5 Ways to Make Time for Travel Sketching

October 25, 2021  /  by Megan Biffert

Open sketchbook showing a watercolor sketch of mountains

If you have ever tried travel sketching you will have found this to be true:
It’s one thing to plan on keeping a sketch journal while traveling. It’s another thing entirely to actually make it happen!

Despite our best efforts, vacations can become more jam-packed with activities than we intend. Squeezing in time for travel sketching – even though we love the idea! – can seem almost impossible.

But keeping a travel sketchbook is worth making time for. It’s an activity that can be done solo or with your whole family! Sketching requires us to be very focused and present, helping us observe and experience the city, beach, country, or park we are visiting. Sketching is restful (who doesn’t want more rest on their vacation?). Sketching helps us remember our trip much better than snapping a quick photo. Sketching helps us truly see all the details and beauty of the place we are exploring.

So you know you want to sketch on your next vacation! But how do you find the time?

Well here’s the trick!

You will rarely find time to sketch. Instead, figure out ways to make time to sketch.

Here are 5 ways you can make time for sketching while traveling!
Of course, everyone’s trip is different. You may be able to sketch every day of your trip or only one day! You may sketch on-site or sketch later from reference photos. You may sketch in the morning, at night, or in the middle of the afternoon. However you do it, it’s so worth it. If you’ve been day dreaming of keeping a sketchbook on your next vacation, bookmark these ideas and make them work for you!

1. Build in a “reflection” hour


Most of us, intentionally or not, have some kind of a morning and/or evening routine. Traveling always shakes up those routines and we develop new ones while on our trip. So while you are forming those new routines, why not add a half hour or hour of sketching time to your morning or evening? Add a half hour of sketch time before breakfast, or after dinner before you get ready for bed. Having that time set aside to reflect on your day and sketch special sights or moments you want to remember is a really lovely way to start or end your day!

2. Plan a sketch outing as an activity


Building a sketch outing into your vacation plans can be a really fun trip activity! You can plan to do it with your entire family or travel partner(s), or on your own when your group goes to another activity. It’s an affordable and flexible way to explore a new location. It also allows you to sketch on-site! Check the weather, pick a scenic spot, pack some snacks and art supplies, and head out for some sketch time.

3. Go with the self-guided option

Guided tours or scheduled events can make it too rushed – or just not possible – to sit down and linger with your sketchbook. I have found that sometimes it is well worth scheduling or creating my own activity so that it allows me to time to sketch. You can do a self-guided tour of key historical sites, or find a local trail that gives gorgeous views of the surrounding area. You will still be able to explore and see the sights. True, you may end up seeing less than if you had joined a guided tour. But what you do see will have your full focus and attention!

4. Take your sketchbook for a coffee date


This is perhaps one of my favorites to do while traveling. Nothing is more relaxing than finding a local cafe and settling down with your sketchbook for an hour! And let’s be real: most of us still need our caffeine hit while on vacation. When you travel there’s very often an afternoon or mid-morning when nothing is planned. So just grab your sketchbook, go get a coffee or tea, and sketch! You can either sketch your surroundings or a memorable subject from another day. What’s extra fun is that this is an easy way to still experience the place you are visiting. A lot of life happens in and around a cafe. You can go by yourself or invite your traveling partner(s) to come enjoy the time with you.

5. Make the most of your wait time


Airport layovers, waiting for a hotel check-in, lining up early for good seats at an event: we all spend some of our travel time waiting. Take advantage of those wait times. They can be some of the most peaceful hours for sketching! I won’t say I’ve gone so far as to intentionally schedule a long airport layover just to get more sketch time in. But once you see it as potential time for drawing or painting, the long wait doesn’t seem like such a bad thing! Just keep your sketchbook with you so that you are ready whenever an unexpected (or expected) hour of downtime comes your way.

There you go! Put some of these ideas to work for you and by the end of your next vacation, you’ll have some memorable images filling up your sketchbook.

I took a trip with my family in October and I made good use of ideas 1 and 4 in order to get some drawing time! If you’d like to see the travel sketches from that trip, you can watch my one-minute sketchbook flip through here.

About Megan

Megan Biffert is the owner and creator behind Hey There Chickadee. Ink and watercolor art her go-to art mediums. She not only sketches and paints on a regular basis, but also offers classes and inspiration to those who want to create their own art. Her greatest delight in operating Hey There Chickadee is seeing others discover joy, creativity, and community through drawing and painting!

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