I'm kicking back in my seat in the International A Terminal at the Philadelphia airport, casually reviewing some notes on Florence, Italy. I'm leading a workshop there for Strabo Photo Tours, and I'm connecting in Munich for my flight to Florence.
But not everyone in the waiting area is relaxed. A young couple two rows over is frantically searching for their passports. It appears they misplaced them when they went through security. Things are getting tense as the couple realizes their romantic trip to Italy is about to come crashing to a halt unless they find their passports. Lucky for them, they find their documents in a mesh pocket on the outside of their backpack. This starry-eyed couple needs to get a little more travel savvy or the next time it could be worse.
I've been leading photo tour groups around the globe for almost 20 years now, and I've learned some valuable travel lessons. Sometimes I make mistakes, and other times, group members make mistakes. Collectively, I learned from hundreds of people's mistakes! I've constantly refined my travel methods as I have learned more. Use the guidelines below on your next trip and be worry-free, so you can concentrate on your photography, not dealing with a problem on the road.
1 SECURE YOUR TRAVEL DOCUMENTS. This sounds obvious, but time and again, the lost or stolen passport puts a big wrinkle on a bucket list photo tour.
I wear a simple travel pouch around my neck (check out www.travelsmith.com) that contains my passport and also holds my boarding passes. Most international flights require you to show both your passport and boarding pass at the gate, so this pouch keeps things organized. Don't just stuff your passport in your jeans pocket—be consistent about putting it in a secure place.
Once in the country of your destination, you generally don't need to carry your passport with you. Most hotels have room safes to hold your passport for safekeeping. Why risk carrying it if you don't need it? Make extra copies of your passport, and have these in different spots in your luggage. I also have my passport scanned on my computer at home. If needed, I could have someone email me a copy.
2 CHECK IN EARLY. Ask anyone who has flown recently, and chances are the plane was full or even oversold, and overhead space was limited.
Checking in early accomplishes a few things. First, some airlines reward early check-in with an earlier boarding group, which means you'll have overhead space for your valuable camera gear. Second, it helps ensure you get a seat on an oversold flight. You might be able to even get an exit-row seat with more legroom. The worst scenario here is you're in the last boarding group and there's no overhead space left for your fragile camera gear.