Tips for Traveling With Your Beads

My well-loved soft tacklebox is perfect for carrying lots of beads to shows and classes.

It's summer, and that means that lots of people are hitting the road for a vacation. I'll be packing up my beads and heading to a couple of beading classes this summer, too, so I thought I'd share some tips for storing and traveling with your beads!

The first summer that I did any serious traveling with my beads was the year I did farmer's markets every weekend. Because I had a lot of down time, I found myself bringing along beading projects to keep myself busy. Each week, I'd grab another bag with a set of beads for a project in it and toss it into my tote bag. Pretty soon, I discovered that I was hauling around a rolling carry-on suitcase, stuffed full of beads and beading projects! Needless to say, this method was less than ideal, and since then, I've discovered a few ways to make it easy to travel with my beads.

For moving my beading projects from room to room around the house, my favorite solution is my Deluxe Bead Traveler from Diane Hyde of Designer's Findings. This is a standard jewelry tray fitted with one of Diane's fabulous Designer's Workpads with a clear lid. When my son was a toddler, this tray saved my life on many occasions because it allowed me to work wherever my son wanted to be around the house. If he wanted to play outside, I could grab my tray and sit in the sun while he tore around the backyard. Now, my Deluxe Bead Traveler makes it so that I can make the most of the precious minutes I have to bead and spend time with my family.

If I'm going to be spending time at a friend's house, I usually stuff my String Me Along Beading Mat and Project Organizer in my tote bag so that I can work on little projects. It's the perfect size for a beading class, too, and it's big enough to carry a spool of beading thread, a pair of scissors, and all the beads I need for two or three projects. The String Me Along Beading Mat and Project Organizer is also the perfect size so that I can bring a small stiff-backed work pad with me so that I have a stable surface on which to bead.

When I travel to a show or for an extended visit, my tote bag of choice is my favorite soft-sided fishing tackle box. The one I currently use was purchased from my local sporting goods store for around $30 and came with four wonderful plastic storage boxes with adjustable dividers! I carry an assortment of seed beads, findings, beading thread wrapped on cardboard bobbins, thread cutters and even cabochons and bead embroidery materials in each box so that I'm never without a beading project!

A few things I never leave home without: a small ruler, my sketchbook and a small color wheel.


A few other things you might want to include in your beading travel kit:

  • A small ruler
  • A color wheel
  • A small sketch book or pad of paper for jotting down ideas
  • A set of travel pliers
  • A small card-shaped magnifier

Another item I like to bring along when I travel are my copies of Beadwork and Stringing magazines. But if you want to travel light, three or four magazines can weigh you down. One easy solution is to subscribe to Beadwork and Stringing through Zinio and get your magazines delivered digitally! You can download them to your PC, laptop or tablet, or store them in your Zinio account on the web and access them from any computer with web access, anytime! Subscribe to Beadwork and Stringing magazines through Zinio and enjoy the convenience of being able to access your favorite beading projects from anywhere.

Is there something that you absolutely have to have when you travel with your beads? Leave a comment on the blog telling us what it is, and share any advice you might have for those of us who travel with our beloved beads!

Bead Happy,


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Beading Daily Blog
Jennifer VanBenschoten

About Jennifer VanBenschoten

Born in New Jersey in 1974, I escaped to the Adirondacks for the first time in 1995, making it my permanent home in 2000.  I have been interested in beads, buttons and making jewelry as long as I can remember.  It's probably my mother's fault - she was a fiber artist and crochet historian, and whenever she ordered supplies from one mail order source, she would order a huge bag of assorted buttons and beads for me and my sister!    

40 thoughts on “Tips for Traveling With Your Beads

  1. One of the best things I have for traveling or on-the-go beading is a cigar box. Not only is it beautiful, but is it a great size. The inside is lined in a black felt like material and have a small lip all around. I can lay the box flat and keep it on my lap. It easily holds small scissors, seed beads (in their tubes), a small bead mat, glue, needles, etc.

    The great part about it laying flat is that I have two surfaces to help organize as I go. I was even able to start and finish a peyote stitch bracelet while my husband drove during our road trip this summer. (and at night I have a small ottLite that works perfectly and doesn’t distract the driver)

    Even in between projects, it closes neatly and keeps everything in order! I will never leave home without it!! You never know when you’ll have some spare time to do a little beading! 🙂

  2. I have the most wonderful snap closed 10″x16″ ish foam lined thin case that keeps piles of beads and needles and thin tools all right where you left them. You could play catch with the closed “box/trays” and nothing would move. Joanne’s-about $19.

