Since we are amidst a global pandemic and money is tight, many of us cannot leave our homes to go on vacation this year, so today I thought we could all travel the world together from the comfort of our own homes. Virtual vacations have been increasing in popularity as technology allows for digital experiences to feel more immersive. They can be as simple as watching a video online, or as complex as having a destination themed party for your household or for your whole family via Zoom or Skype.
Today, I will be teaching you how to plan a virtual vacation. I will be giving you a lot of options, but at the end of the day, this is your virtual vacation. It can be as intricate or as simple as you want it to be. Afterward, we will all go on an example virtual trip to Paris together.
Before we get started, I recommend you do the following:
- Get comfortable.
- Find a pair of headphones if possible.
- If you have a VR headset or Google Cardboard, feel free to use it where possible. This is not required.
- Grab some paper and a writing utensil or a note-taking app on your mobile device.
If you do not want to create your own virtual vacation, you can skip to the Virtual Vacation to Paris at the bottom of the page.
- Treat your virtual vacation like an actual vacation. Avoid working if you can.
- Include your whole household and/or have others join you virtually via Zoom or Skype.
- If you have a TV or projector, project everything onto it. The larger the screen the better. If you have surround sound, use it.
- Include time for relaxation away from your screen too. Have a spa day at home or incorporate a nap into your plans.
Step 1: Select a Destination
The first step in creating your virtual vacation is to decide where you want to go. You could go to several places if you like. You could even go to several continents. If you are looking for a richer, more detailed experience, I recommend focusing on one city or country. You might consider visiting fictional destinations as well, though this will require more imagination.
- Oahu, Hawaii
- San Francisco, California
- Yosemite National Park
- Seattle, Washington
- Charleston, South Carolina
- The Appalachian Trail
- Tokyo, Japan
- Rome, Italy
- Accra, Ghana
- Berlin, Germany
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Sydney, Australia
- Reykjavik, Iceland
Example Fictional Destinations:*
*I have linked to some existing virtual experiences for these fictional destinations.
Once you have selected a destination(s), move on to Step 2.
Step 2: Find Existing Online Experiences
Step 2 is to think about what you want to see at your destination. Are you interested in natural wonders and architecture, bustling museums and tourist attractions, or living a day in the life of a local? If you already know of places you would like to visit, write them down. I recommend checking out travel guides from our shelves in person or online for inspiration. Alternatively, you could use your favorite search engine to search for “Paris virtual vacation,” “Paris VR,” “Paris 360 video,” “Paris 360 photo,” “Paris online tour,” etc. Keep note of the results that interest you the most.
You can find virtual tours of rainforests, national parks, volcanoes, aurora borealis, and much more. Search for natural attractions at your destination. YouTube 360 and AirPono.com are great resources for virtual tours of natural attractions. Many nature reserves have live webcams as well. Here are some example attractions:
Tourist attractions are everything from museums to zoos to restaurants. Google Arts and Culture is a good resource for museums. Check out these example attractions:
You can take part in and learn about your destination’s culture in so many ways. You could take classes to learn the language or how to cook local cuisine. You could read books and watch films about or set in your destination. Here are some examples:
- Italian Pasta Class with a Professional Chef
- Learn German and many other languages
- Books set in Ireland
- Japanese Films
- German Board Games
- Korean Video Games
- Mexican Artists
If you need help finding books and films, please let us know!
Imagine Your Story
If you are creating a virtual vacation to a fictional place, you will of course have to get creative. What would tourists visit in your fictional destination? What would they eat and drink? You could also use a real place as inspiration to create your own fictional destination. You can use any medium you want to create experiences for your virtual vacation. You could write, dance, sing, cosplay, etc.
Step 3: Create an Itinerary
Do you want to take a 1 hour virtual vacation, or do you want to make a day or weekend of it? If you have a week’s worth of vacation, you could do and learn so much from the comfort of your own home. You could even visit a different country each day. Virtual vacations are so versatile. It’s really up to you and what you will enjoy. Remember, we want this to be fun and relaxing. There’s no need to make it complicated unless complex planning brings you joy. You may be wondering why anyone would want to do this when digital content is mostly always available. I recommend at least a little planning so that you do not have to search for things to do. This uses up a lot of your free time.
Write down how much time and when you will be taking your virtual vacation. I recommend doing this step digitally, because it is much easier to link to each of your destinations. If you like to plan by the hour, use Google Calendar and paste your links into each time slot. If all of your destinations and activities are based on the same platform, such as YouTube, create a playlist. If they are in several different places, you can use a Google Doc or your Google Calendar and copy and paste the links to your destinations based upon the order you intend to visit them.
If planning feels too much like work, you can wing it. If you like to wing it, then simply move on to Step 4.
Step 4: Set the Scene
The amount of time, money, and effort you put into this step is up to you and depends entirely upon what you already have around the house. If you have the space, time, and funds to do so, I recommend decorating the room in which you will be taking your virtual vacation. If you are visiting a beach, create a beach in your home or in your backyard. You could get a baby pool and fill it with water. You could get a plastic tub and fill it with sand to sit your feet in. You could put on a bathing suit and sunscreen and lay a beach towel on the floor or grass. If your destination is outdoors, you could pop up a tent or build a pillow fort. If you are going to Iceland, crank up the AC and put on a winter coat. Use your imagination.
Even if you do not have anything related to the place you are going, it can be fun to create a blanket fort or to pick the coziest blanket to keep you company. If you do not want to dress up, I recommend at least wearing your most comfortable clothing and arranging everything to allow for maximum comfort and relaxation.
Sound is another great way to set the scene. I recommend finding or creating a Spotify playlist of songs from or about your destination. For example, virtual vacationers visiting New Orleans could make a jazz playlist. Those visiting London might want a punk playlist. Alternatively you could play relaxing music or ambient noise, such as spa music or meditation guides, to set the tone for your virtual vacation. Be sure to make your playlists long enough to play in the background for the duration of your vacation, unless you like repetition. (Note that some virtual experiences provide their own music, so you may not need to come up with music for the whole time.)
The last step in setting the scene is food. Do some research on popular foods and recipes from the city or country you are visiting. You have access to many wonderful cookbooks through our libraries and through Evergreen. Find one or two foods to try. If you do not want to cook, you could purchase frozen dinners or order takeout that is close to the cuisine of your destination. There are many places online where you can purchase international snacks and have them delivered right to your door. Japan is especially known for its unique snacks.
Step 5: Get Crafty
The last step can take place while you are on your virtual vacation. Many of us like to take photos and purchase souvenirs while on vacation. You should definitely take photos while on your virtual vacation as well, especially if you have gone to the effort of decorating, dressing up, or cooking. You could get crafty by drawing or making crafts inspired by the places you visited. You could also make the following crafts and souvenirs to commemorate your experience:
I hope you enjoy your virtual vacations. Without further ado, let’s all go to Paris!