tips for traveling with an expensive camera

Today I want to discuss tips for traveling with an expensive camera because it’s something that has always made me nervous. I want to get great shots while on vacation, but I also don’t want to lose or damage my gear. Decisions, decisions…

We have a Canon Rebel T2i and a Nikon D600 and even though they both took a while to save up for, the Nikon is obviously the pricier camera. Because traveling with our Nikon used to make us nervous, we would usually leave it at home and grab the Canon. Sure, we could have continued to do this, but I love my Nikon and it takes better shots. By following the tips below, I now feel comfortable traveling with an expensive camera and lenses!

Tips For Traveling With An Expensive Camera

1. Invest in a bag… that doesn’t look like a camera bag
You’re traveling with an expensive DSLR, lenses, lens filters and other equipment. Do you want to advertise this by carrying around a black camera bag with “Canon” or “Nikon” on the side? Probably not. I just purchased an ONA bag for roaming around Boston and even though it holds my big camera and an extra lens or flash, it looks just like a regular purse.

2. Buy a new camera strap
Don’t travel with the strap that comes in the box. Again, you don’t want to advertise which expensive camera model you own, plus these straps are uncomfortable and make exploring difficult. Have fun and personalize your camera by buying a leather strap or something with a little more color. My favorite camera strap is this one from iMo. You can also purchase “sling” camera straps. They allow you to bring your camera from the resting position to the shooting position quickly, plus they’re dreamyyyy. I messed around with one at our local camera shop in Florida and they’re super lightweight and comfortable.

3. Bring only what you need
Speaking of lenses and lens filters, travel with only what you absolutely need to get those amazing shots. Don’t bring your entire arsenal of expensive lenses you’ve worked so hard to purchase — pack a single lens that can do it all, or at most, bring two lenses total. When we’re going somewhere to shoot photographs, I usually pack my 50mm 1.4 and a zoom lens. Photography is an expensive hobby and I can’t afford to get gear stolen.

4. Back up your photos regularly (while on vacation)
It’s bad enough if someone gets their hands on your gear while you’re traveling abroad — but what if you lose all of your memories from that trip, too? We have a couple of cheap external hard drives we bring with us to back up photos, and I also have a habit of popping out my camera’s memory card and having it on my body while riding public transportation. If for some reason my camera bag gets swiped, at least I have all of our photos saved elsewhere. If you don’t want to bring an external hard drive you can also use a separate memory card each day then keep the cards you’ve already used in your room.

We also have a wireless adapter that sends photos to our iPad.

5. Keep an eye (and hand) on your gear
Keep your bag and/or camera in front of you and always have a hand on it. Don’t trust the strap around your body. Our last photography instructor told us that some of his photographer friends had their straps sliced while traveling abroad. When they noticed what was happening, their camera was already gone. Apparently this happens a lot when riding on trains and in other crowded places. When you’re traveling, you’re almost always in a crowded space.

6. Insure your equipment before you leave
Cameras and camera lenses are pricey. Check your homeowners/renters insurance policy because many cover lost or stolen camera equipment, although you’ll be stuck paying your deductible before anything is covered. However, if you’re a professional photographer you won’t be eligible for coverage under these policies and will need to purchase a separate plan.

7. Bring serial numbers with you
If for some reason your camera disappears, you can file a police report with the serial numbers from all your equipment. Store these numbers on your phone, bring your camera and lens paperwork in a suitcase, or write the serial numbers down on a piece of paper in your wallet or purse. It doesn’t matter where — just have this information on hand.

8. Don’t check your gear with an airline
Checking a bag of camera gear is just asking someone to steal your things. And if they’re not getting stolen by baggage handlers, they’re most likely being damaged. Carry your camera in your purse or purchase a carry-on sized camera bag like this Lowepro one we own. It has a padded insert for protection, and space for books and a laptop. By carrying on your equipment, you’ll be able to keep an eye on everything, plus you know your bag won’t be crushed.

Do you have any other tips?



Filed Under: Photography, Travel45 Comments
  • Amanda

    Great pointers Rachel! On my last trip I invested in a camera strap that wasn’t screaming CANON MARK II. Wasn’t comfortable with that in Vietnam! Next? Camera bag!

    I LOVE these tips! I have the HARDEST time deciding which lenses to bring, I HATE having lens remorse. It’s the worst.

    Whenever I walk around with my camera I always make sure to put my strap diagonally over my body instead of just one shoulder. And I don’t take my hand off of it!!

