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5 Best Crafts for Traveling – Portable Crafts for Traveling and Vacation

When there’s a little space left in your carryon, what do you bring? More snacks or more crafts? It’s a tricky question! It’s also a question I’ll be facing again soon as we prepare to head to West Virginia. This time I may have to go for more snacks, but I usually try for the “more crafts” option, instead! I’ve tried a wide variety of crafts on airplanes and long car trips. These are, I think, the 5 best crafts for traveling. They’re portable, unlikely to get you in trouble with TSA, and generally do-able while sleep deprived!

5 best crafts for traveling - tried and true travel crafts

My Top 5 Best Crafts for Traveling

Kumihimo

Kumihimo is my absolute favorite travel craft! It’s so easy to pack up a basic foam disk and shove it in your bag, plus simple patterns are very easy to follow when you’re tired for a mind-numbingly long trip. I usually stand in place in the foot space of my seat on airplanes (when there’s enough space overhead and the fasten seatbelt sign is off!) and kumi braid the night away when we fly to the Mainland. It’s also a great conversation starter – other passengers and flight attendants frequently ask what I’m making. For a quick look at my favorite kumi braid and tips on how to braid more quickly, stop by this post.

Crochet

Simple, small crochet projects can work well in cars and planes. If possible, bring bamboo or plastic crochet hooks to minimize the chance of having anything confiscated at security. Unless you have awesome eyesight, you may want to stick to projects that use larger hooks and yarn while traveling – amigurumi is cute, but it can be hard to see! I’ve successfully crocheted one of the beanies from this Craftsy class on basic crocheting in the round on a plane.

Knitting

Again, simpler projects are best. Knitting needles are typically allowed on US flights, but I highly recommend sticking with plastic or bamboo needles if at all possible. Of course, if you’re in a car you won’t have to worry about this restriction! Smaller projects, or projects that can be broken into pieces, work better than, for example, knitting an entire blanket. That would take up pretty much your whole carryon! Though planes are usually cold, so maybe it’s not such a bad project, after all. Hmmm… 😉

If you’re not sure how to knit, you can check out free classes on Craftsy! They’re one of my main go-to sites for learning new skills. Online Knitting Class

Small Weaving Projects

Small weaving looms and weaving tablets can fit on your tray table (or lap) and are also certain to start up a conversation with your seat mates! Looms like this 16″x12″ lap loom are probably about the maximum for planes, though you might be able to fit something larger in your family car. I haven’t personally tried it (yet!), but this beanie weaving loom and kit would probably be a good travel choice. Finger weaving projects are also a great choice, and can be a great substitute for knitting if you’re nervous about knitting needles on a plane or in a car. The book Knitting Without Needles has an amazing variety of projects. The book’s author also has a variety of finger knitting projects, and a tutorial video, on her blog Flax & Twine.

Friendship Bracelets

Remember making colorful friendship bracelets in middle school? A friendship bracelet is very portable and it’s easy to cut all your floss at home! Grab an inexpensive package of embroidery floss bobbins, measure out the floss you’ll need at home, then wind it on to the bobbins to keep everything tidy and contained on your trip. Don’t forget to add a little extra length just in case! You can always trim off excess later, but it’s a real bummer to find out your bracelet is an inch short at the end of your floss. Has it been a while since 6th grade? This tutorial from PearlSoho will refresh your memory on how to make friendship bracelets. Other smaller macrame projects are great choices, too!

Cross Stitch + Other Counted Thread Embroidery

Okay, okay, this is number 6! But I couldn’t resist. In general, I find sewing difficult in planes and cars, but cross stitch and other counted stitch embroidery can work while traveling, especially if you’re using a large weave cloth. Spruce Craft Co in Australia has some super cute looking kits, and they also have PDF patterns for folks not looking to wait for a package from Oz. There are also lots of free, cute cross stitch patterns online, like these pineapples from Imagine Ggnats.

What about other crafts?

I’ve also attempted watercolor painting, drawing, zen doodling, and coloring on planes. They…aren’t the best choices. All can work wonderfully on the ground, whether you’re on a layover or on vacation, but they don’t lend themselves well to the constant vibrating and jostling you usually experience with a car or plane. I’m also not a big fan of sewing while in transit – I find it very difficult to look at.

