The work we do requires a lot of travel by air and auto. For me, air travel is the most common mode of transportation. Travel by air brings certain challenges regarding what equipment you can take and how to get it to your destination. For any job, you need to consider the risk of shipping your equipment to either your hotel or the job site. If your equipment is delicate and needs to be handled with care, you’ll need to determine how to safely get it where it needs to be and when it needs to arrive. Let’s take a look at a few of the options available.
Shipping companies such as FedEx, UPS, DHL, and USPS, etc. offer insurance for your items. However, unless you purchase additional insurance (enough to cover the loss) they usually have a default level of around $1,000.00 to $2,000.00. This insurance is for loss or damage and not a guarantee for on-time delivery. Granted all of the aforementioned companies strive for on-time delivery, but the competition is tremendous and sometimes quality of service is sacrificed. You may have seen the sensationalized viral videos of how packages can be handled by shipping companies. This is certainly not the norm, but at the same time it’s not very confidence inspiring. I’m not judging the shipping industry on what I have seen in viral videos, but rather on my past experience. I’ve found that most shipping companies are very reliable. However, mistakes do happen!
Checking Equipment as Baggage:
If shipping your equipment is a risk you don’t want to take, then option of checking your equipment as baggage is available. In my experience, the track record of my checked baggage making it to my destination is pretty good. However, things can go awry. I have seen the baggage handlers from the windows of the terminal loading items on the conveyor from a distance of five feet, items falling off the conveyor, and baggage sitting in the rain waiting to get loaded or taken to the claim area. Remember the old luggage commercials, where the baggage handlers were portrayed as gorillas? That commercial is always in my mind every time I pack for a trip. Thus, as a general rule I never check my equipment as baggage.
If you have the opportunity to drive from your office, then this is the best way to get your equipment to the destination in one piece. This option allows you to have the equipment in your sight at all times and within your control.
Packing Your Equipment:
Let’s cover how to pack the equipment. For shipping, the case your equipment comes in from the manufacture is normally a durable case designed for shipping and should protect from normal handling mishaps. I would zip-tie or lock the container to prevent accidental opening of the case. When addressing the package, verify the address, call ahead to the location (either the hotel or the job site), make sure someone (get their name) knows it is coming and the expected arrival date and time. For a small fee, most of the shipping companies will obtain a signature for your records. This way you know who signed for your items if there is a problem.
If you opt for the checked baggage option, I would use the manufactures case inside a plain cardboard box marked “FRAGILE.” Why tempt anyone in an airport to “misplace” your container because it looks expensive? These types of things do happen and equipment can end up in places it shouldn’t (pawn shops, flea markets, etc.). This method can be used for shipping, also.
If you decide to hand carry (highly recommended), I have found most of the cases provided by the manufacturer are bulky and larger than needed when carrying the equipment by hand. Keep in mind the size restrictions for carry-on baggage if travelling by air. Most airlines allow one plus for carry-ons. I normally have my portable office briefcase and my equipment in a smaller compact carrying case. Camera bags work well for this as they have customizable interiors. This option works the best for me. Even if my checked bags are delayed or missing, I still have the equipment I need to complete the job. Although I may need to acquire extra clothing and/or PPE, that’s relatively easy compared to trying to find the testing equipment you need!
Remember, your equipment is your work. Without it you are there and not working until a replacement can be sent to you or your items finally arrive. You have a finite window to complete the job before your return flight home, or extra costs cut into your profits due to rebooking flights, hotels, and rental cars. Thus, think ahead and be prepared when it comes to your equipment.