As flights get canceled and vacations to faraway places get put on the back burner for an unknown time when life will go back to "normal," it can seem challenging to think about traveling right now and heartbreaking to acknowledge your trip's demise.
Enter the answer to your travel woes. Out: real vacations. In: virtual vacations.
When it became clear my April trip to Paris wasn't going to happen because of the coronavirus pandemic, I decided to plan an entire day to recreate the magic of the City of Love and bring the trip to my one-bedroom apartment in New Jersey.
Even though I couldn't stroll through the streets of Paris – or do any of the activities on my miles-long itinerary – I could cook a ton of French food and take pictures in front of a makeshift Eiffel Tower.
It's time to take matters into your own hands and plan a virtual vacation. Here's how:
Board the "plane"
Or get on board your cruise ship or hop in your vehicle, because it's time to set off on the journey. For my "Paris" trip, I looked up what a boarding pass from our airline would look like, and made a recreation using Photoshop.
Getting creative with the seemingly routine aspects of your trip can make it all the more special, since we don't realize how much we miss pulling out our passports or boarding passes in the airport. Added points for if you pull out your suitcase and roll it around your home or if you use your front-load washer as a faux airplane window.
Set the mood with music, location-specific backdrop
You can't virtually travel somewhere without setting the scene. Imagine, it's a sunny day, and the morning air has a cool, crisp feeling as you step onto the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. You hear music playing and feel the sun shine on your face as you lay out a blanket for a midday picnic.
That's the scene I tried to envision on a gloomy and rainy New Jersey morning as I pulled up a YouTube video of the Eiffel Tower and put it to play on loop on my living-room television. YouTube has a variety of videos from landmarks and notable areas that you can use as the backdrop of your trip.
right now, I was supposed to be on vacation in Paris with my boyfriend. since that was no longer an option, I decided to surprise him with a “Paris” day at our apartment instead! pic.twitter.com/gEPqMsHCDK
— Anika Reed (@heyitsanika) April 25, 2020
There are also plenty of auditory experiences that accompany a trip. I chose a playlist of music one might hear at a Parisian bistro to play throughout the day and night. You can choose music from your favorite streaming service to provide some ambiance.
Research recipes from your vacation destination – or get takeout
What's a vacation without the food?
Luckily, France is a food destination with lots of easily accessible recipes online. I had a grocery store trip planned for the day before "Paris," so I stocked up on the ingredients I could find in my local supermarket for recipes I had selected.
On the menu for the day:
- Breakfast: French toast breakfast sandwiches with egg, turkey bacon and Gruyère cheese
- Lunch: My take on steak frites (steak and fries) with a steak salad, French vinaigrette and truffle fries
- Dinner: French onion soup as an appetizer, followed by coq au vin (a chicken dish made with wine) with smashed herb-butter potatoes
- Dessert: French apple tart and vanilla ice cream
coq au vin with some smashed herb butter potatoes was the pièce de résistance for dinner (recipe here from @AskChefDennis: https://t.co/AtU3ycgRo9). note the scenery change to a Seine River cruise! pic.twitter.com/t0uXmKpCEp
— Anika Reed (@heyitsanika) April 25, 2020
I chose to cook all the meals for the Paris trip, but if it's safely available, ordering takeout or delivery of your regional dishes could be an easier way to get the taste without spending your entire "trip" in the kitchen. You can also salivate while watching a food show that takes you to your desired location, whether that's joining one of the adventures on "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" or seeing a chef in action on Netflix's "Chef's Table."
Visit museums with virtual tours
Even if you could physically travel to your intended destination right now, most museums are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Luckily, there are plenty of museums and site-seeing attractions doing virtual tours (read: more than 2,500 museums and galleries around the world).
New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art and Los Angeles' J. Paul Getty Museum are among the domestic museum offerings, with France's Palace of Versailles and South Korea's National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art among the international options. Though it's not the same as looking at world renowned art in person, it gives you the chance to explore history from the comfort of your own home.
Recreate activities planned for your trip
I'm an obsessive planner, and I had already mapped out a draft of an itinerary just days after we booked the flights. One of the activities I wanted to do while abroad was visiting a French vineyard, so I grabbed a few French wines from the local wine shop and set up a mini wine tasting. (The wines pulled double duty as pairings with the meals, as well.)
If you have a backyard, set up a blanket and all the necessary items for a mock picnic in the park. If you have crafting supplies, try creatively constructing a local attraction. There's also YouTube or other video services to watch past festivals, parades or events.
Share your trip with family and friends
Isn't one of the biggest parts of a vacation recounting the trip with your loved ones? Don't let being at home stop you from taking all those vacation pictures!
Get dressed up in your best vacation look, pull up a photo or a video of your destination and start snapping. If you have a green screen or a tripod, you're in an even better position to make those trip photos look authentic. For my Paris trip, it took some maneuvering, but I was able to get a semi-realistic looking photo in front of the Eiffel Tower background I set up on my TV.
Having photos from your virtual trip can create lasting positive memories from a scary time in the world – and they'll tide you over until you can finally set off on your next adventure.