Bringing your Hobbies on Vacation

The Champ de Mars Park, Paris A Great Place to Read, Sketch or Take Photos
The Champ de Mars Park, Paris
A Great Place to Read, Sketch or Take Photos

It is always difficult to decide what type of entertainment to bring along on a trip.  Should you bring books?  Movies?  Crafts, hobbies, or needlework?  What apps or games should you load onto your smart phone or tablet?

On the other hand, maybe you should leave all of this entertainment behind. After all, you are on vacation to get away from your routine; you are traveling to explore and enjoy a new environment.

While it is true that you often travel to see new horizons, there may be times when you want to relax with some familiar entertainment.  Some research and planning is necessary to determine the most practical options and the ways to carry your entertainment with you.

What should I bring along?

Books are great for plane or train rides.  Traditional books, even paperbacks, will add substantial weight to your luggage, so loading them onto a tablet makes sense.  A tablet can hold guide books and books for entertainment – more than you will probably need.  You may opt for an audio book.  Reading or listening to a book set in the country you are visiting can be very enriching.

Watching a Movie on the Train (sorry for the poor quality picture)
Watching a Movie on the Train (sorry for the poor quality picture)

Watching movies or playing video games may not be as enriching, but they can also make the ride go more quickly.  Be sure the service you are using does not use data roaming or purchase a data plan in order to save on the cost.  Many apps can be used to make your travel go smoother – be careful with data here, too.  (I’ll make some suggestions in a later post).

Craft and hobby paraphernalia can take up a lot of room, so it is not always the best choice for what to bring on a trip.  Think carefully though, because, like me, you may miss it.

On a recent trip that began in Paris, I made a couple wrong decisions about what to take with me.  I have several hobbies, so I had to choose whether or not to bring supplies for each one.

I love photography (as you can see by the many photos on this site), so I brought my camera…and extra lenses…and a tripod.  This was a good decision. I could have left the tripod at home, but I used it several times, so I made it worth the extra weight.

I have started doing a little bit of “urban sketching” – drawing what I may have otherwise photographed.  I brought a small sketchpad, drawing pencils and colored pencils with me on the trip.  Although the supplies didn’t add much weight, I probably should have left them at home.  I am still learning to sketch and didn’t really take the time to practice much on the trip.


I decided not to bring along any knitting supplies.  I thought that I would have plenty to do with my camera and sketching supplies.

The Shawl I Made with Yarn Purchased in Paris
The Shawl I Made with Yarn Purchased in Paris

Within a day of our arrival, I realized my mistake.  I remembered the words of my friend at home – “Always bring your knitting.”  I had not heeded her advice and was itching for something to do in the evenings and other down times.

I visited several yarn shops and soon had a project underway.  When our week in Paris was finished, we joined an organized tour.  We spent plenty of time on the bus, where I could watch the scenery while continuing to knit.  My project was the perfect pastime for the hours spent traveling from place to place.

What are the rules and recommendations for bringing hobby supplies or entertainment devices on the plane?

Different items have different rules.  Tablets and smartphones should be taken with you on the plane, not packed in your checked luggage.  Although a laptop has to be taken out of your bag to be screened separately at security, in the US, your tablet or smart phone does not.  Be sure to pack the device securely with a sturdy case and in a padded luggage pocket.

If you love photography and bring equipment along, it should also be packed carefully in your carryon luggage.  If your equipment is lost, stolen, or damaged, it could ruin your entire trip.  Even though you may have insurance on it, the equipment could be hard to replace in a different country.  Photographic equipment is treated the same as the rest of your luggage at security.

Sketching supplies are also treated as luggage when you go through security.  I just left everything in my bag.  Most harmless hobby supplies and equipment are treated this way.

Knitting needles and scissors may be a problem, though.  Some countries consider them dangerous.  According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), you can bring knitting needles, crochet hooks, and scissors with blades that are shorter than four inches on the plane in your carryon luggage.

There are exceptions, however.  The TSA recommends wood or plastic circular needles, rather than straight metal ones. Also, circular thread cutters are not allowed, regardless of the size of the blade.   And the TSA officer has the last word – they can override the allowance if they think the item may be a problem.  You might want to purchase a cheaper scissors or needle to use for traveling.

The Western Coast of Ireland
The Western Coast of Ireland

My experience has been that knitting needles and scissors are allowed on a flight to Europe, but not on a flight from Europe.  I lost my cute little embroidery scissors on my return flight from Ireland because I forgot to put it in my checked luggage.  If you have a specific item you are wondering about, check on the TSA website.

Packing light is still recommended, so purchasing items while on your trip is an option.  Instead of bringing yarn and needles, I bought them in Paris.  If Venice had been my first stop, however, this would have been more difficult since I only found one very small yarn shop there.

Think carefully about what entertainment you want to bring along on your trip.  Consider how much down time you will have.  If you have a travel partner, will they want to keep going all day or turn in early?  Will you be too exhausted by a full day of sightseeing to do anything else?  Or do you plan to spend much of the day relaxing by the water?  Your habits at home will be imitated on your trip.

It is important that you enjoy the trip the way you want to.  Don’t leave your hobbies at home because of what other people think, but don’t bring everything you might possibly want.  Be selective, but allow yourself some fun.

Enjoy the trip your way!


  1. Bringing my knitting with me on vacation is exciting. I imagine myself sitting and relaxing in a beautiful country (Europe) the making memories of the item I am knitting. Even though I have never finished a project on vacation I still have dreams.

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