Artist Travel

I finished up my workshop in Racine, Wisconsin yesterda. I'm always excited about booking a new workshop venue, but when the time comes to pack and leave I get sad and anxious. I'm sad to leave my husband and cats and anxious about travel.
Will my luggage exceed 50 pounds?
Will something I'm wearing set off security sensors?
Will I arrive on time?
Will they lose my car rental reservation?
Will anything spill in my suitcase?
Can I pack so that I keep ironing to a minimum?
You get the picture.
I have learned a number of travel tips throughout my years on the road, but I want to hear yours. More importantly, I want you to share yours with my readers.
How do you prepare for your travel? I'm interested in any travel tips, but especially your art- and business-related travel tips. How do you keep your career going while you're on the road?
Share with us!
Image: My hotel bed before the packing up began.

Share this post

Your mailing list is your #1 marketing asset.

Your Artist Mailing List report

A transcript with the 3 lists every artist should have + a 3-page assessment for understanding the health of your list. FREE with opt-in.

18 thoughts on “Artist Travel”

  1. My concern this week is: is the domestic luggage allowance the same as international? eek! I’m flying to Newark from London but also need to book a flight to Chicago for part of the time. I’m hoping the luggage allowance is the same! (but if you say 50lbs then it sounds like it is, whew) My checked luggage concern is usually “how many jars of Golden paint can I fit in within the weight allowance?” 😉 It’s sooo much cheaper in the USA.
    My top tip for carry-on is organising for removing everything easily. I almost always have to unpack mine so orderly contents makes that quicker. Keep anything “odd” – particularly usb keys or flash drives – right at the top or front pocket. You can rearrange for yourself after you’re through the gates. A sketchbook and art biz book or articles make the flight go faster. (plus you can knit with pencils!) I always work on planes.

  2. oh, sorry I forgot my best tip ever! Take an empty water bottle. You can’t bring liquids through but every airport I’ve been in has water fountains after security by the bathrooms. 🙂 Although if you fly Virgin they now have water fountains on the plane between each class.

  3. Angela Treat Lyon

    When I fly to places where I will be painting, I always create and print out a label for the plastic bag in which I put my paints. I have given up traveling with oil paints – I just buy them where I end up, but I do carry a basic set of acrylics (titanium white, magenta, med. & deep cad. reds, light and deep hansa yellows, cyan, ultramarine and pussian blue, and mars black. I leave all mediums at home).
    I lay them all flat in a zip baggie, then in another baggie in case the first one leaks. At the top of the label I put the name of the brand, and then underneath in big caps: WATER BASE PAINTS. 100% NON-FLAMMABLE. I take the logo from the company and make it and the name of the brand look ‘official’ on the label (good old photoshop).
    So far no one in security has insisted I throw away my paints they way they did when I went to Mexico 4 years ago – to the tune of over 300 bucks down the waste bin!
    I also carry 11 x 14 sheets of canvas, to be stretched when I get home – much easier than stretched or rolled canvas. If I’m staying any length of time, I use larger sizes, but always small enough to go flat in my suitcase.
    Hope that helps!
    aloha –

  4. To be able to get five irons in my checked luggage, I start the packing list when I propose the workshop and whittle down to essentials. It’s a great creative exercise to see how much I can do with how little.
    Personal items generally yield to class materials, except for one thing: Gotta have podcasts on my MP3 player. I often have trouble sleeping (not just when I travel, but it’s worse on the road). Plugging in helps shift my focus from other noise in my environment and in my head so I can sleep.

  5. I’ll be heading out for a week-long trip in a couple of days and have been debating what to take with me. I will be carrying my travel water-color kit and my sketchbook. That should be sufficient to keep me occupied.
    In addition, I’ll be carrying a notebook and a couple of books to read. After packing my clothes (I roll my shirts, a trick I learned in the army) my carry-on bag should be full. I’ll be using the hotel-provided toiletries and will just buy a tube of toothpaste upon arrival.
    Tina, great advice about the water bottle! The last time I flew I carried my empty one in with me (cost about $0.25, since I bought it in bulk) and noticed that it cost over $1 to purchase a bottle inside the airport.

