I’m off back to New Zealand for a weekend to visit friends and family, and it dawned on me it’s the first time in recent memory that I’ve travelled without all of my photographic junk. I’m pretty excited to turn up, check in and get on the plane without the nightmares that come with transporting thousands of dollars of camera gear and the collective baggage weight of a touring sports team.
Jake Mein is in Sydney at the moment too, shooting with Lee Corleison and Harry Culy. We’ve been having a few beers and talking shit on each other, but also trading ways to ‘beat the man’ and safely get our fragile gear from A to B.
Keep it safe, stupid
Don’t check your camera and laptop in, what are you, an idiot? It’s okay to put your flashes and all that through checked baggage, but not the stuff that’s gonna cost you a fortune to replace. Whatever you check in, make sure you use a hard case, like a Pelican or similar to stop the goons at baggage handling from smashing it, ‘cos they will.
Pack it in
If you’re gonna carry your precious stuff on the plane, pack that shit good. Get as much in there as possible. Your limit is 7kg, but lets forget about that for the moment. Lets say that you can get as much on board as you like, so push the limits. Pack it neat, and pack it well. My carry on is routinely in the 12-15kg bracket, but you think I let that stop me? Make that shit look compact.
Carry on? What carry on?
When your bag weighs as much as twice the limit, you can’t let them weigh it. Whoever drops you at the airport, apart from being a legend, has another duty. Make them come in with you, and get them to hang out of sight with your carry on bag. Check in with an old duty free bag, the one your mum came back from Rarotonga with full of Gin. Just keep a magazine, your wallet, a hat or something that doesn’t weigh much in there. That’s the distraction. Check your other shit in, then walk away with the plastic bag like it ain’t no thing.
The World’s Strongest Man
When you’re going through customs etc, after you’ve recovered your actual check-in bag, you gotta act like it weighs nothing. You can just man up, and keep your back straight, or you can take a few things out. Put your batteries in your pockets, or slip your laptop into the duty free bag, to spread the weight out. If you let customs or ground staff handle your bag, they’re gonna snap you out. You gotta handle the overhead bins too. Don’t make it look like you’ve got your whole life in that bag, just hoist it up there all natural, and hope that it doesn’t crush somebody during turbulence.
Sharing is caring
If you’re traveling in a group, you gotta spread your stuff out. You’re probably with a bunch of stinking skaters, so they’ve got plenty of space in their bags. Put your chargers, cords and lighting stands in theirs. Use the compact variety of folding stands, they can fit in a suitcase no probs. If you’ve got a separate stand or tripod bag, consider packing your clothes in there too. Not only does it even the weight out, but it serves to protect and cushion the fragile legs.
Your board is obviously a weapon, it’s a giant emery board, mid flight you might take over the cockpit threatening to give the pilot a manicure. To avoid confiscation, I usually tape mine to the underside of my stand bag, before check in, making it kinda like a wheelie bag. While kook surfers and snow bunnies get away with sports equipment allowances, we aren’t so lucky. Either take it apart, strap it to something or lose it. You’re also not gonna get your skate tool through customs, so make sure it’s checked in. They’re not a fan of you joking about unbolting the seats, trust me.
If you’re trendy like Jake is, you probably shoot with a lot of film etc. No matter what customs says, Film is gonna be adversely affected by xrays. Don’t let them tell you any different. Let them know you have it on you, and make sure they don’t put it through. You don’t wanna get home and find the precious 3200 ISO Ilford B&W you have has been ruined. If they can take pics of your damn bones, think about what it’s doing to your sensitive film.
Finally, and most importantly, be a kiss ass. Be happy, be chatty, be flirty if you have to. Agree to go to dinner with the check in guy, if it means you get away without paying excess baggage charges. My last trip I got away with an excess of AUD$200.00 simply by acting like I really liked longboarding. Urgh.
See you soon New Zealand.