I’ve never talked about arts and crafts on this site yet, and to be honest, I don’t craft nearly as much as I used to. These days, we tend to spend most of our non-working, non-homework-doing, family time outside adventuring. But recently, when I was chatting with a friend about the Christmas ornaments we made, she asked why I haven’t shared the project on the blog… and I didn’t have an answer. I really had just never thought about it.
I’m not really the DIY, step-by-step, craft person, so I probably won’t share too much of that here, but I am going to share some of our favorite projects. The ones we’re really proud of and maybe a few that were total flops — and some lessons I have learned along the way.
We try to do at least a few fun craft projects every year, and not just because it gives me an opportunity to show off the mad X-acto Knife skills I gained from majoring in Graphic Design, but because I appreciate the quieting of the mind that happens when focusing on something creative. It’s very zen-like.
While on vacation, I used to collect items like shells and rocks for craft projects to do later at home, but there never seemed to be enough time to do them or to finish the ones I would start. Eventually, I got the idea to switch things up.
What if I brought the supplies for a craft project on vacation with us, and instead of planning to do it later, we crafted on vacation? I figured that’s basically what my mother-in-law does when she goes on scrapbooking weekends, so why wouldn’t we be able to do the same thing?
Two Big Shifts We Made
Two big shifts had to happen if I was even going to think about crafting of vacation:
- We needed to rent vacation houses instead of stay in hotels.
- We needed to structure our vacations differently to allow for quiet time or down time.
The Shift To Vacation Houses
When we first began traveling with very young children, we always stayed in hotels. We didn’t travel nearly as much as we do now, so we didn’t mind all the expense that comes with hotel stays, eating out every meal, and so forth.
But over time, the kids got older and we began traveling more often, and it wasn’t just the budget that concerned us, but the added space we needed. The kids wanted down time, and they needed space to just spread out, relax, and play. We wanted more space for all of us so we could let them play without driving us crazy, and we were tired of eating out so much. It made us feel icky and it’s expensive!
Renting a vacation house, in most places, isn’t any cheaper than staying in a hotel. Sometimes, depending on location, it even costs more, but you get a full kitchen so you can cook your own food and prep picnic lunches, space to play, your own rooms, and multiple bathrooms — this shift is glorious.
This rental of a vacation house also meant that I usually had a big table that I could spread out some type of craft on, and space to make a big giant mess.
The Shift In Vacation Structure
Brian and I work in sprints. We work really hard for a set amount of time, then take a break, and repeat the process. We sprint multiple times a day, and we sprint over weeks, months, seasons, and even years. The time frames, goals, and work changes, but the idea is always the same, push really hard to a goal, then rest, relax, and recharge to do it again.
We take the same approach in our personal life. It how we work best and function best. So why were we not doing the same on vacation?
When we only took a couple vacations each year, they were warrior vacations, on the go, seeing every single thing we could squeeze in. When we got home, we were so tired, we needed a vacation from our vacations. It wasn’t until the kids got older and we noticed that they too also thrive in the “sprint approach” that we began to change the way we vacation.
We now apply the “sprint and rest” mentality to vacationing.
On our outdoor adventure trips, this manifests in the form of a daily sprint. We hike and push hard all day, eat a great dinner, then we’re done for the night. Often we’re back in our hotel, vacation house, or campsite by six and we’re done for the day. From that point until bed time, it’s quiet time to just relax and recharge for the next day.
For our longer vacations, we plan every other day. So we have a day on the go, doing things, adventuring, and going places, and then we have a day with no plans to just take it easy and do whatever we feel like. Our off days, especially when we’re vacationing at the beach, are my son’s favorite days of the whole vacation.
Planning for down time and allowing for quiet relax days during vacation gives everyone a chance to just be, to refuel, to sleep in, to read, to get lost in thought, to be creative… and most of all to not come home exhausted. It also gave us time to do crafts.
The first time I boxed up all the crafting supplies for a project to do while on vacation, I wasn’t sure if it would work out, if we’d have time, or if this would even be a good idea. Thankfully, it turned out to be a fantastic idea!
Doing craft projects with the kids on vacation gave us something to extra special to look forward to, because they got to help pick the craft project and buy all the supplies. It also gave us something to create and accomplish together, something that would have all of our vacation memories tied to it, that we would have forever. And, it gave us something to focus on creatively to quiet our minds (and mouths).
Today I bring craft supplies with me every time we stay at a vacation house. Don’t get me wrong, I still collect cool rocks and pretty shells whenever we travel to use in craft projects at home, but crafting on vacation fills my creative soul without the guilt that I should be doing something else.
Crafting With Friends On Vacation
This past summer we spent a week at a spectacular beach house in Oceanside, California with our good friends the Lema family and the Zehngut family. It was the second trip of its kind, and I have to say one of our favorite vacations of the entire year, not only because we’re vacationing with amazing people, but because we make ZERO plans for the whole week. With no plans and nothing scheduled, it has been Carter’s number one favorite trip.
And yes, we definitely did crafts! With seven kids under one roof, we planned some creative activities in advance to keep them busy when they were tired of the sun and sand (which does actually happen).
In addition to lots of coloring books, crayons, and colored pencils, we brought supplies with us for:
- Tie dying t-shirts and tank tops and even some underwear and socks
- Painting glass ball Christmas ornaments
- Baking cupcakes for the kids to frost and decorate
My kids are older now, so we can do more complicated, messier craft projects. They are also old enough to do craft projects on their own while I’m cooking dinner.
The thing to remember is that no project has to be perfect. Pick something that inspires you, that gets you and your kids excited, and just go for it. Embrace imperfection and create something that will remind you of your trip every time you see it at home.
Our Christmas Tree is decorated with a collection of ornaments we have bought on vacations and made on vacations and at home. So we almost always make a Christmas ornament — like the painted ball ones we did this year.
Your vacation craft projects don’t have to be complicated, messy, expensive, or fancy. Trust me, don’t bring anything that will add stress or work to your vacation — that’s not the point. All it has to be is something different.
When the kids were really little, we’d bring a small package of new playdough for them to play with, or a brand new coloring book and crayons, or sticker books and new markers, like the ones that stamp little shapes, that they’d never seen before. Once I brought a new set of rubber stamps and a couple ink pads and that kept them busy for hours!
This is also the perfect time to pick up a small craft kit of two. Stores like Target, JoAnn, Michael’s, HobbyLobby, Walgreen’s, and even the Dollar Store sell craft kits at all price ranges. The great thing about those is that you just need to grab it and go — everything you need to do the craft is inside one box. Easy.
The idea is to have alternate activities for everyone to do that are quiet peaceful… and to have things to keep the kids occupied and well-behaved so mom and dad can relax.