Travel advisor Tamara Jacobs was planning a Jewish heritage trip to Europe for next summer when she started “traveling” virtually to other countries and decided to share her findings with her clients. While some agents the AJT consulted are skeptical about virtual travel and would prefer their clients just hang tight until the fall or 2021, others feel comfortable directing future travelers to research online.
For Jacobs, the idea is to plan now to be ready when airlines start flying and tourist sites reopen. One way to be prepared is to spend time stuck at home because of COVID-19 quarantine, lockdown or social distancing researching and dream-building future travel, said the Marietta travel consultant and advisor. Virtual travel helps “change the scenery from the four walls around them,” she said.
“Keeping people inspired right now is so important. Travel dreaming is a great way to do that. With so many people disappointed by cancelled spring break trips and potentially summer family vacations, sharing alternatives for how people can bring travel to them is critical to keep spirits up, enhance mood and spirits.
Research has actually shown that the very act of planning a vacation makes people happier, having something to work towards and look forward to, and then actually taking the vacation!”
In her research for the Europe trip, Jacobs posted on her Destinations by Tamara Facebook page, “I have found ways to visit and travel virtually to amazing places I wish I could go right now!”
She and other travel agents share some of the travel sites they’ve discovered online.
Let Judaism Be Your Guide
Discover your Jewish heritage: www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu/…/locked-down-here-are-…/…
Take a stunning tour of the ancient Jewish catacombs of Venosa in southern Italy: www.youtu.be/iKlfocGFztQ
Livestreams from the British Jewish Museum: www.facebook.com/JewishMuseumLDN/
Listen to audio guides of the Museum of Jewish History in Girona, Spain (between Barcelona and Costa Brava): www.girona.cat/call/eng/audioguies.php
Take a virtual tour of Auschwitz in Poland: www.panorama.auschwitz.org/tour2,7115,en.html
Visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: www.ushmm.org/teach/teaching-materials/primary-sources-collections/virtual-field-trip
Tour the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philly, www.nmajh.org/
Learn about immigrant life at the Tenement Museum in New York: www.tenement.org/Virtual-Tour/index_virtual.html. “This is how Jewish people settled,” said travel agent Renee Werbin. “My own mother lived in one of those tenements. It’s worth your time” to visit.
Museums and Monuments
Top 10 museums around the world you can visit: artsandculture.google.com/story/10-top-museums-you-can-explore-right-here-right-now/igKSKBBnEBSGKg?hl=en
Views from the top of monuments around the world: www.artsandculture.google.com/story/11-incredible-views-from-the-top%C2%A0/8QIS37cd1O4SJA?hl=en
“There’s no reason to be bored,” said Werbin, president of SRI Travel and co-founder of Travelgirl magazine. “Go online and view the masterpieces renowned museums have uploaded for our enjoyment. … It’s a rare delight that museums have opened up these opportunities during the COVID crises.”
The National WW II Museum in New Orleans, www.nationalww2museum.org/
Musee d’Orsay in Paris, www.artsandculture.google.com/partner/musee-dorsay-paris
National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., www.nga.gov/
The Art Institute of Chicago, www.artic.edu/visit-us-virtually
Wonders of the World
Aside from historic sites, there are natural wonders to explore. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Jacobs said in one Facebook post. “Maybe you can’t go to Niagara Falls or the Great Barrier Reef right now, but you can bring these and other great places to you! Check out these live cams that take you up close and personal to some of these amazing places plus the Northern Lights, a safari and more!”
“You can’t go to the aquarium, but you can do a live cam and see it up close and personal.”
Try a Theme Night
“If the theme is Italy, cook an Italian meal, listen to Italian music, drink some Italian wine, learn a few words in Italian, watch ‘Roman Holiday,’ ” Jacobs said.
“It’s a fun night as in hearing [the language], experiencing the food, recreating what could be an Italian experience at home.”
Want to recapture a spa environment? Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit in Mexico was going to have its wellness weekend May 1, but instead, created the essence of a wellness day with cooking demonstrations and yoga.
At home you can recreate that environment by doing yoga, imagining the international food you might have eaten, and setting up a background noise that imitates nature, Jacobs said. “It’s a bit improvisational; you can get as creative as you want to keep the inspiration going.”
Find Your Happy Place
Werbin agreed that now is the time to plan a dream vacation. “What are your 10 bucket list places you really want to go? “Let’s talk so you’ll be ready to visit when they open up. At this point in time it’s nice to have dreams.”
If you really want to go to the beach but can’t, you can view numerous beaches online. Closer to home, enjoy a virtual tour of Tybee Island next to Savannah, Ga., www.visittybee.com/.
The Disney parks may be closed to the public, but you can still “visit” the “happiest place on earth,” Werbin said. “Disney flags are still flying high and the Disney blog offers many opportunities to go behind the scenes, meet characters and visit inside the parks.” Log on and visit www.disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2020/04/disneymagicmoments-flags-still-flying-high-at-disney-parks/
Arts and Culture
The Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland, has made more than 50 free virtual concerts available to stream, www.montreuxjazzfestival.com/en/50-concerts-to-stream/
Visiting Broadway is an expensive proposition. But YouTube has made “Phantom of the Opera” available for free, Werbin said. “What a phenomenal opportunity to go to the theater.”
Recreate a Trip You Took
“If you’ve been to Hawaii or Greece or anywhere that was really special for you, take your pictures out and reminisce,” Werbin advised. “Relive a treasured adventure. With time on your hands, make an album. Those who are really savvy can put their album online and share it with others.”
If someone doesn’t like to cruise, here’s their chance to sail without leaving home.
No seasickness or sea legs to fear.
On a virtual cruise, you can explore the world from home, Werbin said. “How great is that?” She recommends Viking Cruises, @VikingCruises, www.Viking.TV
According to those the AJT consulted, some cruises are being pushed back to the end of June or beginning of July while others aren’t cruising in 2020 at all. Once travel resumes, though, it might be a drastically different travel world in terms of how airplanes are cleaned and cruise lines serve food, they said.
Barbara Diener of Cruise Planners has the motto “Travel Smart. Dream Big.” She agrees clients should use their time now to plan where they want to go. “If the family or travel companions want different locations, they have to plan and discuss the options,” she said. For instance, “If the parents want to go to the Mediterranean and the kids want to go to Greece and Turkey, you have to decide where you want to go first.”
Diener said she’s rebooking and booking new travel for 2021. Clients are taking advantage of the cruise vouchers they received when their trips were canceled several months ago and have already rebooked. Well-traveled clients are the first to rebook, while others are afraid, she said. Payments for cruises later in the year are pending.
The Atlanta travel agents are hopeful the industry will rebound.
“Tourism will come back and we’ll be able to tour the world again,” Werbin said. “One of these days you will be able to make your travel dreams a reality. It won’t be too long, but in the meantime, stay safe, cautious and informed.”
Note: AJT Owner-Publisher Michael Morris is one of the founders of Travelgirl magazine with Renee Werbin.