Photograph of a Manfrotto tripodI have quite a bit of travel coming up for my photography and a tripod is essential for my shoots.  Since some of my trips will be quick one day turn-arounds I did not want to hassle with (and pay for) checked baggage.  But I thought a tripod might be categorized as a “deadly weapon” in the eyes of the TSA and not be permitted as carry-on baggage.  So I started doing some research.  Surprisingly there is nothing mentioned about tripods on the prohibited items section of the TSA website.  Nor was there any mention of it on the baggage policy section of the website of the airline I was flying, Southwest.  I did find some anecdotal information on various blogs.  Some saying yes, some saying no, some saying it is up to the mood of the TSA screener that you happen to get.  So it would seem specific policies on tripods as carry on baggage have not (yet) been written.

So here is what I did.  First I called the airline I was flying and asked.  This might be specific to each airline, so be sure to call your airline for their policies.  Southwest Airlines said without a doubt I could bring a tripod in a  bag on board as a carry on.  The also confirmed that it would not be a problem going through security.  Great.  But just in case someone was extra cranky at the security screening and made me check it I took a few further precautions.  I removed the head and put it in my carry-on bag so I would not have to check the more expensive head.  Then I wrapped the tripod up in a blanket and put it in its bag, put a business card inside the bag and a luggage tag outside.  If I did have to check the tripod I would be able to do it quickly without any reconfiguring.

I was able to carry it on for both legs of my trip with no problems, no questions.  But I suspect this is going to vary by airport, screening agent and even day of the week.  Where there are no set rules it is best to prepare for anything.  You should be able to carry a tripod onto a plane without any issues.  But just in case, have it ready to be checked and make the trip safely down below.

3 Responses to “Can You Take a Tripod on a Plane as a Carry On?”

  1. Mike Wilson

    on December 19 2011

    I read the whole thing, and I don’t even have a tripod. :)

  2. Mike

    on December 19 2011

    As the site’s most loyal reader/viewer (based on comments) I would expect no less. :-) Thanks!

  3. Mike Wilson

    on December 19 2011


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