It’s no surprise that disposable cameras have made a comeback! They’re a lot of fun to bring on a trip because you can snap a quick picture and only get to see how they turn out when you get home. When I first thought about travelling with a disposable camera, I found myself googling “can you bring a disposable camera on a plane” because I had no idea if you could pack it in your carry-on or if it had to be in your checked luggage.
After all, there are so many rules when it comes to air travel, how are you supposed to know?
So if you’re in the same boat, this guide will answer all your questions regarding single-use cameras and travel!
Why Bring a Disposable Camera?
I love having a disposable camera on a trip because if you’re travelling solo, you end up with really great pics with new friends and if you’re travelling with a partner or friend, you’ll have amazing photos to keep as memories or put together in a scrapbook. You also don’t have to worry about lugging around a bunch of camera gear!
How to Pack a Disposable Camera for Carry-On Baggage
I’ve brought a disposable camera on two trips and haven’t had any problems bringing it with me in my carry-on. In fact, I’ve never put it in my carry-on bags but brought it as my ‘personal item’. I always travel with a fanny pack and have kept my disposable camera there for each journey! It’s a good idea to make sure you have it stored in a safe and dry place.
What About Checked Luggage?
While you can pack a disposable camera in your checked luggage, it’s not recommended. This is because the scanners for checked luggage are stronger than those that scan carry-on items. Any film camera with 800 ISO or higher can be damaged when going through the x-ray machine.
Going Through the Airport Security Line
You shouldn’t have a problem going through the airport security line with a disposable camera. If you’re worried about damage, you can always keep it in a clear plastic bag, however, I’ve never found that necessary.
Disposable cameras generally have an 800 ISO on the dot, which means they should be fine when packed as a carry-on. With that being said, if you’re concerned, you can always ask security personnel that the undeveloped film have a hand inspection instead of having it go through the machine.
Should You Be Using Lead-Lined Bags?
If you’re concerned about airport scanners or metal detectors ruining your film, lead-lined bags are always an option. When thinking about using a lead-lined bag, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The strength of the x-ray machine – Each lead-lined bag will have a different level of effectiveness that will only protect up to a certain degree. Always check how much protection it offers before purchasing.
- Lead-lined bags may trigger an inspection – If the x-ray detects a lead-lined bag that’s blocking the inspection, the TSA agents or TSA screeners might pull it out from the bag and put it through the x-ray again. This could lead to even more exposure to the x-ray machine than would occur without the lead-lined bag.
If the airport allows, you should always ask for a hand check of your disposable camera so that you don’t risk the film getting ruined.
Will X-Ray Scanners Ruin Undeveloped Film?
Whether or not your undeveloped film makes it through the x-ray unharmed, often depends on one thing – the type of x-ray machine. X-ray equipment is changing with the times and therefore we’re seeing updated machines popping up. Older x-rays aren’t very strong and therefore you don’t need to worry about film with an ISO of 800 or less. However, recent scanners, such as TSA CT (computed tomography) scanners can damage film immediately and after one scan. The damaged film ends up with a foggy effect when the photos are developed, as well as other distortion to the lighting and exposure.
I used to travel with a Fuji Film Instax camera and eventually stopped because the film was often ruined. I ended up wasting a LOT of money on extra film packs. So far, I haven’t noticed any issues with regular disposable camera film but would avoid bringing undeveloped instant film with me.
Will New Scanners Ruin Photographic Film?
Yes, CT scanners found mostly in US airports will ruin your undeveloped film. The best way to avoid your film from being ruined by the new scanners is to request a hand check. It’s not uncommon to come across an international airport using CT scanners, as they could make the security process less annoying than it currently is.
While it can save time when it comes to removing electronics and liquids from your bag, it’s not great for anyone shooting with a film or disposable camera.
What About Digital Cameras?
Unfortunately for film photographers, digital cameras are easier to fly with, as you don’t need to be as concerned about the x-ray machines altering your photos. You should always travel with your digital camera in your carry-on luggage but there’s no need to be concerned about digital cameras going through the new CT style of x-ray machines.
I’ve heard that sometimes SD cards can be corrupted by the machines but I’ve never had the experience myself and I’ve been travelling with my Canon Rebel t5i from 2017-2023. If you’re a professional photographer and need images and videos for client work, I’d recommend having backup SD cards and backing up your content on a hard drive to ensure you don’t lose anything during your travels.
Last Minute Travel Tip
Are you prepared for your trip? I don’t travel anywhere without SafetyWing’s travel and medical insurance! It’s made for digital nomads who are always on the go but it’s great for any trip! It’s an affordable option that will cover you in case you get into a sticky situation when you’re away from home.
So, can you bring a disposable camera on a plane? Disposable cameras are a lot of fun for travel but because they contain unprocessed film, you run the risk of the film getting ruined at the airport. You can ask a TSA officer or security officer to have your film hand-checked, allowing you to bypass the x-ray machine. However, you might not have the same luck at international airports, especially if there’s a language barrier.
I’d recommend trying out a check disposable camera with an ISO that’s no higher than 800. Make sure you’re using flash for any photo that isn’t taken in direct sunlight (as many of mine were underexposed because of this). For all my professional photographers out there, it might be best to find a local shop that can develop the photos for you, before you hop on the plane!
And if you only take one thing away from this blog, remember to NEVER pack your iso film or sheet film in your checked baggage. You’ll thank me later.
I hope I answered your questions surrounding, “can you bring a disposable camera on a plane”. I’ll be back shortly with another blog but be sure to follow my adventures on Instagram and TikTok in the meantime!
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2 thoughts on “Can You Bring a Disposable Camera on a Plane? Full Guide”
Thanks for the tips, I love travelling with a disposable camera! It’s so fun getting to look through the photos when you get them developed. One time, while I was travelling in Guatemala, my phone broke and I lost SO many photos (I didn’t have iCloud at the time) but at least I had my disposable camera photos. That made them extra special.
It’s the worst when you lose digital photos! Definitely agree that it’s so fun to have ones printed out 😊