Sunday, March 14, 2021

COVID-Safe Craft Getaways

What’s the one thing you miss most while we’re going through this pandemic? Is it movie theaters? House parties? Vacations? Happy hour with friends from the office? For me, I think I would probably have to answer, “retreats.”

Not so many years ago, it seemed like a new scrapbooking retreat was opening up every month or so. They were everywhere, and they were always booked solid. For some of us, packing up our craft supplies and spending a weekend with our closest friends out in the country somewhere is one of the best stress relievers out there. After all, a retreat usually involves some good food, a fun hobby, and lots of laughs, not to mention no chores. When I finally caught on to this special sojourn, I couldn’t get enough. I was going on a retreat five or six times a year – more if you count the annual scrapbooking cruises and convention weekends. Going on a retreat was probably my favorite thing to do, and a great escape from the stress and anxiety of work, home, and family. 

Going on retreats (including conventions and cruises) has pretty much been put on hold since March of 2020. We are all spending a lot more time at home, which has brought it’s own kind of stress and anxiety along with even more need to get away from it all. And while some retreat centers have been open with limited capacity, many of us do not feel comfortable spending a weekend in close quarters with a bunch of strangers. Some people have been taking advantage of lowered capacity and going anyway, what is a high-risk, unvaccinated individual like me to do?

Last November, after a few particularly stressful weeks as a caregiver for my mother, I turned to my friends with a desperate plea, “Please go away with me somewhere!” and that was how our “safe” retreats began. We wanted to limit our retreat to just four crafty friends who we knew had been very carefully social distancing and self-isolating throughout the pandemic. Realizing that we couldn’t control how many people came to a retreat unless we rented the whole place, we started looking for other options for a weekend stay. Enter Airbnb, VRBO, and a host of other vacation rental options.

We started out wearing facemasks at our first retreat, but they didn't last long.

Our first Airbnb rental was about two hours away, and was an approximate midway point between us. We looked for a location that had a large living room or den that would accommodate four folding tables without too much furniture rearranging. We had a great time on that trip, and learned some valuable lessons for the next trip.

As of this writing, I am actually sitting at our second Airbnb retreat.  This time we chose a location closer to home, a quaint 19th century farmhouse far enough out in the country to feel isolated, but close enough to go buy ice if we needed it. We planned for the problems we encountered the last time, but this rental came with its own set of issues. We haven’t let that stop us from having a great time and enjoying this crucial respite from the daily grind.

If you are longing for the days when you escaped to a crafty retreat with your friends, think about hosting a private getaway on your own. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Keep the size of your group small to increase your chances of finding a space that will accommodate you – no more than 4-5 crafters.
  • Make sure you are renting the whole house, not just a room; some listings can be misleading.  READ THE FINE PRINT!
  • Look for a rental that has an open floor plan with minimal furniture to ensure you have room for tables. Keep in mind that photos can be misleading. Rooms are rarely as large as they look in the photos!
  • Contact the owner to clarify any questions you might have and to verify availability. Some owners do not update availability of the rental, especially if it is listed on multiple websites.
  • Pay close attention to lighting; one ceiling fan or a few table lamps may not be sufficient. Plan to bring your own lighting if necessary
  • Look for existing chairs or prepare to bring your own chairs. Avoid using rolling chairs on hardwood floors, as it will damage them; bring a rug or floor mat if you must use a rolling chair.
  • Bring extension cords and power strips for your lighting and electronic devices
  • Don’t forget a small trashcan and cup-holder. These are often provided at a retreat but won’t be available at a rental facility.
  • Pay close attention to the kitchen facilities. Some rentals have “apartment” refrigerators or no stove. Plan your meals accordingly.
  • Don’t be afraid to contact the owner to clarify amenities at the facility like: room dimensions, coffee pots, kitchen accoutrements, power outlet locations, local recommendations, parking accommodations, handicap accessibility, etc.
  • Think about bringing things like Ziploc bags, Tupperware, cutting boards, foil/plastic wrap, etc. You’ll need a way to pack up your leftovers. Don’t forget ice!
  • Pack light. You may not have room for all your scrapbook supplies.  Plan your projects well.
  • Don’t use paints, glitter or other messy craft supplies indoors. Don’t craft on the owner’s furniture without protective coverings. Be sure to clean up any accidents and sweep/vacuum your craft area.
  • Return all furniture to its original location.

Obviously, you can’t plan for everything, but if you ask lots of questions and keep in mind the accommodations that might not be available, you can avoid some of the pitfalls. If you plan well, you, too, can get away for a COVID-safe retreat with your besties.