Things to do when you can’t travel

What can you do when you can’t travel? Lot’s! Take it from someone that gets incredibly frustrated when I have time off and can’t travel, and use my years of coping suggestions to make the best of it! There are good and exciting things to do when you can’t travel!

Sometimes it’s just not possible to travel. I get it. You can’t get vacation time. You have family commitments. The kids are in school. Or it’s just not in the budget right now. 

Of course if you can’t travel for whatever reason you’re probably feeling a little down. Take a break from social media, and feed your wanderlust at home.

Discover the best distractions for when travel isn’t in the cards. Here’s your ultimate guide to things to do when you can’t travel!

It’s 2021! And We’re Still Not Traveling

Guys, I get it! Everyone said that 2020 was going to be it. That once it was 2021 we would get to travel again. And now…we’re still not traveling.

Whether it’s because of lockdown, quarantine, travel restrictions, or your own personal choice, not many people are traveling now.

Just for you, I’ve updated this post with new information. There are definitely benefits of a staycation, so even if we’re not traveling let’s make the best of it. Say it with me: we will get through 2021 with an attitude of gratitude.

Other reasons you can’t travel

If you live in the Northeastern United States, then you know that there are three main school vacation periods: Christmas to New Year, February mid-winter (Presidents week) break, and April Spring (Easter/Passover) break. That’s a lot of vacation time in a few short months, and at least for the first two the weather is quite bleak.

All that time off means that families can not necessarily travel during that time. More often than not, some of the time will look like a winter staycation.

But there are lots of options for things to do, to lift your mood, and to feed your desire to travel.

Things to do when you can’t travel:

1.Visit somewhere new in town

The quintessential “Staycation“. This is the very first thing I recommend to do if you can’t actually leave town! Embrace your child eyes, and find someplace to explore.

If you live in a city you can check out a new museum or even a new exhibit in a museum you have already been to. You can check out a new park or playground. Or you can even just explore and walk around a new neighborhood you haven’t been to before.

If you live somewhere more rural, try finding a spot you haven’t seen before, or that you haven’t been to in several months. As the seasons change, so does the view!

a visit to the museum never gets old

2. Go to the library

Many libraries have story time for little kids, but even if they don’t, I have yet to meet a child that doesn’t like being read to. I like to call this “traveling with our mind”. Our older kids love checking out books from the library. Best of all- it’s free!

[Covid era alternative: I’ve been devoting some of our travel budget savings to buying books. A recent online shop I like is bookoutlet.com! They have some pretty cheap bargain books, which are perfect for elementary chapter books my kids read ridiculously fast.]

3. Plan your next vacation

This is a personal favorite of mine. Especially when it’s cold and dreary outside, I love to research new locations. If I’m really motivated, I will even set up flight price alerts, or start planning a rough itinerary. Click here to learn my exact planning strategies for travel.

Or how about camping? Consider planning now for next summer! There is lots of gear and preparations to make, so you can take your time. Plan your first camping trip here!

There’s a lot of reasons for why travel is so great. Then again you probably know that if you’re reading a post on things to do when you can’t travel. But if you need a reminder on why you should start planning your next trip, consider this list of short travel quotes to get in the mood!

plan a trip and look back at old ones

4. Look back at pictures from previous trips

There is something that makes me SO HAPPY looking back at old pictures. A little bit of nostalgia, remembering the sights, sounds and smells of another world. If you haven’t yet printed pictures to display or made photo books, I guarantee a sense of accomplishment if you tackle that task.

5. Create Something

Humans love to create, to use their hands, to accomplish a task. We may spend many hours on our computers, but when we make something physical there is enjoyment at least in the product if not in the process.

Use this as an opportunity to “travel in the kitchen” by trying out a new recipe. Or bring your kids around the table for crafting or science experiments. These are real world skills that can then be applied when you DO travel and see how the world works.

traveling to Italy via pizza dough

6. Watch travel shows on tv

This is one I save for the very coldest, most miserable days. Tapping into escapism, there is nothing like imagining your own “House Hunters International” adventure. Cozy up under a warm blanket and daydream of warmer days.

