With people staying inside and self-isolating around the world, a vacation is a welcome retreat. Let’s fire up those creative juices and take an imagination vacation!
There is a really great tweet from @nlqualls going around that reads, “To parents entertaining kids during social distancing and quarantine: IF YOU KEEP THEM ALIVE THAT IS SUFFICIENT. Don’t feel guilty if you’re not enriching their souls, teaching them kumihimo & sign language & engaging their spirits. Toss them some fish sticks; they’ll be fine.”
For parents and caregivers, this tweet resonates because it gives permission to just breathe and exist (and wash your hands) in a time when everyone is bombarding them with tight daily school-at-home schedules and an abundance of craft activities that have been hoarded from Pinterest. As parents and caregivers, we are going to be emotionally and physically exhausted as we go through canceled schools, self-isolating, toilet paper shortages, and more, so sometimes we need to be reminded that it’s ok to veg on the couch some days.
But, things will get back to normal eventually and if you’re feeling a little adventurous and your wanderlust just can’t be ignored, here are some tips on how to take the kids on a virtual family vacation.
First thing’s first when planning a vacation: Choose your destination. If you’ve already got a trip that you had to cancel, you’ve already done your research and it will be easy to plan an imagination vacation. Or maybe you have a dream destination and haven’t had the time to really work on planning—now is a great time! If you don’t have a destination in mind, spin a globe (here’s a virtual one) and find a destination.
INSIDER TIPWith limited resources, it may help to give kids a list of places to choose from based on your current resources including pantry ingredients, clothing, gear, etc.
The next step in the planning phase is to get out your guidebooks. Fodor’s produces more than 300 guidebooks, so that’s a great place to start. Of course, you can also fire up the internet and do research on your destination on the World Wide Web. Use these resources to plan your accommodations, sightseeing, dining, shopping, and other activities. Make your trip as lavish or as practical as you like, it’s your imagination vacation!
INSIDER TIPPrevent self-isolation slide! For older kids who need to practice research, reading, and math skills, this can be a fun learning opportunity. Create a budget and see if they can plan the family trip without spending too much.
Once you know where you are going, you can start preparing to enjoy your imagination vacation. Try to make sure the experiences that you’re creating together are as authentic as possible; avoid stereotypes and tropes and use the opportunity to teach responsible travel practices to your family. Here are some ways to really bring your vacation to life, as well as create additional activities for your family:
There are a variety of great cooking shows online that can help walk kids through recipes (you may be able to dust off an old cookbook or two, as well). Try to choose videos and shows that are hosted by people in or from the countries that you plan on visiting for truly authentic experiences. For an added challenge, choose foods that you’ve never heard of before! Here’s a Healthy Indian Cooking segment and an easy bruschetta recipe with Bell from Spatulatta.
Pack It up
Now is a good time to step away from the screens and start packing those suitcases. Teach the kids how to fold efficiently, how to pack a toiletry bag, and what can and can’t go in their carry on. If you have older luggage that’s good for play, let the little ones have rolling suitcase races and the big ones have “who can pack the fastest” races to get out some energy. Suitcase relay races are also lots of fun for all ages.
Making authentic connections to your destination is important, and now you have plenty of time to devote to that. Spend time really making an effort to learn the language; there are plenty of language apps for kids like DinoLingo and Duolingo. Kids can then practice their new language (as well as reading and writing) skills by finding an online pen pal from their destination. Remember to be discerning when choosing a pen pal service—your child’s safety is always top priority.
Build a World
Now it’s time to get creative with building your destination. Try creating a marketplace to set up food stands or cafes that host the food you’ve made; turn a bedroom into a hotel; create a printed art museum; use kinetic sand and a small pool (or bathtub) for a day at the beach. The sky’s the limit!
Watch and Learn
Once you’re at your destination you can watch a documentary series that will help you explore. These can include nature documentaries, travel shows, and documentaries about different people and their lives. Our Planet on Netflix is great for exploring the natural world, Wadja is a documentary about a girl from Saudi Arabia (better for older children), and National Geographic Kids’ Destination World is an upbeat and informative travel series.
Another way to explore your destination is through virtual museums, wildlife cams, and more. Enjoy a day at an art museum at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea or explore the history of the world with the British Museum. Grab the kids and snuggle up in your “hotel bed” or put on your hiking boots and watch animals do their animal thing. Let the gorillas of GRACE Gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo or the sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California cheer you up and give you a few giggles.
INSIDER TIPTake those imagination vacation pictures and help the kids create a slideshow that they can share with friends and family.
Once you’ve fully prepped for your imagination vacation by learning the language, setting up dining experiences, planning for outings, and more, it’s time to kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Set up your destination in your backyard, a spare room, or right in the middle of the living room and give everyone the time to really relax, enjoy, and escape. Have fun on your trip, and don’t forget to take lots of pictures!
Author Note: This article was inspired by the adorable Australian show “Bluey.” In the season 1, episode “Backpackers,” the family goes on a trip and the kids (Blue Heeler pups) pretend to be the adults’ backpacks as they navigate their vacation. It’s a very cute and creative show! Other recommended Bluey episodes during self-isolation: “Hotel,” “Doctor,” “Taxi,” and “The Beach,” all available on Disney+.