Whether you’re in mandatory or voluntary quarantine, you can still travel virtually with your kids. Maybe you had to cancel your spring break trip or halt a trip around the world. It can be disappointing and upsetting, I get it. Travel is our passion, sometimes our lifeline and it’s so strange to not be able to travel right now. Still, we’re so happy and lucky to be safe at home. A positive of the current situation is everyone is getting more creative with how to do all different things from home. Not in the traditional sense, but YES, you can even ‘travel’ while staying home.

Even when we’re not traveling, like now during stay home orders, or even other times in between our travels, we still like to virtually escape sometimes. Often we do some of these activities in preparation for a trip to learn more and get the kids excited about a certain place or experience.

Whether your travel plans have been impacted or not, if you want a virtual escape to another place, check out some ideas for how to travel virtually with young kids while staying at home. (I wrote these with young kids in mind because ours are 4 and 2. These ideas still work well for all ages, altered as necessary for older interests.)

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11 ways to virtually travel with young kids

1. Read books about different places

  • Tiny Travelers – a group of multicultural parents created Tiny Travelers to help parents teach their children about different places and cultures. We just received a set of their books and they are so perfect and beautiful! I have a feeling I’ll be buying every new country they release.
    • Currently, you can purchase a board book on Mexico, China, and Puerto Rico, and soon India, Japan, and more 
  • Good Night Our World – this series of children’s books is a family favorite, each book features a different city or country showing various people, places, and highlights of that destination while saying goodnight to each. Our preschooler gets excited about seeing places in the book that he has been to and even more excited when I pull up a photo on my phone of us there.
  • Playtown: Airport – this multitab, lift-a-flap board book is great for young kids interested in all that goes on at an airport

2. Play music from another country

  • Music is fun for all ages and an easy way to expose the youngest of babies to different cultures, different sounds. 
  • Use your Alexa, Google Home, phone or TV to easily find international music.
    • I like to say, “Alexa, play Bollywood music” or “Alexa, play Spanish music” when we’re cooking and eating.
  • Have a freestyle dance party to the new sounds, or even let your kids try to learn some dance moves from different cultures. You can easily find Youtube videos of almost anything, such as Russian Kozachok, Irish step dancing, Cuban salsa or Indian Bollywood dances.

3. Experience a place or attraction virtually with kids

  • More and more destinations and attractions have released or created virtual access to their sights. Check these out to travel halfway around the world without leaving your home. 
  • Use Google Earth – a virtual globe that takes you to a street-view level of destinations all over the world, walk around Tokyo, check out the Eiffel Tower and more
  • Explore Central Park – NYC’s iconic park
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  • Virtually explore 10 of the world’s most famous landmarks including Machu Picchu, Christ the Redeemer, Pyramids of Giza, Eiffel Tower, Angkor Wat, Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, Petra, Colosseum, and Chichen Itza
  • Ride 12 Disney rides virtually
  • Visit some of the United State’s most famous National Parks
    1. Grand Canyon
    2. Yosemite
    3. Rocky Mountain
    4. Grand Teton
    5. More available via Google Earth
  • Go to Greece – the Ministry of Tourism in Greece created a page to help everyone travel to Greece while staying home, from cooking demonstrations to yoga, teaching Greek mythology, music, showcasing famous Greek destinations and more 
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  • Wonder at the Cliffs of Moher from home
  • Thrillist put together a great list of varying virtual travel experiences, including hiking the Great Wall of China, exploring Chile and seeing the Northern Lights
  • Take a 1 day trip to Jeruselum
  • Appreciate art at these 12 famous museums online including British Museum, London; Guggenheim Museum, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Pergamon Museum, Berlin; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Uffizi Gallery, Florence; MASP, São Paulo; National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
  • Louvre Museum, Paris is also offering some virtual tours of certain exhibits
  • Don’t miss the Forbes list of live/virtual beach experiences, musical/theatrical performances, and more

4. Practice learning a new language with your kids

  • Music is a very effective way to approach teaching kids new languages, for learning Mandarin Chinese, we like Little Fox Chinese and BabyBus in Chinese
  • Read some books in another language. This will be more difficult if neither parent speaks other languages, but if you speak English and have even a beginner level of Spanish, French or some other romance language, you can probably manage a children’s book. 
  • Gus on the Go – a free app that teaches new languages using stories, 30 different language options 
  • Ni Hao Kai-lan – a show featuring a Chinese-American preschooler and her animal friends learning life lessons and teaching a few Chinese words
  • Little Pim – developed a proprietary Entertainment Immersion Method® to help teach 0-6-year-olds a new language, and they offer 12 different languages

