We’d all love to be out traveling all the time, but it’s not feasible for all of us. That doesn’t mean that you can’t explore the world a little in your downtime. This list of ways to get your travel fix from home may not be as good as the real thing, but it’ll give you a little taste of it while you’re stuck at home for any reason – and they’re a lot more budget friendly than your average plane ticket!
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Virtual tours of top locations
Several of the world’s top museums offer virtual tours or photos of their galleries on their websites. Some of them are phenomenal and offer a great way to “visit” from the comfort of your couch. They make up some of the top tourist destinations in the world and exploring their collections is the perfect way to travel from home. If you have the right set-up, you could even display them on your tv for a bigger view. Google Street View offers a ton of them (access the full list here) though there are some run independently. Here are some of my favorites:
- British Museum in London, England – This absolutely massive museum was a highlight of our real life visit to London. The museum has partnered with Google to offer virtual tours of the galleries via Street View. It’s easy to navigate and gives you a chance to explore the exhibits as well as the stunning entrance hall. To access these, visit the museum’s website and scroll almost to the bottom.
- National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, USA – The Smithsonian collection is incredible no matter which museum you visit, but the galleries at the National Museum of Natural History are some of the most popular. The virtual tours on their website allow you to navigate through the galleries and see everything on display, including the dinosaur fossils. The navigation isn’t quite as intuitive as that of the British Museum’s Street View tour, but it’s easy enough to get the hang of.
- National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, OH, USA – I lived near this museum for a year and it’s phenomenal. An in-person visit can easily take you an entire day. They have a great virtual tour that takes you through the different areas of the museum so you can see its massive collection of aircraft like you’re there yourself. You can also take mini virtual tours inside the cockpits of some of the aircraft on display.
- National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Gwacheon-si, South Korea – This museum offers walk-throughs powered by Google Street View. It’s a change of pace from most of the galleries on this list because its emphasis on modern art means that there are some more dynamic exhibits rather than just paintings hung on the wall.
- Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy – As one of the world’s most famous museums, the Uffizi Gallery was a lock for my list of bucket list things to do in Italy, but even if you can’t visit it in person you can take a Google Street View tour of the exhibits here.
- Musee d’Orsay in Paris, France – Another great Google Street View-powered tour takes you through the former train station turned art gallery. You’ll love the architecture just as much as the artwork here. And if you do plan an in-person visit someday, check out my guide here.
- Musei Vaticani in the Vatican City – Some areas of the Vatican’s famous galleries are covered by virtual tours, including the iconic Sistine Chapel. It’s especially cool since photography isn’t allowed in there and if you get to visit in person, it’s likely to be so crowded that you can barely appreciate the artwork amidst all the jostling by tourists and scolding by staff trying to enforce the photo ban.
- Museu de Arte de Sao Paolo in Sao Paolo, Brazil – This art museum has a striking and unique gallery design and also offers a full Street View tour.
- J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, USA – One of the top attractions in LA, this art museum allows you to take a Google Street View tour of its galleries.
- Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands – Another Google Street View option will take you through galleries in Amsterdam’s massive Rijksmuseum. Check out their artwork here.
- Louvre Museum in Paris, France – The world-famous Louvre also offers virtual tours. It would’ve made it higher on the list if the Flash player requirements hadn’t clashed with Chrome and Firefox to the point that I can’t even test them out myself, but it being the Louvre, I felt that it was still worth including in case you have better luck.
Several other museums offer online galleries you can look through from home: Guggenheim in New York City, NY, USA, The Met in New York City, NY, USA, National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., USA, and many more. Check out your favorite museum’s website to see if they offer any ways to visit from home.
Visit landmarks using Google Street View
Street View was hit pretty heavily in the previous section thanks to the museum tours it offers, but you can visit other popular places with this. Simply go to Google Maps and search for the place you want to visit. Then drag the little person icon to the spot on the map you want to start out at and click around. It’s the perfect way to travel from home without leaving your couch. Here are a few ideas:
- Disney World parks – you can even visit inside some of the buildings!
- Times Square
- Machu Picchu in Peru – you can travel all over the ruins via Street View! – And check out my Machu Picchu guide here if you’re planning a real life trip.
- Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia – you can even visit inside by dropping your person on top of the building!
- Colosseum in Rome, Italy – you can visit inside this one too
- Forbidden City in Beijing, China
- Taj Mahal in Agra, India – you can wander all through the grounds with Street View.
- Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California – try dropping your person off to the side of the bridge instead of right on top of it for the best views
- The Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada
- Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania
- Eiffel Tower in Paris, France – try dropping your pin just across the Seine River for the best views – And check out my Paris itinerary for when you get to visit in real life.
- Great Pyramids in Giza, Egypt
- Washington Monument or the White House in Washington, D.C.
- Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana
Play a travel-themed game
Having a board game night is a great way to spend time together when you can’t leave home, and there are some games you can pick that will bring a bit of a travel flavor to your table.
Ticket to Ride
We got Ticket to Ride as a gift a couple years ago and it instantly became a favorite. If you’ve ever played Settlers of Catan, I find Ticket to Ride to have some similarities, but with less frustration when you get penned in. The goal is to build train routes connecting specific cities by playing colored cards. We have the European version and love it. Bonus: they also have a kids’ version.
This one is very similar to Ticket to Ride (probably because it’s made by the same creators), but instead of building train routes, you build air routes. You can purchase Airlines Europe here.
You can get location-based Monopoly for just about anywhere. I even found a Detroit version for my dad last Christmas. These variations typically have the classic Monopoly rules but with different properties relating to famous spots in the area it’s based on. I quite like the London Underground and National Parks versions, but there are tons available.
Trekking the National Parks
This one is based around United States National Parks and has a similar strategy to the two games listed above, but with the fun of the natural wonders of the parks. Check out Trekking the National Parks here.
The London Board Game
This race through London’s famous Underground as you try to visit famous landmarks as fast as you can. You can buy the London Board Game here.
Around the World in 80 Days
This board game based on the classic novel, Around the World in 80 Days, has you traveling around the globe and trying to get back to London.
Travel destination puzzles
I grew to love puzzles working them with my gramma as a kid, so I have quit a collection in my house. These make great souvenirs, or you can buy plenty of famous locations in stores or online. Do one of these for a fun family evening – and if you ever come across a Machu Picchu one online, send me the link because I want it. I have this circular world landmarks puzzle and a ton of others (this is only a part of my collection).
Build a Lego set
So it’s not really a game, but Lego offers a huge line of sets themed to different landmarks. I particularly like their skyline series featuring famous cities around the world.
If you don’t have anything on hand, check out www.sporcle.com, which has tons of quizzes on any topic, including lots of geography ones.
Watch a travel movie, show, or documentary
There are plenty of great shows or movies out there that will give you that travel feeling from your couch. Here are a few top suggestions:
- The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
- National Parks Exploration Series
- Planet Earth
- Blue Planet
- Parts Unknown
- Murder on the Orient Express
- National Lampoon’s Vacation
- Up in the Air
- Into the Wild
- Life in a Day
There are also plenty of documentaries about specific destinations or movies set in top places to visit.
Plan a future trip
You’ll be back on the road someday, so it’s ok to start dreaming about the next trip. Whether you’re making concrete plans or just daydreaming about the future, you can read about destinations or things to do in the places you want to visit. Since you’re here, my website has lots of content about destinations in the United States and Europe plus Peru. There are also lots of posts about Disney parks since I’m a former Cast Member who loves them more than anyone.
Pinterest is another great source of travel inspiration – I’m constantly pinning content from destinations large and small around the world on my profile. There are plenty of other travel blogs out there that I love to share posts from. Many of them are independently owned and the bloggers earn a living off of them, so they’re a great way to patronize small businesses without even leaving your home.
Practice a language
Learning words in new languages is part of the fun for me when I travel, so I always spend a few weeks leading up to a trip practicing the basics. I know I’m not going to get fluent, but I like to be able to read signage and exchange pleasantries in the local language wherever I’m going. Plus, learning new words is just plain fun.
I like Duolingo because it’s free and easy to do on the road via the app and has quick lessons that progress quickly. You can start at the most basic level to learn from the ground up. You can also take a quiz to skip over the beginning levels if you’re just looking to brush up on your skills for a language you already know a bit of. They currently offer 35 language courses for English speakers (though that number does include Klingon and High Valyrian). You can also get started online.
Babbel and Rosetta Stone are more traditional language learning programs. Both have more formal learning, but you also have to pay for them. Both have monthly fees but offer slightly more structured learning programs. Rosetta Stone has 24 languages and Babbel offers 14.
