In addition to the usual packing – which was no mean feat, considering our journey would take us past the Arctic Circle, then within 1,300 miles of the North Pole, then back to somewhat temperate climes (our last port was London, where it was a sizzling 32°C) dictating many, many layers be packed – I was doing as much research as I could. I joined forums, scoured YouTube for tips and tricks, posted questions on Reddit. But when it came down to it, all I could do was be as prepared as possible. And hope that the sight of Jasper wouldn’t cause a ruckus with airport security at Orlando International.
I checked my largest bag – 39 pounds, which would hopefully allow me 11 pounds of wiggle room for the inevitable souvenirs – and felt my heart rate increase a little as I entered the security check line. I hadn’t flown this late before (our departure time was after 9PM) so seeing next to no one snaking through security was a relief, but, it did mean I’d find out even quicker if I had a problem. Sure, I had done my research, I had taken the necessary precautions of flying with Jasper, followed all the rules, but the possibility that I could be flagged made me feel uneasy, and inexplicably guilty.
“Everything larger than a cell phone has to be out of your bag and in its own tray,” a TSA agent announced to the line. This part I was experienced in. Shoes came off. My earrings, necklace, medical ID tag and Apple Watch were already in my purse. Pulling both of my phones out along with my iPad, I dumped them in the first bin, my purse in the second. I neared the TSA agent, and picked up my carry-on, putting it on the conveyor belt.
“I have a drone,” I blurted. The agent looked at me. I opened my carry-on to pull out the camera bag Jasper was snuggled in.
“Is it smaller than a phone?”
“It’s about the same as my iPhone.” I pulled out the hard DJI case my Mavic Air had come in, to show her the size.
“It needs to come out.”
I quickly unzipped the case and grabbed a third bin, eyeing the three flight batteries still in the camera bag. Each were encased in their own fireproof li-ion pouches. In another pocket, three GoPro batteries were similarly shielded, to prevent any short circuiting. Meanwhile, the agent watched all this with a degree of unfamiliarity that almost bordered on naked curiosity. In retrospect, I don’t think she had ever seen a drone before, and if I pressed her, I doubt she would have been able to recite the FAA guidelines for flying with drones and all their accoutrements. But I could. And this made me feel more confident. But just in case, I had printed them out and shoved them in with my Viking travel documents, just in case a, shall we say, disagreement arose.
But that wasn’t even remotely necessary. Before I knew it, all three of my bins and my carry-on suitcase disappeared behind the rubber flaps of the scanner, followed by yours truly through the whole body scanner.
And…that was it.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I rearranged my gear and zipped Jasper back up in his case, tied my shoes and put my med tag back on. I was over the first and biggest hurdle; I would worry about getting a drone through Heathrow’s security – our last port, and the one I was looking forward to the most – in two weeks, but by then it wouldn’t matter as much. By then I’d have my photos and footage, backed up and separate from Jasper. If he was confiscated, I’d mourn him for the 9 hours it would take for my transatlantic flight to get stateside, and then I’d go back to Best Buy.
Now, the true test: a 9-hour transatlantic flight. Not the longest there is, I’m aware, but very much a test of my “don’t even think of claustrophobia” repression skills.