  3. For seed bead projects, I use small plastic pill boxes. My favorite ones have five lidded sections on one side and one large lidded section on the other side that is big enough for a bracelet or bead and the long beading needle. I can toss a number of these in my carry-on bag that goes under the seat.

  4. I don’t leave home without my new mini Ott-lite!! It clips on to my beading bag and I can have my favorite light with me without lugging around an Ott-lamp everywhere.

  5. Love the plastic pill box idea! For beading around the house I bought a few $5 plastic lap trays at Michaels. I can lay out my mat, project, triangular bead tray and tweezers, etc and keep the heavier tools and directions, wax, string, etc in the side pockets. I can have as many projects in progress as I have trays. I stack them up on my craft table out of the way and when I am ready to sit down and put my feet up I just carry along which ever tray I want to work on. This might work in the car also, along with the pillbox method of controlling beads!

  6. Since I travel a bit for my job, I’ve learned a few tips for traveling by air with my beads. I find that it’s better to do beadweaving type projects while on the move as I don’t have to take as much equipment.

    My favorite piece of equipment is my “beadboard” that I made myself. From the dollar store I found this little “trivet” that was made of cork around the edges and back and was inset with a ceramic type tile. I carefully pried out the tile and replaced with a piece of Vellux (that foamy blanket material). This is nicely sized to work on the little lap trays on the airplane.

    I try to plan out a couple of pieces to work on that will require fewer colors of beads so I don’t have to haul so many. Plus, it’s kind of tricky to be working with a lot of different colors on board. I also take only a small bead book or magazine; it’s too hard to make room for larger books on the plane. Also, I prefer things that lie flat like a spiral bound book.

    I have a small bag that was originally a cosmetics type bag that keep my beads in for the projects. I have a travel kit that I made that has a few basic colors of thread, a thread heaven container, a small tube with several needles, a tiny folding pair of scissors and a tiny pair of pliers should I get a needle into a place I can’t pull it through with my fingers.

    I also keep a couple of pairs of ear wires and clasps in case I randomly decide to make some earrings. One thing I love to do while at the various meetings and things I attend is to make a pair of earrings or even a pin for one of my friends that will also be there. People can’t believe how easy it is to do this.

    I’ve even beaded during long, boring meetings. I find I actually listen to the speaker better when my hands are busy.

  7. PS A possibly cheaper alternative to a pill box is the very small 8- sectioned circular, clear plastic bead keepers at Michaels. They measure 4″ in diameter and are 1″ tall. Each section has it’s own lid. . About $2 to $2.50.

  8. Hi this is Eva from Beadable Things. I too travel with my beads. I used a bible case. I put a fabric covered cardboard into the case. Then I put my beads that I’m going to use in small plastic bags and stick them in there. My tools, thread, and needles go in there as well. Then I can zipper it up and go.

    Then when I’m ready to bead, the fabric covered cardboard prevents my beads from rolling away.

  9. I have been using the small pencil boxes for beading projects. They are small but big enough to get everything in them for each project. I also like the small zip up clear make up bags.

  10. I absolutely must have my true light stand and my lighted magnifier stand. My true light helps me with color matching and I can not do any finish work or make earrings without my lighted magnifer light.

  11. I also like Bead Buddy’s Design Save ‘n Go. Plenty of room and you can tuck bead tubes and tools it it as well. (Though if you are working with seed beads, I wouldn’t recommend it.)

  12. I travel quite a bit with my business and hate to waste a moment! In addition to beads I use buttons in my pieces. While my husband drives, or in a hotel room, I work out of a cake carrier with the clamp on domed lid (under $5 at Walmart). I can keep a tray with a liner for my project as well as extra supplies right in the container. If we hit a bump, no worries…the sides are the perfect height to keep everything form escaping! Another helpful tool is a lap dek. It puts the work surface at a good height so I don’t hunch over, and it keeps things from sliding or shifting! When I’m done, I snap on the lid and carry it with me! It’s the BEST!

  13. Great post, Jennifer. We all need to know how to pack those little beads when we are on vacation or even want to move from one room to another to be with our family. I’ll check out these resources.

    I solved the beading tray problem very economically purchasing a plastic box from the $1 dollar store. The box holds all my beads ( in small zip log bags) and the tools and strings, wire etc.. The lid acts like a tray.It has small grooves that act like compartments. They keep the beads from rolling off. I made a line about 12″ with a marker pen to give me a quick reference for the length.

  14. I LOVE to use Bead Buddy’s Design Save ‘n Go, and I work primarily with seed beads, and bead embroidery. Each time there’s a 50% JoAnn coupon I buy another one of these.

