I reached out to the blogging community last week for ideas and inspiration on how to do family travel from home while we’re all on lockdown. I’m not talking about real travel, I’m talking about virtual and metaphorical travel. The reason? We really miss travelling and everything to do with it. I miss planning and booking trips. I miss researching new places to go – somehow research when you don’t know when the next trip will be seems futile to me. We all miss the excitement of starting a new trip not knowing what adventures it will bring.
Am I the only one?
I can’t be the only one who feels like this. I can’t be the only one who is guilt-stricken that I’m bored and unfulfilled. That I feel like this while others bravely head out to the front line of healthcare to defend us against an invisible enemy. Monotony is a luxury that many others, with no home or forced into overcrowding, can’t afford.
And yet it’s there, permeating our daily life.
Our first week of social distancing coincided with the cancellation of our first trip to Vietnam. As the days and weeks went on, it became evident that not travelling was no longer a choice. Cancelled flights and border restrictions have left me feeling, well, claustrophobic and restless. To have a week of holiday where we don’t travel is unheard of. Even the kids were left feeling unsettled.
I decided it was time to take action and the blogging community came back to me with bucket loads of ideas! I’ve split them up into the five senses (broadly – bear with me). Here are my favourite ways to do family travel from home.
Cath from Travel Around Ireland suggests a deep dive into one country with books for children. She says:
A great way to explore the world without leaving your home is through books dedicated to specific destinations aimed at children. Not only is this a great way to deep dive into countries with kids from the comfort of your own home, but it can be hugely educational too. The books can be purely travel-related or can be storybooks to inspire children’s imaginations about the country in question.
For us, that means destinations in Ireland. As our country of origin, it is important that we teach our son about Ireland, about in terms of the country and history. To do this we have bought books dedicated to Irish nature and wildlife, the folklore and legends of Ireland, and a book about each of the 32 counties.
Through these books, we can travel and explore different aspects of Ireland without needing to leave home. We would, of course, rather be there in person, but until we can, these books give us a great way to discover more of the place we call home.
This can be extended to any country or destination in the world and through reading the books, doing activities based on what you’ve read and discussing things about the country with your kids you can travel the world without needing to leave home.
Keri from Our Globetrotters agrees. She and her family love the Lonely Planet Kids Books (as do we!)
Several years ago, I was fortunate to be gifted “The Travel Book” by Lonely Planet Kids after doing some work for them. I thought it might be a bit too grown-up for my kids, however, it quickly became the first book my middle child could read independently.
It started with his fascination for the world flags, then trying to memorise country sizes, populations and where to place them on a map. The Lonely Planet Kids books are easy to engage with and understand with bite-sized chunks of information for reading together, or kids can begin to explore the world on their own (I won’t lie, I have found plenty of facts in there that were new for me too!).
Like a trusted companion throughout my own early years of travel, the Lonely Planet Kids books have become our kids trusted source of information too. Our library has expanded now to cover nearly the entire collection from the interactive activity books (Adventures in Smelly Places is a favourite!) through to the slightly older reads including The Cities Book and the Big Book of Earth.
Unlike some activity books for kids that really only make sense when you’re “on location”, Lonely Planet Kids have truly brought the world to our home with their amazing and ever-growing selection for every age group. Many of the kids’ votes for where we should travel to next as a family have been based on the fabulous picture they have created of the world from these books.
Lisa from FlipFlopGlobetrotters recommends virtual field trips and I’m totally convinced bow that we need to do this too!
You don’t want your kids stuck behind a screen all day, but what if you can make it both entertaining and educational? Total win-win, right? That’s why I love these virtual field trips. Whereas an actual field trip with school would mostly be limited to the country or even the area you live in, with these virtual ones you can travel much further. Learn about places you normally wouldn’t go, such as the Borneo rain forest or the coast of Peru. Of course, you can create your own virtual field trip, combining webcams, documentaries and other online resources. But you can also find a lot of ready-made field trips online. Besides interesting videos, most of these field trips also include teaching materials and student handouts.
We particularly like these field trips from The Nature Conservancy, meant for grades 5-8. Why not discover the coral reefs of Palau or China’s great forests? This website also offers lots of educational resources for other grades. Discovery Education is another great resource for virtual field trips. Most of these field trips are created in collaboration with large multinationals and there are many subject areas such as Sports, Health Wellness, Science/STEM/Exploration, Natural World or Conservation, Agriculture and Literacy. Keep in mind that some teaching materials are only available for Canadian users and require a login.
So, if you’re stuck at home and still want to see the world, why not take your kids exploring virtually? Add some food or music from the country you’re traveling to and enjoy the trip!