A word about scissors: The TSA generally allows scissors with blunt tips and blades less than 4″ in your carry on (source), but please remember that individual agents may not actually know their own rules and have discretion, anyway. If you’re particularly attached to your scissors and couldn’t stand to see them in the trash bin, consider bringing a self addressed + stamped mailer to the airport with you. There are bins near security where you can mail prohibited items instead of throwing them away. If you only anticipate needing to cut thread or narrow yarn, consider bringing a small, but powerful, pair of nail clippers with you. You’d be surprised how well they can work as a substitute!

5 Best Crafts for Traveling - Portable crafts for travel and vacation

These choices are my top, tried and true, picks for best crafts for traveling. However, I really like some other projects to actually do while I’m away from home, so stay tuned for more fun, travel-sized crafts to do once you reach your destination!

What are your favorite crafts to work on while traveling?

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Marieken May 12, 2017, 07:41

    I forgot all about friendship bracelets, I used to make tons of them as a teen. And I never knew jellifish could look that cute!

    • Natashalh May 12, 2017, 10:33

      I know! Those little finger knit guys are so adorable. I made so many friendship bracelets when I was 12 or 13. A friend and I would try to sell them to classmates!

  • PrettyPotato May 12, 2017, 21:40

    This is fab! I always like to crochet on car journeys but I tend to just take books on aeroplanes… we always fly budget and it’s a bit cosy to get my hooks out

    • Natashalh May 12, 2017, 22:06

      I read quite a bit on planes, too. I’m lucky on planes, I guess – I’m fairly small and shorter than average so I usually end up having a tiny bit more space than others (and my husband is the same height and size as me, so he doesn’t crowd my space when we travel together).

  • Splendid Little Stars May 14, 2017, 16:48

    great list!
    Once I knitted a scarf on a plane, and that got a lot of attention which was rather fun.
    Kumi braiding looks interesting. I’ll have to look into that.
    These days finds me more often just reading on a plane. But I like to have a transportable, smallish craft with me for when I reach my destination.

    • Natashalh May 14, 2017, 18:08

      A nice conversation with someone on the plane can really help pass the time! I do also read on planes, but sometimes when I’m too tired to concentrate a repetitive craft like kumi braiding can be exactly what I need. (I can never sleep on planes, even the one time I magically got one of those lie flat first class beds!)

  • BeadedTail May 15, 2017, 08:09

    Beading doesn’t work on planes so I usually read. I get car sick so no crafts in the car for me! These certainly are great ideas though!

    • Natashalh May 15, 2017, 10:04

      Trying to bead on a plane sounds like a great recipe for frustration and a headache! I get pretty carsick, too, so I can only really do crafts or read on the interstate.

  • Pamela Baker May 15, 2017, 09:50

    Love your travel tips – although I can’t imagine how you were able to use the Kumihimo Wheel squished in those tiny plane seats. I always wind up get the plastic holders all twisted up.
    When I was going to Portugal a few years ago, I called the Airline to make sure I could bring my knitting needles, they checked and said yes. When I arrived at the checkpoint, the TSA were going to confiscate them, as they considered them weapons! I told them they better check again because I called ahead and was told I could bring them on the plane. I finally won out! So little side note: when in doubt, call ahead!

    • Natashalh May 15, 2017, 10:02

      Wow – yay for winning a disagreement with TSA! That’s fantastic. As for not getting my bobbins wrapped up with each other – well, sometimes I do. I keep the cords really short and just unwind a little at a time. Also, I stand whenever possible. I’m 5’2″, so I can sometimes stand in my foot space (when the fasten seatbelt sign isn’t on). If there isn’t enough headroom, I will sort of kneel with my thighs and torso upright on my seat or knee with one knee and put one foot on the floor. This sometimes gets me some odd looks from the person in the seat behind me until they return their attention to their movie! I also stand or do this kneeling thing while reading a lot of the time. I just can’t stand to sit, sit, sit for hours on end. On long, overnight flights I’ve found the staff is usually pretty understanding. I also spend time, when I can, standing around near the lavatories. Some of the planes have this tiny corridor behind the mid-plane lavs I’ve spent a lot of time standing and stretching in. I’ve also had some interesting conversations with flight attendants! I’m hoping they’ll be even more understanding with my on our big flight next month because I’ve been specifically reminded by my doctor to move around as much as possible.

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