  6. I’ve always been a light packer, carryon only, even on long winter trips. But I’m going to my first workshop next month in Texas where I’ll be working on 10 or so oil paintings. Lately I’ve been thinking lots about how to make that work.
    I’m going to mail my oil paints ahead of me. I have 2 sets of my favorite colors anyway, one is for painting outside, one for my studio. So the outside set is going on a little trip w/ UPS. I’ll take my small suitcase, but check it. It will have my clothes (very minimal – I don’t like hauling extra clothes around), my very small bag of toiletries and a pair of shoes. It will also have my brushes, pencils, sketchbook. I’ll bring a small carryon w/ my laptop, small camera, a book to read and my linen panels for painting (lightweight from wind river arts.) I’ll wear my bulkiest clothes (jeans, jacket) and the heavier pair of shoes. My music is on my iPhone, always with me.
    I like to use the time at the airport and on the plane to organize my computer files. It’s a task I never want to do when I have any other option so in the waiting area I delete extra files, update my resume, and make sure my inventory is all in good shape.

  7. I usually travel light in terms of art supplies. A sketchbook, a set of pencils, ink pens, and a few sharpies ( I love them for sketching). I also take a camera with me. My finished work tends to be composed in the studio, so I don’t need much other than what I need to capture an idea.
    But, the most important thing I do for traveling is that I eat as well as I can for several days before the trip. There is nothing worse than having digestive issues while traveling, so I always try to “level out” my system before I go anywhere.

  8. Meltemi aka Phil Kendall

    My digital camera in its protective cover also carries a spare chip and a spare battery. It all fits into my shirt pocket with space to spare. Travelling light & recording the memories suddenly is very simple. With no pad & pencil and no big film 35mm camera to carry or bits to lose. 
    This has become very important with holiday UK baggage allowances falling to only a small 20Kg [44lb] sort of 15Kg checked in & 5Kg hand luggage. The 35mm camera & basic kit alone sort of three big lenses would be more than the hand luggage 5Kg.
     Not stopping to sketch? One much happier wife not being kept waiting. No waiting composing the professional photograph. More scenes recorded for later comfortable artwork . Productions. Not getting abandoned on any deserted island either as nearly happened to me in the past.

  9. I try to travel as lightly as possible and use only one bag. A world traveling friend of mine advised me years ago to pack and then carry it all around for a day…then repack what I really didn’t mind carrying. And it works. I went to a 3 week workshop in Europe a few years ago where the instructor, who traveled with us, had only a small carry on bag. And yes, everything was in it–clothes, sketchbooks, tools, etc. She just whittled her list down to real basics and bought the rest of what she needed there. It was a great example and it works. If you need a lot of heavy stuff, send it or call ahead to rent or borrow it from some place….hotels provide just about anything you want and amazingly, just about everywhere has a store with just about everything else you might want…have fun!

  10. My best tip is you don’t need to haul as much stuff as you think you do. My goal is to return home with only the clothes on my back and everything else in the suitcase is dirty.

  11. I’m just back from London book promotion and the biggest packing mistake I made was to take a carry-on bag that didn’t have wheels! Books are HEAVY and when my main wheely bag was overweight I had to carry the excess over my shoulder for miles at Heathrow. Next time—carry-on with wheels and travel light, light, light! But LOVED having my little iPod Touch and being able to do check email in bed! Helped to feel close to home!

  12. I don’t get to travel much now that I am taking care of my elderly mother, but one tip I have is about clothing. I wear saris and sarongs which roll and fold nicely and don’t need ironing. If that’s too much of a culture shift, pretend that wrinkles are a style statement. This works better in Summer. Try not to have anything more than you can take in your carry-on luggage and use the largest pocketbook (purse) you can to stuff even more with things.

  13. Suzanne Clem-Wheeler

    I love to travel. Last summer I travelled solo for a few weeks in Europe. I carried one carry on bag and my computer bag. I have since whittled down and figured out how to carry my computer in the carry on. Just be sure to have a plan for sticking the computer in a carry on tote should you be required to check the carry-on luggage for some reason.
    I was able to use those bags that you put your clothes in and squish the air out of to compact my wardrobe. As the trip went on I would cycle through the bags, filling one with dirty laundry. I tried to take clothes that were air dryable after handwashing and found that to work well.
    Anything you can do to minimize packaging and pack things flat is very helpful. Vitamins or daily meds in little tiny ziploc bags (located near pharm. at drug store) were great in lieu of bottles or other hard containers.
    I found an old shoulder bag/purse that my SLR camera fit nicely in and used it as my handbag for the trip.
    I did not carry paint w/ me but there were a few art fluids I wanted ~ retarder, glaze ~ so I poured small quantities in small travel containers and threw them in w/ my shampoos and such w/ no problem domestically or internationally on the airlines.
    I am looking forward to using my Kindle on my next trip, as buying paperbacks abroad was kind of a pain.

