Thinking of traveling with you film camera but having a lot of concerns about the possibilities of coming back empty handed ? Not sure if you are aware but X-ray damage on film can't be corrected in the lab or dark room. The processing lab cannot separate X-ray fog from camera exposure, and because this type of X-ray fog often appears in patterns, it is impossible to correct this damage in the duplicating or printing process. Therefore, I have a few tips to share on traveling with film.
1. Hand carry . Don't ever check-in your film together with you other baggage. This includes cameras that still have film in them. Checked-in baggage normally uses higher powered X-ray machine as compared to hand carry. Low 100 to 400 ISO film might not be a problem but anything higher might be an issue.
2. Pack your film in a organized manner to ease inspection. If you are very concerned about the letting your film passed through the x-ray machine, you can always request for a manual inspection by the custom officer. Not all country or airport security will entertain this request specially during peak hours but there is no harm trying. If so, please be considerate and organize your film and gears properly so the inspection could be done in the fastest possible manner. Line hogging is so so not cool ! Be considerate. You can purchase film cases such as the one below from ebay or Japan Camera Hunter site to organize your film. It makes checking a lot faster and easier too.
3. Ziplock bag is your film best friend. This is one of the coolest invention ever. It's cheap and you may fit easily 10 to 20 rolls of film into one bag. I like to use ziplock bags for storing 120 type films when I travel. It's fast, effective and seals off unwanted dust and moisture from your negatives too. I normally dump all the 120 film wrappers into the bag and dispose them when I reach my hotel room as it saves you time hunting for garbage bins when you are halfway reloading. I normally separate my color film with the black and white ones to avoid mistake in loading wrong film. The 120 format Kodak Portra and Kodak Tri-X film roll are very identical looking and its easy to get it wrong. I am super careful when come to stuff like this.
4. Kodak Tri-X for added flexibility - This is one of my favorite go-to travel film. This 400 ASA / ISO film is so flexible that you could push it to 800 ( 1 stop ) , 1600 ( 2 stops ) or even 3200 ( 3 stops ) ISO with amazing results. As the film speed is just 400 ISO, hence there is no issue passing through the scans together with your other hand carry gears and equipments. I will have a Kodak Ektar and Fuji Pro400H as well when I travel but the TriX is a must for me.
5. Estimate the amount of film needed for the trip. This is always the tough part. You wouldn't want to bring too little where you will out of film half way through the journey or carrying too much you would worry the X-ray may deteriorate the quality of these unexposed films. I always estimate my film qty rather precisely with extra two to three rolls as a safety stock.
This is how I do it. Look through your travel routine / itinerary and plan where you will be heading. Know your shooting pattern as in are you are trigger happy person or more of a sniper. I normally won't shoot much during transit like in airport and such hence I could just estimate one roll of film for the flying part as there isn't much stuff to shoot anyway ( for me at least ). I will allocate around 1.5 rolls of 135mm film for the each day. If you are flying to places like Japan or Hong Kong or Taiwan, then you can always purchase film over there as there abundance of film stores over there. However for more remote places like Vietnam, Nepal, TIbet, India and etc ....best to bring more on your own.
6. NO no with Instant film - Sometimes we could be a little ambitious when we travel. We tend to have a lot of 'What If' in mind and you ended up hogging your entire dry box over. Instant film like the Fuji FP are very sensitive to x-ray machines hence manual inspection is the only option.
7. Develop your film locally if necessary. If you are going to be traveling for a long period of time or probably exceeded your hand carry on limit, there is always an option to send your film to a local film lab for development. This will save all your worries as X-ray will not have any effects on developed film negatives.