If you love to travel and read, you may have run into the problem of how to travel with books without ruining them. Books, especially paperbacks, can be delicate, so shoving them into backpacks and suitcases is dangerous. However, there are ways to travel with books without causing them too much damage.
Here’s how to travel with books without damaging them:
- Choose a safe spot in your luggage to store your books.
- Keep your books in a waterproof bag.
- Remove book jackets from hardbacks.
- Invest in fabric book covers or canvassed book covers.
- Wrap your books in your clothing.
- Pack durable books.
- Mail your books back home when you’re done reading them.
- Keep your books in Tupperware.
The rest of this article details the methods you can use to travel with books while keeping them safe, offers some other alternatives for reading on the go, and explains what to do if your books do get damaged during travel.
1. Choose a Safe Spot in Your Luggage To Store Your Books
The best way to keep your books safe is to pack them in a bag with multiple compartments or pockets so that you can separate the books from anything else that might do them harm.
Some carry-ons have a separate zipped compartment for computers, so you can use that space for books if you aren’t bringing a laptop. If you’re bringing a computer, bring a slim book to fit in with your laptop.
I have a laptop sleeve for my computer, and if a book is thin enough, I’ll keep it in the laptop sleeve so it’s safe from any other items I have in my luggage at the time.
A laptop sleeve is designed to keep damaging things out, so this is a great place for a book.
One backpack that’s ideal for travel and has a space designed for a laptop is the Matein Travel Laptop Backpack (available on Amazon.com). This backpack has a lot of storage space and separate pockets. It is also made with solid, durable material that is water-resistant, so even if you get caught in the rain, your books will be safe inside.
Other good places for books are the front pouch of a roller suitcase, the side of a duffle bag, and the back of a backpack, as these are areas where a book is most likely to keep its shape and least likely to get damaged by other items.
2. Keep Your Books in a Waterproof Bag
Books carried around while traveling is highly susceptible to weather damage or leakage from liquid containers in suitcases or backpacks. The best way to protect them from water damage (or worse, shampoo damage) is to keep them in a waterproof bag or pouch.
I use the YUMQUA Clear Waterproof Bags (available on Amazon.com) because they come in three sizes:
I keep my books in the large one, my e-reader in the medium one, and my phone and wallet in the small one. Additionally, they’re made with a fold-down magic tape closure that keeps out all liquid.
3. Remove Book Jackets From Hardbacks
Book jackets on hardcovers are the part of books that are most likely to get damaged during travel. After all, they’re just paper, so the best way to avoid them getting damaged or torn is to not bring them on the trip at all.
Another benefit of this is that if you leave the jacket at home and the hardcover gets scuffed during travel, you won’t even know once you put the jacket back on.
4. Invest in Fabric Book Covers or Canvassed Book Covers
Do you remember those fabric book sleeves that you had to cover your school textbooks with?
You can buy them for your non-textbook books, too, to protect them from stains, scratches, and bent corners. Another benefit is that they come in many different designs, so you can customize what you want your book to look like.
I like the KAPAX Book Cover (available on Amazon.com) because they come in many different designs and are made of durable, waterproof fabric. The fabrics are also interlined inside for extra protection.
My favorite design is the one with bikes on it, but there are over 15 other designs to choose from, so you’ll find one that you like.
You can also get a canvas book cover, which is even more durable. Most canvas book covers are designed for Bibles, but they’ll work for any book. The Christian Art Gifts Bible Cover (available on Amazon.com) comes in several designs, and it has a handle, so you can carry your book with ease.
Another way to cover your books without spending a lot of money is to make your own book covers out of a brown paper bag. Here are the steps:
- Cut the paper bag open, so it lays flat.
- Put the brown paper bag down on a flat surface and center the book on the paper.
- Draw a horizontal line on the paper along the top and bottom of the book using a ruler and a pencil.
- Remove the book and fold the paper from the top and bottom to the drawn lines, creasing the paper on the lines you just drew.
- Place the book back on the paper, centering it horizontally. Line the book up to flush the top and bottom with your creases.
- Open the front cover of your book and fold the left edge of the paper in, covering the front of the book, and cutting any excess.
- Close the book and keep the paper snug around the cover.
- Do the same with the back cover.
- Slide the book’s covers into the paper pockets you just created.
If you need extra help, this YouTube video shows the process in full.
5. Wrap Your Books in Your Clothing
If you’re putting your books in a suitcase, wrap them in any clothing you’re packing in that bag. This way, if anything happens, such as if a lotion bottle explodes, or your shampoo spills, your washable clothes will take most of the damage.
This will also soften any blows the books may get from being shuffled around on airplanes or buses, keeping corners from being bent and covers from getting scuffed.
