I spend a good amount of time each year flying to cities across the country to take part in different shows and events. I enjoy traveling so I generally don't mind the effort, but show travel can be a whole lot more difficult than your average family vacay. Here are a few of my show travel tips to help you prepare, whether it's for your first craft show or you're just looking for new ideas to help make show travel easier!
01. Rent and Borrow What You Can
This one may seem obvious but it's a good thing to remember. Most bigger shows will have tables and chairs available to rent and some will even offer lighting and rolling garment racks. Anything you don't have to carry frees up space for more merchandise so always opt for rentals when you can. Keep in mind that some events don't mention rentals on their sites so always reach out with an email to see what they offer. If you're going to be splitting a booth with someone, get in touch with them before the show to make a plan. Not only is it beneficial to try to coordinate your displays, it will help to know what they're bringing and if they have anything extra you can borrow, especially if they're local.
02. Think Flat and Light
You'd be amazed how much space even the smallest of displays can take up in your suitcase. Same thing goes for weight: those seemingly light items quickly add up to an overweight bag. So the big rule for traveling booth displays is to think flat and light! Invest in displays that fold flat like these plate displays which are perfect for displaying art prints, books, ceramics, etc. Or get creative and make your own displays, perhaps using rustic wood or even contact paper if you're really tight on space.
03. Ditch the Extras
If I'm doing a local show, I have all the things with me. Roll of tape? Hammer? Mirror? Check. Check. Check. But on the road, not so much. If it's not essential it gets left behind. There will always be someone nearby with a pair of scissors you can borrow and most people are happy to share. Chances are you'll probably have something they need to borrow too. Instead of multiple sizes, I bring one size bag to wrap orders in and make it work. As for the mirror, I offer to hold up my cell phone. (Pro tip: Make sure the camera is facing the right way or you might end up proudly displaying your double chin to the customer...I speak from experience.)
04. Anticipate the Worst Cast Scenario
As much as I possibly can, I avoid flying out for a show the day immediately before the show begins. Sure you lose a day of prep and you might have to pay for an extra night in a hotel but it will save you a lot of stress. There are missing bags, canceled flights and every other scenario you can imagine and you don't want to be dealing with that when you have a show starting in a matter of hours. You pay good money to attend a show and missing half a day (if they even let you participate!) is a real bummer. On a related note, if at all possible, carry at least some of your merchandise in your carry-on just in case your checked bag goes MIA - at least you won't be completely empty handed. If you're traveling with expensive items like jewelry and you're flagged going through security, you can (and should) always request a private bag check. No one needs some creep spotting your goods and targeting you. Safety First!
Side Note: If you're shipping items to the venue, your hotel or somewhere else at your destination, be sure to give yourself enough time for the items to arrive and get picked up. I've seen several people ship things just to find their shipment isn't due to arrive until the following day...after the show has ended. Give yourself plenty of time and you'll thank yourself later.
I hope you've picked up some good tips and maybe feel empowered to give traveling for a show a chance. I've been to so many new places, met so many great people and had more amazing experiences than I can count traveling for different events. Hopefully I'll see you out there someday soon. Happy travels!