One of the things I always look most forward to in any given year is planning for a vacation. I love the research that goes into putting together a good trip and itinerary and I love booking the airfare and hotel. I love hanging out on travel forums and getting tips about visiting new places (or revisiting places I’ve already been to). I love the whole process so much that I sometimes think I missed my calling in not becoming a travel agent.
Now, though, vacation planning is pointless. With much of the world at a standstill and staying safe at home, there is no big trip to plan for. Although I had hoped to visit Disneyland later this year (in November), I am holding off on making any plans, because, unfortunately, there is no guarantee that any of this will be over by then, or that Disneyland will even be open. I also don’t have any cons to plan for, because so many continue to get canceled. I’m a planner who has nothing to plan for!
During these difficult times, everyone needs something to lift their spirits: a feeling of normalcy in a time when nothing feels normal and may never be normal ever again. So I used my imagination as a writer to come up with something that help me feel like I have something to look forward to. I began planning a virtual vacation. And because I decided to either “go big or go home,” I decided that my virtual vacation would be a weekend in Paris, a city I have often blogged about here.
It’s no secret that I love Paris. I’ve been four times and hope to return someday, but for now, I can, at least, revisit my memories and try to recreate the city here in my living room and in my back yard. And I’ve taken this opportunity to do the vacation planning that I so love, just in a different capacity. Fortunately, in this day and age, we have the wonderful world of the Internet: a virtual airline that can take us to anywhere in the world (and even into space) if and when we decide to go. So I began to plan the perfect virtual Paris vacation. Here’s how I did it:
I know not everyone is a planner like I am, but for a virtual vacation, planning is key. The idea is to embrace the idea of the virtual vacation and have everything ready for when you want to do it. Look at online resources or even a guidebook to get ideas of things you want to see. Make a list and then decide what your priorities are. Make sure your list isn’t too long because you’ll also need down time to enjoy your virtual vacation. Incorporate the whole family into decision-making.
Once you have your list, check for resources online that will allow you to visit the places you want and attend any events that might interest you. For example, as I’ve been to Paris many times, I decided to do something new. I’ve always wanted to visit Le Cimetière des Chiens, which is the oldest pet cemetery in the world. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any good YouTube tours of the cemetery, so I bookmarked several websites with photos and information that I can peruse during my vacation time.
The most touristy places will always have plenty of resources, with many becoming available while social distancing remains in place. You can take a virtual tour of the Catacombs, for example, although I opted for a YouTube video that included a tour guide explaining everything. Almost all the big museums have virtual tours, too. YouTube is a valuable resource in finding all kinds of tours and travel videos that will allow you to go anywhere you want from the comfort of your living room.
Many performing arts venues are also offering free streaming performances on their websites. You can go to the opera, ballet and theatre just by streaming performances to your TV, PC and/or mobile devices. I decided to watch a performance of Swan Lake at L’Opéra national de Paris.
What will you eat?
It’s also important to plan ahead for the kind of food you want to eat. It’s not easy finding some items in grocery stores these days, but there’s always take-out and delivery in many cities. If you like to cook, plan a few easy meals to make on your vacation that fits the theme of your trip. I decided to keep it simple for my virtual trip to Paris: I bought baguettes, charcuterie, cheese and red wine for a few picnics in my backyard, in true Parisian style. I also thought I would try my hand at making a French omelette (which is traditionally served with frites, aka French fries, in Parisian cafes).
You might not do much planning about what to eat on a real vacation, but planning is essential for a virtual vacation to make sure you have access to the foods you would like to consume during your vacation time. I’m the kind of person who tends to plan vacations around food, so this is my favorite part of planning any trip, virtual or otherwise. Needless to say, for my virtual Paris tour, I ordered a box of macarons.
Dress the part
Let’s face it: most of us have been sitting at home during this time of physical distancing in our pajamas and sweat pants. But for your virtual vacation, go ahead and put on a pair of pants. Treat it like it’s a real vacation and plan a few outfits, things you would like to wear. You can even plan to dress up for streaming performances, treating them as if they were the real thing. Have a nice dinner planned? Make it even more special by dressing up for it! Also, make sure everything you want to wear for your virtual vacation is clean.
Get rid of distractions
Being at home all the time means that we have a lot of real-world distractions. These are the kinds of things we usually go on vacation to temporarily get away from, but when vacationing at home, that’s a little trickier. The key is to try to get rid of unnecessary things that might hinder you from enjoying a real vacation. Put the smartphones down (unless using it to take photos) and unplug from the news. Now, more than ever, it’s important to disconnect from the rest of the world, especially with the sheer amount of information that we’ve seen arrive daily. It’s okay to get away for a day or two.
Start your vacation
On the morning of your virtual vacation, take a moment to get into that vacation mindset, where the only thing that matters is enjoying your day and having fun. Eat breakfast as you would on vacation, add some music that makes you think of your intended locale and start thinking about what you want to do on that day. I chose to go with starting my virtual vacation with a French breakfast: pain au chocolat (obtained from Aldi) and coffee with some French music playing in the background.
Share photos and videos
Get creative with your photos and videos. Think of the kind of photos and videos you would take on a real vacation and start thinking about how to incorporate that into your virtual vacation. Take selfies in front of your TV as you visit a virtual museum or go outside with a souvenir or something that reminds you of where you’re virtual vacation takes you. Have fun with it and be sure to share your virtual vacation with the world.
Virtual Vacation Resources
For some ideas on where to start planning your virtual vacation and what kind of activities are available, I’ve put together a list of links of virtual tours and fun things to do. If you do take a virtual vacation, be sure to share it with me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram as I would love to see what you come up with.
- Virtual tour of the Catacombs of Paris
- Google Arts & Culture
- Virtual national parks tours
- Virtual visit to the Georgia Aquarium
- Harry Potter Virtual Escape Room
- Winchester House video tour
- Carlsbad Caverns virtual tour
- Metropolitan Opera streaming performances
- Virtual hike of the Great Wall of China
- Opera National de Paris