I’ve learned over the years that airline employees seem to ignore “neat” travelers. The employees at the check-in counter and gate seem to look right past a passenger with a small backpack and legal-size roller bag. Every business traveler has that small backpack and roller bag. For females, sometimes it’s that stylish tote and roller bag. My camera gear now mimics the business look so I don’t standout during check-in or at the gate.
Several years ago I arrived at the check-in counter and saw four women with all their photography gear spread out on the airport floor. Their carry-ons were huge, gaudy, plastic grocery shopping bags loaded with individual pieces of camera equipment plus pillows, blankets, candy, etc. The check-in counter staff had rejected the carry-ons because each was over-weight and didn’t meet size regulations. Yep, the ladies were going to be part of my group. I slipped past them and waited for them past security at the gate. When the ladies arrived at the gate their gaudy plastic shopping bags were a bit more under control but the gate staff gave the grief again before boarding the plane. By the time we reached our destination one lady had already lost a laptop.
After that incident I started noticing that airlines employees notice things out of the ordinary. Airline employees notice floppy, dangling straps. They notice a bag that’s too heavy to lift. They notice a huge backpack. My strategy is to blend with the crowd of frequent fliers and get on the plane with all my gear.
My travel neat philosophy also applies to my checked bag. TSA is going to scan and maybe open your checked bag. That’s just the way it is. My checked bag has my clothes on the bottom in small travel cubes called Lugs. Anything hard, like my tripod or toiletry bag is on top of the clothes. I put all non-essential camera gear in a bag on top of the clothes. The scanner is going to show my tripod, shutter release, flash, etc., so why not let the inspectors have easy access. I’d rather show the contents on top versus hide those things under my clothes. This way the inspectors can get in my bag, see what they need to see, and get out of my bag.