digital/Point and Shoot Cameras
- Bridge Cameras
- Mirrorless Cameras
- 360 Cameras
- Action Cameras
- Film Cameras
- Medium Format Cameras
- Instant/Polaroid Cameras
Fortunately, regardless of the type of camera you want to bring, the TSA state that you can pack them in both your carry on and checked bags.
We can’t say that we would recommend packing your camera in your checked bag, though, given its value and the increased risk of theft.
Domestic vs. International Flights
Regardless if you’re flying domestically in the USA or internationally, you will find that the same rules apply.
So this means that you can bring any type of camera you own on a plane in both your carry on and checked bags regardless if you’re flying from or to Europe, the UK, Canada, Mexico, Australia, or any other country.
Regardless, if you’re flying with Delta, Southwest, American Airlines, United, or any other regional or major air carrier, bringing your camera in both your carry on and checked bags will be fine.
The one thing you need to be aware of is that, depending on your camera bag and its size, it will either count as a personal item or carry on.
Personal items generally have a size restriction of 17 inches long, 10 inches wide and 9 inches high, and must be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you.
If larger than this, then your camera bag and any other equipment that exceeds these restrictions will count towards your carry on allowance, and must be placed in the overhead bin.
Carry on items must generally be no larger than 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 8 inches high.
While you are allowed to board a plane with a camera around your neck, it will still count as a personal item.
Remove Your Camera at Airport Security
When you go through airport security, you will be required to pull the camera out of your bag and place it inside the bin for additional screening.
This is because the TSA has a rule that any electronics bigger than a cell phone must undergo additional screening.
Be Careful With Camera Batteries
According to FAA regulations, spare lithium-ion batteries must only be packed in your carry on bags.
This is regardless of the battery’s capacity (watts per hour).
If any batteries you want to bring are between 101–160 Wh, you are allowed to bring up to two with airline approval.
Be Careful With Camera Lenses, Too
You can bring as many camera lenses that you want on a plane in your carry on, but keep in mind weight restrictions that the airline you are traveling with have.
The TSA do not require you to remove the lenses from your camera or any other lenses you want to bring with you for additional screening.
Don’t Worry About Memory Cards Getting Damaged
If you’re worried that your memory card will be damaged as you go through airport security, don’t be.
Your camera’s memory card and the data stored on it won’t be damaged when they are screened.
How to Pack a Camera for Air Travel – 8 Tips
- Use a high quality camera bag: A high quality, padded camera bag will go a long way in protecting your camera and accessories
- Remove the lens: It’s a smart idea to remove the lens before packing your camera to avoid damage.
- Travel light: If at all possible, try to travel as lightly as possible with just the essentials. All airlines have size and weight restrictions.
- Keep your bag organized: If security officers request to check your equipment, keeping your camera and accessories as organized as possible will save time.
- Pack batteries in your carry on: If you pack batteries in your checked bags, your bag will be opened, and they will be confiscated,
- Remember the 3-1-1 Rule: The TSA require liquids to be packed in a single quart-sized bag as you pass through airport security. Each container must not exceed 3.4oz/100ml if packed in your carry on,
- Turn your camera off: Tape your camera’s power toggle switch into the OFF position to prevent it from accidentally turning on,
- Buy insurance: Buying insurance that covers theft and damage can be a smart idea, especially if you travel often.
Bringing Other Camera Accessories on a Plane
There are many camera accessories out there, including but not limited to:
- Memory Cards
- External Hard Drive
- Polarizing and ND Filters
- Gimbal Stabilizer
- Cleaning Tools
You can bring all of these on a plane in both your carry on and checked bags.
The only thing to be aware of is that liquid cleaning solutions should be no larger than 3.4oz/100ml if you want to bring them in your carry on.
You should also keep in mind airline size and weight restrictions, especially when it comes to larger items like tripods.
Additionally, while you usually won’t have to remove film from your camera prior to X-ray screening, you can request your high speed film to be physically inspected
Be Respectful When Taking Photos During the Flight
There is no federal law that prohibits in-flight photography.
The only rule you have to follow is do not do anything that interferes “with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant or lessening the ability of the crew member to perform those duties.”
This is quite broad and open to interpretation, but airlines will generally prohibit you from taking photos of their cabin crew for the safety of passengers and crew as well as for the security of the cabin.
This rule can also extend to other passengers, with United stating that “photography or recording of other customers or airline personnel without their express prior consent is strictly prohibited.”
Keep in mind that even if allowed, taking photos of your fellow passengers may also not be appreciated by them.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).