I believe that a lens is more important than the camera. Without a good lens, you can be using the best camera in the world and still take photos that don’t look quite right.

When you’re traveling, choosing the best lens to take with you is especially challenging. Not only do you need to pick a high-quality lens, but now you need to select maybe 1 or 2 (or maybe 3?) so that what you packed isn’t weighed down by the weight of camera accessories.

I’ve listed out my favorite picks for lenses that are versatile enough to get you through almost every situation you’ll encounter while you’re traveling or at home.

Are prime lenses good for travel?

I prefer prime lenses over zoom lenses. Prime lenses are usually sharper than zoom lenses and are also smaller because they have fewer moving parts.

As a travel photographer, having a small camera profile is a win when you’re shooting street photos and want to look more low-key.

I’ve found that only bringing a 50mm lens with me for a day has been more than enough.

Our tips for how to travel with lenses

When you bring cameras and lenses while you travel, it’s important to protect them when you pack your bags for the trip.

I like to travel without checking any bags through when I fly. I carry-on everything! Because of this, I have all of my camera stuff with me on the airplane and can be a little less cautious about having a lot of padding in my camera bag.

When I fly, I also like to put my overhead bag (especially if my camera stuff is inside) on the opposite side of my seat, so that I can keep an eye on the overhead. In the rare event that someone goes into my bag, I’ll be able to see what is going on.

If you do check your bags through, and you have lenses, be careful! I would advise against this, but you can try a couple of precautionary things to protect your gear.

Traveling with lenses: Get a lock for your camera bag

If someone is going to go through your bag, the best thing that you can do to try and stop them is add a lock. You’ll need a TSA-style lock Affiliate link. It’s not a bulletproof plan, but it will make it one step harder for someone to open your bag.

With a TSA lock, the benefit is that if the TSA does need to get into your bag, they will have a special TSA key that won’t break your lock. Any other lock that’s not TSA-approved doesn’t have this benefit, and you’ll wind up with a broken lock or a broken bag.

Lens hacks: Use a lot of cushion around your lenses

Bags go on a journey when you check them. They’re thrown, tossed and trampled during their journey from the check-in counter bag drop to under the airplane and down again on a baggage claim.

The best thing that you can do is try and protect your lenses by padding them with a lens case. A new product I’m using is the KUVRD Universal Lens Cap. It’s a soft lens cap that’s versatile enough to fit a few different types of lens bodies. It’s lightweight and packable, which are two key features that make it great for traveling.

If you haven’t gotten around to purchasing a special lens case, you can use your clothes or something soft. Depending on the size of your lens, you can even put them in a shoe or a sock.