We have all been stuck in our houses for longer than we may have expected; however, something bright to come out of social distancing is the ability to travel…virtually!

Now that life is back to the up and up, and we are able to get outside to enjoy the beautiful Black Hills, there are still days where the summer sun is too much. Here are ways you can travel the world without leaving the comfort of your air-conditioned house.

Animal Adventures

There is arguably nothing better than watching animals – either in the wild, on the farm, or at the zoo. Although being up close and personal is nice, sometimes it is easier (on the wallet and timeframe) to watch them from afar. Some of the world’s best attractions like San Diego Zoo, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cincinnati Zoo, the Smithsonian National Zoo, and the National Aquarium have live-stream cameras for families to enjoy at any time. Want a more wild adventure? Visit the Discovery Channel’s tours, the National Park Service, or National Geographic for Kids! Want to stay closer to home? Baby goats and farm animals are always a family favorite sure to bring a smile to your face.

Going Global

Maybe your family has dreamed of traveling across the pond to another country to experience the views and natural wonders of a different culture. Now, you can take a tour of the Louvre in France, the British Museum in the UK, walk the Great Wall of China, and explore the pyramids of Egypt with a simple click of a button. Make it fun and serve traditional cuisine from the region while you explore the area!

Eats While Exploring

When you’re visiting France, set up with some yummy French pastries. Croissants, macaroons, and crepes with Nutella will easily become family favorites.

Get your tea set ready when you head to the UK! Pair it with little wafer cookies for the perfect atmosphere.

Try your hand at chopsticks when you head to China! Whether you are eating rice, noodles, or rangoon, see if you can master the eating utensils of Asia.

Going to the Middle East means fresh Mediterranean food. In addition to falafel, make a fresh veggie tray to munch on as you explore.

Thinking of making this a full dining experience? Order takeout from a local restaurant!

Outer Space

If you have children at home who love all things stars and space, you’re going to appreciate the out-of-this-world options online. Did you know you can visit Mars? Hover over the red cratered surface to see what it’s like on another planet! If you have 3D glasses, stream a video of the International Space Station on YouTube from the European Space Agency. Its graphics will really take you into the galaxy!

Looking for something closer to Earth? Get a tour of the International Space Station from NASA. Here you will get to see the different stations and meet real astronauts. And if that isn’t enough, you have to see the US Space and Rocket Center in Alabama. Tour the facility from your couch and get your imagination ready for blast off!

Theme Parks

Looking to up the excitement? Take a tour of the Disney Parks, Legoland, and SeaWorld from your living room! Take it from Rapid City mom Andrea – it’s still fun for everyone!

Andrea and her husband Jared are huge Disney fans. Now that their daughter is two, they can enjoy the magical place together. The family has gone to the park before, and the joy it brought was overwhelming. So, they knew it was just what they needed to lift their spirits from being stuck at home.

“When we started talking about doing a Virtual Trip to Disney, we knew we would have just about as much fun planning the day as we did actually doing the day. It’s a dream of ours to go to Disney Parks around the world, and since travel is out, for now, we thought it would be a great time to virtually go to all the parks we’ve dreamed of such as Disneyland Paris, Disneyland Tokyo/Disney Sea, and Disneyland Hong Kong. Thus, a Virtual Disney Trip Around the World was born.”

The Thompsons explored parks they knew they may not be able to see in real life, and they were blown away by the different rides. But what made the trip so much more fun for their family was the commitment to the day…an event, if you will. 

“We treated it the same as if we were actually visiting a park. So, we listened to the music they play in their rooms while we ate breakfast. We planned special meals and snacks like ‘Dole Whip’ that you can only get from the Disney Parks themselves. We dressed up and took photos; we really just dove into our Virtual Trip. People have worked really hard to prepare awesome first-person videos of just about everything at every park. So, we followed blogs and vlogs and made playlists from Youtube for meal ambiance, rides, parades, fireworks, and special shows. We had a free month of Youtube Premium so we watched with zero commercials.” 

With such a young daughter, the family wasn’t really sure what to expect from her. But, to their pleasant surprise, she loved it more than they thought was possible. From dancing and dress up to making special treats, the experience was truly magical.

A virtual trip can be fun for your entire family.

 “My best advice is to let yourself (Moms/Dads/Caregivers) be okay with doing something that might make you a little uncomfortable at first,” said Andrea. 

Plan in advance what you want to do, the same as if you were planning a real trip. Make an itinerary for the day and follow it. Try and do small things to make each meal seem special as if you were really on a trip. For example, the food you can only get there, or dressing up when you’ve been in sweat pants for months – it really makes it feel special. Plan part of the day in different parts of the house so it feels like you are going somewhere different. 

“Let yourself be okay feeling silly, the same that you would on a real vacation with your family,” she said. “Our world needs a little bit more whimsy, and it’s okay to do something that is out of your comfort zone. Your littles will thank you for it!”

written by Jenna Carda