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Whether it’s for financial reasons, job and family commitments or a global crisis that’s preventing us from travelling, sometimes it just isn’t possible to take that vacation you’ve been planning to take. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have exciting adventures and cultural experiences from the comfort of your own home.
Thanks to modern technology, now more than ever, it’s possible to have virtual travel experiences without leaving your own home. Whether that’s virtual tours of museums and galleries, tours of iconic world landmarks or using podcasts and social media to plan your next trip, whenever that may be.
This article gives you 10 free virtual travel experiences you can have from your own home to satisfy that wanderlust and give you that travel buzz, ready for when it’s possible to take your next trip.
1. Take a virtual tour of that museum you’ve always wanted to visit
Museums and galleries are turning to virtual experiences to keep tourists and visitors engaged and interested in their exhibits and that’s a huge win for us! Perhaps you’ve always wanted to visit the Louvre in Paris? Now you can with the Louvre virtual tours. The British Museum in London is free to visit but if you’re not able to get there in person, how about this incredible British Museum virtual tour in partnership with Google Arts and Culture.
I’m living in Melbourne, Australia as I write this and had planned to visit the National Gallery of Victoria. Unfortunately due to the current circumstances, I can’t visit the gallery in person, but I can visit virtually with this NGV virtual tour of their exhibitions.
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to visit the TeamLab Bordereless gallery or The Broad in LA. Well now the Broad have put together a tour of their Infinity Mirrored Room. You can find this incredible light and sound experience here on YouTube.
If you’re after something a bit more unique, how about the Museum of Broken Relationships virtual objects tour? I visited this museum in person in Croatia a few years ago and was incredibly intrigued and touched by the stories and objects exhibited there.
Google Arts and Culture have teamed up with over 2,500 galleries, exhibits and museums all over the world to bring you tours and street views of these places. Just download the app for free and start exploring. They even have information, 360 degree views and info about UNESCO world heritage sites like Mount Kilimanjaro.
2. See the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens in full bloom
Always dreamed of seeing the tulip fields of Lisse, Netherlands and the famous Keukenhof Gardens? The tulips flower in spring and early summer each year but if you’re not able to visit, check out the virtual tour of Keukenhof gardens instead.
The rows of colourful flowers and perfectly curated displays are an incredible sight to see, virtually or in real life!
3. Great Wall of China virtual tour
Have you always dreamed of seeing the Great Wall of China? Me too! Now you can explore this Wonder of the World virtually from the comfort of your own home.
The Great Wall of China virtual tour allows you to move along sections of the wall, with 360 degree views and information about the key sections of the wall. This is a great virtual travel escape if you’ve got itchy feet to head out and explore Asia!
4. Explore the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
From one of the seven Wonders of the World to another. The ancient and imposing pyramids are a bucket list item for many people, but getting to Egypt isn’t always easy and some may worry about safety or travel issues in Cairo, especially with young children. But the pyramids are full of ancient Egyptian history and fascinating stories which are exciting for all ages.
As a much cheaper alternative, Harvard University has partnered with the Egypt Tourism Board to bring the public the Giza Project. The Giza Project is the largest compiled source of information about Giza, the pyramids, the cemeteries and surrounding areas of historical significance, complete with 3D tours of the pyramids, archaeological information about Giza and history about the settlement.
The Giza Project is supplied by Harvard University completely for free.
5. Take a field trip to Yellowstone National Park
Probably one of the most well-known National Parks in the US, Yellowstone National Park is home to incredible landscapes, amazing hikes and outdoor adventures. But if you’re not able to visit at the moment, or maybe it’s too far for you, or perhaps you’d like to see Yellowstone but you’re not much of an outdoor adventure fan, you can take a virtual tour of Yellowstone National Park.
The National Parks Service have put together virtual tours of all the significant areas and landmarks in the park, including 3D modelling and additional information should you decide to visit in person.
Also check out these great virtual tours of Yosemite National Park too!
6. Explore Giants Causeway, Ireland and tour heritage UK National Trust Properties for free
The UK National Trust owns, maintains and protects houses, parks and gardens with historical and natural significance and gives them protected status.
From the former Archbishops Palace of Knole in Kent, to the Giants Causeway in Ireland, or Winston Churchill’s Chartwell residence to Polesdon Lacey where Royalty have taken their honeymoons in years past, the National Trust has put together virtual heritage tours of these stunning stately homes and beautiful landscapes.
