As we wait out the COVID-19 pandemic at home, we’re keeping our spirits up by dreaming about future travels. And the more we’ve thought about it, the more we’ve realized that there’s plenty to do now at home to make the trips we have yet to take better.
The SmarterTravel staff shares how they’re planning ahead to better days and better trips:.
Make virtual visits to a destination
No, it’s not the same as visiting in person, but hundreds of museums, aquariums, zoos, and other tourist attractions are offering virtual tours, live streams, and other ways for travelers to “visit” online. See 21 Sites Offering Virtual Tours and Live Streams for Travelers Stuck at Home for a comprehensive list, and let them inspire an IRL visit someday in the future.
These museums are open 24/7 online: Take a virtual tour of these 12 amazing museums closed because of coronavirus.
Learn more: Best travel insurance.
Read inspiring books about a destination you’ve dreamed of
When you can’t take a real trip, a journey through a good book can be the second-best thing. Let “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” whisk you away to India, discover everyday life in Botswana with the “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series, or read “In a Sunburned Country” to ramble your way through Australia. (Or watch the TV or film adaptations.).
8 best travel books: And their real-life destinations.
More reading material:11 books we’re reading to inspire ourselves and future trips.
Pre-pack regularly used items
There’s nothing like getting ready to pack for a trip and being able to mentally high-five your past self for having the foresight to have already cleaned and restocked your toiletries bag. That way all that’s left for you to do is check it over, add in any additional items, and throw it in your bag. Experience the same joy by reserving a drawer or a box in a closet in which you keep pre-sorted baggies of travel essentials like adapters, travel pillows, passport holders, and travel-size toothpaste.
Fill in the holes of your travel wardrobe
In travel as in home repair, having the right tool for the job is everything. Does this sound familiar? It’s time to pack, and you realize you’re missing a cover-up and comfortable sandals for a beach vacation, or snow gear for a winter adventure. Instead of waiting until the last minute to panic-purchase items that will come in handy again and again, go through the types of trips you’re drawn to, assess your supplies, and fill in holes as you find them. Then congratulate yourself on making the most of your non-travel time.
Clean your travel bags
Right now, most of us are thinking a lot more than usual about hygiene. And when you’re in that frame of mind, it’s easy to see why it’s weird that we don’t all automatically give our suitcases a deep clean every time we come home from a trip. But suitcases actually are pretty easy to clean, and now can be a great time to get them out and spruce them up. Call it the beginning of a great new travel habit. Check out How to Clean and Disinfect a Suitcase to learn how.
Have you ever disinfected your suitcase? A pandemic is as good a time to start as any.
Check that all your documents are up to date
Have you been waiting for a convenient moment to mail in your passport for renewal? Now might be the perfect time, given that most of us are putting off international travel for the next few months. Routine processing of passport renewals may be delayed right now, according to the State Department, so you’ll want to send in your document sooner rather than later to get yourself into the queue.
Don’t have your REAL ID yet? You can now submit your required documentation online (though you’ll eventually need an in-person appointment to finish the process).
Travelers get a break: Real ID deadline pushed back due to the coronavirus.
Build your perfect travel health kit
You’re more likely to get sick after a flight than you are under normal circumstances, and after the COVID-19 pandemic we’ll all be a little more cautious about protecting ourselves from germs in flight and on the road. Consider putting together a grab-and-go health kit that you can keep ready to go before every trip, filled with items such as disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, and airplane seat covers, as well as a few common over-the-counter medications in case you fall ill.
What belongs in your travel first-aid kit? These items will come in handy.
Get in shape for future adventures
Is climbing a mountain or taking a cycling vacation on your bucket list? You’ll need to get in shape. There are plenty of free streaming workouts you can do at home, and our list of hotel room exercises you can do without any workout gear works equally well in your living room. In most locations, you can still get outside for a walk, jog, or bike ride (as long as you stay at least six feet away from other people), giving you a good workout as well as some much-needed fresh air.
Save money toward a future trip
While you can’t go out, take the money you’d be spending on Ubers and fancy cocktails and put it into a savings fund for a future trip. Also, take some time to set a budget for yourself — sites like Mint.Com can help you track your spending and find areas to save. Don’t forget to incorporate these sneaky travel costs into your trip budget.
Support small businesses
In this time of uncertainty, do what you can to support your local community as well as your favorite businesses at your vacation destinations. A few ways to do this include shopping the store’s online site or buying gift cards from your favorite restaurants for future use. Some musicians are running fundraisers with online “concerts” that are streamed on social media with the idea that viewers can donate to “tip” local bartenders. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that people’s creativity will shine through, so be creative!
Learn a new language for your next trip
You know what takes a lot of time? Learning a language. If you find yourself with free time to spare, put it to good use by downloading a language app and jumping in. Most language apps are based on games and repetition, which makes it fun whether you’re learning the basics or going for more advanced mastery.
Cook your favorite dishes from around the world
Craving fondue from your Switzerland trip or tapas from from your trip to Spain? Cooking is not only therapeutic, but it’s also a great way to remember your favorite dish from a recent trip.
Update your inspiration list
Bucket list, must-do list, five-year travel plan — whatever you call it, this is a good time to dust off the old inspiration list and find some new destinations to dream about. Here are some of our favorite dreamy round-ups, divided by destination and interest.
Fun ways to choose destinations:.