    They were ideal when I traveled (by car, not air) to a week long bead retreat. I used a different Bead Buddy’s Design Save ‘n Go for each class. At the end of class, instead of spending the last 1/2 our of class packing up, I beaded as long as possible and simply closed the lid to resume working on my project again later. (Huib Petersen shows his students a neat trick using kumihimo bobbins to keep seed beads in place in containers like these.)

    At home, I also love that I can snap the lid in place and stop where I left off, and protect my project from curious cats.

    P-Touch 1/2″ labels fit nicely on the outside edge of the Bead Buddy’s Design Save ‘n Go. Then you can see which project is inside if you have several boards stacked.

    I don’t work for Bead Buddy, honest…I just love the product.

  15. I use a Smiggle pencil case to hold my beading travel kit with a couple of current projects and tools. The zip covers 3 edges so it allows both sides of the case to lay flat when open making access to the supplies easy. Am going to investigate the small Ott light – it sounds like it could be the solution to poor lighting when I’m trying to bead.

  16. I have a small tin slightly larger than 2 deck of cards stacked on top of each other that will fit my scissors, needles, thread, and then the beads I am using on my current peyote project. Usually two strands of 4mm beads and a tube of the Toho 11/0 beads. It by no means fits everything I need to finish the project but it lets me get the peyote components done without lugging around the back pack I used to carry.

    It’s a lot of fun to show up at the beading social and have a tin where others have the carry on with wheels. Of course when I do have the back pack…wheel envy.

  17. I like my LED flashlight that clips to my clothing. It is actually designed with a fisherman in mind. The ‘bulb’ comes in different colors (they say the green one doesn’t attract bugs) so be sure and get the white one!

    I carry my supplies in a small plastic divided case. Similar to the ones for beads, but, much less expensive. I actually got it in the fishing department also! It does not have the spill proof part built into the lid, so, don’t pack it into your suitcase, or all your beads will get mixed together!The lid flips open and has a small rim around, so, if you turn it around on your lap, you have a work surface close to you and your supplies in front. Glue a piece of velvet inside the lid, or use the sticky sheets of felt. Some of them have dividers that are removable so you can make a bigger area for your tools.

    Happy Traveling!

  18. I take a pre strung crocheted rope project with me when I travel. Everything I need fits into a small ziplock bag that fits in my purse. There are no loose beads, no needles to try to thread on a bumpy plane. Plus I don’t have to worry about the TSA confiscating anything. Even more fun I make new friends who always ask what I’m doing.

  19. To avoid the airline/scissor problem, check out the embroidery section of your favorite craft store for a “Thread Cutter” They are available as various style pendants with decorative slots in the design. The slots have cutters in them. (here’s one I found in Rio Grand’s web site: . Wear it and the TSA people will think it’s just jewelry!

    Rio Grande also has a “Beadalon Tacky Bead Mat” ( ) that I have not yet tried, but it looks quite interesting.

    I love the idea of the clip on light! Thanks for the inspiration.

  20. I travel with the smallest flip up Ott light because on a plane, when everyone watches the movie and the window screens are pulled down, the overhead light is not bright enough. Geraldine

  21. I am currently working on putting all my beading patterns [PDF (with pictures) or TXT (without pictures) format] onto an e-reader so I can carry many with me anywhere. Just so you know, I do the same with my recipes and my crochet patterns. You can put a lot on an e-reader.

  22. One of my favoite things to use for on-the-go beading is a cookie tin (or whatever came in it!). I look for them at my local Goodwill. I glue a portion of a bead mat in the lid for a work surface and all my supplies store inside.

  23. I just found the Bead Tube Tower from the BeadSmith. It’s great to take to classes and if I go to the bead shop I take it along so I avoid buying duplicate seed beads – I can see at a glance if I already have it! It comes with a great clear carrying case!

  24. Every summer we travel from Florida to Ohio to visit family. I have a plastic box with a handle on it and a removable shelf inside. I keep all my tools in this box along with a 300 yd. spool of Frieline, beading wire, needles, a soft tapemeasure, a pen, calapers and my magnifying head gear. I also keep all my contact information for the bead shops I will be visiting while I am away in the box. The lid has two little bins in it that I keep clasps and crimps in. I also have a big tin box that is about 15’x12’x1-1/2′. The lid fits tight (so I don’t worry about losing beads) and I keep several layers of foam mats inside. With these two boxes I can bead anywhere I go and have everything I need. I take the tool box to classes with me as well as in the car when we travel. I liked the idea of a soft sided lunch box. I seen several that are really cute!!!