Escape into British history with these beautiful virtual tours and guides.
7. Take a reindeer sleigh and see the Northern Lights from the comfort of your own home
One of the big bucket list items for a lot of people is to see the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, in their lifetime. Thanks to this Norwegian project called the Lights over Lapland, a small family-run company that has now become one of the most successful and popular tourism companies to see the northern lights with, they have used their expertise to help you see the lights from wherever you are in the world.
On the Lights over Lapland virtual tours, you can see the lights, take a reindeer sleigh ride, explore Abisko National Park, home of the Icehotel and experience 360 degree views of this incredible landscape.
8. See the animals at world class zoos with their free live cams
This is one for the animal lovers and for the kids too. Many zoos around the world are live-streaming their animal cams for free, so you can see the beautiful animals from your own home.
San Diego Zoo has live cams for penguins, pandas, giraffes, polar bears, tigers, elephants, apes and more! Click here to see all their live cam options.
Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Animal Sanctuary have live cams set up and videos of the much loved Australian wildlife.
Atlanta Zoo has a panda cam set up to see their cutest zoo residents live.
Monterey Bay Aquarium has live cams set up in most of their aquarium habitats and also a live cam of the bay itself so you can spot the famous Monterey Bay otters, seabirds and boats in the bay.
9. Use Pinterest to find travel itineraries and inspiration for your next trip
Research is showing that Pinterest usage is on the rise during times of global crisis. Maybe it’s the escapism of the travel photos and stories from far-away places, but also planning for a future trip gives you a great positive outlet for your energy while you’re stuck at home, as well as something positive to look forward to when you can travel again.
Pinterest is full of a wealth of information from people who have visited, lived and experiences the places your wanderlusting over. Use their knowledge, articles, tips and blog posts to plan that big family trip, or your next romantic getaway. Whether it’s to far-flung places or a staycation in your local town or city, I promise you’ll find inspiration on Pinterest. Go on, give it a try!
10. Listen to travel podcasts and be transported on travel stories during your daily life
Podcasts are a great way to listen and learn while you’re out walking, doing the house work, on your commute or during your downtime, so why not listen to some travel-inspired podcast for a bit of escapism while you’re at home?
Amateur Traveler is a destination-based podcast and you’ll find an episode for any and every destination you can think of. It’s fun to find the more obscure destination episodes and learn about a completely new place.
Women Who Travel is an empowering podcast from Conde Nast Traveler about women travelling the globe. It’s informative, empowering and covers tips and tricks for female travel.
Wild Ideas Worth Living is podcast full of inspiring traveller stories from the king store of the outdoors, REI. Maybe the adrenaline-junkie, free climbing, outback running adventures aren’t your type of travel, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting to hear about! This is all about seizing the opportunity to travel.
Extra Pack of Peanuts is a podcast that comes widely recommended by many young travellers, travel bloggers and nomads because it focuses on budget travel
I hope this list has inspired you to travel from home with these free virtual travel experiences. Don’t let location be a barrier for your wanderlust and adventure!
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Flights: I use Expedia to find great flights and the best deals all over the world, they have regular sales and offers so I always check their website. I also check CheapOair to find cheap deals on round trip flights.
Car Rental: I love the customer service I've always gotten and the variety of options with Rental Cars. But for short notice rentals, I've been using Expedia for the last year, they always seem to have great one-day rates or last-minute rates from the main rental companies.
Accommodation: I prefer the flexibility of booking accommodation with Booking.com so I can cancel or change my reservation without a fee or only pay on arrival for most properties. For longer or more unique stays I prefer AirBnB because you can get the long stay discount, you can also find more unique properties and book experiences with talented locals and businesses. For my budget trips, I always stay in hostels and book through Hostelworld because they have great guarantees if anything does go wrong. If you arrive and your booking is not at the property, they refund the full deposit AND give you $50 extra credit.
Tours and organised trips Although I don’t use tours that often, I do like to book local experiences or day trips once I reach my destination. For that I use GetYourGuide because it has the biggest selection and variety of tour and experience options.
Travel Insurance: I currently use SafetyWing Nomad Insurance. Which allows me to pay a rolling monthly fee to cover my long term travels.
My camera gear and equipment: I use a Canon 77D with an 18-135mm lens or a 50mm lens. And a DJI Mavic Mini Drone. For all my gear including laptops, tripods and more camera accessories read my travel photography gear guide.