15 Inspiring Things to Do When You Can’t Travel

Travitude quote

There are a variety of reasons why someone may be unable to travel.  These include restrictions due to a new wide-spread virus (and here I thought Outbreak was a fictional movie), lack of funds, sickness, work or school schedules, and so on.  It can be frustrating when you want to travel, but can’t, so I’ve created this list of things to do when you can’t travel to keep you inspired until your next adventure. You can “travel” from the comfort of your home, with a little inspiration and a dash of imagination!

*Given our current restrictions on travel due to the COVID-19 virus, some of these things to do will not be an option under the current shelter-at-home mandates. However, many of these ideas will work, even if you are forced to stay indoors. 

1) Read Your Favorite Travel Blogs

First off, I’m going to assume you’re doing that at this very moment (wink wink). However, besides reading all your favorite articles on Travelffeine (subscribe here), why not check out some other travel bloggers to inspire your next adventure. Here are a few to get you started.

  • A Suitcase Full of Books is a travel blog I recently came across. I feel that Elizabeth and I are kindred spirits in our love of literature and travel. If you’ve ever thought about planning a trip based on your favorite author or story, then check out her travels and start planning your trip!
  • Sailing Zatara is a sailing blog I heard about from a friend.  If you’re a fan of Captain Jack Sparrow and dream of one day sailing a ship around the world then Sailing Zatara has you covered!  The Whitaker family sold everything and set sail for a full-time life of sailing abroad.  They also have a YouTube channel where they vlog about their travels. So grab your eye-patch and discover what it’s really like living full-time on a boat.
  • Maybe you’ve secretly thought of moving to some tropical destination, then check out TielandtoThailand to learn what it takes to uproot and move to another country. Angela and Chris moved to Thailand in 2013 and have been living there ever since. They share their experiences as ex-pats in Thailand and also travel tips for those coming here for vacation.

2) Read Inspiring Travel Books

Long before I was old enough to travel on my own, I traveled the world with a single visit to my local library. I would fill up my backpack with stacks of books on almost every subject imaginable. I’d check out books on languages, biographies, and fictional adventures in far off places. Books were how I dreamed, explored, and traveled the world, all from my home in Small Town, U.S.A. They are still where I turn for inspiration and adventure. All you need to travel is a good book and a little imagination!

Books to start your adventures at home

  • 501 Must-Visit Destinations: I love photo books like this one, and each time I visit someplace new, I look through the book to see if I can check any of the destinations off with the hope of one day seeing all five hundred and one.  Flip through its pages and let the photographs and descriptions inspire you to dream about your future travels.
  • The Lost City of Z: The book, as usual, is much better than the movie. It has adventure, mystery, scary creatures, and an exotic destination. David Grann sought to uncover the mystery behind the disappearance of the early 20th-century British explorer Percy Fawcett. Percy Fawcett went on an expedition in the Amazonian jungles, never to be seen again, and Grann went on his own adventure to retrace the lost explorer’s steps.  If you love adventure, then you’ll enjoy this book and perhaps even be inspired to travel there.
  • The Log of the Snark & The Cruise of the Snark: These two books, one written by Jack London and the other by his wife Charmian London, describe their sailing adventure to the South Pacific.  Jack London wrote The Cruise of the Snark, which tells his side of their expedition, whereas The Log of the Snark is the journal of Charmian London, giving us her point of view on their journey.
  • A Moveable Feast: This book was published posthumously from Ernest Hemingway’s writings and journals from his time in Paris during the early 20th century.  It made me think of the movie Midnight in Paris (see below) and of that time in history where so many artists and writers were putting pen to paper and brush to canvas to create the masterpieces we enjoy today.  It might also inspire you to take a trip to Paris and try to recreate the spirit of that era for yourself.
mary poppins quote
A book and movie all about using our imaginations to travel.

3) Watch Travel Films & Shows

My Grandma is 96 years old at the time that I write this.  For years, she has been unable to take trips of any real distance. However, that never stopped her from “traveling.” Her favorite thing to do, as she calls it, is “traveling from her armchair.” I’d call her up and ask her where she’d traveled to recently, she’d tell me about someplace, usually in Europe, that she’s visited as she watched her favorite Rick Steves travel show or something of that nature.

I love watching movies and shows about traveling. It’s one of my favorite things to do when I’m looking for a little travel inspiration. Here are a few of my recommendations. To see more travel movie recommendations read 32 Movies & TV Shows to Inspire the Traveler at Home.

