Off the Beaten Path: Photo Holiday Travel Prep
Tickets bought, bags packed, batteries charged: away we go right? But everyone knows that planning for a much anticipated trip doesn't stop with the basics. Imagining your solution to a few 'what-ifs' could save money and time if not clumps of hair loss from your head.
Know your Airline
American domestic and international carriers have been steadily changing fees and limits on everything from carry-ons to allowable weight (passenger and cargo) to in-flight internet use to priority boarding (something I've never understood considering everyone arrives at the destination at the same time) . Since I'd rather spend my hard earned ducats on food and entry fees at my eventual destinations than throw-away airline pillows, blankets, or bad movies, I'm a member of the 'know before you go' club.
I'm by no means an app junkie so I usually limit myself to Kayak.com's "My Trips" trip planner which has the benefit of keeping track of my itinerary in addition to quick access to multiple carriers' fees, real time flight updates, airport and terminal maps, calendar updates via feed, alerts, and probably a few other things I haven't noticed yet. Using a direct link to the carrier, I can also look up whether my hex wrench set and Leatherman are air cabin no-nos (hint: the Leatherman has to travel in checked baggage).
Value and cost aren't the same thing.
Ask anyone with gear lost, stolen, or damaged at the beginning of an excursion. What you originally paid means little in terms of what you stand to lose: time, future relationship with a client, opportunity to see a once in a lifetime event, etc. If your images and travel experience are worth anything to you, don't be so quick to ignore travel insurance options.
Most of the major credit card companies offer limited travel coverage when you use them to finance your air, rail, or vehicle transportation costs. Card issuers use this supplemental insurance perk to attract new cardholders but read the fine print to see what's excluded: frequently, how and where a loss occurred is as much a determining factor as what was lost.
Insurance purchased via the carrier as a ticket price add-on is another temporary protection. Coverage is typically more generous and there's often a "concierge" service to expedite the process. Still, it's not without limits and restrictions and your reimbursement may come well after your trip is over.
Commercial business insurance with its liability, errors & omissions, and equipment coverage provides the most support (and headache remedy). Knowing that you'll get reimbursed for lost or stolen gear, won't have to leave a deposit for emergency equipment rental, and/or have protection if you (yikes!) can't deliver as promised, makes a permanent policy worth looking into. National associations like PPA, ASMP, and WPPI have their own lists of referrals or you can check out Hill & Usher or Hiscox for rates.
Use the C-word
Even photographers that fly by the seat of their pants when exploring a destination have something they want to see and experience behind the lens. Call it research or curiosity, there's a 'know before you go' element involved in each trip. Traditionally, guidebooks and tourism bureaus were the first stop for information. Then, sites like Trip Advisor took the lead by leveraging "user generated content" that hyped (or panned) a destination or accommodation and made it a resource for travelers. Recent online trends have changed travel by providing up to the minute leads on where to go, what to do and see, and what to avoid. Sites (and apps) like VirtualTourist and Yelp let you 'crowdsource' using information provided by locals and make last minute changes to your itinerary to catch that pop-up festival or avoid an unadvertised closure.
Once I feel prepped and packed, the excitement really takes over. Like a kid counting down the hours to her birthday, I'm filled with nervous energy and can't wait to be out the door and on my way. Next trip, I'll be visiting the home of Saints and sinners and exploring down south where big hearts and big mosquitos are a way of life. Can't wait.
Keywords: checklist, crowdsourcing, know before you go, planning, self assignment, street photography, travel blog, travel photography, trip insurance
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