Travel Guide For Photographers
Working as a commercial photographer, I have the opportunity to travel often with my work. In the year 2013 alone, I’ve flown over 25 thousand miles, and have a few thousand more before the end of the year. Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years to help make traveling as a photographer much easier and far less stressful.
If there is one tip I can provide you with its to invest in the TSA PreCheck process. The TSA PreCheck system is a way for you to completely bypass the long wait at the TSA screening checkpoints at airports. The fee for the luxury is a mere $85 and your PreCheck is good for 5 years from the application date.
In order to qualify for TSA PreCheck, you need to be part of a frequent flyer program with either Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines or US Airways. And naturally, the only way to be apart of their programs is to fly with them frequently. If you live in the South West, Southwest airlines allows you to opt into their Frequent Flyer program (called Rapid Rewards) for free, and allow you to earn plenty of bonuses.
TSA PreCheck is available at over 100 different airports within the US and specifically allows you to go through TSA Screen without removing your shoes, belt, laptop from bag, jacket or any other accessories that you would normally need to remove. TSA PreCheck is available now, and be sure to check with your airlines to see if you apply.
When purchasing flights, I recommend using the all in one websites, such as Orbitz. There prices are competitive, and typically the same, or cheaper than if you’re purchasing directly from the airline. However, also be sure to check with the airlines who are not included on services like Orbitz to find the best deal. Be sure to check all of these websites to insure that you have the best rate for flights (Travelocity, Priceline, Expedia). Also, websites like these ALWAYS have discounts on hotels, so be sure to search for a coupon code for an additional 10-35% when bundling everything together.
Also be sure to search for your flights in Private Mode. By disabling/clearing your cookies and cache on your browser, you can insure that websites are not hijacking prices to maximize profits (Yes, this is a real thing). Also, shopping for tickets on Tuesday and Wednesday usually yields better prices.
Frequent Flyer Credit Card
The best and easiest way to gain more miles is through a credit card with a bank that offers frequent flyer miles. There are dozens of different options available, but the one I use and would recommend is the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card
If you fly Southwest, this card will allow you to get 2 Rapid Rewards points for every dollar spent on travel (Flight, Hotel, Rental Car) and 1 point for every dollar spent on all other purchases. For reference, a $100 flight is about 5,000 points. Aside from that, this card also has a long list of benefits and bonuses
If you sign up for the card right now, you’ll get 25,000 points if you spend $1,000 on it within the first 90 days. Those 25,000 points are good for at least one round trip flight, depending on your destination. You also receive 1,500 bonus points for every 10,000 dollars spent on it, and receive 6,000 points on your cards anniversary. While the card does have a $99 fee (free for the first year) the 6,000 points applied annually should pay for a $100 flight each year.
Capital One Venture Card
Recommended by both Alec Baldwin and Fstoppers Editor Jaron Schneider, the Capital One Venture card offers double miles on all purchases, to be used with virtually any airline you’d need. This is a great card for those who do not have airline loyalty and are just looking for the best prices for flights. The bonuses of this card are -
With a $59 annual fee, the Capital One Venture card allows to receive 2 miles for every dollar spent using the card. Generally, that is higher than most airlines offer on their exclusive cards.
Plenty of other cards are also available for those who do not fly Southwest, if you’re looking to find the one that is right for you, I recommend giving Mint’s Free Credit Card selector app a try. Answering just a few short questions about your credit history, Mint is able to find you the card that offers the best rewards for your lifestyle and spending habits.
Because of my financial background, I can only recommend a credit card option to those who plan on paying them off each month. APRs are not fun, and will vary from credit history to credit history. Do not sign up for a credit card you cannot afford.
Pack Light & Carry Ons
The biggest advice I can offer to those who are travelling is to pack light and always use your carry on. For me, I use a LowePro Pro Runner 350A for my day to day camera bag. It fits into overhead compartments (just barely) and I assure that I have it with me at all times. I cannot recommend carrying your camera equipment enough. Checked bags are often thrown, stacked and generally mishandled. Your camera gear is far too important to arrive broken and damaged. Find a bag that you can take with you through an airport at all times. Most bag manufacturers will let you know if the bag meets the Carry On size restrictions on their website.
I use off camera lighting for nearly all of my photoshoots, but I rarely travel with lighting equipment. Because of the size of studio strobes (and battery packs are sometimes screened), I will typically try to find a photographer at my destination that will let me borrow or rent their gear for a day or two. Often, the community is gracious, and you’ll like be able to find someone with AlienBees or similar that will be happy to let you borrow them for a day. Check with social media and various photography forums to see if someone at your destination will be willing to rent/borrow you gear for a day or two while you’re shooting.
On Board WiFi
What an amazing time we live in. We’re able to sit in a chair, 20,000 ft in the air, and still update our Facebook statuses with ease. Purchasing WiFi on a plane is a matter of personal preference. I for one, am all about on board WiFi. I purchase it on nearly every flight (minus the ones less than 90 minutes), and use it as an opportunity to get work done while in commute. Often, if you’re flying the same airline throughout, you’ll only need to purchase WiFi once, to use it for 24 hours. Check with the airline to see the restrictions on each flight. Keep in mind, typically on board WiFi is not very fast, so don’t be expecting to stream Netflix on your flight across the country.
Always book your flights a day or two before you need to actually arrive to your destination. Airlines aren’t perfect, and weather is unpredictable. Certainly you don’t want to miss out on a job or opportunity because of overlays or delays. Aside from that, I’ve found that some airlines (I’m looking at you United) are rarely on time, and overbooked. Airlines will sometime offer you a $200-$300 flight credit if you agree to move to a later flight. If you’re travel isn’t time sensitive, you’re able to cash in on these vouchers and redeem them for free flights.
For more tips, be sure to check Trevor Dayley’s 6 Favorite Travel Tips.