I used to have one of these
it. Folds up to the size of a suitcase. Quite sturdy, as long as you make sure the supports are securely
snapped into place before
using it. This could serve multiple needs quite nicely.
You could also consider a traditional folding banquet table and normal folding chairs.
Years ago (right before she started high school), I had considered buying my daughter a desk similar to this one
, except the one I was going to buy also had a hutch with shelves on it*. I figured when the time came, she could fold it up and take it to college with her, and set it up in her dorm room. The company also makes a number of other foldable items that match it, including a chair, printer cart, bookcases, etc.
I have a foldable bookcase in my kitchen that I use as a "charging station" that holds my coffee maker, all the varieties of teas and coffees we have, and a power strip for charging MP3 players, phones, cameras, etc. It's quite sturdy and made from unfinished wood.
If you have the time and some basic wood working skills, you could make your own snap together/apart table from the following basic design:
While my image is rather hastily and sloppily made, it will give you the general idea. It consists of 2 shelves, which are identical, and 4 side supports, which are also identical. The whole thing snaps together by fitting the notches together. You'd make the shelf pieces no bigger than you need or can transport (in trunk or back seat of car). And the side supports determine the height of the whole thing. Measure carefully because you don't want it to fit too loose. It should be snug, but not get stuck so you can't snap it back apart. When you have to move, you just take it apart and the whole thing can store flat in the trunk or you can stand the shelves up behind the back of the front seats, inside the car. If you make it as tall as a kitchen table or standard desk, you may have to add a 3rd shelf in the middle and additional matching center notches in the side supports, to ensure stability, and keep the whole thing from collapsing. I would make these out of oak. While the weight would be heavier, it would make much stronger furniture that won't be as likely to break before you get back home again.
This basic design was the basis for a lot of really inexpensive entertainment centers and tables, back in the 80's, that were great when it came time to move, because they easily came apart and took up very little space in the moving truck. Larger units were made by simply adding more notches, shelves, and side supports of varying heights. (I tried to find some pics online of some vintage pieces like this, but couldn't find any.
If you understand the basic design, you can get pretty creative and make something that can serve multiple purposes by just changing the side supports and amount/size of the shelves, as needed....like a short coffee table with 2 shelves can become a desk in minutes, with the addition of another shelf and switching the side supports to a taller set with 3 notches each. You could even make 2 of the shelves with a cutout for your legs, and use 4 side supports for the front, 2 on each side of cutouts. Of course that would mean as a coffee table, the bottom shelf would have a cutout, but if you are worried about looks, stick something decorative in the space to make it look like it's some sort of artistic modern design that's supposed to be that way.
If you are interested in this design and considering making your own and don't understand something, ask away and I'll try to clarify. *We ended up buying a monster of a desk, instead.