Ultimate Guide to Armchair Travel
Never did I think that as a travel blogger I would be writing a post about not travelling. But that's exactly what armchair travel is and exactly what those of us who love travel are realising is our reality for the foreseeable future.
Before I go any further, let me be clear about how I feel about this.
BRILLIANT. FANTASTIC. WONDERFUL.
No, I'm not being sarcastic, I'm being very serious. Not travelling right now is saving lives. Hundreds of thousands of lives. And that is what makes me more than happy to not be travelling right now, and I hope you feel the same because I shouldn't need to tell you how dire the current situation is; it's all over our news and social media feeds. If you are interested, here's how you can do lots of fun virtual travel in Amsterdam, because as you can imagine the streets and canals of Amsterdam are pretty empty and tourist-free right now!
It's not just about what's happening now, either. In the future, there will also be times when not travelling is a good thing. In fact, there are many good arguments already supporting the fact that we should travel less. I don't want to go into them too deeply, but I know for certain for my family, that we will be doing fewer trips, travelling less far away, and spending more time at home researching, planning, and preparing for upcoming travel, as well as more time at home after a trip, doing things to cherish the memories of previous travel we have done together as a family.
So, what is Armchair Travel?
Armchair travel is what the name suggests; travelling from your armchair. Or from your sofa, your bed, your kitchen table, anywhere in your home, because actually we don't have an armchair in our house. It's a term that means travelling without travelling; to explore the world in other ways other than by physically moving from one place to another.
The good news is that right now is the best time in history to do some armchair travel. In fact, while researching this post I realised that actually some of the ways we can travel at home are just as interesting as the real deal, and some of them, for a multitude of reasons are quite incredible and life-changing when you think about how they can open up the world to people who can't physically travel to certain destinations for whatever reason. But I'll talk a bit more about this later.
How to Armchair Travel: The Best Ways Travel Without Travelling
In my mind, we all do lots of so-called armchair travel without even thinking about it, be it researching a destination on Pinterest, looking at someone's lovely travel snaps on Instagram, cooking a dish from one of your favourite countries, or just reading a book set in a place we have never been before.
But right now I know that some people will be missing long-planned and saved for trips and so maybe it's worth specifying some ways we can do some active armchair travel to broaden our horizons and go some way to step into the small void that not travelling is making some of us feel right now. So let me share some brilliant armchair travel guides that some well-travelled, knowledgeable travellers and travel writers have been sharing.
This happens to be one of the most comprehensive guides to virtual travel I found on the Internet and it happens to be written by my good blogging friend Nellie from Wild Junket. And this post has some other worthy ideas, as does this one which is more focused on offline activities, and I really liked this post for focusing on how you can "feel" like you're travelling and most of the ideas are for when you are stuck at home. There are some extra suggestions in Abi's post on armchair travel on her blog Inside The Travel Lab too. Extra bonus points to this creative post which is a How To guide to recreating a business class travel experience in your own home!
This post is also a great list of not just armchair travel ideas but more ways to feel better about the current difficult situation right now. And if you're the kind of person who thrives from getting organised and travel planning is as much fun as the actual travelling (no, I'm not like that either but some people are!) then this post has lots of practical tips for getting ready for your next trip when it's possible, and this post has some creative ideas for making the most out of previous trips too.
And if you're just finding the concept of not-travelling quite hard, then maybe just take it back a step further and just take some time to settle into being at home for longer than you'd like. My friend and fantastic travel writer Leyla has some tips for how to manage being stuck at home. Also one way I'm trying to visit more places while staying at home is cooking, here's a great selection of recipes from around the world you can try.
Maybe we will also be able to step outside our doors more often and explore our immediate surroundings soon and if so then you may want to have these romantic staycation tips if you and your partner miss travelling together.
If food is the way to your heart and wanderlust, you'll love this round-up of fifteen international cookbooks from regions all over the world, and below you can find more destination specific recipe books and cooking ideas.
The Best Virtual Tours
There are many, many more virtual tours around the world than you would think. Not only is Google Earth pretty comprehensive in where it covers now, and how easily you can explore it, but destinations themselves are making it easier for you to explore their destinations virtually.
I also urge you to check out Google Arts & Culture as they have a number of tours of landmarks including heritage sites and national monuments online that you can explore virtually for free.
This is a list of over 60 virtual field trips you can take online right now, and this is another comprehensive list of those that are free,
This blog post is a great round-up of virtual tour experiences for destinations all over the world and this list has some great additions for the US & Canada, and for a real adventure here is how you can walk the entire Appalachian trail virtually.
If you are more about the journey than the destination, then you may want to check out some of the MANY (and I mean it, there are LOTS) of cockpit view plane videos there are on YouTube with journeys all over the world. AND if you love train travel, you need to spend some time watching these Train Driver view videos on YouTube. Some of the most scenic train journeys in the world are here, and you'll get to see it all from an angle you couldn't actually enjoy in real life anyway. Thanks to my pal Mike for linking to this!
The Best Virtual Museum Experiences
More and more museums are moving or improving their exhibits online. While some have long had online curations, exhibitions or section to bring their museum to people at home via the Internet, it's fair to say museums are going to have to do more of this in order to stay relevant, stay popular, and supported financially in many cases.
I've written up the best Amsterdam museums doing virtual tours here, but there are so many great museums all over the world that are now instantly available to us right now, albeit in a very different way to what we are used to.
This post rounds up some of the world's best museums with online virtual tours right now, as does this list, but is shorter so may not feel as overwhelming! And if you are into art then here are the best European art museum virtual tours right now. I've also listed my favourite Amsterdam museums with virtual collections and activities here.