6. Pack Durable Books
Now isn’t the time to bring your most fragile, delicate books with you. Bring your strongest books with you while you travel if you want to keep your books in the best condition possible. Flimsy paperbacks? Probably not your best bet. But a sturdy hardcover with strong pages? Now we’re talking.
Some books are more prone to damage than others, so give yourself the best chance of keeping your books nice by only bringing books that are durable and can take some hits.
7. Mail Your Books Back Home When You’re Done Reading Them
If you’re worried about your book getting damaged while traveling, stop traveling with it once you’re done. You can choose to mail your books back home after you’re done reading them so that they’ll be waiting for you in packages when you get back.
However, this can get expensive, especially if you’re traveling internationally. Additionally, there’s no guarantee that your book won’t get damaged while making its way back to your home, which would ruin the whole purpose of mailing it in the first place.
However, if keeping the book in perfect condition is important to you, this is the best way to get it home safely without having to spend the rest of your travels worrying about it.
8. Keep Your Books in Tupperware
This may seem a bit strange, but Tupperware comes in all shapes and sizes, and there’s no law saying you can’t use it to keep your books safe during travel. A big Tupperware container could even store more than one book, and it’ll keep the books safe from any bad weather or spills.
I’ve found that the Komax Storage Container (available on Amazon.com) can fit several books in it, and the airtight seal keeps the books safe. Additionally, the handle makes it perfect for carrying books to a beach or a park to read!
Tupperware will take up space in your suitcase, though, so this may not be the best choice for you if you don’t have a lot of space.
Other Options To Consider
I get it. You love the feeling of a real, physical book in your hands. I do too! However, if you’re traveling, there are other options to get your reading done without having to haul a bunch of physical books around.
Here are other options:
- Get an e-reader. This is one of the best ways to carry lots of books with you without having to worry about damaging them, and you can have access to hundreds of books! I use the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (available on Amazon.com) because it has adjustable warm light that doesn’t hurt my eyes, and it reads like real paper, even in direct sunlight.
- Listen to audiobooks. This is a great way to read books while traveling. I love to listen to audiobooks while I’m on buses or trains so I can look outside and see the landscapes and read simultaneously. The best part is that audiobooks live on your phone, so you don’t need to worry about packing them.
- Participate in book swaps and exchanges. One way to avoid damaging a book is to get rid of it as soon as you’re done reading. Many hotels and hostels have book swap and exchange stations, where you can leave a book and take a book. This is a great way to always have fresh reading material while avoiding the risk of damaging a book by carrying it around for too long.
- Print a PDF of the book to carry instead of having the actual book on hand. Some books, especially classics open to the public domain, are available online in PDF form. One option to avoid damaging your books is to print out the PDFs and to bring those on your travels instead. This way, you can recycle the pages you’ve read already.
- Only bring already-damaged books. If you have any unread books at home that are already in bad condition, bring them traveling. If they get a little more worn, you might not care. Another idea is to repurchase the book you want to bring with you for cheap at a thrift store or used bookstore. This way, you’ll have a nice copy to keep on your shelves and to come home to, but you can bring the other copy on your travels.
If you aren’t dead-set on carrying your books with you, these are great ways to still get a lot of reading done without damaging your physical books.
What To Do if Your Book Gets Damaged
Sometimes you do everything you can to protect your books, and they still get damaged, especially if you’re traveling with them. If this happens, don’t give up hope. There are ways to repair some damages to books.
Here are how to fix some common damage:
- A ripped page. Place a piece of wax paper underneath the ripped page, paint some glue over the tear, place another piece of wax paper over the tear and press a bone folder on it to get rid of any bubbles and make sure the glue is properly applied. If you aren’t that worried about aesthetics, just tape over the tear.
- A broken cover. Brace the book with weights, cut a piece of bookbinding repair tape the book’s length, and gently wrap the tape over the spine. The Koltose by Mash Bookbinding Tape (available on Amazon.com) uses a smoother cloth material to look and feel better on books, and it’s built to last.
- Take the book to a book repair shop. If the damage is really bad, you can always take your book to a professional for some serious doctoring. Some regular bookstores also offer book repair services, so check with your local bookseller.
If you’re traveling with books, choose a safe spot in your luggage to store them, preferably a compartment separate from everything else or in a waterproof bag.
Here are other tips:
- Remove book jackets, as these are likely to tear.
- Invest in book covers or wrap your books in clothes while traveling.
- Pack books that are durable, like hardcovers.
- Send finished books back home if possible.
- Read while on the go using an e-reader, listening to audiobooks, or printing PDFs of books.
- If your book does get damaged, there are ways you can try to mend it.
- Family Travel Folio: How to Travel With Books Without Damaging Them
- Frostbeard Studio: How to Keep Books Safe While Traveling
- WikiHow: How to Make a Book Cover
- BookRiot: How to Repair a Broken Book