When you’re ready to travel you know you’ll get sound advice and the best deals when you consult your travel advisor. But sometimes the urge to travel doesn’t correspond with what’s happening in your life, like not enough time to book the vacation you envision or you’re still saving up for your getaway. Or like the current circumstances that have put most travel plans on hold, at least for several more months.
That’s when a virtual Staycation can come to the rescue and transport you to a Caribbean isle, to the slopes at Aspen, to a sailing adventure around the Greek Isles, to a city near home or to another destination of your dreams.
When you’re considering a virtual Staycation, you’ll want to make a plan that depends on the kind of traveler you are and the things you like to see and do when you are actually on location. If you like to hike, for instance, you’ll want to scope out the best hiking trails at your Staycation destination. Rather visit museums and historical sites? There are a multitude of videos and other information online that can help you do just that.
Likewise, if your idea of a dream vacation is sipping a fruity cocktail while you lounge on a white sand beach, you’ll want to find videos to watch and other information to absorb to help recreate your destination, such as music with a tropical vibe or island-flavored recipes that you can whip up, maybe while wearing a colorful sundress — or even a bikini!
The idea is to make a bucket list of all the things you want to see, do, smell, taste and hear, all those things you’d expect to experience if you were actually strolling the streets of Paris, sipping coffee at a little table outside a café, savoring the art at the Louvre and taking a boat ride on the Seine, all before returning to your charming pensione right in the heart of the city. It’s all possible by tapping into virtual reality through hundreds of websites, YouTube videos and other online resources. And, of course, you can also consult old-fashioned resources you can hold in your hands, such as reading a couple of books by authors hailing from the country you intend to visit.
Now that your imagination is fired up and you’ve chosen a destination, plan your itinerary just like you would if you were actually getting on a plane:
- Select Your Travel Buddies: Partner, girlfriends, kids, cousins, going solo, etc.
- Set the Date: Say, for example, that you and your girlfriends want to visit Japan’s temples and sample a little Tokyo nightlife, too. Pick a night or a weekend, when you’ll all watch a few pre-selected videos in your own homes. Then plan a Zoom call date, when you’ll talk about your trip, exclaim over its highpoints and share favorite moments.
- Sample the Food: Either before, after or during your Zoom call, sample the cuisine — tapas from Spain, Neapolitan pizza, spicy Thai dishes, Mexican tamales and Peruvian chicken stew are just a few examples; you can find recipes galore on the web to create an authentic meal. If you live in a metropolitan area with many ethnic restaurants, order a couple of take-out dishes delivered right to your door. After all, you’re on vacation!
- Crank Up the Tunes: Music is a great way to feel immersed in another country’s culture, and there are hundreds of playlists you can tap into via the web that can help you feel like you’ve arrived at your dream destination and are dancing the samba, trying to tango or grooving to African drumbeats.
- Kids Travelling with You? Kids can be tasked with putting together a trivia list of interesting facts and tidbits, everything from the best kid-friendly attractions and the most popular games that the kids in that country play to weather stats, the number of languages spoken and what the country’s traditional dress looks like. They’ll enjoy being part of the trip planning and sharing their discoveries.
- Hola! Jambo! Bonjour! Kon’nichiwa! Ahoy! When you travel, it’s helpful to know the lingo. Free language learning sites like Duolingo and Babbel can give you a taste of the local tongue, even maybe enough to order food or find directions to the nearest bathroom! And saying hello (in Spanish, Swahili, French, Japanese or Pirate) is an easy first step in learning a country’s native tongue.
- Dress Up: Do your research and then use your imagination and creativity to dress in the garb of your virtual Staycation destination. Set the mood by donning a hat, scarf, dress, vest, etc.
- Go Cinematic: Immerse yourself in another culture’s landscape and language by watching a movie or two set in the destination of your choice. Movies that evoke a time and place can fire up your juices and help you further visualize your virtual destination.
The possibilities for a virtual Staycation are endless, and your vacation can be as complex and comprehensive or as simple as you like. You might even find that a virtual Staycation is so much fun that you schedule one on a regular basis. With a little planning, you can experience some marvelous adventures until it’s time to turn your virtual Staycation into a real vacation and you pick up the phone and dial your travel advisor to get the ball rolling to your dream destination.
By Eileen Alexander and photo by Maas van der Graaf
Eileen Alexander is a writer who lives in western North Carolina and whose recent foray into Staycationing was a Zoom cooking class where she learned to make Ukrainian pancakes