The most important thing before traveling abroad for a photographer is the packing. And the packing, though it might seem simple, largely depends on the means of transportation you are going to use. If you want to take proper care of your gear, you must be aware of things that you should and shouldn’t do when packing for your trip.
The way different means of transportation affect your packing is basically determined by regulations, convenience, and safety.
We will start off with the most complicated means of transport for a photographer. This is due to the fact that traveling by plane means loads of regulations for your baggage and loads of risks for it too. Not to be ranting, but airlines basically don’t care about convenience when it comes to baggage. Nor do they care about photographers in general. There are cases where a rocket blower (that rubber thingy you use for blowing off the dust from the lens and sensor) can be confiscated because supposedly you can turn that into a real rocket.
Anyhow, one thing that I strongly advise against is packing your gear for off-cabin baggage. Airlines don’t handle those carefully – the bags are tossed from and to the plane, basically risking loads of damage if there is anything fragile inside, like camera gear for example.
Next thing to have in mind is that you should pack your gear in the cabin bag (whether you choose small or large is up to you). However, the cabin bags are limited by dimensions, so make sure your camera bag fits ALL of them, or else they will force you to repack, or pay the premium for a larger cabin bag (if you have chosen to use the smaller one).
Unlike air transport, bus or train usually don’t have luggage limits. The only limit is your capability of carrying the baggage since you’ll have to do it manually. The things you should consider in these scenarios, however, are gear damage and gear theft. Buses tend to have a rough ride, therefore having your gear in a suitcase and tossed in the trunk of the bus kind of comes out of the question, since it is not really safe. Then again you can pack it in a carry-on bag and have it on you at all times. This works for trains as well, with the difference being that the suitcase will be with you as well.
In the training scenario, you’ll have two bags to worry about, which makes you distracted. This helps thieves rip you off more easily, so in this scenario, you’ll have to make sure that the bag with the camera gear is secured well enough that it can’t be accessed without your knowing. My camera bag, for example, opens from the inside, meaning that as long it is on my back, it can’t be opened.
An additional note: make sure that you aren’t obvious about the value of the gear you are hauling. In fact, if possible get a bag that doesn’t say it is a camera bag by the looks of it. There are camera bags with camera prints on the design, and they are too obvious for their value. Subtle, efficient, and functional is what you are after.
This one is basically the simplest one of them all. Pack as much gear as you want. Better said, pack as much gear as your car can handle. However, bear the following things in mind. Cars are easy to break into, therefore if the gear is still in your car – don’t leave it unattended. Cars get hot quite fast if left in the sun, your gear will probably be fine if it’s turned off, but the batteries don’t handle the heat that well. An overheated lithium battery can set your whole car on fire. Not to raise any panic here: lithium ion batteries are quite stable, and it takes a lot to set one on fire. Car temperature probably won’t cook a battery past the critical point (if the battery is healthy), however, it can be a risk with third party batteries, or a battery that has already been damaged (and you can’t always notice the damage). So, take heed.
Additionally, when traveling by car, make sure your gear has some damping material around each piece. Camera bags usually have enough of it, but it doesn’t hurt to add some more if you have space. I usually tend to use old t-shirts for this purpose, as I can wrap them around a lens and pack it inside the bag. Make sure the bag is secured enough in the trunk so it doesn’t move around, or bounce and collide with other things. Keep the car servicing tools on the opposite side of the trunk. You don’t want a crowbar hitting the camera bag now, do you?
Your gear will last as long as you take care of it. Traveling can be pretty harsh on your gear, therefore being smart about packing can make a huge impact on the life of your gear, and thus your pocket. You should be the most careful in planes and trains, since they are hardest to manage when it comes to packing and traveling.