Tour Photographer’s Survival Guide

How to Make a Van Home Away from Home

By Emily Zoda

As a photographer, it’s prime to carry a camera, a detachable flash, SD cards with plenty of room to shoot away, and a laptop to upload them to later in a hotel room.

Traveling with the band, with my boyfriend as singer and guitarist, it’s fun going different places and meeting new people. I’m doing what I love most: photographing live concerts.

But even in what seems like a perfect setup, you’ll need more than just a camera to get you by. Here are some tips to follow if you happen to be a photographer on the road.

Ear plugs: Without these, you’ll lose your hearing, an inconvenience for a college student. Some come with a keychain case (e.g. Original Earpeace Ear Plugs,, $15) to make it impossible for you to forget them in the hotel room.

Cash: Always have cash on you, even if you’re like me and use your card everywhere. Outside of New York, you just never know whether your card will be accepted or if you need change for the merch table.

Cooler: Even though you’ll always stop for food, bring a cooler with you to keep water and Gatorade or iced tea so there won’t be a need to buy them every place you go. Some refrigerated snacks are good to keep in coolers as well. Just don’t get muffins because nobody wants pieces of soggy anything floating in their ice water, a harsh lesson I learned.

Hotels: Do a lot of research on this. Finding hotels when most of your party is under 21 can be tricky because of strict hotel rules. We lucked out when we stayed at a string of Hampton Inn’s we found for cheap on Expedia. Also, there’s free breakfast, the most important meal of the day.

Bluetooth speaker: In this instance, we were driving in a 16 year-old van with a busted radio and AC. We decided to invest in a small bluetooth speaker called the Oontz Angle Plus (Amazon, $35).

It packs a lot of sound and it has rubber grips on the bottom so it won’t slide around. And best of all, it’s waterproof. Instead of fumbling over the radio, everyone can connect their phones to the speaker and play their tunes at will. There’s also an AUX output (wire not included) for phones or MP3 devices that don’t have bluetooth. A great investment for sure.

Something to do: Being the only girl in the car, I had to find a way to keep myself sane. When conversations of girls, 4chan, and phalluses creeped in, I whipped out a magazine I brought from home. I’d search for more reading material on my tablet, or I would stick my earbuds in and listen to a podcast or two.

We had time to stop at one of the biggest malls in the US, King of Prussia, in Pennsylvania, and while they all flocked to the comic book store or GameStop, I did a little shopping for myself and got a good amount of walking in. Sometimes you need to get away from all the testosterone, especially if you’re going to share a room with all of them later anyway.

Unfortunately, there are times when a show might fall through, leaving some time for flexibility during the week. During our down time, we were in Virginia with plenty of things to do like mini golf, paintballing, or go-carts. We even bought a wiffle ball and bat to play with in the park by the water, complete with a gorgeous site.

Wawa: Outside of New York you will rarely see a 7-Eleven or bodega around, so Wawa is the best (and only) option. When you think about the deli sandwiches, coffee, snacks, and sometimes gas at cheaper prices than anywhere else, Wawa doesn’t seem too bad an idea for multiple food trips, especially if your hotel is always located within ten minutes of one. Every time.

Workout clothes: All the hotels we stayed at had 24 hour gyms, so I packed a pair of workout clothes and sneakers to sneak in a routine before heading out again. It helps to plug your earphones in and work out all the Wawa cheesesteaks you’ve put in your body.

Business cards: If you’re photographing every band on the bill, you want to strike up a conversation and give them one of these and tell them about the wonderful social media world you partake in and where their photos will be displayed. They may seem like they’re not interested at the moment after playing and being hot and sweaty, but they will thank you later.


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