This article will teach you everything you need to know about bringing a tripod with you on your next flight. It will cover the safety implications, what the laws are, and what are your rights as an air traveler.
We’ll also be exploring some tips and tricks to help you travel more smoothly, like how to bring a big tripod on board with you and what kind of bag or case is best for carrying one around safely.
By the end of this article, we hope that when someone asks “Can I Bring A Tripod on A Plane?” in the future, we can confidently answer yes!
Can you bring a tripod on a plane:
The answer to the question: “Can you bring a tripod on a plane?” is not so simple.
For one, there is no universal answer. Each airline and airport has its own rules about tripods for carry on luggage and checked baggage that may differ from others. These rules also change depending on what country you are flying from or to. As if things weren’t complicated enough, the answers also vary depending on what type of tripod you have (monopod vs tripod).
With all of this information considered, it is quite possible that 100 people could all have different answers to the same question without any one of them being wrong.
To help break down some of these variables, here is a list of some common scenarios in which people would want to take a tripod onto their flight:
What are the rules for bringing a tripod on a plane?
In short, if you want to travel with a tripod, you have four options. You can:
- Bring it on the plane as carry-on luggage in the overhead bin or under your seat.
- Check it as part of your normal checked baggage allowance.
- Purchase a separate checked bag just for your tripod and check it at the gate (if allowed by your airline).
- Pay for a bulky item fee to bring it in addition to your carry-on and any personal items (usually limited one per passenger).
Can you bring a tripod on a plane as carry-on luggage?
You can bring a tripod on a plane as carry-on luggage as long as it is within the carry-on luggage size limits. I had no problem bringing my travel tripod onto an airplane as carry-on luggage.
There are no restrictions regarding tripods in carry-on baggage. You should check with your airline for their regulations, but you generally shouldn’t have any problems by putting your travel tripod into your carry-on luggage.
How do you pack a tripod for a plane trip?
The best way to prepare for a trip is to pack your tripod in the same manner as any other piece of luggage. If you’re traveling on vacation, you may want to consider packing it even more carefully than usual. The turntable should be packed in inside a padded bag or zippered case. When checking in at the airport, place the head on top of your carry-on so that they will check it as luggage and not take it away before boarding. Replace the screws that hold the head in place with twist-ties or rubber bands, so that nothing gets lost during transport.
When checking in, inform the airline staff prior to departure as to whether you have a tripod and whether its legs extend below a certain height. And be sure to let them know if you have any fragile items being carried onboard (e.g., those with glass or ceramic components).
How do I know if my tripod is allowed on a plane?
The best way to know if a tripod can go on the plane is to check with the airline. While most airlines follow similar rules, there are exceptions. Here are some tips for checking with an airline:
- Visit the airline’s website. It often has information about what is and isn’t allowed on board, including size restrictions for carry-ons. You may also be able to tweet or Facebook message customer service directly from the airline’s site. Make sure you’re looking at your specific travel route or class of ticket (for example, coach versus first-class).
- Call the customer service department directly. One of the benefits of calling customer service is that you can talk to someone who can answer your question about whether tripods are allowed on flights. You’ll also have a record of exactly what was stated by an employee, in case there is any confusion later on (such as recognizing that you have a “mini” tripod but really mean a full-size one).
- Visit social media pages of the airline, such as Twitter and Facebook, to ask questions or get answers too (although it might take longer than other methods).
What are the risks of bringing a tripod on a plane?
The disassembled tripod should fit into the bag without a problem. But bringing a tripod onto an airplane is not all sunshine and rainbows. You may run into problems from TSA as well as on the plane itself.
- Your tripod might get damaged during transit or you might be forced to check it in, especially if your carry on bag is bigger than what fits under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin.
- The TSA may not allow your tripod on board because of its total length, even though it fits within the allowable size limits for carry-on bags. Security agents have tremendous latitude here and can make their own rules at any time regarding what they consider dangerous and what they don’t.
- Your checked luggage, including your tripod, could become lost or stolen during transit if you’re traveling with a low-quality airline that doesn’t properly protect your bags.