Alex from a Swedish Nomad says this is a great way to see the world and actually suggests going on safari from the comfort of your own home (LOVE this idea)!
Thanks to our digital world that is connected globally, we no longer have to travel physically to actually experience and see other places around the world. While it might not be as fulfilling as the real experience, it is certainly better than nothing and could end up being quality-time together as a family.
Go on a virtual safari trip to Africa and see animals gather in real-time at waterholes or other spots where live wildlife cams are placed. In the meantime, as you spot the animals, you can teach your kids more about each animal, and at the same time learn more yourself. In addition to Africa, these wildlife cams are available worldwide and in a wide range of places.
For example, you can watch polar bears in the wild in Canada, or why not see a bald eagle up close, watching its nest? Moreover, it’s even possible to spot animals in the rainforest. These wildlife cams are available 24/7 online and some of them even have night vision, which means you could see animals even when it’s dark outside.
One of the best websites to find live wildlife cams is https://explore.org/ where you can choose from different categories. If you’re watching with your kids, make sure to have a phone next to you and look up facts about the animals you spot. It will surely be a fun day where you can teach your kids something and at the same time have fun and see animals in real-time in their natural habitat.
Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan suggests listening to travel podcasts as a family and I’m loving her suggestions. Podcasts are my go-to activity of choice in the car if I’m on my own, but I’ve not found many for us all to listen to. I’m super excited to listen to her recommendations!
Travel podcasts are a great alternative to travel TV shows and videos because they get kids away from the screen and get them using their imaginations to picture the far-away places that are being described in the episodes.
There are quite a few family travel podcasts out there these days, but a lot of them are more for the parents than for the kids to listen to. But one that really puts kids front and centre is the Go with Nugget podcast. In fact, there are two different versions of this podcast — Go with Nugget for Parents and Go with Nugget for Kids. The former features interviews with parents and destination experts around the world, while the latter features kids themselves who take young listeners on a virtual tour of the place where they live. So, your kids can hear from their peers about what it’s like growing up in Namibia, Brazil or India.
Some other podcasts that the entire family might enjoy listening to together are the Join Our Vida Loca Podcast and the Jetsetting Family Travel Podcast. Both are hosted by a real family who is traveling the world together and sharing their adventures along the way. And if your family has a particular interest in a specific destination or a special kind of travel, you can probably find a whole podcast devoted to that topic. For example, as a vegan traveler, one of my favourites to listen to is the World Vegan Travel podcast.
Now my Things are more audiobook types of kids and we have a very active Audible account! Stephanie from Explore More, Clean Less has some great ideas to get their imaginations travelling all over the world.
One of our family’s favourite ways to travel without leaving home is listening to audiobooks together! While they’re often transporting us to magical realms, there are plenty of family-friendly stories that can spark interest in a certain city, country, or just general desire to travel and explore. Older kids can then set off on their own to research an area they heard about in a story or a podcast, while younger kids can take the creative opportunity to illustrate what they pictured while they listened. It’s an easy, screen-free way to travel from your couch and bond as a family! If you’re new to audiobooks with kids, check out this post for tips on where to find free stories and how to get kids in the habit of listening to them! A few ideas are:
- Magic School Bus, On The Ocean Floor — to spark an interest in marine animals and ocean life
- Magic Tree House, Hour of the Olympics — to get excited about Greece
- Paddington Bear — to drum up anticipation for London
- Misty of Chincoteague — to spark an interest in Chincoteague Island and the NE USA
- Anne of Green Gables — to get kids excited about Price Edward Island and Canada
- Magic Tree House, Afternoon on the Amazon — to have kids dreaming of the rainforest
We Wanderlusters are huge fans of food (well, except picky Thing 2 but we’re working on her!). We especially enjoy the social side of dining and getting to know a country through its flavours. Sharee from Inspire Family travel suggests bringing those tastes into your own home.
There are many benefits of having kids help in the kitchen, from family bonding time to gaining essential life skills. Cooking is also a brilliant way to explore the world without leaving the comfort of home.
One of the best parts of traveling is immersing yourself in the culture and heritage of a new destination by experiencing authentic foods and sampling new flavours. Not only does it encourage a taste for adventure, but a palette that enjoys a wide range of foods.
To create this same experience at home, prioritize one day of the week to make a meal from a different country. To include the children and make it an educational exercise (without them realizing), ask them to help research a country, what types of foods they eat, and ideas on what can be made.
Recipes for all skill levels can be found online or visit the local library and book store for international cookbooks. Once you have a plan on what cuisines will be made, visual meal planners are a powerful tool and will not only create excitement for future meals but will also help with food shopping.
