Pre-pandemic, I spent most of each year traveling. And I have to admit, schlepping camera gear through airports gets old fast. Especially since I too have gotten old fast. The two are a miserable combo. I am going to start traveling again, although not with the frequency I used to. Accordingly, I decided to research an alternative to manhandling all my gear through an airport and onto an airplane.

I spoke with some friends who travel the world with video gear and for them, shipping a dozen Pelican cases in the cargo hold of the plane they are on is just old hat. Each of the people I spoke to reported 100% success using this method so I decided to employ it on my recent trip to Alaska to lead a photo workshop.

Thankfully I didn't have 12 cases of gear. I just had one. Partly because it was a test case - pun intended.

Here's what I did and what I plan to do going forward:

1. I insured all my gear. If it all gets stolen, the most I am out is $250. It would be a pain in the rear but it wouldn't be the end of the world. (I now use Hill & Usher by Package Choice.)

2. I purchased a new, lightweight Pelican case that would hold everything I needed for the trip. (Actually I purchased four of these cases but for this trip, I only used one.)

I went with the Pelican 1605AirTP Hard Carry Case with TrekPak Divider System Insert. (https://bhpho.to/3o0IqfU)

It is watertight, dust proof and crushproof. The new redesigned button latches are fool proof and the case is 40% lighter than the older Pelican model of the same size.

I really like the TrekPak divider. That is the way to go. With TrekPak (which is indeed a little pricey) you get a padded insert and a set of long and short dividers, that offer protection and organization for your gear. You can customize it to fit any system and it's less messy than pluck foam and more reliable and sturdy than simple padded dividers.

Also the pressure valve on the new Pelican Air case is self-policing so you don't need to do anything to deal with air pressure changes. It's all automatic.

I seriously love this new system. I see it as a major improvement over the old Pelican style cases.

I lock the Pelican case with TSA-approved locks. I know what you are thinking. Those things are worthless. They are easy to break. Not mine. I use two Nanuk TSA-Approved Case Locks on each Pelican case. (https://bhpho.to/3wtTGF4) I tested a dozen different TSA-approved case locks and these are by far the easiest to set up and most sturdy. They have a hardened steel shackle. They won't stop a determined thief with time on their hands, but these locks will at least slow down the casual thief who wants to grab and go. By the way, Nanuk is a competitor to Pelican, but their locks work perfectly on the Pelican case.

3. I also purchased several sets of Apple's new AirTags (https://bhpho.to/3vBUFSw) and I hid one deep inside the Pelican case so I could keep track of the case's location. Again, this isn't a fool-proof solution but taken in concert with the other steps I have outlined it helps to at least keep peace of mind.

I check in curbside so I don't have to lug my checked bags through the airport to the ticket counter. If available, I use skycaps. Another alternative is to rent one of those carts that you see at most airports or if you are traveling regularly and with several Pelican cases, buy a heavy-duty dolly and check that too.

CONCLUSION

In my test run to Anchorage and back from Seattle, I had no issues. It went off without a hitch. I found my Pelican case in the special handling area at baggage claim in both the Anchorage and Seattle airport. In fact, in Anchorage, they made me show ID to collect my bag which really made me happy. It's an extra layer of security.

I can't guarantee you my system will work for you, but it worked for me. Another option is to ship ahead to your hotel or to a trusted party who can collect the cases for you and hold them until you arrive.

In each situation, the stress of hoping the flight attendant doesn't kick your bags out of the cabin and not having to move heavy gear through the airport is all gone.

One last thing. There is a price for all this convenience. You have to pay either bag fees or shipping costs, depending on how you go. I travel first class with two free bags. Each additional bag is $50 or $100 depending on the airline. Shipping via FedEx or UPS may be more or less, depending on distance. Either way, I still think it's worth it, but that's just me.

P.S. I realize there are risks associated with this system. I have weighed and tested those risks and decided to accept them. There are risks to carrying your gear through the airport and placing it into the overhead bins. There are always risks. Decide what you are comfortable with and proceed from there.