Travel Photography: What to Pack

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Traveling overseas is exciting and stressful all at the same time. My husband and I went to Europe for two weeks and while I couldn’t wait to get over there the stress of what photography gear to pack on top of all the other stuff was an added stress.

We decided we wanted to travel light. REALLY light! I’m talking only a backpack light. Let’s be clear, I’m not one of those people who can wear just one outfit or leave my hair dryer at home. So I had to pack smart, really smart. We purchased these backpacks which are approved by many European airlines as carry ons (hand bags). We didn’t want to have to check our gear and you better believe I was not checking my photography gear.

We flew to 3 different cities so we were on the budget European airlines which are much stricter than American airlines when it comes to what you can carry on. One even restricted you to only one carry-on. Period. That meant your purse or anything else.

Excuse the poor photo but I was standing on a bed in Paris with my iPhone. Just wanted to give you an idea of what my bag looked like inside.

This included:
-Make up
Travel hair dryer
-5 summer dresses
-Hair products and shampoo
-Travel books
-Girl’s Day Out Shutter bag (all camera stuff-I’ll get to that in a minute)
-Unmentionables ;)

I told you I packed light.

Let’s get down to the gear.

Photography gear to pack for Europe

1. SHUTTER|Bag – Girl’s Day Out
I needed a great camera bag, that didn’t look like a camera bag. You hear a lot of stories about people trying to snatch your stuff. I went with the smallest of my SHUTTER|bags, Girl’s Day Out. It worked perfectly. Here’s why I loved it:
– Several zipper pockets so if I was reaching in for my camera all my other stuff was not out for other’s to see.
– Private zipper in the back that holds your passports perfectly!
– Over the shoulder and across the body straps. I wore mine messenger style most of the time.
– Held everything I needed plus some.
– Bag is not heavy which is good because the stuff I put in it was.
– Two front pockets on front for easy access to smaller items.

2. D700 with my Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8
I decided right away I only wanted to take one lens. Yes, I know, isn’t that crazy? But I didn’t want to have to worry about the other lens and I knew I would be carrying all this heavy gear around so I wanted to make my life simple. I brought my Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 and it was exactly what I needed. Since I only have one camera body it was obvious I was being my D700.

I loved that this lens was able to capture the wide shots that I wanted, which were the majority of my shots as well as zoom in if I needed a closer shot. Seriously, this is one of my favorite lens and I didn’t wish I had brought another lens or felt like I was missing out with only one lens.

3. 2 camera batteries and charger
Just to be on the safe side, I brought two camera batteries and my charger. You can never have too many camera batteries. And you don’t want to forget your charger.

4. 2 memory cards
I typically shoot with a 4G CF card on RAW which will hold about 300 photos. I grabbed an 8G as well before I left. I didn’t want to delete the photos off my card until I had uploaded them onto my computer at home. I also did not bring a laptop so the photos needed to stay on my memory cards. I only took about 700 photos in 2 weeks in Europe. Figure out ahead of time if you think you are going to go crazy taking photos and how many memory cards you will need.

5. Camera strap
I have two camera straps that I adore but decided to purchase this one for the trip. Why? Because I heard so many stories of people trying to steal you things and then my parents mentioned this company that creates camera straps that are slash proof. Yup, apparently we need to be worried about someone taking a knife and cutting the camera strap in order to steal our gear. I told my parents I was more concerned with someone with a knife anywhere near me but decided to go ahead and purchase it anyway. The PacSafe camera strap was awesome. It is long with the screw that goes into the bottom of your camera so it sits comfortably on your hip. The strap is really padded which makes it very comfortable to carry all over the place. Definitely recommend it!

6. GoPro
I LOVE my GoPro especially when it comes to traveling. I love to take video of our trips and put them to music. I knew I wanted to capture so much of Europe so we brought our tiny GoPro and used it often to capture the liveliness and beauty of the cities we visited. Just like my camera, I brought two memory cards (although, I only needed one) and two batteries.

One more thing I did before we left, I called my insurance company to triple check that the camera and lens I was taking was insured. I also asked a lot of questions as to what I should do if it is stolen in a foreign country and if my policy covers it in another country. Ask lots of questions! It gave me such peace of mind to know that my gear if stolen would easily be replaced when I returned home.