Whether it’s cracking eggs, mixing the ingredients, cutting up the vegetables, there is a job for all members of the family, and kids always love to be involved in this stage. The quality time you spend in the kitchen can be used to discuss the country in further detail, and when the meal is prepared, everyone can enjoy family travel to a new destination without leaving home.
While I’m not the most creative of people (unless it involves words), my Things love using their imaginations in artistic and tangible ways. Preethi from Local Passport Family has written a whole post on a virtual field trip to Italy but says you can use art to travel regardless of the country.
One of our favourite ways to explore a destination without ever leaving home is through art. We love choosing one particular artist or genre to study, then creating some of our own art. Art history can be rich in cultural traditions, geography, and even food, so it’s a great and immersive way to virtually travel.
For instance, when learning about Italy, we studied a bit about the history of Michelangelo and how he became interested in both painting and sculpture. This included details about the Medici family, as well as looking on a map to find the different Italian cities where he lived. Then, we looked at some images of the ceiling of the Sistine chapel to see what we recognized. With this, we touched on some religious history and learned about the Roman Catholic Church.
Finally, each of us chose one particular scene to recreate. We printed a copy of the scene, then scratched our own on a piece of paper. Then we taped the paper to the underside of a table (to mimic painting on the ceiling) and added colour with markers and paints. We had a blast, and learned not only about art, but also about some Italian history!
Roshni from The Wanderlust Within came up with one of my favourite ideas which is to make travel photo books together:
One of the best ways to travel without leaving the house is by making online photo books to be printed and posted to your home. Once received, the photo books can be added to your bookshelf or coffee table.
This is a great activity to do with the family as a way to relive past trips and satisfy everyone’s wanderlust. The kids can get involved by picking out photos and fonts and, in a few days when the photo books arrive, they can see for themselves how they came out and experience their holidays all over again. This is a perfect activity to do whilst stuck at home as the photo books last a lifetime and will be available for your family and guests to flick through for years to come.
If your family enjoys the activity why not think of making doubles of certain books as gifts for other family members or friends you have travelled with, so they can also share in the memories and get their travel fix. The travel photo books also make lovely presents for people you can’t currently visit due to being stuck indoors like grandparents. The photo books can be posted straight to them so they can travel alongside you and your family, whilst staying safe.
This is where the poetic licence comes in! I really couldn’t think of a way to incorporate smell into travelling at home (please get in touch if you can!!!). And when I reached out to all these other talented people, so many of them came back to me suggesting ideas that really incorporated all the senses.
One of my favourite bloggers, Jenny, from Peak District Kids and her family love being outdoors. In fact, it was their 3 month travels around Africa that inspired our trip to Namibia! Needless to say, they’ve been outside for lots of this lockdown and have even been camping in the garden.
We’re a budget travel family who love adventure, so where possible our accommodation of choice is often camping. Whether it’s remote camping in roof tents on the African plains, or pitched up by a swimming pool and bakery in the French countryside, we are happiest under canvas; and I swear the kids always sleep better.
One of the first things we did when the UK lockdown was announced was pitch our tent in the garden. We’re very grateful for the open space on our doorstep at this time, but if you haven’t got a garden, you could even push the furniture around and find space to pitch a tent in your lounge. Or perhaps use sheets and blankets pinned between chairs.
Once your sleeping mats and sleeping bags are in place, get snuggled in and you really could be anywhere your imagination allows you to be. Consider playing a nature recording to drown out the hum of everyday life, to help transport you to distant lands.
If you’re camping outside, complete the experience with cooking dinner and breakfast on your camping stove. Don’t forget the marshmallows! I even let the boys do ‘bush wees’ to complete the authentic African bush experience.
We decided to keep the tent up for a few days as the boys wanted to use it as a space to do their school work, have picnics, and just generally play!
I know, I know – going to the beach isn’t exactly social distancing but Danni from Live In 10 Countries has a great idea for bringing the beach to you!
A day by the beach is always a sure-fire way to get the kicks active, engaged and having fun – with a bonus being that there aren’t usually any screens to distract them! You might even be in a WiFi free area. But, you may not be able to get everyone into the car and down to the coast right now – so how can you bring all that fun back home? Now you can have all the fun of an adventure in Cornwall, no matter the weather outside.
Prep a few days in advance by browsing online for some cheap supplies – you want to bring a little bit of the beach into your home with you. Just to keep the mess at bay, putting down an old cloth sheet or tarpaulin would be first and then you can scatter over the top of it things like sand, cute seashells, fossils, twigs and much more. If you really wanted to turn this into a scavenger hunt, you could hide a few shiny and colourful craft gems for the kids to find.