    Before I leave Florida I gather together all the beads I will need for a project and put them in a plastic baggy. On the outside of the bag I write the pattern name with a permanent marker. All the small baggys go into a larger bag with handles to make it easier to carry and pack in the car.

    I place the patterns for each porject in a protective clear plastic sleave and fasten it into a binder with bendable brad fasteners. I do this for each of the projects I plan to take with me. When I have all the patterns fastened into the binder I place an extra plastic sleave in the pocket of the binder. When I am ready to work on a project I take the pattern out of the plastic sleave fastened into the binder and place it into the extra sleave. It is easier than taking all the patterns out of the binder and replacing them all back in each time I want a pattern. When I am finished with the pattern I place it back in the original sleave fassened in the binder and place a new pattern in the extra sleave.

    I take a lot of the projects that I have that are unfinished or that need repair with me when I travel. I try to do one of these between starting a new project to get caught up on things.

    These techniques work for me I hope they help someone else

  25. I use an Altoids tin to create my general Supplies Kit. I pack it with several small spools of Nymo in different colors, a Thread Heaven pot, small scissors, a small plastic ruler/magnifier, a small hemostat, and my clip-on magnifying lenses. I put a 2″ long piece of magnetic tape (with the sticky backing) in the lid and store several needles there. I have three of these Supply Kits ready to go.

    So I grab my pattern and a bead mat, transfer my beads to a pill organizer, get my Supply Kit and I’m out the door. I can carry several patterns with beads but I only need one Supply Kit. I just need to learn to use a smaller bead mat so I can pack that in the tin.

    BTW, it is also great fun to decorate the Altoids tin with beads, rhinestones, ribbon, and any other sorts of goodies.

  26. Everyone has great ideas. The most inexpensive containers came from the cigar shop, which one by me gives them away or at the dollar store; pencil boxes, tackle box, small tool box, even lidded plastic containers work.
    I recently flew and the best cutter I find is either nail clippers or my flush cutters do in a pinch. The airlines do have a limit as to the size of your tools. Since I do not want them to have another pair of my scissors I opt with the nail clippers.

  27. The very best travelling solution is an empty body butter container. I use the 200ml empty screw top plastic containers from Body Shop (an added bonus is the lingering smell of pink grapefruit, yum!). They are big enough to hold the tubes/bags of beads, needles, fold up scissors, thread and conditioner needed for one project and comfortably fit into my handbag.

    I took two on holiday to Cyprus last month and each day chose which one to bring with me to the pool/beach/day trip. Being able to screw the lid back on whilst I nipped down to cool off in the sea (or a bit of bonus-beading when waiting for the bus, waiter, slow daughter to get ready) secure in the knowledge that I wouldn’t end up on my hands and knees rescuing my project from the sand.

  28. As a chain mailer I wanted to fly with my tools. Looking on the TSA website I found I could carry on tools (pliers) less than 6″. The TSA personnel had to be shown the printout at a small airport. Of course, they also wanted to see what I was making. I made new friends that day and a beader who was flying was my seat partner. That was one of the shortest cross country flights I have ever been on.
    Thank you for your articles.

  29. When I have to go some where and I am not sure if I can take scissors I take a pair of nail clippers. They clip very close to the project and does not leave loose ends.

  30. I am jusy starting in beading and have to travel every month – i love these tips . Thanks everyone i am going to use as many as possible. I can see my life getting easier already thanks again for the tips. holli 😉

  31. I am jusy starting in beading and have to travel every month – i love these tips . Thanks everyone i am going to use as many as possible. I can see my life getting easier already thanks again for the tips. holli 😉

  32. I refused to stay home after a surgery and went to Destin FL with my family for vacation. I couldn’t get in the water or do much so I took canvas, strong thread, and collected the sand at the beach. After washing, I laid it out on the garage floor of the house we were renting.. Once dry, I took it to the beach with me and sewed up 2 pads to absorb the noise and vibration of my jewelry hammers.

    They laughed at me and we had a great vacation. Still using the pads after 15 years.

    Enjoy all of your tips as I work in the closet studio of my basement.

  33. I refused to stay home after a surgery and went to Destin FL with my family for vacation. I couldn’t get in the water or do much so I took canvas, strong thread, and collected the sand at the beach. After washing, I laid it out on the garage floor of the house we were renting.. Once dry, I took it to the beach with me and sewed up 2 pads to absorb the noise and vibration of my jewelry hammers.

    They laughed at me and we had a great vacation. Still using the pads after 15 years.

    Enjoy all of your tips as I work in the closet studio of my basement.