Travel Movies:

  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
    This movie is full of beautiful landscapes and cinematic shots that create that sense of awe and wonder that travel provides. Its message is to stop daydreaming about living life and to live it. Begin your bucket list adventures and embrace life now. What some may not know, is the original movie came out in 1947 starring Danny Kaye. (You can stream the 2013 version on various platforms such as YouTube or Amazon Video)
  • Midnight in Paris
    This movie follows Gil Pender, who, on a visit to Paris, travels back in time to the 1920s and bumps into writers like Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. It’s a unique story that blends the present with the past and inspires you to book the next flight to Paris and write that novel you’ve been putting off! Okay, perhaps that’s just me. (You can stream for free on Crackle, or pay to stream on YouTube and Amazon Video)
  • UP
    This is a heart-warming movie the whole family can enjoy.  It’s filled with dreams, adventures, and a message about what matters in life–our relationships with those we love. If it’s been a while since you watched it, or if you’ve never seen it before, I highly recommend you make it a family movie night and begin creating special moments right now.

Travel Television Shows:

  • Somebody Feed Phil
    You can’t help but smile along with Phil as he shares his genuine (and expressive) love of food and travel. This is a light-hearted show, Phil is not the cranky, seasoned traveler you might be used to seeing.  His childlike joy of food and life is infectious! (you can watch on Netflix, and if you like it, you can purchase the DVD from his earlier series “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having“)
  • The Amazing Race
    In The Amazing Race, contestants compete to win the grand prize in a non-stop race around the world. The contestants compete in pairs consisting of a parent and child, husband and wife, brother and sister, and so on. Anyone who has traveled knows how stressful travel can be. The Amazing Race takes that stress to a whole new level! Plus, you get to see beautiful and unique destinations and learn about giving back while you travel too. (you can watch on Amazon Prime Video and CBS All Access)
  • Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted
    Follow Gordon Ramsay as he explores the world experiencing new cultures, foods, and local experiences on his quest to create his own dish with his unique flair in a friendly showdown with a local chef. It’ll have you wanting to travel and eat all in the same show! (Currently, this is only available on Disney+.)
quote from the Titanic
I didn't include this as an inspirational travel film, for obvious reasons.

4) Listen to Travel Podcasts

Another great thing to do when you can’t travel is to listen to travel podcasts.  Travel podcasts are great for learning about a new destination, getting travel tips, and exploring travel opportunities you may not have considered.  You hear firsthand from seasoned travelers what they have learned during their years of traveling.

There are so many to choose from, but here are a few to consider:

  • Zero to Travel
    This podcast has tips and ideas for how to travel long-term. It covers different ways to make money living abroad, as well as general tips all travelers can use.
  • Travel with Rick Steves
    In this travel podcast hosted by Rick Steves, he interviews locals from his travels, and you learn the stories and history behind the different destinations.
  • Hawaii Vacation Connection
    Learn about where to stay on the different Hawaiian islands, where to eat, do’s and don’ts of visiting Hawaii, and so much more.  If you want to take a trip to Hawaii, start your vacation planning now with this all about Hawaii podcast.

5) Go on a Food Journey

One of my favorite things to do when I return from a trip is to find recipes from my travels and try making them. This is a fun way to bring the travel experience home. Find a new recipe that you’ve never tried and bring some culture to your table. 

If you need some inspiration, check out my “Recipes Inspired by Travel” Pinterest board. I regularly add to this board, so subscribe if you want to see future pins as well.

If you don’t enjoy cooking at all, you can, of course, have a similar experience by getting take-out from a local restaurant. Try to choose dishes you’ve never tried before. This will make the experience more authentic. 

homemade Japanese ramen
My hubby's unique take on Japanese ramen. Not traditional, but he had fun making it, and it was good!

6) Throw a Travel-Themed Party

This idea goes well with the previous one. Choose a country for a travel-themed party and then decorate and plan a menu based on that country. In addition to making dishes from other countries, you can have your dinner guests look up facts about your meal’s country of origin. Consider creating some trivia cards for a fun party game to learn more about that destination. Discuss favorite travel memories, if you’ve visited the destination of your dish before. Make a fun night of it and pretend you’re dining in another country. 

