One of the perpetual struggles for passionate knitters is packing our knitting when we travel. Whether it’s by boat, plane, train, car, or horse & buggy, there are things that must be carefully considered when trying to pre-plan your creative genius.
What if I get bored with the project I’m working on & want something else? What if I’m suddenly inspired to knit a cozy beanie in bulky yarn and all I have is a pair of socks to work on?? What if my knitting speed doubles while I’m away from home and I completely run out of things to knit???
These are serious worries for a traveling knitter.
As someone who has traveled quite a bit — always with knitting by her side — I have figured out a few tips & tricks that might be helpful to avoid [realistic] travel knitting crises. (Sorry, I can’t help you if you suddenly develop super speed & knit all of your yarn in one day…) 😛
Tip #1: Especially if you’re traveling by plane, you’re likely going to be pretty short on space — pack small projects that will not be finished quickly. This is also useful if you are a non-monogomous knitter as it is usually easier to take 2-3 small projects than one large one.
Note: Socks are good travel knitting for this reason — socks are small, low maintenance projects as all you need are yarn & needles, yet sock knitting is relatively time consuming and will (usually) not be finished quickly. Throw a couple skeins of sock yarn and a pair of needles (or two) in your bag, and you could be happily knitting away for weeks. (It’s probably a good idea to wind these skeins before the trip…swifts & ball winders are bulky and won’t fit very well in suitcases.)
Tip #2: The TSA has approved knitting needles for domestic travel, so traveling within the US, you should not have an issue with taking needles on a plane. However, not all international destinations have the same policy. If you are traveling internationally, make sure to check the restrictions of every country you are traveling to — you will be held to the guidelines of the country you are traveling from, not your final destination.
[This is especially applicable to me now as Peruvian airports are generally more strict about the carrying of knitting needles.] If you believe there may be an issue, here are three things I suggest:
- If you believe your needles may be taken, make sure to take needles you wouldn’t be heartbroken to lose, (i.e., leave your Signatures at home!). Needles are more likely to be confiscated if they look like they could cause harm; the ‘safer’ they look, the more likely it is that you will be able to keep them. Therefore, take wooden, bamboo, or plastic needles — not metal.
- If wooden/bamboo/plastic needles are not your favorite, pack your preferred needles in your checked luggage so you can use these on non-travel days without worrying about losing them.
- In order to prepare for the possibility of losing your needles, add a life-line to your knitting before going through security. (A life-line is a piece of scrap yarn or string that is threaded through the stitches to keep your stitches from dropping if the needles are removed.) This way, if your needles are taken, your knitting will be held and you won’t have to worry about salvaging your work once you make it home.
- Also, pack at least one pair of extra needles in your checked luggage so you will not be stuck without knitting if the needles you’re carrying are taken.
- If you’ve followed both tips #1 & #2 and are still worried about losing your needles, I suggest you remove the needles yourself and stash them in a case of pens and pencils. This way, when you go through security, they are less likely to draw negative attention since they are not in use.
- (Note: If the country you are traveling from generally does not allow knitting needles, it is advised that you don’t knit until you are in a country that does — if stewards/stewardesses see you knitting on a flight, they may confiscate them as well. If you can’t stand the idea of not knitting on a flight, make sure to check with the flight crew before knitting. You are less likely to draw negative attention if you declare your possession of them openly instead of trying to be “sneaky.”)
[DISCLAIMER: These tips do NOT intend to advise trying to “sneak” knitting needles through airport security in places where they are expressly disallowed — these are only tips to be used in areas where your needles may or may not be taken, but are not specifically banned.)
Tip #3: [This is more of a general travel tip, but can make a difference if you’re a knitter who likes to collect “destination yarn.”] When packing your luggage, roll your clothes instead of folding them to maximize space. Additionally, if your suitcase has an extension option, strive to NOT use this function on your way to your destination — this way, you will have this extra room to use for souvenirs (i.e., yarn) on your way back.
- A tip from the Yarn Harlot (in her book At Knits End): If you purchase yarn while you are away and can’t figure out how to fit it in your suitcase, simply go to the closest post office and mail it to yourself — yarn is light and won’t cost too much to ship. 🙂
Lastly, (because I’m on a roll…), a few general travel tips:
- Pack everything you will need for your trip the day before you leave — even toiletries. This will not only cut down on stress and anxiety the day you depart, but will also ensure you do not forget anything, as you will be “living” out of the suitcase for your last day at home and, therefore, will be more likely to notice if anything was forgotten.
- For plane travel, be strategic with the packing of your carry-on — this should not only include the things you want on the plane, but also anything you would not want to be without for a day or two if your luggage is lost, (i.e., medicine, a change of clothes, toothbrush, etc.).
- Choose luggage pieces that physically compliment each other. (I don’t mean matching color…unless that’s your thing…) You need to be able to handle all of your luggage simultaneously in case you need to hurry or there is no one to help you. An example of this, if you have a rolling suitcase, do not take a rolling carry-on as well — unless you can maneuver both at the same time.
- All of your valuables, (i.e., jewelry, technology, etc.), should be carried on your person at all times while traveling. DO NOT under any circumstances pack these things in your checked luggage unless you would be willing to part with them. The airport luggage system is good, but it is not perfect. Luggage is often lost, so save yourself the anxiety attack, and keep these things with you.
- If you have a smart phone, tablet, i-Device, etc., etc., etc…make sure to back all of these things up before you leave AND as soon as you return. There is nothing worse than going on a fantastic trip, taking an enormous amount of amazing photos, and then having your phone crash and losing everything because you waited too long to back them up. (Believe me, I know this from personal experience.)
- Additionally, for your technology, make sure you have all of the security measures active before you leave; i.e., Find My iPhone, GPS tracking, passcodes, etc. This way, your personal information is less likely to be compromised if the device is lost or stolen.
What are your favorite travel tips?