Travelling With Batteries on a Plane - A Photographers Guide

How to pack your camera batteries before you fly on your Photo Vacation

vervet monkey taken on a  Kevin Pepper Photography Photo Workshop

Its becoming a discussion I hear more and more… whats happening with the travel ban on electronics? Has a decision been made about air travel between Europe and North America?

The truth of the matter is, that right now, no decisions have been made on laptops and camera gear… but updates are coming out all the time.

This morning I was sent an article by my friend, Juan Pons. It sheded some hopeful light on the subject this morning… but time will tell, and if this is of concern to you, keep an eye out on the latest updates. Here is a link to that article, 

Whether or not that ban happens, the subject of carrying batteries is something that is already in place, and you should be aware.

As photographers, and you’re traveling on vacation this summer, you’ll most likely need to bring some batteries along, camera, personal electronics or other battery-operated equipment all need to have spare batteries. 

So I went to the TSA website and pulled off some information for you that is current, and you should abide by... 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented safety guidelines for batteries being transported on airplanes designed to prevent fire-related incidents from occurring. TSA works closely with the FAA on potential aviation safety and security issues, and TSA security officers are trained to identify potential safety and security battery-related threats in carry-on and checked bags.  

So, here is the breakdown on what batteries are allowed and prohibited in carry-on and checked bags, along with some packing tips for safe travel with batteries: 

Batteries Allowed to be in Carry-on Bags:

Dry cell alkaline batteries; typical AA, AAA, C, D, 9-volt, button sized cells, etc.

Dry cell rechargeable batteries such as Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Nickel Cadmium (NiCad).

Lithium ion batteries (a.k.a.: rechargeable lithium, lithium polymer, LIPO, secondary lithium).

CAMERA BATTERIES - Consumer-sized lithium ion batteries [no more than 8 grams of equivalent lithium content or 100 watt hours (wh) per battery]. This size covers AA, AAA, 9-volt, cell phone, PDA, camera, camcorder, Gameboy, and standard laptop computer batteries.

Up to two larger lithium ion batteries (more than 8 grams, up to 25 grams of equivalent lithium content per battery) in their carry-on. This size covers larger extended-life laptop batteries. Most consumer lithium ion batteries are below this size.

CAMERA BATTERIES - Lithium metal batteries (a.k.a.: non-rechargeable lithium, primary lithium). These batteries are often used with cameras and other small personal electronics. Consumer-sized batteries (up to 2 grams of lithium per battery) may be carried. This includes all the typical non-rechargeable batteries for personal film cameras and digital cameras (AA, AAA, 123, CR123A, CR1, CR2, CRV3, CR22, 2CR5, etc.) as well as the flat round lithium button cells.

Batteries Allowed in Checked Bags:

Except for spare (uninstalled) lithium batteries, all the batteries allowed in carry-on baggage are also allowed in checked baggage; however, we recommend that you pack them in your carry-on bag whenever possible.  In the cabin, airline flight crews can better monitor conditions, and have access to the batteries or device if a fire does occur.

Now to the Prohibited Batteries:

Car batteries, wet batteries, or spillable batteries are prohibited from both carry-on and checked baggage unless they are being used to power a scooter or wheelchair. If you need to pack a spare battery for a scooter or wheelchair, you must advise the aircraft operator so that the battery can be properly packaged for air travel.

Spare lithium batteries (both lithium metal and lithium ion/polymer) are prohibited in checked baggage.

Packing Tips for Batteries: 

If you’re traveling with spare batteries in addition to the ones inside your devices, and we all do… consider placing each battery in its own protective case, plastic bag, or package, or place tape across the battery's contacts to isolate terminals. Isolating terminals prevents hazards due to short-circuiting.

Here is what I do... I keep the original boxes with the plastic covers and bags that the batteries came in. I put my spare batteries in there. If Ive lost them, and lets face it, we all do... lol, I wrap each battery in a small plastic bag and steal elastics that my wife uses for her hair.... shhhh, dont tell her. :-)

If you must carry a battery-powered device in any baggage, please package it so it won’t accidentally turn on during the flight. If there is an on-off switch or a safety switch, tape it in the "off" position.

Yup... I do that too. :-)

Check out the Department of Transportation’s spare battery tips page for more information on safely packing spare batteries, and this FAA webpage for more information on permitted and non permitted batteries that includes helpful photos.

Battery Chargers:

You can pack battery chargers in carry-on and checked bags.  If the charger has an electrical cord, be sure to wrap it tightly around the charger. 

Don’t pack regular batteries in a rechargeable battery charger.  Non-rechargeable batteries are not designed for recharging, and become hazardous if placed in a battery charger.

Sure, some of this may feel like overkill, But there is nothing worse than having to pull out all your camera gear at the airport and get delayed when your trying to catch a plane when you could have spent 15 minutes at home wrapping up your gear before you left home... just my opinion folks... 

Safe travels Everyone!