Con Tetris: An Artist's Carry-on Packing Guide

I'm flying to Midwest FurFest today to draw at their Artist Alley! I have some time to kill, so I thought I'd share my packing method and try out my host's blogging app. My goal with this trip's packing list was to save as much space as possible and not check any bags on the flight.

The packing list will vary depending on how you work and what your table display is like. I'm doing the Artist Alley this time, which has a lot of display restrictions, so I'm able to pack light!

My packing list: 

  • Tablecloth
  • Wire cube sections + connectors
  • Bristol pad
  • Small cutting mat
  • Portfolio with examples and prices
  • Accordion file (to store flat items) 
  • Pre-cut paper for sketches
  • Clear bags to protect sketches
  • Merchandise bags
  • Display signage
  • Clipboard
  • 12" metal ruler
  • Scrap paper
  • Paper order forms
  • Laminate sheets
  • Examples of work
  • Premade merchandise (I do stickers) 
  • Masking tape
  • Items being picked up at the event
  • Small binder clips
  • Business cards
  • Business card holder
  • Keychain blanks (I do keychain commissions)
  • Markers, pens, erasers, gel pens, and pencils
  • Badge punch
  • Hole punch
  • Card reader (Square, PayPal Here, etc.)
  • Badge clips
  • Scissors (with <4" blades to appease TSA) 
  • Portable phone charger + charging cable
  • Phone + charging cable
  • Tablet + charger + pen + stand
  • Bluetooth keyboard
  • Grocery bags
  • Clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Water bottle 
  • Sports drink drops
  • Food (non perishable, non liquid) 

It may seem like a lot, but all those items (minus tablet, water bottle, toiletries, and clothes) are pictured below!


A few tips before I continue: 

  • Roll clothes tightly instead of folding them! It will take up much less space in your bag, and you can always iron out the wrinkles at the hotel.
  • Don't bring more stock than you need! I was able to fit plenty of stickers into a small index card organizer instead of my usual bulky box. If I'm doing badges, realistically I won't be able to do more than 30 during the event so I bring no more than 30 clips, 30 laminate sheets, etc. This also applies to jeans. You only really need one extra pair of jeans for the weekend.
  • Don't waste space! If there's an empty spot in your art supply box, consider putting your phone charger (or other small item/group of items that will fit) into a Ziploc bag and tucking it in there. 
  • Borrow when you can! Wondering why a laminator isn't on my packing list? At fur cons, most artists tend to have essentials like a laminator, printer, and badge punch handy already. Coordinate equipment sharing in advance with a friend who's driving or has extra luggage space. Ask for use of their equipment in exchange for a doodle! 

Layer 1: Place small items like cables, socks, or tape between the bars at the bottom of your rolling suitcase (make sure these items are not taller than the bars themselves). This will make the most use of the space you have available.


Layer 2: Flat items like your paper pad, cutting mat, and wire cube sections can go down next. They should sit flush with the bars and small items underneath.


Layer 3: Large items such as boxes or irregular items should be placed in the bag however they fit best. Try to minimize wasted space. This is where your childhood Tetris skills come in.


Layer 4: Put spacially versatile or squishy things wherever they will fit! My tablecloth could go anywhere, so it goes in AFTER the large boxes. I found it easy to fit the weekend's food into a small cardboard box which could be flattened or discarded before the trip back if everything has been eaten. The tortillas are soft, so they just went next to the tablecloth.


The Backpack: I decided to bring my Mobile Studio for all my computing needs (digital sketches, spreadsheets, etc.)! A laptop backpack is perfect for this since it will stay close to you and offers more physical protection. I got mine from the deviantART store a long time ago and they aren't selling them anymore, sadly. Shirts, Pjs, underclothes, and a pair of pants have been rolled and stacked vertically in the large pocket. Impressive what rolling clothes can do, huh? You can tuck whatever else you want to carry with you into the laptop backpack: your 3DS, snacks, etc. Just make sure the backpack can fit under a plane seat. Toiletries have been tucked into a front pocket on my main suitcase. Make sure every liquid item fits into a freezer-sized Ziploc bag, and that no individual liquid item is larger than 3.4 ounces if you're flying.

If you're going to Midwest FurFest, see you there! If you're not, I hope you either found this useful or think my cat Oswald is cute! 

Still need packing advice? @ me on Twitter or leave a comment below!