Travel Communication Bag




Introduction: Travel Communication Bag

A friend of mine, who is abroad in a country that has quite a hard language to learn, was thinking of getting the IconSpeak travel tote.

However, it did not have some really useful icons that she wanted and was missing a food section.

This is a tutorial for the construction of a icon-filled travel tote bag that can be used for communicating needs and wants across multilingual barriers, especially if the traveler does not speak the local language. The icons are based on international symbols and a reverse food and drink section assists in clear culinary communication, this is especially helpful for those with certain diets or allergies.

Step 1: Supplies

The components I needed for this project were;

-1 Tote bag

- Icons, saved in a digital document (I pulled the IconSpeak icons and others from the internet)

- Paintbrushes, one square tip, one long, pointed tip

- Black Acrylic paint

- Fabric markers

- Sharpies

-A Printer to print out the icons

Step 2: Side 1: Transport and Needs

Side 1 is focused on the types of icons featured by the IconSpeak company, with some added customization, per my friend. Major traveling needs center around transportation, passport, basic human needs (toilets) and safety.

After printing out the desired icons in the size you want, cut them up into individual squares and arrange on the tote bag exterior. This will give you a good idea of how big they will be and allows you to arrange the order of the icons.

For example, I grouped all the transportation and vehicle-related icons together, including fuel and the repair icon.

Once the order of icons was decided, I copied down each icon by drawing the outline of it (in its corresponding spot where the paper edition had been) with a black Sharpie.

When the icons were done being drawn, I went back over them with black acrylic to fill them in and define the lines of the shapes.

Don't be afraid to rearrange the icons as you paint. Some of your outlined items will end up being larger than your printed edition, that is OK!

Allow Side 1 to dry before flipping over to work on Side 2.

Step 3: Side 2: Food and Emotions

Side 2 focuses on food, emotions, numbers and the weather.

My friend really needed food icons to communicate what certain ingredients are. I left some space for her to add more if she needs to. Having a food section could be very useful for people who have allergies and/or diet restrictions.

Emojis or emoticons are pretty universal now that we use texting as a major form of communication, so I chose the basic sad, neutral, happy, extra happy, crying and sick emojis, along with the hug and kissy lips icon.

Weather is sun/daytime, moon/nighttime, rain cloud, fire/hot and snow/cold. The latter two can be used to tell someone if you are freezing or if something is on fire, so that is a plus in case of emergency.

Numbers will make an appearance in both 1, 2, 3... form and corresponding dots.

Step 4: Draw the Outlines

Learning from Side 1, instead of doing a couple outlines and then painting them in, then outlining the next few, for Side 2 I just went and outlined EVERYTHING from the get go.


For the tan satchel-style bag that I made in Attempt #2, I had 4 panel sections to work with. Front, back (sides 1 and 2) and then two side panels. For the side panels, I put emotions and health on one and weather/temperature/nature features on the other.

Step 5: Color With Fabric Markers and Sharpies

Side 2 is the lucky, colorful side!

Using the Fabric Markers that I bought from 5Below, I started coloring in all the smileys, food and weather.

Sharpies are great for shading and instead of doing all the outlines in acrylic this round, I used a sharp-tipped (recommend just getting a Fine Point) black Sharpie.

For the numbers section, I did do those in acrylic paint, just so they really stand out.

Allow to dry.


I created a second bag from a satchel-style, tan canvas bag I found in the Clearance and Damages section of Michaels!

For this bag, a lot more acrylic paint was used to combat the dark fabric. White, yellow and gray were the majorly used paints. Bag #2 had four panels to work with and I adjusted the arrangement of the icons and added more food icon options.

Step 6: Finished Sides


Now you are ready to go traveling with no worries about communication (well, at least you won't sweat the small stuff). Go forth and travel, Explorers!

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    5 Discussions


    3 years ago

    These are SO cute!! :)


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you very much!


    3 years ago

    This is genius! Do it commercially, you'll do really well. it'd be a great idea.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you! I wish I could, but my poor hand probably couldn't survive the order load. XD Might make a couple more though (at least one for me!) ^_~


    3 years ago

    This would be so helpful when traveling!