The Best Armchair Travel Reading Lists
If you've hung out on this blog a bit before, you'll know how much I love reading and also how much I believe that books have real power to take you places. They're the ultimate old school mode of virtual travel. And in addition to my list of best books set in Amsterdam over here, I've shared several reading lists for kids to help them nurture a love for travel and a curiosity for the world. You should start with these travel-themed baby books and then move on to the best travel books for kids aged 2-6 (approximately!).
And I'm not the only one recommending reading as a great way to travel figuratively. Below are many more book recommendations and reading list for your to peruse at leisure!
Here's a reading list that will fuel your wanderlust for long and adventurous journeys by The World in My Pocket travel blog. And here's another comprehensive reading list of travel books to keep your wanderlust levels up!
And if you are interested in historical books about travel or ethnographic research - that is the study of how people, cultures and communities live their lives - then Ethno Travels has a reading list for you. Alternatively, if you love the outdoors and are missing it right now, enjoy this reading list of books about adventure and the great outdoors.
If you want to tick off a list of books that will take you on a tour of the world, this reading list has 16 book recommendations,
The Best TV Shows, Movies & Podcasts to Inspire Travel
Can I be honest about something I probably shouldn't admit on a travel blog? I'm not a HUGE fan of travel-related movies, TV shows, documentaries or podcasts. Books are a different matter. I love books about travel; give me all the travel books. BUT visual or audio travel content just doesn't appeal to me in the same way. Having said that there are obviously a few stand-out shows you must, must, must watch if you love this planet and its many varied natural beauties of our world, like Planet Earth, Our Planet, and Blue Planet. Luckily for you, there are many people out there who know more about the great travel-related TV shows you can indulge in write now for shots of wanderlust.
Travel around the world by watching some great TV shows set in lots of different countries. Here's the best of Netflix's travel shows (and an alternative list with some different ones here)
The Travel Sisters have got a monster list of travel movies you have to watch, and there is enough variety here to find something for anyone, or to keep you busy for many months if you want to work through all of them.
This is a great list of travel-themed documentaries you can watch right now. And if you're missing being underwater scuba-diving right now my lovely friend Annika has a few ideas for how you can bring the deep blue into your own home.
And if podcasts are more your cup of tea, this is a great list of travel podcasts worth checking out,
The Best Destination-Specific Armchair Travel Guides
As I mentioned above if you're missing a trip to a specific destination then the below armchair travel guides cover some of the world's most popular places, and even if your destination isn't there, maybe you can find one that sparks your interest.
Here's how you go on a virtual tour of Rome, or for Venice, here are the best books to read about or set in Paris and a list of movies to watch to get you in the mood for France, a reading list for "travel" to Ireland, and another for Iceland, and when I'm feeling homesick for my old home city London, I will be checking out these London virtual tours.
Here's a reading list to transport you to Colombia, another for Cuba, and this blog post has everything you can do virtually to enjoy the US-state of Virginia, and another blogger did a round-up of the virtual tours for museums in Philadelphia. Finally, my good pal Victoria has put together a list of great California-inspired cookbooks; I want them all!
One beautiful island in Europe that I would love to go back to is Crete, and this post sharing great books about or set in the Greek island is really lovely. And if you'd like a more general literary inspiration to travel to that beautiful country, here's a great reading list of 25 books set in Greece.
This is a great list of movies set in the Middle East region, here are 15 books you should read about Jordan, and here are some things to do to travel to India virtually, the best books for travel to Sri Lanka,
For those who have had to postpone travels to Australia, this is a list of books to get you all inspired for travel to Australia, while here are some great Australian museums you can visit online.
My good friend and Glasgow-based blogger Kathi has a fantastic reading list for books on, about or set in Scotland and Migrating Miss blog has put together a list of some amazing films set in Scotland for you to fall in love with that beautiful country.
The Best Armchair Travel Activities with Kids
When I first realised I wouldn't be travelling with my kids for quite some time I had a few days when I just couldn't get my head in a place where I could see how easy it would be to do travel-related activities with my kids aside from the obvious things like reading travel books for children or staring at maps with them (both of which are very valid things, and you can start them reading and travelling young with these travel books for babies).
But after a while I slowly realised there is so much you can do with kids to get them interested and excited about travel. One of the best examples of immersing yourselves in a destination and doing a variety of activities related to that place. Nobody explains or demonstrates this better than Chelsea on her blog Pack More Into Life as she has started a full-range of virtual travel experiences with her son and outlines all the way you can do it with your kids too. I loved the ones for China and England and can't wait to see where they "go" next.
Here's a post on how to take virtual field trips with kids, I will be working my way through this list of virtual museum tours that are great for children, and may also incorporate some of these travel-themed activities into the homeschooling(ish) I'm doing with my eldest these days. Here are some tips for teaching world geography to kids right now (and most are easy on the bank account too!). And you can get kids more involved with the planning side of travel with these great prompts and download now you have a bit more time (if you're lucky!) to do so! Finally, and save this one for a rainy day perhaps, you can even "go" to Disneyland virtually!
In terms of things you can watch and listen to with kids, I loved this list of travel- or geography-related podcasts to listen to with kids, and here are some amazing live webcams in zoos and animal sanctuaries and some more wildlife cams that you can watch around the world,
And depending on your kids' age (older may be better) you can also check out some of these video games that will inspire travel or show you other parts of the world, and you could all take part in this 30-day travel-at-home challenge. By the way you don't need kids to do this!
That's it for this list but I will keep it updated with new ways you can enjoy armchair travel now and always. And if you'd like to save or share this post, here are some pins you can save or share.
Frances M. Thompson
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