Travel Bag 101

Every travel photography column sooner or later includes a piece on what kit to pack and what not to forget…but they all lack the core ‘don’t leave home without it’ list. By the way, there is no photo equipment mentioned, here.

There are two core components to any photography: the equipment and the photographer. Lose a bag, break a lens, corrupt your flashcards and you will be in trouble, but generally still find a way to get the assignment done. Spend two days in the bathroom or, worse yet, jail…and the assignment is blown as well as future work for that editor.

Here is a ‘keep the photographer shooting’ kit that should always be restocked after every trip and the first thing to be packed in your suitcase:

  1. 400mg Ibuprofen – allergies, colds, altitude sickness will be held at bay long enough to get some work done;
  2. Lomotil – a three day plug in a pill, these will get you out of the bathroom no matter what you ate;
  3. Peanut butter – a favorite, but any high protein source that you can pack in a plastic tube will do…for when there just isn’t any food or any clean food;
  4. Factor 40 Sunblock – valid in both cold and warm climates, especially when the shoot lasts all day…good against windburn as well;
  5. ID card or other non-passport identification – Except where required, carry these during shooting and leave your passport in the hotel safe;
  6. Two credit cards not Amex – one left in the safe, one carried with you…ensure they have cash card debit facilities;
  7. Check book – sounds silly but in some lesser developed countries people will still accept a personal check from someone they don’t know rather than try to process a credit card;
  8. Small amount of universal cash – dollars or Euros…only to be used in emergencies or to open doors;
  9. Ten pack of pocket tissues – myriad of uses;
  10. Cheap gifts – can be pens, bracelets, bic lighters, cigarettes, anything that can be given to a child or adult to thank them for posing or helping you find that rare location…avoid candy, it melts; and
  11. Phone numbers of the embassy, one contact in country, hospital, airlines written on paper since technology can crash or be confiscated.

The entire focus of this kit is to ensure that no matter what happens, you can still complete your assignment which is the whole point of your trip in the first place.