Virtual Vacations: Our guide to taking an overseas family holiday at home

Don't let staying at home cramp your family travel plans – you can bring the world to your lounge room with a virtual vacation. All you need is your imagination. We've provided ideas to help get you to the departure gate.

It’s the school holidays again, and family vacations away are something we can only dream about.

If we can’t explore the rest of the world, why not bring the rest of the world to us, with an international holiday at home?

Pick a location, get the whole family involved, let your imagination run wild around the country’s theme – food, activities, music, dance, movies, history, maybe a few useful foreign phrases.

Preston becomes Prague, Tarneit becomes Tokyo, Malvern becomes Mumbai.

We’ve come up with a few suggested ‘destinations’, and have included some useful links that can help transport you there – including virtual tours of landmarks and galleries.

Virtual walking tours of cities and sights have also taken off – a version of slow tv filmed by people with cameras, phones or Go Pros, often running for hours. They are a great way to get a taste of life on the street.

You might also explore our very popular Super list of great ideas for kids at home, which has more than 250 listings of activities.

Bon (Virtual) Voyage!

–compiled by Shane Green and Natalie Moutafis

 

Destinations

It’s hard to know where to begin - and end - when we look at the possibilities for a virtual holiday to the US.

To get started with some basic facts about the country in a kid-friendly form, check out the United States page on the National Geographic Kids website.

We could begin by going right to the top, with this impressive virtual tour of The White House, which has been the home to US Presidents for more than 200 years. You can also go on a virtual tour of DC sites in 360 degrees at the YouTube channel of  Washington DC.

After this monumental experience, you could head to the Big Apple. There’s an epic day in the life of Manhattan virtual walking tour, which goes for 3.5 hours.

How about a visit to the Statue of Liberty, with a 360-degree tour of the inside and outside, with historical facts?

Not surprisingly, there’s a long list of New York icons that have opened their virtual doors during this year, including The Guggenheim Museum, Smithsonian Natural History Museum, The Met, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Opera.

Further afield, there’s The Dali Museum, Florida, Yosemite National Park, California, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Katami National Park, Alaska, Houston Zoo, Texas, Monterey Bay Aquarium, California, San Diego Zoo, California, and the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

At the end of the tour, what about a Jeopardy-style quiz on fun facts about the United States? And just like the famous US quiz show, contestants have to phrase their answers in the form of a question. You'll no doubt be hungry after all that touring and quizzing so why not make some all-American snacks to keep you going.

Looking for a classic American movie experience? In 2015, the BBC polled film critics around the world and came up with this list of the Top 100 American movies. Of course, only some are family-friendly, but there are plenty to choose from.

We’re thinking food, art, culture - what better things to celebrate when on a staycation?

To get started with some basic facts about the country in a kid-friendly form, check out the France page on the National Geographic Kids website.

The biggest drawcard is, of course, Paris, and it’s here or nearby that we can find plenty of virtual experiences to celebrate joie de vivre.

Let’s head straight to the Eiffel Tower, and straight to the top. Take in the remarkable 360 views across Paris, and see what landmarks you might be able to find.

From there, it’s to The Louvre, where you can take part in virtual tours. Here’s a 25-minute walk on YouTube through the museum.

There’s a three-hour walking tour that takes in The Louvre, Notre Dame, Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.

We could stay in Paris, but let’s head slightly further afield to Palace of Versailles, the royal residence of France from 1682, under Louis XIV, until the start of the French Revolution in 1789, under Louis XV. It’s a breathtaking tour of the opulence of the palace, beginning with the Hall of Mirrors.

There’s also Claude Monet’s house and garden at Giverny. The official website has a wonderful virtual tour of the house.

For some musical inspiration, there’s the legendary French singer-songwriter Edith Piaf, who became one of the country’s best known stars internationally. Nothing says France quite like her spine-tingling live rendition of Non, je ne regrette rien (No, I Don’t Regret Anything).

Seeing we are so close, why not a trip across or under the Channel to the United Kingdom?

To get started with some basic facts about the country in a kid-friendly form, check out the United Kingdom page on the National Geographic Kids website.

We will focus on London, but there are so many diverse experiences throughout the UK - not to mention four different countries!

There are some tremendous virtual tours and videos available for some of the landmarks you might want to explore on your virtual holiday.

Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the Queen, is always a must-see destination. You can explore this virtual tour, taking you to the Grand Staircase, The Throne Room, the White Drawing Room and the Blue Drawing Room.

There’s also some fabulous resources and videos on the official Royal Family site, including the must-see Changing of the Guards. You’ll also find lots of recordings on YouTube.

Keeping the Royal theme, check out this brilliant 360-degree tour of the Tower of London, complete with commentary.

Head to another seat of power, 10 Downing Street, home of the British Prime Minister, for a virtual tour, that takes you through the famous front door into the Cabinet room.

You can explore London’s wonderful gallery scene at the Tate Modern, The National Portrait Gallery, and The Courtauld Gallery of Art.

To get the vibe on the streets of London, there are many virtual walking tours on YouTube, such as this tour that takes in the main sites.

Keep those bellies full and try your hand at some home made fish and chips or explore other recipes with everyone's favourite British chef Jamie Oliver and his son Buddy.

How about adding a leg to your world tour and stopping over in South Africa?

To brush up on some kid-friendly facts, check out the National Geographic Kids page for South Africa.

Choose one of the national parks to explore in virtual 360-degree views. There's Table Mountain, Garden Route, Kruger, Drakensberg and other Hidden Gems on the site, visit one or all.

A visit to South Africa wouldn't be complete without a safari tour to spot the 'big five'.

All that touring is sure to make you hungry, so why not try your hand at making the national dish of South Africa, bobotie. Don't forget dessert with a traditional milk tart.

Learn about Nelson Mandela and then stop in for a visit at Mandela House or the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum.

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