  14. Alyson Stanfield

    Tina: Do a search for your airline and weight allowance. It might be different if you have to fly across the pond.
    Angela: I love your labeling tip. Brilliant!
    Zach: That’s creative! They do say that necessity is the mother of invention and your coffee painting proves that.
    Lisa: I seem to use airport time the same way: Organizing computer stuff. I especially do this when I have to pay at an airport for wireless. I get annoyed at that, so I choose to work on other stuff rather than needing the connectivity. Just yesterday I answered about 20 emails and then sent them when I got home.
    Robert: Taking care of your digestive system is good advice. I also recommend taking probiotics (always, but especially when traveling). And have some great plant enzymes to help if things get out of whack.
    Meltemi: Sounds like a win/win.
    BJ: How true! I took too many clothes to Racine. I do need at least two pairs of shoes since I’m on my feet all day at the workshops + traveling. Gotta rotate the shoes.
    Cat: Yes, wheels are a MUST! I used to use a cute shoulder bag for my computer, but it’s so impractical. The wheeled luggage was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. It sure has been used a lot!
    Patricia: Saris and sarongs are a perfect solution! And we’re lucky that so many clothes today are packing-friendly.

  15. Thanks for bringing this up, Alyson. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart.
    Wow, everyone has shared such great tips: pack one bag, pack less than you think you need, pack a sarong – love it!
    I love to travel and I love the packing process. I’m a geek with my stuff: I love having a bag with compartments that help me keep things in order.
    My challenge is that I play in several media. I do an illustrated journal as well as blogging, which involves not only writing but photography. I’ve added filmmaking and that adds to the gear.
    Keeping supplies all in one place is vital.
    On my last 5-week trip I had a small plastic box – came with my Container Store label maker – that contained all my gear. My European phone, phone charger, travel speakers, adapters, cords, date stamp and stamp pad, colored pens, watercolor crayons, batteries, Journey Blessings, Bluetooth headset, digital recorder…all my gear in one box!
    Still, I brought things I did not use. Now I know to look at my gear when unpacking to do a realistic assessment of what I used and what I did not. I make a wee note and leave it in the case so when I am packing next time I don’t take too much.
    I’m getting ready to go to California for another vacation/artmaking trip. Can’t wait to pack. I’ll refresh myself on these tips – especially love the empty water bottle. Brilliant!

  16. I’m on the road 24/7….my husband and I full time in our 40 foot fifth wheel. We travel with our two furballs, Cosmo and Belle. I’m in the process of trying to figure out how to continue selling and marketing my art. I want to concentrate more on my love of animals and nature in my art , but right now I’m working on making my traveling house my own. I’m currently painting a mural in my bedroom.
    I have to say the hardest part about living in our fifth wheel has to be storage. I really had to cut back on my art supplies! My next problem…where to paint. I used to have a separate studio….now I have the “kitchen table”.
    Finally, selling my art……still not sure how to go about that as I travel around this beautiful country. The internet seems to be the way to go, but it would be nice to find a gallery or two. At any rate more questions, than answers at this point…..guess that is why I am here…hoping to find some much needed answers.
    My travel tip……travel light!

  17. Debbie,
    You bring up a good point that people rarely mention about the nomadic life – it takes a lot of time and energy to deal with traveling constantly! I did it for a year and found that making travel plans took up a lot of precious creative time.
    It’s something we take for granted when we live at home – much of the details of life are taken care of, freeing us up for time in the studio. If you acknowledge the time and effort that takes, it may help you have a better sense of the time and energy you have available to create and sell your art.
    Your trip sounds fun, and the restriction on supplies and studio space may foster a whole new way of creating!
    Bon voyage and have fun creating.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

Privacy + Terms

Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

Privacy + Terms