I will be doing several more tutorials on what I learned about travel photography over the next few weeks.

What advice would you give someone who is traveling with their photography gear?

Share this with your friends! Thanks!

  • Marley
    July 23, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    Thanks Courtney for an informative post on travel photography and what to pack. I’m going overseas in a few months and will be looking into that strap. I can’t wait to see some photos and any other tips you have, especially in how to get photos when you are limited with time and the time of day to take them.

  • Rekha
    July 23, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    Hi Courtney,
    Thank you for sharing your travel experience. It makes life and travelling so much more enjoyable and simple, when we are able to travel light! We made a road-trip to Yellowstone Naitonal Park couple of weeks back, and I chose to carry only 1 lens for my Nikon D610… went for my 24-70 mm f2.8, for the same reasons you mentioned. I think it was a good choice. Can’t say there weren’t times when I didn’t wish I had my ‘other’ lens, but for the most part, I was at peace, and happy. :P
    Thanks for sharing!


    • July 29, 2014 at 2:31 PM

      That sounds like a fun trip! Yes, less is definitely more when traveling :)

  • July 23, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    Thanks for posting this! I am trying to squeeze that Tamron lens out of my budget in time for a two week trip in October! I just ordered the same strap this morning (in Canada it is $59.00) and plan to carry my camera in my Pac Safe bag (which I love).
    Looking forward to your tutorials!

    • July 23, 2014 at 11:39 PM

      Oops! You are right! I linked to a different version (same company) Yes, the one I got was $50 :)

  • Marley
    July 23, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    Which GoPro do you have Courtney?

  • Patrice
    July 23, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    Courtney thanks for the great advice! Hope you had a wonderful trip.

  • Kirsten D
    July 23, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    When I lived in Germany , I put electrical tape over the name and type of camera. In addition wearing it crossbody like you I believed it helped. I was more worried about someone taking it from my bag then around my neck. :)

  • ClaireT
    July 23, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    please get the advice up on travel photography SOON! I Am off to Italy this summer and need all the help I can get. Looking to order that strap now.


    • July 29, 2014 at 2:32 PM

      Oh how fun! I’m going to try and do a post a week :) Have fun in Italy. We did Sicily and Rome and LOVED it!

  • July 23, 2014 at 5:29 PM

    I love this post. I can’t wait for your next one. I wondered what camera you would feel brave enough to take with you. Also nice to know about bags. I love your camera bag, it looks like a purse.


    • July 29, 2014 at 2:32 PM

      Yes, which is just another reason I love those camera bags. I didn’t want it to scream camera bag :)

  • Marlene
    July 23, 2014 at 5:41 PM

    Heading to eastern Europe this fall – thanks for the information. Looking forward to more. Thanks so much.

  • kristiiina
    July 23, 2014 at 5:41 PM

    Which insurance company do you have that would pay for your camera if stolen or broken out of the country? Rental insurance or homeowners?

    • July 29, 2014 at 2:33 PM

      We use USAA and it is through our rental insurance.

      • Kristiiina
        July 29, 2014 at 11:13 PM

        Oh, ok. Yeah, they can not give me renter’s insurance because I live 1 mile from the beach.

        • August 8, 2014 at 3:23 PM

          Ask about jewelry and/or camera gear insurance. I believe that is the section under my rentor’s insurance. Call around, I’m sure you could find some company to insure your gear…I hope so at least :)

  • Marisa
    July 24, 2014 at 12:37 AM

    This is such great information! We took a trip to Ireland/England last year, and definitely did NOT pack light. I’d like to pack lighter for our next trip abroad (to Sicily). :) How did you launder your clothes? Did you bring back souvenirs?

    • July 29, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      We went to Sicily as well! Strangely enough, Sicily was in the middle of our trip and we have friends who live there that we stayed with so we did our laundry there. We bought just a few souvenirs – an 8×10 print in Paris, Holy water and 3 rosaries at the Vatican and some Macarons that we hand carried on the plane. I figured, I was taking enough photos I didn’t need a lot of stuff/souvenirs to remember the trip.

