In the last few days, life in America has changed pretty radically. Experts are advising us to stay home, schools are shuttered, and even Walt Disney World and Disneyland are closed. Most Americans are putting a stop to their immediate travel plans. (And if you aren’t, we need to talk – NOW!).
For travel lovers, this hurts. As a travel-related business owner, the loss of traffic and income is pretty sobering for me. But simply as someone who loves to travel, the pain runs deeper. Travel an essential part of the life I’ve built for myself and my family. We are certainly more than willing to pause now for the collective good. But not knowing when we can resume travel is unsettling.
Naturally, I’ve been thinking about how to make travel more a part of our home life. There are always travel planning and travel-related organizational tasks on my to do list that I now have time to conquer. And there are so many creative ways to bring travel into our daily activities, unexpected homeschooling schedule, and play time too!
If you are similarly taking a pause from your normal travels, here are some ideas to keep travel alive in your home too, both for the grown-ups and the kids.
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Travel Tasks & Things to Do at Home
1. Research for Bucket List Trips
So many of us plan travel by the seat of our pants, rushing to book a trip when we spot a deal at the moment. I know I sometimes fail to see the forest for the trees, not paying attention to the bigger picture of when we are going to tackle the bucket list trips we want to take before my kids fly the nest.
This is the chance to zoom out and look at your family’s travel goals for the next 5, 10, or even 15 years. Sit down as a family and make a list of the big epic trips you want to take with your kids – hiking Machu Picchu, taking a train trip around Europe, visiting the Great Wall of China, or roadtripping America’s national parks.
Figure out where those trips might best fit into your family’s life. Consider the ages of your kids when those trips might work best. Although think about commitments you might have back home that would make those trips harder or easier at certain times in your kids’ lives.
2. Get Your Frequent Flyer Mile House in Order
I’m a huge fan of frequent flyer miles and other travel loyalty programs because they help my family travel so much more as well as more cheaply! Yet I know so many friends and readers who just can’t find the time to get things organized on this front. Maybe you haven’t even signed your kids up for their own frequent flyer mile accounts. Maybe you have a dozen numbers and logins for everyone in the family that you can never find when you need them.
Now is the time to make some progress. No idea where to start? Read my article on the top 10 mistakes you might be making with frequent flyer miles and see if any of them apply to you. Then go about addressing that! In particular, I think it’s really important to get all of your frequent flyer mile accounts for everyone in the family in one place – I highly recommend a free tool called AwardWallet to make this easy.
When travel does resume, you’ll have a better perspective of the miles and points currencies you do have to spend on travel. Hopefully you will also have devised a strategy to earn even more miles towards free future trips.
3. Apply for Travel Rewards Credit Cards
Speaking of miles and points, one of the easiest ways to earn them is through rewards credit cards. So many people have the wrong credit card – one that doesn’t earn any points or that doesn’t reward the kind of spending they do most often.
I’ve written a guide to the best 5 credit cards for family travelers, so take a look and see which card matches your family’s spending patterns and travel needs best. (If you are more of a Disney traveler, I also have a guide to the best rewards credit cards for Disneyland and Disney World.)
My absolute favorite card for beginners without specific travel goals in mind quite yet is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. The card earns double points on travel and dining spending. It has no foreign transaction fees among its many benefits as well as trip cancellation and interruption coverage.
The card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. These points can be used to redeem for travel spending like hotels and flights in the Chase portal. But they can also be transferred to travel partners’ currencies like United miles, Southwest points, Marriott Bonvoy points, World of Hyatt points, and many more. It’s just a highly flexible and pretty straightforward card, so it’s a great place to start.
If you are not feeling bullish on air travel or even hotels for awhile, no problem. I’d recommend getting a good cash back credit card instead of an airline card. Quite a few cards (like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express) help you earn extra points at supermarkets — you might as well be earning big for all that toilet paper everyone is buying!
(One important caveat — now is most definitely NOT the time to get a rewards credit cards if you anticipate you are someone who may have debt, job loss, or any financial troubles due to the economic volatility right now. Interest rates on travel rewards cards are high and will undo all the rewards you are earning – and them some – if you carry a balance. As always, this hobby is only for people who can and will pay their cards off in full every single month.)
4. Travel Virtually
With the growth of technology, there are so many ways to see distant places without ever leaving your living room. Let’s face it – we are all going to be spending some times on screens for awhile. Traveling virtually at least has the benefit of sometimes being educational!
A few of my favorites ideas for seeing new sites while sitting at your kitchen table:
- Take a virtual tour of top museums around the world (Travel & Leisure has a list of 12 museums that offer virtual tours, from the British Museum in London to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence)
- Watch a YouTube POV video for your favorite theme park ride (SoCal Attractions 360 has a lot of my favorites at Disneyland and around Disney parks all over the world)
- Check the snow cams of a favorite ski resort (one of our favorite smaller Lake Tahoe area ski resorts, Diamond Peak, has a wide variety of cams available here and amazing lake views on clear days!)
- Tour Yellowstone National Park with interactive maps, images, and more.
5. Do Travel-Related Homeschool Projects with Your Kids
My children’s school has announced a closure for at least the next 3 weeks. So, like many parents all across America, I’ve just become a homeschooling mom. The juggle is going to be hard and I’m not the most patient of teachers, but I know it will help make it easier to do projects related to travel that inspire both my kids and me.
Luckily, we have a huge stack of unopened Little Passports packages I’ve stockpiled, so those are going to be first up in our travel adventures. I also loved playing a map challenge game myself way back when I was in 4th grade. A classmate would name a country, and I’d have to find it on an unlabeled world map. I recently found a website that has a similar version of the game online as well as many other geography games (see World Geography Games). My 5th grader and I are going to have the ultimate geography battle!
6. Play a Travel-Inspired Board Game
For even more fun with a little education on the side perhaps, consider playing a travel themed board game. A few travel games and puzzles that you can order off of Amazon and other online retailers and have delivered to your house include:
- Continent Race: This game was created by a friend of a friend’s child during a long hospital stay. After a successful Kickstarter launch, it’s available on Amazon now. Race around the globe to see who can collect the most countries from each continent first.
- Where To: A Travel Adventure Game: Created by the makers of Little Passports, this game travels to 50 different world destinations.
- Ticket to Ride Europe: Take a virtual train ride across the European continent as you build train networks from Paris to Prague.
- Best Places in America 1000 Piece Puzzle: Assemble images of some of the most iconic travel destinations in America, from Mount Rushmore to Washington DC.
- Trekking the National Parks Family Trivia Game: Test your knowledge of “America’s best idea.”
7. Read Your Favorite Travel Blogs
Last but certainly not least, there’s no reason not to keep researching and learning about new travel destinations right now. Just because you can’t travel this moment doesn’t mean you stop dreaming.
Yes, this is a totally self-serving addition to this list. But for those of us in the travel industry, it’s a tough time. It may remain tough for quite awhile. We are like so many other small business owners who rely on people being out in the world, from local restaurants to performing artists. So support your favorite travel blog – it costs you nothing just to visit and read. And you will be that much better prepared for your next trip, so that seems like a win-win to me!