7. Read Books

After your field trip to the library, you should have plenty of options! The books you read can be about travel or something completely different.

Getting lost in a story is a wonderful form of escapism. When I’m missing New York, I can check out these historical fiction books set in New York.

There are also new age travel books to check out. If you’re wanting to travel vicariously through books, there are plenty of options.

8. What if you had just gotten back from a trip?

What would you feel like if you had just gotten back from a trip? What would you do? Would you begin decluttering? scrolling through pictures? moving furniture? Huh, confused? No worries!

Read all about what to do when you get back from a trip, why moving furniture is a good idea, and get more ideas of things to do at home!

Now tell me, what things do you like to do when you can’t travel?

P.S. If you have younger kids, babies and toddlers, here are some ideas for surviving the winter. For my local, New York folks, here is a bucket list of things to do in town.

17 thoughts on “Things to do when you can’t travel”

  1. I am a big lover of number 3. I am constantly planning my next trip. I think it is so important to have something to look forward to. Otherwise you just go crazy. I’m in the UK right now and dreaming and looking at old pictures, picking my next camp spots and reading travel blogs are what’s getting me through right now. Love the idea to create something too!

    1. Yes I love mapping out future itineraries, just for fun! Often I will sit and just add places to my map so that when the time comes to plan a trip, I already have a good starting point!

  2. These are some great tips! The part of the UK I live in has been in lockdown almost constantly since March last year (we had two short escapes from it in July and September last year but that’s it!) so I’m constantly looking for ideas of things to do at home, especially since there is no end of lockdown in sight. I’ve definitely rediscovered my love for books during lockdown! And I’ve got a LOT of future trips planned while we’ve been at home. My bucket list has grown exponentially! I’ve been putting off sorting out all of my photos so far though, for some reason I just cannot stand organizing digital files! But at the current rate, I’m going to run out of things to do so I’m sure it will surface before long! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. The slowed down pace has us doing a lot more reading than usual as well! At leasts our minds are getting some new stimulation. 😉 And I’m the same with the pictures, I love looking at them, but I really do hate organizing them! I usually do it in batches when my computer is about the run out of space…Then they wait in folders until I share them with you all.

  3. Love these suggestions . I planned a staycation and exploring my own city. However , I’m still traveling when I can safely .

    1. That’s great! We have also been taking staycations and small trips in the area. But then again, there are times when you can’t even do that, so it’s nice to have ideas of things to do at home when you can’t travel.

  4. I can’t wait for the borders to open again. Unfortunately at the moment we are in a strict lockdown, in which not even staycations are possible. When I miss traveling I usually try to recreate a recipe from a country I visited and travel there through my taste buds.

    1. Cooking is a great way to travel! It definitely brings some excitement, at least to your tastebuds. We have been doing a lot of cooking this past year, but maybe I need to try some new recipes!

  5. This is such a great list of things to do when you can’t travel. It’s also a great reminder to find and enjoy all the beauty and goodness that is right on our doorstep. It is hard to find that positive focus and spin on things after the last year, but this article does a great job reminding us to do just that! I am personally on the “plan out future travel” step – or at least at the basic, day dreaming kind of stage. Thank you for a great read!

    1. Thank you! I really do remind myself that even though we haven’t been able to do everything we want, we do still have a lot to be grateful for. I’m not sure what travel will look like in the future, but we can always explore our immediate surroundings.

  6. I can’t wait for the time we will all be travelling again. For the time being, I travel in my head by reading travel books and watching travel documentaries. Because of that, my bucket list is always changing!

    1. Yes we love documentaries as well. There are some really great ones like BBC’s Plant Earth series. The kids and I have learned so much from them!

  7. A timely post with great suggestions. I’m a huge fan of your #7; you’ll always find me with a book in my hands, as soon as I sit down; creating things is also fun, not only in the kitchen, but all sorts of arts and crafts projects.

    1. Yes I love keeping my hands busy! But also relaxing in the hammock in the backyard with a book in hand can be so fun. Your imagination can really take you places even when you’re not physically leaving your home.

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