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Have Camera, Will Travel - Part I

Credit: Simon Matzinger  
Hamid Amirani - 6.20.19

You've got your camera, your tripod, your Cecilia bag, and you're all set for your vacation where you plan to take some epic photos. So the last thing you want are headaches about what you can and can't take with you and whether you'll need to pay duties on any purchases.

Here's the lowdown on some of the most critical issues when traveling.

Lithium Batteries

Credit: Tyler Lastovich 

There tends to be some confusion and uncertainty about whether you can take lithium batteries with you on your travels.

Watt-hour ratings for lithium batteries are a function of the amount of lithium in a battery. “Eight grams of E.L.C. (equivalent lithium content) are about equal to 100 watt-hours.” For example, the battery in a smartphone might only be about 12.4 watt-hours, while some extended-duration laptop batteries can exceed 100 watt-hours.

Some newer batteries display their watt-hours as Wh preceded by a number. Otherwise, to calculate the watt-hours of your device’s battery: “Multiply the given volts by the battery capacity, shown as milliamps or mAh. Divide the sum by 1,000 to get the watt-hour rating.”

This is the official guidance from the Transportation Security Administration for carrying lithium ion and lithium metal batteries:

  • You can take devices with you in both carry-on luggage and checked bags. Devices that have batteries with more than 100 watt-hours can be taken in both carry-on luggage and checked bags with airline approval.

  • Spare batteries can be taken in carry-on luggage as long as they're protected from damage and short circuit by keeping them in their original packaging or by placing them in a battery case or separate pouch or pocket. Ensure that the loose batteries can’t move around. You can also place tape over the terminals of unpackaged batteries to insulate them from short circuit. Batteries with more than 100 watt-hours are limited to two spares. Portable chargers are considered as spare batteries and can only be taken in carry-on luggage.

  • No spare batteries are allowed in checked bags.

  • For further details, view the PDF issued by the TSA.

    Carry-on Baggage


    Cecilia's Mercator Backpack in Cotton Twill
    Credit: Jay Cassario

    When it comes to carry-on baggage restrictions, the TSA says: "Size dimensions of carry-on baggage allowed in the cabin of the aircraft vary by airline. Contact your airline to ensure what can fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you."

    Luckily, there's consistency across the major airlines. Three of the biggest, United, American Airlines and Delta, all have 22" x 14" x 9" as the maximum carry-on luggage allowance, which is handy because Cecilia's biggest backpack, the Mercator, is a cool 19" x 11.75" x 6".

    However, there are differences in the allowances of international airlines. For example, British Airways’ carry-on allowance is a slightly more generous 22" x 18" x 10". Some airlines also only permit one carry-on bag as opposed to one carry-on plus one small personal item, which is the standard for United, American Airlines and Delta. For example, TUI Airways only allows one cabin bag. Skyscanner has compiled a handy guide to the allowances of these and other major international airlines.


    Credit: Anissa Thompson 

    The last thing you want to worry about when you return from your adventures is paying duties on your vacation purchases.

    That's where the duty free exemption comes in. This is the "total value of merchandise you may bring back to the United States without paying duty. Depending on the countries you have visited, your personal exemption will be $200, $800, or $1,600."

    If you bring back more than your exemption, you'll be liable for duty. Separate customs regulations apply to items such as alcohol and tobacco depending on your route of travel and exemption allowance, so ensure you check the rules before you travel.

    Except for the $200 allowance, the other exemption allowances have limitations. For example, if your allowance is $800 and you bring back $150 worth of goods from a trip, you have to wait another 30 days before your allowance resets to $800.

  • Types of Exemption

  • $200

    This is the allowance you're given if you've already been out of the country more than once in a 30-day period or haven't been out of the country for at least 48 hours. "You may still bring back $200 worth of items free of duty and tax."


    This allowance is if you're returning from anywhere other than a U.S. insular possession (U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or Guam). "You may bring back $800 worth of items duty free, as long as you bring them with you. This is called accompanied baggage."


    This is the allowance if you return directly or indirectly from a U.S. insular possession (U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or Guam).

    Wherever you plan to visit, have an awesome time! And don't forget your Cecilia bag. Your camera deserves to travel in style too.

    Credit: Porapak Apichodilok 

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