  • July 24, 2014 at 1:36 AM

    Loved this post. We travel to Europe at least once a year and we too travel light! We learned very early on what the European airlines would allow as far as carry-ons. This was extremely helpful as we now have extra camera equipment and are headed to Greece this September for a bit of island hopping. I was wondering how I was going to get all of our equipment into my bag – like you I refuse to check it! THANKS!

    • July 29, 2014 at 2:35 PM

      Oh, Greece! That is on my list! I hope you have a blast and good luck island hopping! How fun!

  • Mary
    July 24, 2014 at 1:52 AM

    Thanks for the great information, I love that camera strap, I’m going to order one right now!
    I’m looking forward to the next instalments ….. We leave for Europe in 4 weeks

  • Lindy
    July 24, 2014 at 8:22 AM

    Thanks for the great post! I’m traveling to the UK in the fall and am wondering about converters and battery chargers – do they work together?

    • July 29, 2014 at 2:36 PM

      Yes, I was able to use our converter with my battery charger, no problem. Have a blast in the UK!

  • phg
    July 24, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    I have tried to order your E-book and have been unable to use a credit card. It keeps telling me it is unable to use that card. I have tried 3 different cards with all the same response. Please advise

  • July 24, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    Sounds like a fun trip, and you haven’t even talked about it yet! Can’t wait for more posts. ♥

    Thanks for the awesome look into your travels. I’m super impressed that you got all that into one bag, and will definitely be pinning and taking notes, for our trip to Thailand and Cambodia next summer!

    • July 29, 2014 at 2:37 PM

      What a fun trip! I hope you have a wonderful time in those too countries. Just remind yourself you don’t need a lot of stuff :)

      • July 29, 2014 at 3:33 PM

        Thanks, I’m pretty excited! We’re going with Destiny Rescue, for a two week trip to prepare for full time service with their anti-sex trafficking NGO in SE Asia, hopefully by 2016. Huge changes coming our way! And yes, packing light will be a MUST. As I understand it, we’ll be carrying our luggage with us the whole time!

  • Patrice
    July 24, 2014 at 7:37 PM

    Courtney: You brought only one lens and it was the Tamron 24-70mm. I have a Canon 24-70mm and it is quite heavy and I really can’t use it w/o a tripod. How did you manage with yours? Can you explain? Thanks.

    • July 29, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      No, I didn’t use a tripod. It is a heavier lens but I got used to carrying around :)

  • July 24, 2014 at 8:43 PM

    My husband and I traveled to Venice a couple of years ago. While I was super nervous after hearing of all the pick pockets and strap slashers, I took my canon 5d and 24-70 & 70-200. I was really protective but I got some awesome shots that I wouldn’t trade for anything. We didn’t take the camera with us all the time though so we could enjoy our time walking around without worrying about the camera.

    • July 29, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      Glad you got shots you wanted. I think it if you are smart with your gear you are less likely to get things stolen :)

  • Vera
    August 14, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    We are going to Italy later this year, Venice,Florence and Rome. I am really new to photography. I have a D7100 . I bought 2 lens when purchasing the camera. 18-140 1:3.5 – 5.6 and 55-300 1:4.5 -5.6. Was thinking of purchasing 50mm f/1.8. What would you suggest I take on the trip?? I also just purchased the PacSafe camera strap. I am so grateful for all your information and everyone that has commented. Thanks you so much for being a wonderful resource.

    • August 18, 2014 at 2:11 PM

      How exciting! That is a tough one. I love the 50mm 1.8 but I know I wouldn’t have been able to get some of my shots with that one. The zooms are nice but the apertures don’t go as wide as you may want in some low light situations. I think you just need to play with them and see which of the zooms will suit your style the best :)

  • Danielle
    September 24, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    Hi Courtney, great post! I’m going to Europe this winter and also only want to bring one lens. Currently I own a nifty fifty and a 70-300 macro so neither of these are great options for traveling. The 24-70 is out of my budget, but I’m considering a 28-75 mm 2.8 or an 18-200 mm 3.5-6.5. I’m torn between the fixed aperture and the wider zoom range. Do you have any suggestions?

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