- Your gear could be confiscated by security if you’re traveling to a politically unstable country where tripods are seen as potential weapons against authority figures (i.e., police officers).
Does a tripod count as a personal item?
If you have a tripod, then you can probably fit it in your personal item. Yes, the FAA does allow tripods as personal items. It doesn’t matter if it’s a full-sized professional tripod or one of those little selfie things that people use for taking close-up pictures of themselves. Either way, it counts as a personal item and you’re good to go with one of those on a plane.
Using other airlines’ policies as an example, here’s what I mean by “personal item” (few examples):
- a laptop bag
- a purse
- a large backpack or small suitcase
- a diaper bag
The airline will let each passenger bring a carry-on bag and one personal item on board at no additional cost. Since they don’t charge extra, they try to keep the size reasonable so there isn’t chaos in the overhead bins once everyone boards (one carryon + one personal item per person).
How to get your tripod through airport security:
- The best way to get your tripod through security is to have it in a tripod bag. This bag should be filled with nothing but the tripod and its accessories, such as a ballhead and release plate.
- If you don’t have a dedicated tripod bag, consider packing it in the top of your carry-on bag. This will make it easy for the TSA agent to inspect.
- When placing the bag on the conveyor belt, inform an agent that you would like to take the bag with you instead of sending it through (just as you would do with a laptop).
- The agent will then ask that you remove any accessories from inside before sending it through (your armor plate or camera strap may set off metal detectors, so removing them ahead of time is really appreciated).
What if You Want to Take Pictures While Flying?
As a photographer, you may wonder if it’s possible to take your tripod on board the plane with you. It’s easy to see how this could be problematic—with all the jostling that occurs during flight, there is a chance that you might damage your expensive equipment or even injure another passenger.
However, many photographers have found ways to safely bring their tripods onto the plane with them. If you’re interested in doing so as well, here’s some advice for making it happen:
- Use your best judgment! If people keep bumping into your tripod and complaining about it, show consideration and move it out of the way (you can always use one of the overhead bins).
- Be careful not to block anyone else’s view from their seat.
- If your tripod is large enough that it will interfere with flight attendants coming through the aisle during beverage service or an emergency situation, consider finding a way to make it smaller for takeoff and landing.
Tips for packing a tripod:
There are some tips you should keep in mind when packing your tripod.
- Place the tripod in a dedicated case and make sure it’s labeled. A damaged or unidentifiable tripod will always be thrown away. You can’t bring it through security if it looks as dangerous as a weapon and/or doesn’t have your name on it.
- Pack the tripod as checked baggage, not as carry-on baggage. We know that this is a pain because then you don’t have your equipment on hand when you get to your destination—but hey, that’s what those guys they hire at airports who rent out camera equipment are for!
However, if you can pack the camera in with all of your other carry-on items, then do so. In theory, any carry-on item could be turned away at security depending on how an agent feels about it that day—and packing your gear will also protect against theft or loss while traveling (theft is fairly rare, but no one likes baggage handlers riffling through their stuff).
Tips for using your tripod on your trip:
- Know the rules at your destination, and pack accordingly.
- Look for the best light before using your tripod.
- Be respectful of people and their property when using your tripod.
- Try different angles to get more creative shots.
- Ask for permission if necessary, but don’t be disappointed if you’re denied. Listen to any concerns they may have about being photographed.
- Be patient and take it all in as you enjoy the process of taking a photo with a tripod!
To conclude, yes you can take a tripod on a plane as carry-on luggage. However, there are some important things to remember when doing so. Tripods and their heads will be considered as one piece of carry-on luggage (if they fit in the overhead compartment or under your seat). You should also call ahead to ask any airline at which you’re flying about their rules regarding tripods and other camera equipment. Finally, consider buying a folding tripod that fits in your carry-on bag if you plan on taking it with you frequently, or try carrying the legs separately from the head.
If you pay attention to these few tips and follow them while carrying your tripod on a plane, it can be an easy thing to do that won’t slow down the boarding process or cause any issues with TSA agents. So stop asking yourself “Can I bring a tripod on a plane?” and start planning for your next trip!