Parents, you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Or just as likely, we’ve got questions and you’ve got answers.

Challenge: Summer Fun

How to Capture Summer Travel Magic When You’re Stuck at Home

Vote up!
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email this article

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders are replacing beach trips and resort vacations for many families this summer. However, quarantine doesn’t have to mean boredom. If you find yourself stuck at home, tempted to give the kids even more device time, add a splash of fun into your days. With some DIY spirit and a little help from past family travels, you can banish whining and bring excitement to a summer like no other.


Feeling stuck at home? Your past adventures hold the secret to fun days ahead. Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.

Find a Special Meal

Remember an exotic destination with a meal from a place your family loves. You can order a cookbook to recreate an evening in Hawaii or track down a recipe from your favorite food truck in Portland. Does Walt Disney World or Disneyland top your travel list? An afternoon making Dole Whip or churros will bring some Disney magic to your day.

Not up for a homemade meal or treat? Online ordering to the rescue! Track down the chocolate frogs from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or those crazy-flavored chips you found in a European train station. On the other hand, effortless subscription boxes do the work for you by providing snacks and meals from around the world.

09f836cae941c683ea27b56f97d28f2af617a9db.jpgA special meal can transport your family back to their favorite destinations (the author is not responsible for the reactions of picky eaters). Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash.

Create a Backyard Adventure

You’re probably quite familiar with the outside areas of your home after weeks of isolation, but a few accessories can turn your yard or balcony into a favorite vacation spot. For instance, a tent, sleeping bags, and s’mores will commemorate last summer’s camping trip. String lights, a patio rug, and lush plants can conjure a tropical resort and turn the family into vacation VIPs.

Make a game out of adding things that were important to your family on each trip. What sparks a memory for each person? If certain songs remind you of that trip to Texas two years ago, then create a playlist with a Bluetooth speaker. Perhaps the smell of coconut and cocoa butter transports your kids straight to the beach. You can recreate the scent with a few candles. (But be sure to wear actual sunscreen, too. Nobody wants to be reminded of that time you turned lobster red and had to skip the beach for the rest of the week.)


Turn your patio or balcony into a vacation paradise. Bonus points if you can convince your kids to “pretend” they are servers. Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash.

Display a Fun Photo Collage

Pictures from recent trips provide another easy way to recapture the travel spirit. Help your family revisit cherished locations by changing device backgrounds and lock screens to vacation snapshots. Similarly, you can post prints in a special area or even make a book of travel photographs. Notably, a recent article in the Washington Post detailed the mental health benefits of going through old vacation photos. Focusing on positive memories and gratitude for past experiences provides a serotonin boost that can improve moods and energy levels for everyone.

For a more interactive experience, there’s always the infamous Zoom backgrounds, which allow you to attend meetings and friend hangouts from the Eiffel Tower or your last family reunion picnic. Take this a step further and create a short movie about your adventures, using vacation photos displayed on a projector or a large screen as a virtual set.

Pick a Family Project

While you may feel like you’ve had too much family time lately, working together on a craft or project is an opportunity for intentional conversation that may be scarce in difficult times. (This goes double if you have teenagers at home.) Lego makes architecture sets for landmarks all over the world. Find one for a city you’ve visited and use the construction time to chat about favorite sights and activities. For rarer destinations, buy a jigsaw puzzle or even create a custom puzzle with your own photos.

For younger kids, sit down together and create a brochure about the most exciting places you’ve visited or want to visit. Gather art supplies and provide a few starting points. Then let creativity rule. (I’m not saying you should mail grandparents theme park brochures, but I’m also not saying you shouldn’t.)


The secret to getting teenagers to talk about their favorite travel memories? Distract them with a challenge. Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash.

Take a Virtual Tour

For an easy activity on rainy days, turn to online tours as a way to revisit much-loved cities and attractions. Take an afternoon to visit the Art Institute of Chicago or the British Museum without the crowds that often block views of the most popular exhibits. Let your kids try virtual versions of their favorite rides at amusement parks around the U.S. Most tours are free and require little planning, although some attractions, like the Nashville Zoo, now offer personalized behind-the-scenes experiences for a small fee.

On the other hand, virtual tours also are a great way to dream about your next adventure. With no cost or travel restrictions, your family can explore a national park in Alaska, the Great Wall of China, and the Pyramids of Giza. The sky is the limit, unless your travel dreams take you outside Earth’s atmosphere. In that case, NASA’s Exoplanet Travel Bureau might be more your speed.

Make a Movie Marathon

If the other items on this list feel overwhelming, you may need to call in a very special reinforcement. Repeat this mantra: “This is a global pandemic. It is okay to let my children watch too much TV.” Find some age-appropriate movies in familiar vacation settings, and let your kids be transported through movie magic.

Try National Treasure 2 or the Harry Potter series to remember a visit to London. Older kids who have been to Washington, D.C., will have a blast finding famous monuments and museums in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. A quick internet search for movies set in beloved travel spots can help uncover films that will spark flashbacks to fun (and give you a much-needed break).

When you need fun things to do while stuck at home, dig into your best memories of family trips and turn them into play. Channel boredom into gratitude for the awesome experiences of the past. And remember, soon you will be out there again, creating even more magical vacation memories.

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.