As we wait out the COVID-19 pandemic at home, we’re keeping our spirits up by dreaming about future travels. And the more we’ve thought about it, the more we’ve realized that there’s plenty to do now at home to make the trips we have yet to take better, and to focus our energy on something hopeful and positive. Here’s how we’re planning ahead to better days and better trips.
Read Inspiring Books About a Destination
When you can’t take a real trip, a journey through a good book can be the second-best thing. Let The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel whisk you away to India, discover everyday life in Botswana with the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, or read In a Sunburned Country to ramble your way through Australia.
Pre-Pack Regularly Used Items
There’s nothing like getting ready to pack for a trip and being able to mentally high-five your past self for having the foresight to have already cleaned and restocked your toiletries bag. That way all that’s left for you to do is check it over, add in any additional items, and throw it in your bag. Experience the same joy by reserving a drawer or a box in a closet in which you keep pre-sorted baggies of travel essentials like adapters, travel pillows, passport holders, and travel-size toothpaste.
Make Virtual Visits to a Destination
No, it’s not the same as visiting in person, but hundreds of museums, aquariums, zoos, and other tourist attractions are offering virtual tours, live streams, and other ways for travelers to “visit” online. See 21 Sites Offering Virtual Tours and Live Streams for Travelers Stuck at Home for a comprehensive list, and let them inspire an IRL visit someday in the future.
It’s not just museums getting into the virtual game: You can also take virtual hikes and see natural wonders from home.
Fill in the Holes of Your Travel Wardrobe
In travel as in home repair, having the right tool for the job is everything. Does this sound familiar? It’s time to pack, and you realize you’re missing a cover-up and comfortable sandals for a beach vacation, or snow gear for a winter adventure. Instead of waiting until the last minute to panic-purchase items that will come in handy again and again, go through the types of trips you’re drawn to, assess your supplies, and fill in holes as you find them. Then congratulate yourself on making the most of your non-travel time.
Clean Your Travel Bags
Right now, most of us are thinking a lot more than usual about hygiene. And when you’re in that frame of mind, it’s easy to see why it’s weird that we don’t all automatically give our suitcases a deep clean every time we come home from a trip. But suitcases actually are pretty easy to clean, and now can be a great time to get them out and spruce them up. Call it the beginning of a great new travel habit. Check out How to Clean and Disinfect a Suitcase to learn how.
Check That All Your Documents Are Up to Date
Now is also a good time to check the expiration date on your passport. Though the U.S. State Department is currently only processing emergency passports for new applicants and is facing significant delays for renewals by mail, knowing when you need to take action on your renewal will help you be prepared when the time comes to travel again.
Update Your Inspiration List
Bucket list, must-do list, five-year travel plan—whatever you call it, this is a good time to dust off the old inspiration list and find some new destinations to dream about. Here are some of our favorite dreamy round-ups, divided by destination and interest.
- Hidden Natural Wonders in the U.S.
- 10 Best Road Trips in the U.S.
- What’s the Best Island in Hawaii for You?
- The 24 Most Beautiful Places in Canada
- The 10 Best Beaches in the Caribbean for a Relaxing Escape
- The Cheapest Caribbean Islands to Find Your Paradise
- 9 Remote Spa Getaways Where No One Can Bother You
- 9 of Tahiti’s Best Overwater Bungalows
- Tips for Planning an African Safari
Fun Ways to Choose Destinations:
- The Best Travel Destinations for Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type
- Which Country Matches Your Zodiac Sign?
Build Your Perfect Travel Health Kit
You’re more likely to get sick after a flight than you are under normal circumstances, and after the COVID-19 pandemic we’ll all be a little more cautious about protecting ourselves from germs in flight and on the road. Consider putting together a grab-and-go health kit that you can keep ready to go before every trip, filled with items such as disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, and airplane seat covers, as well as a few common over-the-counter medications in case you fall ill.
Get Inspired by Our YouTube Channel and Podcasts
One way to combat stir-craziness? Distraction and inspiration, of course. Follow SmarterTravel’s YouTube channel for a bit of both. While you’re there, be sure to like, comment, and subscribe.
And don’t miss SmarterTravel’s new Virtual Vacations series of relaxing audio tours around the world.
Save Money Toward a Future Trip
While you can’t go out, take the money you’d be spending on Ubers and fancy cocktails and put it into a savings fund for a future trip. Also, take some time to set a budget for yourself—sites like Mint.com can help you track your spending and find areas to save. Don’t forget to incorporate these sneaky travel costs into your trip budget.
Learn a New Language for Your Next Trip
You know what takes a lot of time? Learning a language. If you find yourself with free time to spare, put it to good use by downloading a language app and jumping in. Most language apps are based on games and repetition, which makes it fun whether you’re learning the basics or going for more advanced mastery.
Cook Your Favorite Dishes from Around the World
Craving cheese fondue from your Switzerland trip? What about tapas from Spain? Cooking is not only therapeutic, but it’s also a great way to remember your favorite dish from a recent trip. We’re working on curating a Pinterest board with our favorite recipes from around the world; make sure to follow us for future travel inspiration. And don’t miss these international recipes and cocktails.
Support Small Businesses
In this time of uncertainty, do what you can to support your local community as well as your favorite businesses at your vacation destinations. A few ways to do this include shopping the store’s online site or buying gift cards from your favorite restaurants for future use. Some musicians are running fundraisers with online “concerts” that are streamed on social media with the idea that viewers can donate to “tip” local bartenders. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that people’s creativity will shine through, so be creative!
Download Our Packing Lists
Take time to create an inventory of your current travel essentials and prepare your own packing list from our templates. Each one is downloadable and editable, and most are even mobile-friendly, so you don’t have to print. Check them out below:
- The Ultimate Packing List
- The Ultimate Weekend Packing List
- The Ultimate Carry-on Packing List
- The Ultimate Ski Packing List
- The Essential Beach Vacation Packing List
- The Ultimate Cruise Packing List
Get in Shape for Future Adventure Trips
Is climbing Everest or taking a cycling vacation on your bucket list? You’ll need to get in shape. There are plenty of free streaming workouts you can do at home, and our list of hotel room exercises you can do without any workout gear works equally well in your living room. In most locations you can still get outside for a walk, jog, or bike ride (as long as you stay at least six feet apart from other people), giving you a good workout as well as some much-needed fresh air.
Stay Healthy and Mindful
Beyond fitness, this is also a time to keep yourself healthy in other ways. Of course, you’ll want to practice behaviors to protect yourself from COVID-19, including social distancing, frequent hand washing, and not touching your face, but you’ll also want to protect your mental health during this stressful time. Walking, meditating, taking a leisurely bath, reading a good book, watching a funny TV show, video chatting with family and friends, completing a puzzle, and researching future trips are all good ways to reduce stress and keep yourself sane.
Give Your Home a Travel Vibe
You may not be able to stay in a hotel right now, but you can use essential oils to make your home smell like a hotel spa and trick out your bedroom to make it just as welcoming as a hotel room—including an ultra-comfy mattress. Add a touch of travel-themed decor, and your past trips—and future ones—won’t feel quite so far away. For more ideas, see 6 Ways to Feel Like You’re on Vacation at Home.