    I’ve never thought of bringing serial numbers! Also a wonderful tip.

  • Anna Czarina

    Very great tips! I love photography but every time I travel something always goes wrong.

    I never thought of getting a new camera strap. I might just get one! :)

    Backing up photos… Oh the time I lost a whole day of adventures. So sad. So yes backing is important.

    Anna Czarina

  • Beka Johnson

    These are great! Thanks. I never thought to write serial numbers down but that is important. Also, some insurances (like mine) don’t cover loss if it didn’t occur in North America or Mexico … weird! However, I know there is travel insurance.

  • Casey

    Great tips… we also always register all our equipment with Homeland Security, which ensures that when we come back through customs (especially after traveling to places where you can get counterfeit equipment) we won’t be hassled as they have all our serial numbers on file.

  • Katie @ A Beautiful Little Adv

    What great tips!!! I always feel risky travelling around with my camera. I never even knew about serial numbers…

  • Ashley Angle

    GREAT tips! Thank you!
    ~Ashley @ A Cute Angle

  • Gesci

    Great tips!! Especially taking out your memory card on public transportation… that is something I should definitely do- as much as it would hurt, you can replace a camera easier than replacing already-shot images!
    Traveling with a DSLR always adds a layer of anxiety, but I wouldn’t travel without mine. I always keep my strap wrapped twice around my wrist- it still leaves me plenty of flexibility, and I just use the Canon strap… despite the warnings. I figure my camera says “Canon” already, so whatever. Plus it fits on me cross-body, so if I want to do that (only when hiking, so if I fall forward my camera’s on my back) I can. When maneuvering through a crowd I crook my arm with my camera turned backwards, lens in my elbow-pit, with my hand cradling the back of the body. I get wrist-aches if I have to do this too long, but it’s worth it. This position keeps it from getting bashed and keeps it close to my body in case of snatchers.
    I also usually have a light scarf with me, and I’ll wrap that around my wrist/camera body if I’m in dust, hot sun, or sandy conditions to protect the camera. Speaking of dust/wind/sand, I think it’s better to have the protective filter on my lens- better to have that get scratched up than my lens! Just buy a high-end filter and it shouldn’t compromise images. And it makes me insane to see people walking around with their cameras swinging, lens exposed. Put the lens cap on, people! It keeps dust off and accidental fingerprints!
    I also have my serial numbers registered under our additional rider on our insurance- it was recommended by one of my professors just in case insurance chose to fight any claim.

    • Sarah Shumate

      Great idea about the scarf to protect from dust and sand. More than having it stolen, getting it scratched or dusty inside the camera is what I worry about while traveling. Luckily, I’ve only had to have my sensor and focusing screen cleaned once in 2.5 years.

      • Gesci

        A lot of local camera shops will clean your sensor for cheap or even free, and many will clean lenses for cheap or free as well! It’s not a full servicing, obviously, but a professional cleaning every so often is never a bad idea!

        • Sarah Shumate

          I wish I knew who did it for free! I paid £35 in London to have mine cleaned!

  • jackie jade

    great tips! I’ve been searching for a cute camera bag that looks not like a camera bag and a new strap is a great idea too.
    — jackie @ jade and oak

  • lifebeginswithj

    great tips :) definitely looking into a new strap for my camera!

  • Anna @ Eat, See, Do

    Excellent practical advice Rachel. We back up everything as we go and I would never check in my camera or laptop but had no idea about slicing or wouldn’t have thought to bring serial numbers.

  • Z K

    Buying the different camera strap was something I would never think of! I’ve been saving up for a not-looking-like-a-camera-bag bag.

  • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

    these are great tips rach! i completely agree with the bag and strap. we invested in a domke bag and love it because it’s just a waxed canvas bag that doesn’t look like a camera bag. Jeremy also bought a camera strap. slings across the body and the camera can slide up and down the strap without moving the strap (so it doesn’t rub against your neck) it also keep the lens facing down which makes me feel more comfortable that it’s closer to your body and not sticking out where it could hit something.

  • Rima Sagala

    i totally agree with the camera-bag-in-disguise bag. I used to have a Jo Totes and that was grand. Need to find another one. Also I want to find a good strap. Thanks for the tips!

  • Sarah Shumate

    Good tips! I do need to get a proper camera bag and strap. And I’m looking at the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens as my next one since I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t need a single other lens when traveling if I had that one with me. The only thing that gets me is the price tag… L glass is expensive!