5. Watch movies that feature different destinations and cultures

  • Coco – Miguel, a young aspiring musician, navigates the complexities of his culture and ancestors in Mexico, available on Disney+
  • Moana – works to accomplish an ancient quest of her ancestors set in the Polynesian islands, available on Disney+
  • Hayao Miyazaki films – a famous Japanese anime filmmaker
    1. My Neighbor Totoro – this is about two young girls who befriend Totoro, a giant fluffy and cuddly spirit animal
    2. Ponyo – a fish-girl befriends a human boy, a different take on a Little Mermaid-like tale
    3. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli films are critically acclaimed, but they’re different than most Western animated children’s movies.
    4. Check this out for some background information, and find additional movie options for older kids.
  • Babies – a documentary film (not the TV series) that covers the first year of life of a baby in Namibia, Mongolia, Tokyo, and San Francisco and compares and contrasts their lives. I’ve watched this on Netflix a couple of times, but sometimes they take it off.
  • Brave – spirited Merida, daughter of the Scottish King, fights to create her own path, available on Disney+
  • Princess and the Frog – a tale about Tiana who works hard to pursue her restaurant dreams in New Orleans, available on Disney+

6. Take a trip down memory lane with your kids from a previous adventure

  • Scroll through old trip photos on your phone or computer, or even pull them up on your TV for a bigger show. Our kids love to look at past photos of themselves, and of just mom and dad.
  • Let your kids help create a photo book or choose photos to print and create your own album.

7. Cook (or order delivery) international food

  • Cook international food
    • Find a new recipe, or even try to make something you loved eating on a previous trip. I use Pinterest the most to search for recipes. Our boys love to help in the kitchen, sometimes for the full project, other times they’ll only run in for a step or two.
      • Middle Eastern Mint Lemonade – my favorite drink of all time, which I didn’t learn about until our first trip to the Middle East. We had it in the UAE, Oman, and Egypt. It’s simple to recreate and so refreshing.
      • Japanese Yaki Onigiri – onigiri (rice balls) are meant to be portable and almost can be compared to our approach toward packing sandwiches for eating lunch out of the house. In Japan, I loved having yaki onigiri, or grilled rice balls. It’s nothing fancy, but the grilled aspect adds a depth of flavor and a nice crunch. You can make them as simplistic or complex as you want, grilled or not, stuffed/wrapped or not.
        • You don’t need special tools to make these, but once I started making them more, I bought these molds (triangular and round) to make it easier.
      • Hungarian Chicken Paprikash – I had the tastiest chicken paprikash on a trip to Budapest, Hungary and have been wanting to recreate it ever since. I managed to successfully make the nokedli (or Hungarian dumplings, also known as German Spätzle) the other night. Next up I need to tackle the chicken.
  • Order international food
    • Some restaurants already had to close their doors, and many others are struggling.
    • Most of the delivery services now have contact-free delivery, and some are waiving delivery fees.
    • You can still order delivery (or takeout) and support your local restaurants and enjoy a tasty international meal at home. We love to order Indian, Italian, and Chinese cuisine the most.

8. Watch kids TV shows that feature different destinations and cultures

  1. Super Wings – a South Korean produced animated children’s show about transformer jet planes that travel to a different city around the world each episode to help a local child. It does a good job of showing the landscape and landmarks of different places and some of the local children and what their local life is like, streaming on Netflix 
  2. Hogie the Globehopper – a treefrog that travels the world with his friends while showcasing different places, such as Bangkok, Barcelona, and Buenos Aires, streaming on Netflix
  3. Mama Mirabelle’s Home Movies – an elephant who travels around the world filming various wildlife that she shares with her family and friends when she returns home, National Geographic and BBC archives footage

9. Virtually travel with your kids through someone else’s past adventures

  • Check out your family member’s or friend’s past travel pics
  • Jump on a video call (we’re loving Houseparty!) and exchange past travel stories
  • Get inspired and discover new destinations to travel to next
    • Find a family travel blog, vlog or Instagram account to follow
    • You can check out some of our past adventures here and see more on Instagram

10. Plan a future trip with your kids

  • No one knows exactly when it will be safe and socially responsible to resume travel, but you can still dream and plan trips tentatively.
    • Many travel operators and providers have relaxed their change and cancellation policies during this unprecedented time.
  • Involve your child 
    • Let them pick a place if they’re old enough to indicate interest in a specific place, spin a globe or have them point to somewhere on a map.
    • Or, you can plan a trip around a place based on certain things you know your child likes. This could look like if they love guacamole – a trip to Mexico, giraffes – a trip to Kenya, or Frozen – a trip to Norway.
  • Let yourself and your child dream big!
    • Even if you can’t go on the trip for a year, ten years or even if you never plan to actually go, planning and anticipating a trip brings joy. Science says so!
    • Truly, this is the perfect time to involve your child in some trip planning. Since they probably don’t have a concept of budgetary and vacation time restrictions, they may open your eyes to new destination ideas. Maybe it won’t come to fruition, or maybe you can create a family travel goal to make it happen in 5 or 10 years.

