Why Put a Crayon in Your Wallet When You Travel?

pile of crayons - why put a crayon in your wallet when you travel

This is a strange phenomenon, but a recent travel question that’s been making the rounds on the internet is “why put a crayon in your wallet when travelling?” No one I knew had ever used this particular hack and I wondered if there was anything to it, so I did a little digging. 

Here’s what I found: few ideas, often repeated and varying in quality. I organized these ideas from least to most ridiculous, so judge for yourself how wacky you want your day to get.

To Help Someone in Need

This is the least silly reason to carry a crayon. The website Moms reported on the question “why should you keep a crayon in your wallet” in 2020. Writer Diane Mtetwa tells the story of an encounter between Sarah Elrod-Ausbrook and a girl who Elrod-Ausbrook afterwards thought might have been missing teenager Tylee Ryan.

Elrod-Ausbrook and her husband sat at a table with the girl, and the older couple the girl was travelling with, at a dinner before a concert in Nashville. Elrod-Ausbrook explained to the Idaho State Journal that several things seemed off about the behaviour of the girl and the couple.

Both she and her husband have anti-human trafficking training and suspected something was up. They carry crayons wrapped in paper wherever they go, which can help someone who’s in danger leave a message. Elrod Ausbrook slipped the crayon package into the girl’s pocket as the girl and the couple were leaving. 

Elrod Ausbrook later saw a social media post about Tylee and, as Mtetwa says, “realized she looked a lot like” the girl she had had dinner with. Tylee was found dead in 2020.

While the crayon probably did not help in that specific situation, the idea of carrying something that might help someone in trouble communicate is definitely worth considering.

To Keep Kids Entertained?

This is a mainstay in all the articles I read about keeping a crayon in your wallet. Every article laments how hard it is to keep kids entertained while travelling and every article raves about how simple it is to solve their boredom by providing a crayon and some paper. 

If your child is stuck in the back seat for a long car ride or your family has to wait at the airport for a delayed flight, proponents of the crayon explain that having one in your back pocket will provide an unfailingly fun activity for them.

While I would never belittle the power of colouring, I did wonder whether a single crayon would work the wonders these writers suggested. It certainly seemed better than nothing, however, and the merits of having a drawing tool that doesn’t dry out and can still be used when broken are clear. 

To Keep Your Wallet in Better Shape??

wallet - why put a crayon in your wallet when you travel

This next one seems a bit sketch. Distractify writer Mustafa Gatollari says that some people keep a crayon in their wallets to keep the wallet from becoming too misshapen. “Wallets are prone to bending,” he says, “warping the original shapes of whatever plastic or paper goodies you’ve got packed in there.” The crayon is supposed to keep that from happening.

If it does, people are keeping their success stories close to the vest. Using a crayon doesn’t turn up in an (admittedly quick) internet search for ways to keep cards from bending in your wallet. Instead, folks overwhelmingly recommend getting a rigid wallet or not keeping your wallet in your back pocket.

That said, over at Quora, contributor Ed Knight suggests carrying a crayon in your wallet could be a variation on a pencil trick to deter pickpockets. 

He explains that the trick is to put a pencil, or in this case, a crayon, in your wallet, leave just the tip of it protruding and put the wallet in your pocket, pencil or crayon tip first. “Any attempt to remove the wallet, EVEN by you,” says Knight, will make the tip catch “on the inside of your pocket” instead of coming out smoothly. 

This might just give you enough time to turn around and stop the theft from happening. Again, I could not find evidence that this works, but Knight’s profile states that he’s a former Detective Investigator, so he’s probably got some legit insight into this.

To Mark Your Trace When in Wilderness Survival Situations???

Some articles suggest that a crayon is a must in a wilderness survival kit. The rationale is that the crayon can be used to mark one’s location if one happens to get lost in the wild somewhere. 

This, of course, is nonsense. The variety of raw, natural materials to which crayon can be applied visibly enough to serve as a marker for someone to find is not wide. Even if you’re packing the brightest of bright crayons, the probability that you will find something that crayon will stick to and stand out on seems dangerously low. 

Will it absolutely not work? I have no idea. But I wouldn’t be willing to bet my life on it.

For those who are interested, (one of) the answer(s) to how to leave trace marks in a survival situation is to use permanent marker on survey tape. Survey tape is bright and noticeable, and permanent marker won’t rub off.

That does assume, of course, that you’ve gone into the wilderness prepared with at least some gear. Which is as it should be. If catastrophe has fallen and you have no gear, then the answer to the question of how to leave trace marks is not crayon, but rocks, branches, fire if you can make it, or anything you can muster that’s more visible than crayon on a rock.


So, what is the crayon in wallet hack? Well, there’s no hack, really. Crayon is a writing utensil that always writes and never needs sharpening, and there will often be uses for that. 

Will it save you in a wilderness emergency? It will not. Will it deter thieves or save lives? It’s possible. Are there other writing utensils that could do that equally well? Yes, there are. But, they won’t be as colourful or nostalgic.

Feature image: Sonya Lynne; Image 1: Lukas

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