7) Play a Travel Board Game

When looking for things to do at home, I love turning to old-school board games! I know in the world of technology, you have a lot of options for online video games, but there’s something so fun about playing board games.  Perhaps, I feel that way since I grew up playing them, but either way, I think it’s nice to unplug once in a while and return to the world of low-tech fun. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Ticket to Ride
    This strategy game has a few versions. I own the original, which has you riding the rails across America trying to create the most train connections before your fellow players can beat you to it!
  • Risk
    Risk is more about world domination than traveling for fun, and depending on who you play with–it might get intense!
  • Settlers of Catan
    Catan is a great strategy game that has you trying to build a civilization and keep your fellow players from building theirs.  It has a little bit of a learning curve, but it is a lot of fun, and the gameplay changes every time you play it.
  • Continent Race
    Continent Race is a fun game the whole family can play. It is a game created by a kid for other kids. The entire family can explore the world together and learn all about the different countries around the world in this fun and educational game.

If you’d like a mobile app to play a game on your own, try World Geography Quiz Game.  Have fun learning about countries all over the world. Learn about maps, flags, language, currency, etc. If you love travel and learning, then you’re sure to enjoy the World Geography Quiz Game.

8) Create a Travel Collage

Another fun thing to do when you can’t travel is to create a travel inspiration board, aka a travel collage.  Travel collages are fun to do on your own or with a friend. Your family could even create one together for your next family vacation.  

Find some magazines, or lookup maps and photos online and print out any that spark your interest. Then find a large piece of cardboard (use an empty box), poster board, or piece of thick paper and begin cutting and pasting to create your travel dream board! 

You can use a mixture of maps, text and inspiring photos you found online.  You can also create simple photo collages like the one I made below.  Group together favorite vacation photos and memories that make you smile then frame it and hang it somewhere in your house.

9) Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

Dust off your photo albums and travel down memory lane. This is one of my favorite things to do when I’m not traveling. It’s so fun to look back on past trips, whether it’s a trip to another country, a trip to the local zoo, or last year’s camping trip–it doesn’t really matter. It’s always great to see the smiling faces and remember those special moments you may have forgotten. Photos are time machines that take us to our favorite places and memories with those we love.

If you don’t have any physical photo albums, then why not go through your digital photos and make one with your favorite moments. Google Photos has a feature that lets you create a photo book that they’ll print and ship direct to you. 

Create a Photo Montage

Another fun way to use your digital photos is to create a photo montage of your favorite travels.  Then have a family movie night. Even better, if you have digital movies, incorporate these into your photo montage for a mixture of photos and videos.  This is sure to be a hit with your family! 

There are a variety of tools you can use to do this.  One of the easiest is probably Google Photos. This simple option allows you to create short montages utilizing a mixture of photos and videos. Kapwing is another free montage/video software that will enable you to drag and drop your photos and videos to easily create a photo montage to share with your friends and family. For something a little more advanced, consider trying Shotcut, it’s free and has a lot of features, but there is a bit of a learning curve.

10) Learn a Language

Do you want to travel to Spain, but don’t have the money to do it just yet? Why not start by learning Spanish? Learning languages is a great way to start your travels while at home. It helps create a connection with the culture of the country you plan to visit.  Plus, with technology, there are now some great (and easy) ways to start learning a new language. Even if you’ve only got 15 minutes a day, you can learn to speak a foreign language.  

Here are some apps I’ve used for my language learning.

  • Duolingo
    This is probably one of the most popular language-learning apps.  It is easy to use and allows you to progress in your language learning from beginner to more advanced language skills. It has a ton of language choices too.
  • Memrise
    Memrise uses a variety of memory techniques to help you learn a language quickly and remember it. This is an easy to use app for beginner language learners.
  • Beelinguapp
    This language learning app lets you read books and listen to music in other languages. I’d say it’s a little more advanced than the other apps listed here, but a great way to expand your language learning.
  • HelloTalk
    If you want to practice your language skills with native speakers, then HelloTalk is a great place to start. You can chat with native speakers from around the world and begin practicing before you ever leave home!
things to do when you can't travel, travel at home instead
Traveling isn't about a destination, it's a state of mind. It can be done no matter where you are at.

11) Create a Travel Scrapbook Journal

When you get back from a trip, often there’s a bit of sadness that your travel adventures are over (at least for the moment). A fantastic way to extend your travel experience is to create a travel scrapbook journal. Go through all the receipts, and ticket stubs, and photos you have from a recent trip and turn it into a personalized travel journal.  Write notes about your favorite moments and create a customized travel souvenir you’ll cherish forever.

