While fountain pens are glorious to write with, it’s true that they’re not the most convenient of writing instruments. They require care, cleaning, and refilling—and if you want to travel with one, it involves a little more thought than just chucking the pen in your bag, as you might with a hardy ballpoint. But no one wants to leave their favorite pen behind on a grand adventure! With a little bit of care and planning, you can enjoy using your fountain pen while traveling as much as you do at home.
Flying with Fountain Pens
In particular, flying with fountain pens requires a little bit of care. When an airplane rises in elevation, the air pressure inside the plane drops until the cabin pressurization system kicks in. Any air trapped inside your fountain pen, though, will remain at the higher pressure it started at on the ground. As it tries to escape your pen to equalize with the air in the plane, it can force ink out of your pen’s nib and create a big inky mess for you.
Luckily, there are a few easy things you can do to prevent this.
- First, it helps to get as much air out of your pen as possible. If you use a converter or a pen with a built-in filling system, you can fill the pen completely, or use the filling mechanism to force out any air bubbles. That way, there won’t be any air trapped inside to react to the changing pressure in the plane.
- Always store your pens upright while flying. That way, if there is an air bubble inside your pen, it will rise to the top, where it can’t force the ink out of your nib. If you’re traveling with an inked pen, make sure to bring it with you in your carry-on luggage, where you can make sure it’s facing upright.
- Don’t write with the pen until the plane has reached cruising altitude, when the cabin pressure will be high enough to prevent leaks.
- For extra security, it doesn’t hurt to store your pen in a plastic bag. That way, if it does leak, your bag’s other contents will stay dry.
- To be absolutely sure you won’t have a fountain pen leak, you can always empty and clean your pen before flying. An empty pen can’t leak! Vintage pens are more prone to leaking than modern ones; if you’re flying with a vintage pen, it’s safer to empty it first.
Flying with Ink
If you’re flying with your fountain pen, you’ll need ink to go with it! Ink cartridges are particularly convenient for travel - they’re small, light, and made of plastic, so they’re easy to carry without danger of breaking. However, if you simply must bring your favorite bottled ink color (hey, we get it), it’s perfectly possible to travel with ink bottles. Just keep the following in mind:
- Since ink bottles, unlike pens, are designed to prevent ink from flowing out, the risk of a leaky bottle is relatively low. The greater risk is that of physical damage, especially since many inks come in delicate glass bottles. When flying with bottled ink, make sure the bottle is well sealed and well padded. It’s always wise to pack ink in a plastic bag in case of accidents.
- Since inks are liquids, take note of airport security rules about liquids as you pack.
General Considerations for Traveling with Fountain Pens
Aside from precautions about flying, fountain pens are just about as easy to travel with as any other pen! But here are a couple of other travel tips to consider as you prepare for your big adventure.
- If you’re trying to cut down on bulk, pocket-sized fountain pens are great for travel. These pens are designed to be compact when they’re closed and to extend to a comfortable length for writing when the cap is posted on the back. These smaller pens do have a smaller ink capacity, though. Pack a handful of cartridges if you want to keep things light.
- It’s always wise to leave your most expensive, delicate, or treasured pens at home. You might miss them on the road, but you’d miss them more if they got lost during your travels.
- While traveling, avoid inks that are more likely to clog your pen, such as shimmer inks or pigmented inks. It’s more difficult to clean your pen on the road, and you don’t want to end up frustrated by a clogged pen.
Ready to hit the road? Check out our fountain pen collection to find a travel companion!