  • Lisette

    Thanks for posting this Rachel. I was thinking of what to put on my holiday wish list and this helped me round it out :)

    Also, while that wireless adapter is genius, have you heard of wi-fi memory cards? They do the same thing!

  • Jade Moat

    Fantastic tips, Rachel. I’m definitely saving these for my trip to Australia in February.

  • Miki DeMann

    Great tips! I just bought by first DSLR and it took me a few months of saving to get it, plus the lenses and gear. I did realize its scary bringing it out of my home. I have an unadvertised bag but definitely need a new strap! Thanks for the tips :)

  • Charlotte Akers

    this is so so helpful! I love taking photos whilst travelling but do worry! I actually ended up breaking my digital camera while travelling in Thailand which was a bit of a disaster!

    I’m thinking of investing in a hefty, expensive fancy camera for my next trip to India and these tips are great!

    I’d love you to check out my recent travel photos!!

    they really mean so much to me! was such a meaningful trip in my life!

  • Regina @ Vintage 1973

    I am a new follower of your blog, this post has made me a loyal one. I am preparing to buy a camera for myself for Christmas and have now asked family to purchase the accessories. Thank you so much, though I have no big trips pending, I’m looking forward to it SOMEDAY soon, with my camera.

  • Mrs TeePot

    Great tips, I have to admit I worry about travelling with my Canon, luckily so far it hasn’t been damaged or stolen but these tips will hopefully reduce the risk.

  • Kate Hall

    These are great tips Rachel and could not have come at a better time for me! I just got my first real camera and had no idea how to travel safely with it. Particularly the camera bag tip is one to take on board!

    • Postcards from Rachel

      Which camera did you get? How exciting!!

  • Fran

    Love these tips, I’m always so scared about taking my expensive camera anywhere lol

    • Postcards from Rachel

      I was like that, too. I’d seriously have nightmares about someone stealing it. Ha.

  • Sara

    Yes, wonderful tips! I also travel with one point-and-shoot pocket-sized camera, for those moments when you do need to be more subtle.

    • Postcards from Rachel

      I do that too! Sometimes a point and shoot is so much easier to use.

  • Nicole @ Treasure Tromp

    LOVE this post, Rachel! Thanks for posting these tips! I need to get an ONA bag immediately.

    • Postcards from Rachel

      I love mine! The leather is strong and awesome – it’ll last forever!

  • Hannah Taylor-Johnson

    Wonderful. I always wondered how people did it. Apparently getting electrical tape to cover the name on your camera is good. You can also pop electrical tape on and around your camera to make it look battered and rubbing a little chalk over the grip etc will make it look older too (just be careful not to get chalk IN the camera).


    • Postcards from Rachel

      Wow, that’s smart! I hadn’t heard of the tape trick before – or the chalk tip!

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  • Sarah

    love the tips… I travel a fair bit and got a Kelly Moore ‘purse/camera bag’ it’s so much easier to travel with… but usually have my camera in my hand when I’m walking around!

    I think you also have to be ‘street’ aware…there are some circumstances I’d love to pull out my Canon 6D to grab that ‘shot’ but it just isn’t the right time or space to be safe to do it!

    • Postcards from Rachel

      Oh yeah, being street aware is really important!

      Which Kelly Moore bag did you pick up? I was looking at a few of the designs.

      • Sarah

        I have a lavendar “Mimi”…it is pretty heavy if I’m carrying my camera, 2 lenses, wallet and sunglass container! (But I can fit a water bottle in the end too)…Usually once I’m walking in a neighbourhood my camera is in my hand… (I use a wrist strap…) so that makes the bag not so heavy! I love the pouch at the back because I can slip in a book, or map etc…and easily access it.

  • Laura Beth

    Thank you so much for this. I was wondering what to do when we go to Norway next summer!! Might need to save up for an ONA :-)

    • Postcards from Rachel

      The ONA bag is more expensive than other ones I’ve found, but the leather is so awesome! I can tell it will last forever. :)

      Norway will be fun! Yay!

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  • Elisa B

    That’s exactly why I regret getting a bright pink camera. How could I draw some more attention on it? I couldn’t find a better way even if that was my purpose. -_-

  • Toni Laird

    I bought a HoldFast MoneyBooker leather harness which also has a strong sail clip and side clip to my camera. They are a little pricey but it gives me piece of mind while traveling/walking around with my camera.