11. Create a themed night

  • Take your virtual travel with kids to another level and make it a whole day, night or even weekend affair.
  • Pick a city or country and combine several of these ideas together.
    • If you were supposed to go, or are dreaming of a trip to Mexico, plan a Mexico day/night/weekend:
      • Play various Mexican music throughout the day
      • Make some Mexico-related decorations
      • Pretend play beach or pool time
      • Make frozen virgin daiquiris
      • Snack on chips and guacamole
      • Read books in Spanish, try to use some of the words throughout the day
      • Discover Chichen-Itza virtually
      • Eat Mexican food
      • Look at pictures of a prior trip (whether your own or someone else’s) to Mexico
      • Watch Coco
    • Or if your child is interested in pandas, plan a China day/night/weekend:
      • Play various Chinese music throughout the day
      • Make some China-related decorations, such as red lanterns
      • Watch and learn about pandas through the virtual zoo experiences at the Edinburgh Zoo, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, and San Diego Zoo 
      • Watch Ni Hao Kai-lan (S1 E19) goes to China, try to use some of the Mandarin words throughout the day
      • Hike the Great Wall of China virtually
      • Try to cook or order delivery Chinese food
      • Look at pictures of a prior trip (whether your own or someone else’s) to China
    • Watch Born in China (about pandas)(alternatively: Kung Fu Panda, Kung Fu Panda II, Mulan)

One of our main reasons for traveling with our kids is to expose them to different people, places and cultures. While I believe firsthand experience is truly the best way, this is not the only way. In our modern world, and now more than ever, there are so many ways to experience other places and expose kids to other cultures. Try to take advantage of the extra family time at home and travel virtually with your kids, have fun!

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Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • Amanda says:

    This is a great post…thank you! Our family’s dream trip to Copenhagen was canceled, but we’ve taken the opportunity to learn about other countries and we’re even planning on adding Sweden to our trip once we’re able to take it.

    • Jessica Lee says:

      Oh I’m so sorry you had to cancel, that’s disappointing. We were just there in November and loved it even more than we thought. Hopefully, you get to re-plan an even better trip soon. Sweden is a great add!

  • Selena says:

    I love this post! There are so many wonderful ideas and resources to use. We are a homeschool family with a fairly tight budget and love to take advantage of virtual tours/trips. We love listening to other countries music, especially traditional. I am bookmarking this post and will be using many of the links and ideas. Thank you so much for this!

    • Jessica Lee says:

      Awesome, I’m so happy to hear this, thank you! I’m impressed with all the virtual-friendly resources popping up, it’s great.

  • I need to save this!! My nephew is only 1yrs but I can’t wait to start sharing travels with him even at this age via books and other visuals.

    • Jessica Lee says:

      Yes, start him early! Culture is learned so it’s great to expose kids to all different cultures really early on so they’re more aware and accepting of different people.

  • Jordan Erb says:

    These are great tips! Needed some different things to do during this quarantine! Being a home school teacher is NOT in my calling! haha

    • Jessica Lee says:

      I think a lot of parents are realizing this. I’m sure it’s not mine either, haha, but I can do travel/culture-related things. That is MY thing!

  • Monga says:

    Wow, this is a wonderfully researched post – tons of information. I checked out Google Earth myself to see how it works. Perfect learning for kids. We had to cancel a trip to Argentina for spring break so it was a big disappointment. Your post has tons of things w could do with the kids, thank you!

    • Jessica Lee says:

      It is a lot of information, and hopefully, everyone can find something that suits their interests! I love Google Earth, haha, I can spend forever zooming around on there. I’m sorry you had to cancel your Argentina trip. That will be amazing once it’s safe for you to go (also on my list too)!

  • I LOVE THIS!! As a school counselor I know the kids have been excited about doing different virtual activities and I was aware of some of the activities but not to this extent! I actually was interested in the Jerusalem for a day virtual tour! I have always wanted to go there! I also loved that you gave options with food! These are amazing ideas and very unique! Great Post!

    • Jessica Lee says:

      There are so many activities and resources, I knew of some but was really blown away to the extent some tourism industries and companies have gone to offer these things. We’re all about trying traditional food when traveling, and I love to keep exposing our kids to different foods at home too. Thanks for reading!

  • Heather says:

    These are all really great ideas! I have 3 kids and I would love to try a few of these with them!

  • Lerrie says:

    Very informative! Thank you! Perfect with my 3 years old son during stay-at-home situation.

  • Katelyn says:

    I cannot wait to incorporate some of these ideas over the next few weeks! These are great for the whole family, including me and my husband!

    • Jessica Lee says:

      Yes! They really can work for all ages, just might want to find some adult-friendly shows, movies, books etc., unless you prefer the toddler ones =D

  • Mariah says:

    These are cute ideas! We already speak Spanish with our son, but I think it would be helpful to listen to music in Spanish too. I will definitely be looking back and using this as a checklist.

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