Virtual Travel Experiences to Calm Your Itchy Feet

Calm Your Itchy Feet: Virtual Travel Experiences from HomeIf you’ve been stuck at home for the past few months, you’re probably getting itchy feet. You’re definitely not alone – many of us miss the freedom to travel overseas.

We all travel for different reasons. Some of us love experiencing new destinations and cultures. Some people travel for work, to attend conferences or to visit family & friends. Some appreciate the joy of flying and the luxury of airport lounges and premium cabins. And others simply take pleasure in planning the perfect trip.

If you’re missing travel, AFF has a dedicated thread where you can share your thoughts about which aspects of travel you miss the most.

While borders remain closed, international travel is temporarily not possible for most people. But, just like many of us are now using Zoom, Skype or FaceTime to connect with loved ones, it’s possible to “simulate” some parts of the travel experience from home. Of course, it won’t be the same. Nothing can replicate the joy of seeing loved ones in person, nor the true international travel experience. But it’s better than nothing, and it could also do good for struggling travel businesses around the world.

Virtual tours, experiences & classes

Tour guides have been among the hardest hit, economically, by the global travel shutdown. Many tour guides around the world are self-employed, or have lost their jobs, and now find themselves with no tourists to show around and no income. But some tour guides have found creative solutions.

Viator, for example, is partnering with tour guides globally to offer “virtual travel” experiences. From the safety of their own homes, would-be travellers can now access hundreds of themed virtual tours run by real-life guides. Options include live Italian cooking classes from Rome (from $25 for 1 hour), curry cooking classes from Colombo ($24 for 1 hour), virtual city tours of Berlin or Amsterdam with live guides, and even free virtual African safaris.

Virtual travel experiences available on Viator
Virtual travel experiences are available on Viator

Who knows – perhaps the idea of virtual tours will catch on ever after COVID-19? The reviews for many of these virtual travel experiences are excellent, with travellers saying it was great to be able to get a “feel” for a destination they’ve never been to and that it helped them to decide whether they want to visit in the future.

Some tour companies, meanwhile, are fundraising to support their freelance tour guides while there is no work for them. For example, one walking tour company from Japan (which I have used in the past and enjoyed their tours) is running a crowdfunding campaign.

Some museums, such as the National Museum of Australia, have taken their collections online and have introduced a range of interactive exhibitions that can be viewed from home.

Theatres may be closed for now, but some are live streaming shows for audiences to watch for free online. You no longer need to physically attend the Sydney Opera House to see a performance, with many now being streamed on the internet. The Vienna State Opera, one of Europe’s most prestigious opera houses, is also now live-streaming performances on its website for free.

Lonely Planet, meanwhile, has launched a travel-only TV platform and a bunch of other resources for temporarily grounded travellers, including a free “Lonely Planet at Home” eBook range. Lonely Planet TV is free until the end of May.

And if you’re missing exposure to other cultures, and want to learn a new skill, why not take this opportunity to learn a new language? There is no shortage of online language courses, and face-to-face classes are likely to resume in Australia soon.

Flight simulators

If you miss flying, why not get a “virtual” fix by piloting a flight simulator? There are plenty of computer-based games, such as Microsoft Flight Simulator and Infinite Flight, but they don’t quite compare to the experience of flying in a life-size flight simulator.

Boeing 737 flight simulator
Boeing 737 flight simulator

There are full-scale flight simulators open to the public in most Australian cities. Some of these are currently still closed due to social distancing restrictions, but others have started to re-open. For example, Jet Flight Simulator Canberra is back open for business (albeit with a few changes due to COVID-19, such as a clear partition installed between cockpit seats) and is currently offering discounts on Boeing 737 simulator tickets.

You could also purchase an Adrenaline voucher for a hot air balloon, helicopter or skydiving experience.

Recreate your favourite airline meals & cocktails from home

Love it or hate it, many of us associate airplane food with the joy of travel. Sure, some airline meals are barely edible and lack nutrition, but you can sometimes find great food in airline lounges and in premium cabins such as Business or First class.

If you miss your favourite lounge or airline meal, why not try cooking it at home? Some of the all-time AFF favourites, such as the salt & pepper squid served in Qantas’ First class lounges, are not all that difficult to replicate at home. For maximum authenticity, you can even purchase airline-branded cutlery, glassware, crockery or meal service trays on eBay. (When shopping on eBay, be sure to do so via an airline shopping portal to earn extra frequent flyer points as well!)

If you’re after some inspiration, Qantas’ celebrity chef Neil Perry has released some YouTube videos explaining how he makes some of his popular dishes, including the famous Qantas First class pavlova.

Neil Perry explains how to make his famous pavlova in a new YouTube video series
Neil Perry explains how to make a Qantas pavlova in his new YouTube video series

Meanwhile, Double Tree by Hilton has revealed its chocolate chip cookie recipe. The recipes for some of Cathay Pacific’s most popular cocktails are also publicly available. (While we’re on the subject, I’d be keen to know the official recipe for the signature lemon mint welcome drink that Qatar Airways serves in Business class!)

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Recreate your own airline meal!

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]