Grab your phone and play the sound of the sea and waves and get the kids excited for some beachcombing along the coastline. It’s also an ideal time for to sneak a bit of learning into the activity without them being too aware of it – as you can tell them how shells come to be by the seaside, where sand really comes from and maybe a bit about sea creatures if you’ve done your research.
If they come out with some nice-looking seashells, you can help them string these into a necklace, bracelet, etc using some strong string and a something sharp like a corkscrew to bore a hole (of course only you will be using the sharp implement and not any little ones!).
Diana from Travels In Poland suggests subscribing to Little Passports, an “award-winning subscriptions for kids that inspire them to learn about the world” (their words not mine). She says:
Traveling with kids is one of the best things when teaching them about the world around them. Exploring new regions, cities, and cultures opens up new words for kids. During this time, as everything has come to a halt, we have found an amazing subscription service, Little Passports, that teaches us about new places, animals, history, science, technology and so much more. Little Passports has 5 different subscriptions to pick from for a variety of age groups. These subscriptions include Early Explorers for ages 3-5, with monthly themes such as land animals, music and minerals; Science Junior for children ages 5-8 which explores STEM; World Edition for ages 6-10 which encourages hands-on activities for countries; USA Edition for ages 7-12; and Science Expeditions for ages 9 and older.
The subscription is monthly and in every one, there is a variety of activities for children to do, all of which promote further learning. Experiments, puzzles, books, games, and microscopes are just some of the fun items that are found inside of each Little Passports subscription. Many of the subscriptions are great prompts to explore further. It’s a fun interactive way to learn about the world, and discover new places and things when you aren’t able to explore outdoors.
This was also suggested by Keri from Bon Voyage With Kids.
Elisa from World in Paris suggests taking a family trip to Paris without leaving home! But how?!
Well, this is possible thanks to virtual travel but also other activities that you can do together at home.
First, we need the atmosphere. For doing so French music is necessary, ideally French classic songs with the accordion but you can also use Amélie Poulin’s soundtrack which is zen and so Parisian.
You can also prepare some decoration beforehand and ask the kids to draw the Eiffel Tower, the Seine River or Sacré Coeur and decorate the house with the kids’ drawings.
Why not using some French words? You can learn together some basic words and expressions like Bonjour!, Ca va? Merci! Which is fun and adds a French touch to your virtual day in Paris.
So now you are in Paris and you can explore the city through a couple of virtual tours available online before cooking some colorful, hand-made macarons. Macarons are very easy to prepare, the ingredients are basic and easy to find and there are many recipes (sometimes with video) online. Later you can eat these macarons with a cup of hot chocolate, just like in Paris!
You can end your Parisian day with a Parisian film like Ratatouille or Amélie Poulain. If you can make it until 10 pm sharp, Paris time, connect online to one of the webcams facing the Eiffel Tower and watch how the Eiffel Tower lights up and shines, it is magic! The shinning lasts about 5 minutes every hour until 1 or 2 am.
Travel virtually to bucket-list destinations
Amanda from Toddling Traveller thinks you don’t have to stop with just one country! She and her family have gone around the world (virtually of course) since they’ve been in lockdown.
Like other family travel bloggers, we’ve had to cancel quite a few trips recently. And we have a serious case of travel withdrawal. To combat that, we’ve been looking for creative ways to travel from home. We decided to start “traveling” virtually to our bucket list destinations. After consulting our bucket list, we made a list of countries to explore from home- including many destinations that we’re likely years away from visiting. So far, we’ve travelled virtually to France, Africa, and China.
During each “visit” to our bucket list destination, we’ve made local recipes, did a number of country-themed crafts and watched kids’ movies to learn more about each country. In France, the highlights were making crepes, building an Eiffel tower and watching Ratatouille. In Africa, we covered several different regions. The highlights included a safari animal hunt in Tanzania, making Mandazis and chai tea from Kenya, pyramids, and hieroglyphics from Egypt and watching Tarzan and The Lion King. Our visit to China included several fun crafts including a Chinese paper lantern, an egg carton dragon and a panda picture. We also made a yummy shrimp stir fry and watched Born in China and Mulan on Disney+.
Traveling to our bucket list virtually has been such a fun way to research and explore future destinations. We can’t wait to continue working through our list!
Reading through all these ideas really inspired me and got me out of my pity party and back into a cand-o frame of mind. This weekend we are doing family travel from home by exploring new national parks in our area (thank goodness we can still go out to exercise!) as well as travelling to Disneyworld and becoming Disney Imagineers through a collaboration between Disney and Khan Academy.
If you’re stuck at home and wishing you could travel with your family during these times, I really hope these family travel from home ideas can help you too.