I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s hard to remember a time before being locked down due to COVID-19.
I live in Texas and we are beginning to open things up – slowly. It’s exciting to be taking steps towards normalcy but these are baby steps. It’s a stark reminder that the world has changed and we will likely never get back to our old normal. It’s also a reminder that re-opening may be risky and again jump-start the spread of the virus.
Although the lockdown restrictions are difficult, I’m finding one particularly difficult for me: I miss travel. A lot.
I know thinking about traveling may feel like some combination of selfish and impossible… How can I dream of a beach vacay when people are sick and dying?! When will I even be allowed to leave my city, let alone my state or country?
These feelings are normal, but being normal doesn’t make them any less confusing.
However, I have a solution for you that both allows for continued social distancing AND pseudo-satisfying your wanderlust. What is it, you say?
You should plan your dream vacation during quarantine!
It may sound absurd, especially since we may not really be allowed to travel for literally another 12+ months, but hear me out. Find out here both WHY you should plan your dream vacation during quarantine and HOW to plan it!
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Why you should plan your dream vacation during quarantine
I felt like I was handling quarantine fairly well up until just three days ago.
I remember I was sitting and watching Netflix and started crying. Not just crying, but sobbing. It kind of hit me out of nowhere, even though I had been vaguely aware of some low-level anxiety brewing for a few days prior to this outburst.
Based on my Facebook feed, I’m not alone. I have both friends & family all reporting some variation of unexplained, dramatic emotional swings. The CDC even published a page related to mental health during a pandemic.
Are you feeling the same way?
Well, luckily for all of us, planning a vacation is scientifically proven to improve mental health!
In fact, as crazy as it sounds, the study indicates that PLANNING a trip leads to more happiness than TAKING a trip. How can this be possible? Well, the study reports that happiness is boosted before a trip because it gives the traveler-to-be something exciting to look forward to.
And I don’t know about you, but I could use something good to look forward to.
Add to that, you may find yourself becoming bored during quarantine. If you feel like you have too much time and not enough to do, planning your dream vacation may be an exciting way to pass time during quarantine.
So, to sum it up… if the pandemic has you:
- longing for a trip,
- feeling mentally drained, and
- seeking out a fun way to pass the time,
then planning your dream vacation is truly the ideal way to spend your time during this quarantine!
It will probably feel weird to plan a trip that you don’t have actual plans for, so if you’re looking for inspiration on where to begin, these are my recommendations!
Seek out travel inspiration
The first step to planning your dream vacation is to seek out travel inspiration.
Perhaps you already know your dream trip. Maybe you’ve always wanted to see the Matterhorn in Switzerland, the crystal clear water of Phuket in Thailand, or Machu Picchu in Peru. Start there, but be adventurous and curious while you explore your options!
On Pinterest, just start typing in destinations you may be interested in. You can be broad (“Europe travel destinations”), narrow (“see pandas in China”), or anywhere in-between. I would recommend you start broad and get more specific as you figure out what tickles your wanderlust!
Instagram is a great source for visual inspiration. There are so many different travel hashtags you can follow, so go ahead and follow them and just scroll through your feed. Let’s be honest, this is what you’re already doing during quarantine, so you may as well use it to help fuel your wanderlust!
Flip back and forth between the platforms as you get inspired. As you get inspired, you can start to keep track of your dream destinations.
Use Google Sheets to compile a wish list
Google Sheets are a great way to keep track of your travel wish list.
Spreadsheets are great for organizing information AND this spreadsheet will be accessible by you (and anyone you invite to it!) from ANYWHERE. It’s definitely my go-to for travel planning.
Whenever you find a place that interests you, enter it into your sheet! Dream big – the world is your oyster and you don’t have to worry about being limited by budget, vacation days, weather, or anything like that. Everything is off-limits right now but the world will eventually open back up. With this spreadsheet, you’ll be able to seize whatever opportunities come your way!
I’ve created a template for you. Continue reading and follow along with this Google Sheet in another tab.
Download and save the Google Sheet
Start by opening up my travel planning Google Sheet. You will have Read access but not Write access.
To download the file and save it to your own Google account, go to File > Make a copy. Rename it, save it, and begin brainstorming!
Save what excites you
The first step is to just save what excites you. If you see an Insta post that inspires you, add that destination into the Inspiration tab. Write a comment to remind future-you what you were interested in. If the post, Pin, or ‘Gram was particularly inspiring, grab the link and save it to the Inspiring Sites & Posts tab.
It’s ok to be all over the place. This is quarantine – you have all the time in the world so feel free to explore Paris, Thailand, Peru, Colombia, and Yellowstone. Your goal isn’t to start planning a trip but to start by compiling a destination bucket list.
