DIY Travel Desk

I jumped at the chance to guest blog at A Nation of Moms because who doesn’t love the topics they cover, the principles they stand for and the great giveaways they host.

Choosing what to write about actually wasn’t too complicated because Valerie asked for something crafty. Easy peasy! Or so I thought. I’m so thankful she’s been patient with me and the mess that is my life at the moment. I’m making it a beautiful mess though.

I wanted to come up with a project that would be useful, that would mainly use materials you already have and that wouldn’t be time too consuming or complicated.

The travel desk is something that’s been on my Amazon wishlist for quite some time. I’ve never really though that I couldn’t live without it, so I didn’t buy it. Boy, was I wrong! Poot is in love with this thing and it saves my ears from screams of boredom from the back seat.

And, I’ve discovered this can be used as a makeshift high chair tray in a pinch! You may not want to use it with the DIY travel high chair or you might get looks from people who are wondering why your child is so tied up.

BEST PART: This is practically no sew. I say practically because near the end my hot glue gun broke (and this was just after I bought eleventy billion glue sticks). Just my luck… However, you can make this a new sew project, piece of cake.



duct tape (or gorilla tape)

approximately one yard of fabric

plastic folder

foam or batting or both (or an old foam egg crate from a bed or something thick and softish)

4 large buttons

needle and thread (or hot glue if you want to glue the buttons on)


Procedure: <— It’s the science geek in me. Sorry.

1. Measure & cut the cardboard for the size that you want your desk. The large lap piece measures 16.5″ x 12″. You want two of these to make it sturdier. The side pieces measure 3.5″ x 12″. And, the back piece measures 3.5″ x 16.5″.

2. Hot glue the two lap pieces together, one on top of the other.

3. Cut the foam to fit the large piece of cardboard. My foam is about an inch shorter than the cardboard on all sides. Why? Because that’s the size piece I had left. Glue the foam to the cardboard.

4. Flip it over and duct tape the side pieces onto the board, creating walls for the tray.

5. For additional padding on the walls, glue batting (or extra layers of fabric if you don’t have batting) to the walls of the cardboard. I ran out of hot glue sticks that night, so I used wood glue and clamps. I’m resourceful at least. =)

6. Lay out your fabric and place your desk on top of it. Fold the fabric over the desk to measure how much you will need to cover the walls into the lap piece. Cut excess fabric. My piece measured 34″ x 26″.

7. I cut slits in the fabric so that it would be easier to fold. I folded the fabric onto the box like a present about one inch or so into the actual desk space. Hot glue at the top of the walls, at the inside corners and at the edge of the fabric.

8. Take your plastic folder, cut it to fit the top of the desk and glue it down. This gives you a wipe-able, waterproof surface in case you’re using it for snacks.

9. The sewing part: Stitch the large buttons onto the desk. Two of them need to be near the front edges as you will be attaching a tie to it. The other two will be placed a little further back to hold pencil/toy pouches. Push the needle right through the cardboard. This will help hold the buttons on.

10. Now we’re going to make some fabric ties. This is where my glue gun decided to get stopped up and wouldn’t pump the glue through any longer. I’m sewing from here on out but feel free to replace any stitches with lines of hot glue. Cut two strips of fabric 24″ x 4″.

11. Fold them in half with right sides facing in. They should be 24″ x 2″ now. Iron them flat.

12. Stitch (or glue) along one short side and the long side.

13. Push them right side out. TIP: Use a knitting or crochet needle to force the fabric right side out.

14. Stitch (or glue) the open end closed.

15. If you have a machine and you know how sew a button hole do so. If you don’t have a machine, simply cut (or use a seam ripper) a hole long enough for your button to pop through. Use your hot glue gun to glue the two layers of fabric together (on the inside of the fabric) around your button hole so that it won’t rip further or unravel. Here’s my button hole:

16. Attach the ties to the desk. You can see here, how the desk ties to your little one.

17. Now we can create a pencil/toy pouch to hang from the other button. Use a 6″ piece of ribbon (mine is 1″ wide) and a piece of fabric approximately 14″ x 14″. It can be slightly smaller but I wouldn’t go larger because it will be difficult for your child to reach into.

18. Fold the fabric over right sides in. Make a loop with the piece of ribbon and let the tails stick out. The loop can be placed anywhere along the top. If placed in the middle, the seam of the pouch will be facing outward. I’d place it about 1/4 of the way in from one side (which is not what is pictured).

19. Stitch (or glue the side) and turn the fabric right side out.

20. Stitch (or glue) along the bottom and up the side. You will have rough edges on the inside of this pouch.

21. Turn the pouch right side out so the edges are inside. Hang your pouch from one of the buttons.

Voila! You’re a crafting whiz!

Thanks, A Nation of Moms, for letting me share this idea! I’d love to hear about and see results from this if anyone is willing to share.

Jacqie is a stay at home mom to two beautiful & adventurous little boys. She’s a former science teacher and recently opened a photography business. The blog Tales of the Wife is not only a place where she shares information on green living and natural parenting but is also a place she goes for mommy time to share her feelings.


  1. 1

    What a great idea! Car boredom is big in our family, too.

  2. 2

    Oh my gosh! This is amazing!! I LOVE you crafty ppl who come up with the ideas so I can copy them! :) I can’t wait to try this!! :) It would work for all 3 of my girls!! :)

  3. 3

    I love this! Another craft project on my to-fo list!

  4. 4

    OMGoodness!! I love it!! I was just making last minute plans to travel to see a friend and was thinking- I don’t REALLY want to buy a tray, but my daughter would just LOVE one!! … problem solved!!!

    I also like it because it’s relatively ‘soft’. I mean like heaven forbid we do get in an accident- it is just card board and would just crush- not an immidiate safety threat. (versus I saw one made from a cookie sheet on another blog). … I totally love this- you have saved the day!!

  5. 5
    Annie K says:

    I just wanted to add, that I didn’t have a folder like this- nor could i find one without holes, so I just got a cheap plastic (character) placemat and cut it to size… and i used velcro tabs on each corner to have it sort of ‘removable’ incase it needed a good cleaning. I am leaving tomorrow- and this was a great last minute project that I think will work wonders on our trip!!!

  6. 6

    I’m so glad you ladies got use out of this! Great improvisation, Annie K. I meant for this to be a project where you used what you could find. =)

  7. 7
    Tian Kinasih says:

    So great project, i hope i can do it someday around spring, :)

  8. 8

    This is a great idea! can’t wait to give this a try our next road trip

  9. 9
    Nicole Roman says:

    Great idea! Looks simple enough for even me to make, lol. I’ll have to try and get this made up for this spring/summer.

  10. 10
    jamie braun says:

    once again, i am so jealous of your craft skills! ive never seen anyone make this!

  11. 11

    Thank you so much for this wonderful idea. I just finished making 2 of this for my boys. We’re going on a 7-9 hour road trip this weekend so we’ll see how it works for us. Once again, thank you!

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