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How To Travel With Your DSLR Camera

Posted by Emily Cummings on 2/14/17 3:31 PM

ILP Adventure

You are going to want to take pictures of everything when traveling, but should you pack that big expensive DSLR you just got? 


If you are wondering what kind of camera to bring abroad, check out that other post but don’t let fear stop you from bringing your DSLR camera. If you're careful, it'll make it home in one piece. 

Pst: We have more travel tips and packing tips here.  

I get why you are a little nervous traveling with your camera (they are expensive and delicate!), but I seriously won’t travel without mine. Ever. I love the pictures from my trips way more than any little trinket or souvenir I could buy…. but that wasn’t always the case. I was so nervous when I first flew with my camera and lenses in my bag but there was no reason to be. Here are some tips to keep everything safe and sound without a big, fancy suitcase made for your camera and gear. 

  • Separate The Lens
  • Don’t Check It
  • Use Padding
  • Beware Of Batteries
  • Get A Filter 

Separate The Lens 

This is a big tip for anyone traveling with a camera. Don’t leave your lens attached to the body of your camera. Even when you have your camera stowed safely in your bag, it can still get bumped and jostled — the little mechanisms that connect your lens to your camera body can get damaged in a snap; which is almost always expensive (if not impossible) to fix.

Always separate your lenses from your camera body. 

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Don’t Check It 

Do. Not. Put. Your. Camera. In. Your. Checked. Bag. Is that clear enough? Not only can it get stolen, those bags get piled on top of each other after being tossed around. I just wouldn’t risk it.

I even like having my camera in my backpack (or personal item) rather than in my carry on luggage. It is just nice to have right there (here are some other packing tips to check out) in case you need it. 

Use Padding 

I have traveled with and without my padded camera bag (which is full of perfectly sized compartments for all of my gear). I have also just traveled with a backpack and been fine.

If you're just in your backpack, separate your lens and your camera body and nestle everything (wrapped in a sweatshirt) on top of your bag. Even when I had to pack for a 10 day trip in a backpack I was just fine. I’ve got padded drawstring bags I slip my lenses into, and nestle those between my cardigan-wrapped-camera body and am good to go. 

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Beware Of Batteries

Maybe it’s just me, but I get a little flustered when I go through airport security. I know I don’t have anything illegal in my bag but my heart always beats just a little bit faster when I’m waiting in line.

One thing that can get you in trouble when traveling with your DSLR is having too many batteries. Your camera batteries are lithium, and airports have a limit on how much lithium you can be carrying. Be sure to check your airport’s website to see how many camera batteries (and little portable chargers) you can have with you. You don’t want those taken away at security! 

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Get A Filter 

Worried about your lenses being scratched by sand as you take gorgeous beach pictures or smudged darling pictures of cute kiddos? Yep, me too. Invest in a protective lens filter (like these). These are life savers and don't have to be crazy expensive; some are just a few dollars.

These filters are basically like a clear little lens cap you screw onto the glass lens. Your lens cap fits right over them and I can’t tell I have them on in any of my pictures. That way, all scratches, smudges, scratches and sand gets on your very replaceable filter rather than your very expensive lens. 

Be Careful! 

I heard the horror stories of cameras getting stolen while abroad and obviously it happens, but it’s a lot less likely if you are careful. If you have to leave it in a hostel, lock it up. If you feel uncomfortable having it slung around your neck, tuck your camera under a big scarf or leave it in your zipped up bag (one that you never set down unattended, even for a moment).

I try to ask people who already have a pricey camera around their neck to take a picture of me on my camera; why would they run off with mine if they already have one? And you can still take really great pictures using your iPhone for those times you didn’t bring out your camera. 

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Hopefully that helps convince you to bring along your DSLR — I'm not kidding when I say my favorite things I bring home from my trips are my pictures.  

And if you want a way to live abroad while you give back for a semester, check out International Language Programs!

We have programs in different countries around the world  and all of 'em are super photogenic (though China might have the most Instagram worthy spots!). Learn more about us by clicking that little green button: 


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Topics: Travel Tips

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Hi! We are ILP, a non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. Check out our tips for making the most of your time traveling and living abroad.

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