There’s never been a better time to dream about travel than right now.
Even when restrictions on travel are lifted, it may still be out of the question because of the impact on our finances and family’s health, quite apart from where and when the planes are flying again. It’s not a cheering thought. Which is why we need a few armchair travels to brighten up lockdown and remind us that things will – eventually – get better.
So I, and four other family travel bloggers, have set up Armchair Travels (https://armchair-travels.com) to help everyone do just that, finding the best video and virtual reality tours, taking you to beaches and museums, on rollercoasters and behind the scenes in zoos.
Our followers kept telling us while actual travel wasn’t possible, they want inspiration for the future, something to look forward to and satisfy all that thwarted wanderlust in the meantime.
And while no-one knows exactly what the future holds, there’s nothing to stop us all taking a virtual trip – once lockdown is a bad memory, the site aims to be a useful planning tool as well, letting you roam around the world to pick your destination or plan your itinerary for a city break.
Not convinced? Here are a few other reasons we all need some virtual travel.
1. Virtual travel makes you happy
It might seem that looking at endless images of places you can’t go would make you more miserable – but in fact a 2010 study* found that just planning or anticipating your trip can make you happier than taking it.
The escapism is great for our stress levels (and let’s face it, we all need a little escape right now) and the anticipation makes you feel happier for as much as eight weeks.
2. It’s great for family bonding
Whether your trip might turn into reality or not, there’s nothing to stop you all sitting down together and chatting about where you’d like to go, what you enjoy doing when you travel and coming up with a fabulous fantasy holiday idea.
With technology letting us watch pandas and penguins, walk through landscapes halfway around the world and even soar over cities for a bird’s eye view, it’s also a lot of fun to curl up together and get a glimpse of places far and near.
3. Geography class sorted
Between learning more about your destination and finding it on a map, not to mention practising research skills, it’s the ideal way to make at least one homeschooling lesson fun.
There’s history, art and wildlife to discover as well, not to mention culture whether that’s food, religion or even the way people dress. Add in budgeting for your virtual travel or a bit of currency exchange and that’s maths ticked off too.
4. It supports the travel industry
One in 10 people around the world are employed in tourism in some way, whether that’s guiding tours, working in hotels, keeping airports running or supplying food to restaurants (for starters).
Right now, there’s a limit to what we can do to help those who are affected – not least because we’re affected ourselves. But supporting destinations and attractions by clicking on their sites is one thing we can all manage without it costing a penny.
5. Virtual travel broadens your horizons
It’s easy to slip into a comfort zone when you travel – perhaps you always visit the same country, perhaps you always do similar things, knowing that way everyone will have a good time. And when you’ve got limited holiday time, it’s not surprising that we avoid wasting it on something that’s going to leave our kids bored and whiny. But with virtual travel, you can try it out at home without regrets (or blowing the budget).
The Google Arts and Culture project means you can wander through countless museums or art galleries almost as if you were there, getting closer to exhibits than in real life and discovering more of its background. The US National Parks will take you off the beaten track with rangers showing you more of the secrets, to inspire a real-life hike later on.
You could even test out a dozen bucket list experiences to see which appeals, visiting the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids and Machu Picchu in one day, watching the Northern Lights through a live cam or going underwater to inspire reluctant swimmers and wannabe snorkellers.
Cathy Winston is an award-winning travel writer and blogger behind MummyTravels (https://www.mummytravels.com), as well as co-founder of Armchair Travels with Ting Dalton from My Travel Monkey (https://www.my-travelmonkey.com), Kirstie Pelling of Family Adventure Project (https://www.familyadventureproject.org), Gretta Schifano from Mums Do Travel (https://mumsdotravel.com) and Nichola West of Globalmouse (https://www.globalmousetravels.com).
* in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life