Here’s a quick video by Paperchase showing you a few ideas for creating your travel journal. For more ideas on ways to turn your travel mementos into DIY souvenirs and keepsakes, check out my Travel Gifts & DIY Crafts Pinterest board.

12) Learn a New Activity

Another fun thing to do when you can’t travel is to learn a new activity you want to try on your next travel adventure. Perhaps you’re planning a trip to the Joshua Tree National Park, and you’d like to do some rock climbing while you’re there, take a local rock climbing class and begin learning the skill before your trip. 

Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to scuba dive, well why not start with an intro scuba diving class at your local pool, then if you like it you can enroll in a PADI certification course and be ready for your next tropical diving adventure! 

There are so many things you can do, even learning to run is a great way to prepare for a trip, running is one of those activities you can do no matter where you are, and it’s a great way to explore an area while traveling. 

13) Hotel Retreat at Home

This one may require a little effort, but I think when you’re relaxing in your hotel at home, you’ll appreciate the time it took. 

Start by making up your bed with your nicest sheets and bedspread. Find some fresh cut flowers and put them in a vase somewhere in the room. Then get some bottled water, and maybe even move your coffee maker into your bedroom if possible. In addition to coffee, you may also want to bring in some of your favorite tea along with mugs to enjoy it later.

Find some bath salts or bubble bath and maybe even put some fresh flowers in your bathroom to complete your hotel retreat at home.  Then hang a “do not disturb” sign on your door and settle in with your favorite book or movie for a relaxing night.

wizard of oz quote
You don't need to travel to Oz to learn the value of home.

14) Play Tourist at Home

If you have a visitor coming to stay with you, who has never been to your town before, what places would you take them to see, and what would you plan for things to do?

Create a list of things to do and places to see and also places to eat, basically plan out a trip to your local area and then do that!  This will be a fun way for you to travel and play tourist, and it will also give you some great ideas the next time you do have guests over to visit.

15) Start Planning Your Next Trip

You may not be able to travel right at this moment, but you can certainly start planning your next trip! Trip planning is one of the best things to do when you can’t travel.  It gets you excited and focused on a goal.  You can use the collage idea I mentioned above on #8 and create a vision board for your trip.  Then place it somewhere you’ll see it each day and remind yourself what you’re working toward. 

Abbigayle on Her Luxe Travels gives an example of a fold-out travel vision board you can create and place in your daily planner or journal.

Go to your local library, whether in person or online and look up travel guides to your intended destination, then begin writing down all the places you want to see.  You can start to create an itinerary based on your “must-see” list for that destination.  You’ll also get an idea of how long you want to stay.  Check out my Maui Itinerary and Thailand Itinerary to get ideas on how I go about planning my trips.  If you’re a complete beginner, then check out Trip Planning 101.

Final Thoughts on Things to Do

It is discouraging when you want to travel but can’t, no matter what the reason is.  So finding things to do that give you the experience or essence of traveling, even when you’re stuck at home, is a great way to encourage and inspire yourself during those periods. 

Whatever you do, make sure to have fun, be creative, and be thankful for all the opportunities that surround you. It’s easy to take things for granted, especially when we’re at home, but sometimes we just need to slow down and remember we’ve got an incredible world right at our feet if only we have eyes to see it.

Happy Travels!

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  • Elizabeth at Reply

    Hi, I found this article through a referral link that came to my blog. Thanks for the shout-out! These are all great ideas. I haven’t read any of the books you suggested, so I’ll have to add them to my TBR. Hope you’re surviving this non-travel time!

    • Charity at Reply

      You’re welcome! I love your book-inspired travels! Thankfully, I have a large selection of books to get me through this non-travel time, and perhaps one will inspire my future travels. I look forward to reading more of your journeys and book recommendations too!

  • Angela at Reply

    Love these ideas! Thanks for sharing!

    • Charity at Reply

      I’m so glad you liked them! Let me know if there’s any you try or ones you’d suggest adding to the list.

  • Ellie Dale at Reply

    This is a joke, right? None of this is even remotely satisfying when you’re itching to take a trip but can’t because (a) you’re broke and (b) your job wouldn’t give you the time off even if you could afford to go. All of these suggestions are just a great way to feel even more frustrated that you’re stuck at home in your crappy small town in the middle of nowhere.

    • Charity at Reply

      It can feel so frustrating when you want to travel but can’t. This post was written during the COVID shutdown when people couldn’t even explore parks in their own town. Sometimes you just have to make the most of what you’ve got until you can do something better. Hang in there until you can get to what’s next.

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