Traveling with Puzzles
Have you ever taken a puzzle on a trip?! A few years ago, I didn’t know that traveling with puzzles was even allowed! However, when I found out that many puzzlers take puzzles along when they travel, I jumped at the chance to take my puzzles out into the world!
I’ve learned a few things in my travels (6 boxes of puzzles do not fit in most carry-ons)!
Here are some tips to make your next trip with puzzles a success:
Type of Trip
Give some thought to the type of trip you are taking.
Going on a road trip? Hello travel puzzles!
Hitting the Road | Cobble Hill | 1000 pieces
I see you nature puzzles!
The Great Outdoors | Gibbs Smith | 500 pieces
Excited for a family reunion? Collage puzzles and rainbow puzzles are great for a crowd because everyone can work on a section.
World’s Airport Travel Tags | Hart Puzzles | 1000 pieces
Bunches of Buttons | Springbok | 1000 pieces
On a business trip? Bring along a puzzle to help you unwind and get your thoughts together.
The Puzzle of Calm | Laurence King | 150 pieces
Romantic getaway? Yes, puzzles are sexy!
50 Shades of Him | Eurographics | 1000 pieces
Who Will Be There?
Will you be puzzling alone, or will friends and family be charmed by your brilliant puzzles and have no choice but to join you? Now is the time to get an unsuspecting friend hooked on puzzles! If you will be puzzling around others, choose puzzles that everyone will enjoy looking at for a few days. You can even choose puzzles that match their interests. If your friends are foodies, choose a fun food or cocktail puzzle!
Lucky Charms | White Mountain | 500 pieces
Cocktail Party | Springbok | 1000 pieces
Will you be with kids? Puzzles are a great way to connect with others and they have a magical way of creating a space for conversations. There are some unique, multi-user puzzles out there that have large pieces for kids, medium pieces for everyone, and small pieces for adults, like Together Time Golfing .
Together Time Golfing | Ceaco | 400 pieces
Will there be any curious pets around who love to puzzle with you and/or eat/hide/destroy pieces? Take precautions or lower your expectations.
Most importantly, choose a puzzle that makes you look good! There’s nothing like chatting with friends while you casually find piece after piece, and then notice that they are looking at you utterly astonished, like you are a magical puzzle wizard! Because of course you are! Now is your chance to shine in front of your friends and family, so choose your puzzles wisely.
Type of Puzzling Surface
Give some thought to the puzzling surface that will be available. Is the table oriented horizontally, vertically, or is it square? Is it large or small? Choose puzzles that best match the surface size and orientation (I once brought along a shaped puzzle of a turtle and the legs and head were hanging off the table!).
Is the puzzle table private or shared? Of course, puzzles take priority over meals, so how do those around you feel about eating all their meals on the couch? This may or may not be a picture of my puzzle occupying the only table in the living room.
The presumptive needs of others brings up another issue. Might one need to cover the puzzle in order to allow the table to be used for other things such as holding beverages? Experiment with types of waterproof coverings... here we see salvaged sheets of plastic hosting a cup of coffee during a non-puzzle time.
To make puzzling more manageable, check the location for items that can be used as sorting trays. You can use things like cereal bowls, cookie sheets, ice buckets, etc. as ways to sort pieces and keep things tidy.
Lastly, what will the lighting be like? Dark puzzles are hard to see, so keep that in mind if you might be in a low light situation. If the lighting is not illuminated like your dazzling Puzzle Palace at home, it’s ok to bring along a headlamp (bonus: you’ll get extra style points while puzzling).
Size of Puzzle
We all love our standard, go-to 1,000 piece puzzles, but when traveling, puzzles with lower piece counts take up less space and are easier to transport. Fewer pieces can also mean less chaos and faster completion times. This can be really helpful when others might need to use the table (sigh, the nerve of some people), and it also gives new puzzlers the sweet, sweet feeling of puzzle success right away. I’ve been surprised at how fun (and challenging) lower piece count puzzles can be. Who could resist this mini Sasquatch puzzle that comes in a tin?
Sasquatch | Indigenous Collection | 72 pieces
Places You Will Go by Buffalo Games comes in 300 piece, 500 piece, and 1,000 piece options. The completed size of the 300 piece and 500 piece is smaller than the 1,000 piece.
Places You Will Go | Buffalo Games | 500 piece
How Many Puzzles to Bring
No, you cannot bring all of your puzzles on your trip! Instead, use this handy formula to determine how many puzzles to bring:
P times X divided by Y = NPC
Where P is puzzles and X is days away and Y is available suitcases and NPC is Necessary Puzzle Cargo.
Just kidding. Even though we can plow through 5 (or more) puzzles a week at home, it isn’t likely that we will be able to keep up this same pace while we are traveling. Any number between 2 and infinity is probably a good guess.
Transporting the Puzzles
On my first trip, I jammed 5 puzzle boxes into my carry-on suitcase and on the way home, I had to beg my significant other to put a box in his suitcase.
This last trip, I left the boxes at home (yes, I felt like a genius), and only brought the bagged puzzles and the posters. You could also take a picture of the box, photocopy and/or laminate the poster, or put the poster in a protective sleeve. Using this method, I easily stacked 3 puzzles neatly in the back of my suitcase and slid 6 more into the pouches on the lid.
Miami Beach (mini) | New York Puzzle Co | 100 pieces
Mini puzzles are super easy to pack and I always travel with one in my backpack to do on the plane. Also, flight attendants really love to see puzzles on their flights.
Another genius move... bring along some resealable storage bags so you can bring the finished puzzles home. The Baggage Handlers Union is tired of cleaning up lost puzzle pieces in the baggage area.
If you are traveling in a car, your options for transporting puzzles are greatly increased. I recommend a full size puzzle rack for the top of the car or else an enclosed trailer to tow behind your car.
Completed puzzles deserve their own photoshoot. After all, they are on vacation too! Time for some fun! If the puzzle can hold together for a puzzle pick up, take your puzzle outside for a photoshoot on location (beware of the wind!).
The Gathering | Pomegranate | 300 pieces
Miami Beach | New York Puzzle Co | 100 pieces
Ask friends or family to hold the puzzle when shooting on location (the back of a mouse pad can help keep the puzzle from slipping).
Be sure to include guest puzzlers in the photo.
Yosemite Adventures | SunsOut | 500 pieces
Pro Tip: Will you be returning to the vacation location? Stash a puzzle (or two) for when you return!
Ultra Pro Tip: Remember to order some puzzles while you’re away, so that when you get home you will have some new puzzles waiting for you!
Smarty Pants Pro Tip: Order puzzles to be delivered to your location before you arrive! Last year I ordered puzzles from Puzzle Warehouse and had them shipped to Puerto Rico(!) When I had trouble formatting the address, customer service answered the phone right away, and a real person helped me figure it out.
I hope your next trip includes some sensational puzzles, and remember, when life is falling apart, a puzzle helps you put all the pieces back where they belong.