Your local library may also be a great resource. I’ve frequently gotten workbooks and CD learning courses that I’ve listened to in the car while driving for work. It’s more effective than I expected – I was decently conversational in German the first time I visited thanks to the CD courses. Many libraries also offer you access to free resources online with your card.
Try cooking a recipe from another country
We all love trying new foods when we travel, and you can bring that fun into your kitchen at home. When I returned from Italy a couple years ago, one of the first things I did was invite my parents over for dinner and cook them home made pasta carbonara just like I’d eaten in Rome. When I was in Peru, I fell in love with a bowl of sopa a la minuta and almost immediately made myself a huge pot when I got home.
Think about a dish you’ve loved from your past travels and look up authentic recipes online. Sometimes you need to substitute some ingredients or cooking equipment if you can’t find exactly what it calls for, but you should be able to create something close to it. Sure, it might not be perfect, but it’s a great way to connect to your past travels. If you’re lucky enough to live near a grocery store that sells imported goods, you can even pair it with snacks from overseas. So get cooking and have a dinner at which you reminisce about your adventures.
Read travel books
I’m a nerd and I love travel guides. I love to check them out at the library when I’m planning a trip and flip through all the information as I dream about the destination. There are also plenty of books about travel or set in other places that can transport you to other countries without leaving your couch. Or your bed. Or that shady spot under a tree in your backyard. Or the breakroom at lunch. Wherever you like to read.
- Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams – I read this before visiting Peru and it’s phenomenal. The author blends three tales together – that of the Spanish conquest of the Incas, of Hiram Bingham finding Machu Picchu, and his own struggles through the Andes – in an entertaining and humorous way. It’s a must-read if you’ve visited the area or plan to someday.
- In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson – There’s a running joke that everything in Australia wants to kill you, and this book chronicles the author’s attempt to make that not come true. Along the way, he sprinkles in some facts about the country so you’ll learn something amid the humor.
- How Not to Travel the World by Lauren Juliff – If you’re into solo travel, you’ll love the tales of this first-timer as she adjusts to life on the road alone.
- 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Shultz (or the USA & Canada edition – I own both of these and have taken to writing in them marking off the dates I visit the places the books contain. Each of the places covered in the books has a write up of the top things to see and general prices. Look for the most current edition as things do change periodically. You may just discover a cool new place you’ve never heard of.
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac – This is the classic road trip novel. And while it’s not exactly my favorite writing style, you may well love the overall message.
- The Wild Muir by Lee Stetson – I’m not sure anyone has loved nature the way John Muir did. This great book excerpts some of his best writings about his adventures. We got to see its author perform as Muir in Yosemite when we visited and he knows the man inside and out.
- Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite and Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon – These sound morbid, but they’re fascinating and well-researched tales of recorded deaths in these two National Parks. They’re a great guide about what not to do when visiting the parks.
Listen to a travel podcast
Podcasts are a great way to pass the time while driving or working. There are plenty of travel podcasts to get your travel fix or to pick up tips for your next adventure. Here are a few good ones to start with:
- The Globetrotter Lounge – This one interviews female travelers about their adventures and how they go about traveling the world.
- Extra Pack of Peanuts – Pick up some travel tips and find out how to stretch your budget through interviews with travelers.
- On She Goes – This podcast is focused on empowering women of color to travel the world more.
- JUMP – Full of info on travel and adventure, this podcast is full of tips to make it easier to get out and explore.
- As Told by Nomads – Hear stories from nomads about life on the road.
- Andy Steves Travel Podcast – Hosted by the son of Rick Steves (you’ve surely seen his guides somewhere), this podcast highlights travelers from all around the world and how their explorations have impacted their lives.
Make some artwork
Drawing or painting are simple ways to exercise your creativity. Pick a famous landmark and try to create your own picture of it. If you have enough talent, you could even try to make a copy of a beloved photo of your family at the location. Or, channel your inner Bob Ross and create a peaceful mountain scene. Youtube has tons of tutorials teaching painting and drawing, and they’re pretty darn relaxing to watch. Check out this easy Eiffel Tower one for a start.
If your skills aren’t quite up to creating your own images, you could try your hand at scrapbooking or arranging your pictures in a Shutterfly book.
Do you have any other creative ways to travel without leaving home? Let me know in the comments!
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