Dig deeper into your dream destinations
As you discover more potential dream destinations, a few will begin to really stand out. Use the Deeper Research tab to fill out more information related to that specific area. I recommend you focus on the city level at this point rather than country level. If an entire country interests you, you can just populate the sheet with multiple cities that you’re interested in!
There are columns already available for you to fill out but feel free to add or remove columns based on your needs. It may be worthwhile to add more columns depending on your interests. Are you a foodie? Columns related to meals (i.e., breakfast, lunch, & dinner), food types (French, American, sushi), or Michelin star rating may be appropriate. Do you love sightseeing? Columns dedicated to types of sites – museums, landmarks, or buildings – may be necessary.
This is YOUR spreadsheet. Make it your own!
If you don’t know what kind of traveler you are, take the quiz here.
Craft a potential itinerary with your destination dreams
Over the course of your research, some destination “bubbles” may start to appear. These “bubbles” – or destinations that are close to each other – can be pieced together to make a cohesive trip.
Each bubble can be a different trip. You can begin to piece these together in the tables labeled Trip 1, Trip 2, & Trip 3. If you have more dream trips, go ahead and copy the tab so you have more space to dream.
Compile and condense the important information from your various tabs into this trip planning tab. The idea is so that you’re ready to book as soon as you see a travel deal that you cannot pass up.
Sign up for travel deal websites & wait!
Probably 90% of my travels are opportunistic. What I mean by that is I don’t plan anything until a deal that speaks to me and is impossible to pass up comes across my inbox. I am signed up for probably a half dozen travel deal sites and use them almost exclusively to find & book my adventures.
I have used every website on this list and highly recommend them.
I bet that we see a wave of travel deals once the pandemic is over and subscribing to these lists will make it easier to take advantage of these deals. A deal may pop up that matches one of your wish list items. If you used your quarantine time period to plan your dream vacation, then voila – all you have to do is book everything and go!
The lists I am a subscriber to include:
- Travelzoo – every week, Travelzoo publishes a “Top 20” list. This list will include everything from local attractions (such as theatre performances), flight deals, and entire vacation packages. These deals often end up feeling “too good to be true” but I’ve taken probably a half dozen of them and they are always wonderful.
- Cheap Caribbean – this website is my go-to for beach vacay planning. Cheap Caribbean pieces together Caribbean travel packages and have awesome filters for narrowing down your trip. It is the only website I use for booking my Caribbean trips.
- Great Value Vacations – I’ve gone to Italy twice via Great Value Vacations and both trips have been amazing. This site is great for pre-packaged, no-effort trips. Hotel, airfare, rental car, and excursions are often included here so it makes for super easy trip planning!
- Scott’s Cheap Flights – this resource is AWESOME. Nearly all my airfare is booked through Scott’s Cheap Flights. They frequently have deals to Europe for sub-$500, for instance. The premium subscription is a million percent worth the price and you can try a month free through my link!
In addition to the travel deal sites listed, these are my other favorite resources for travel booking:
- Rakuten – formerly known as eBates, Rakuten gives you cashback for many online purchases. Sounds too good to be true, but I’ve already earned nearly $500 back over the last 5 or so years. Not bad! AND many websites I’ve linked to here have Rakuten cashback deals. If you sign up through my link you’ll get a $30 bonus. Nice!
- eBags – eBags is my go-to for travel gear shopping. They have so many great options for luggage and travel accessories. I really particularly love the eBags branded roller luggage. It’s so durable and functional!
- Hotels.com – I love Hotels.com and have been using them exclusively since 2012. I love their search functionality, variety of options, and rewards program (1 night free for every 10 you stay!).
- Squaremouth – I think travel insurance is SO IMPORTANT and Squaremouth makes finding and buying a policy really easy. I use it for every international trip I take and have been pleased. I had to make a claim when I got stranded due to an airline strike and it was pretty easy getting my money back.
None of us really have any idea what is going to happen once we get on the other side of COVID-19. I do sincerely believe the travel industry is going to be forever changed in some capacity.
However, being able to dream and look forward to better times is at least helping me keep going. For me, my dream travel destinations include Italy (always Italy, I adore Italy), Japan, Cuba, Chile, and Southeast Asia. I’m taking my own advice and using these spreadsheets to plan a trip that I can look forward to sometime in the future. It doesn’t matter if you cannot take these dream trips for even another few years – planning your dream trip during quarantine will both help your mental health AND help you be ready to go when you’re finally able to go.
Comment below with your dream destination and share the wanderlust!