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Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Custom Virtual Escape

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Here’s how you know you need this ultimate guide to a custom virtual escape DESPERATELY:

  • You’re so sick of restrictions—whether COVID-related, financial, health, or something else—you could break something.
  • You had to cancel a trip you’ve anticipated forever because, for one reason or another, you can’t travel.
  • Your kids/partner/roomate/pets are driving you crazy (and they’re not exactly in your fan club at this point, either).

Friend, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s how to craft a virtual escape, a staycation where you don’t even have to leave the neighborhood. Hopefully, you’ll find it a cut above those quarantine weekends that are really just more blurry days of wearing your baggy-butt sweats and bingeing on shows you don’t even like.

Welcome to the Head Roam Ultimate Guide to a Custom Virtual Escape.

1. Choose Your Destination

The beauty of the virtual escape is that you can literally go anywhere: From Antartica to Zanzibar, to Outer Space to the Renaissance if that floats your boat—or spaceship. Here are some ways to decide:

  • Make a new bucket list where even the sky is not the limit. You can seriously go anywhere your imagination conjures up. Mars, Narnia, Wakanda, that hut where Princess Buttercup lives before she has to be a princess, some weird place Christopher Nolan invented. Anywhere.
  • Do the time-honored Spin the Globe approach—or do a little onscreen pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey thing with the super-cute map graphic below. This approach, whether you use map or globe, gets even more fun if you have kids involved. They LOVE this. And admit it, you’re a giant child yourself if you’re truly honest. Just blindfold someone, spin a globe, and wherever your finger lands, that’s where you’re going.
ultimate virtual weekend
  • Choose an old favorite that you’ve already visited. You know how you’re always thinking, I never look at my vacation pictures? This is your chance to Stop Saying That.
  • Go to AirBnB online experiences and choose one that looks good. Sign up for a session about a week out. Build the rest of your virtual escape weekend around that.
  • Don’t feel like you have to spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the same place—or even on the same continent. Globetrot like you stole it.

2. Make a Rough Virtual Escape Plan

A: The Big Dinner and Movie Date

At a minimum, have dinner and a movie. As Head Roam adds destinations, you’ll find an ever-increasing slate of suggestions. Right now, you can tackle Ireland and Morocco. (And we’re very, very ready to hear your ideas, whether they’re requests for info on a particular destination or your own tried and true recos.)

Plan a weekend evening where you have a 2 or 3-course meal—main, and dessert, for sure, an appetizer if you want to go even bigger. Figure out a fun drink, one with or without alcohol. Do a little research and find a movie. Alternatively, brave the YouTube/Vimeo rabbit hole, or check out one of our continually developing YouTube playlists. (We try to only send you to good, non-annoying stuff.)

Or, if you’ve only got time for a night, consider a virtual tour; AirBnB Online Experiences is a great place to start. (I am not an affiliate; your money is going to the vendor via AirBnB) . You’ll be helping out someone who’s been hit hard by the pandemic, you’ll make a connection, and I guarantee you, you’ll have a more fun and interactive hour or so than you will with the bulk of the stuff you can stream.

B: Make It a Full Day with 1-2 Virtual Tour Activities

We’ll post as many good online experience links as we come across, but we’re starting from scratch. So for these next few months, as Head Roam gets up to speed, you’re pretty much on your own. (Virtual Marrakesh is currently up and running.)

For starters, here’s that link once again to AirBnB Online Experiences, which includes cooking classes—in which case, dinner’s all done.

Other sites to check out: Try the New York Times features “36 Hours in…” for museum, gallery and shopping suggestions, and “World Through a Lens” for marvelous photography driven features. Look up your destination on Lonely Planet and Culture Trip.

What destinations do you most want Head Roam to cover? Leave a comment, please, or drop me a line: [email protected].

C: Add Breakfast

Our in-development Food pages for different destinations around the world will have suggestions for simple, locally-inspired breakfasts. In Morocco, that means tasty flatbread with olive oil, honey, and apricot jam, alongside a pot of mint tea. In Argentina, that means having your favorite bread toasted and covered with a smashed avocado, along with your favorite coffee.

Breakfast is easy, and oh so conducive to really feeling like you’ve gotten away.

Breakfast in Buenos Aires. No avocado toast, but man, that’s a fine coffee.

D: Add a Welcome Board for an Extra Night

When Steve and I arrive anywhere for the first time, we usually just want something light.

Tieghan at Half Baked Harvest has put together a gorgeous post—all of her posts are gorgeous—on how to assemble a cheese board. Read her How to Make a Cheese Board instructions here.

To break it down: You need 2-3 cheeses, some kind of sliced or highly sliceable meat if you eat it, fruit, and something like a cracker or bread to put stuff on. Extras include jam, dip, crudites, and even a couple of quick appetizers you can pop in the oven.

Every month we’re adding more pre-made virtual escapes, and we love to hear from you! Where do you want to go? Where have you been? What do you recommend? Leave a comment or email [email protected].

3. Shop for Supplies

Make your shopping list. Be sure to add flowers that call to mind the place. If you do candles, the scented ones can go far in evoking your fantasy version of the place. Granted, a candle called “Moroccan Rose” leaves out the wonderful smell of food cooking over braziers and the spices always in the air. But you’re also skipping the intoxicating aroma of camel and goat dung, not to mention the unpleasant smells that accompany a visit to any big city in the world. You give up a little, you gain a little…

I recommend you make sure you have what you need at least by the Thursday before your weekend, if not sooner. If you make it a full weekend prior, you get a nice sense of anticipation, which is one of the things that’s left us fairly profoundly in the age of lockdown and quarantine.

4. Set the Stage

Read all about how to turn your home—not just your bedroom—into a weekend retreat in our post Transforming Your Home: 5 Steps for a Luxurious Staycation.

transforming your home

Do this on Thursday if possible.

7. Pack


Yep. Pack. One of the joys of a getaway is that you don’t have to decide what to wear; you already did that. Plan out what you’re going to wear for each day and night of your vacation—even if it’s just one fancy outfit for your dinner and a movie night. If you just schlub around in your sweats, well, you’re not really committing are you?

Travel Fashion Girl has fun lists of what to wear in almost every corner of the globe. Best part: If you have some party shoes you’ve always wanted to wear while gadding around Paris, you can do that at home, skipping the cobblestones and dog poop and sidewalk general hell. You can wear your super cool jewelry and not worry it’ll get swiped. You can experiment with some really crazy, over-the-top outfit. I always want to wear a ballgown when I’m traipsing around the globe, like Villanelle in Killing Eve. Since I’m not an assassin who can afford to potentially ruin some fabulous outfit during said traipse, it’s out of the question. But at home? Cool.

To see multiple fabulous Villanelle moments, click this link to Elle.

You don’t have to do a suitcase; in fact, the beauty of all this is that you don’t have to crumple up your nicest clothes and then wrestle them into a presentable state with the crappy hotel iron. I recommend instead that you set aside a spot in your closet just for the weekend.

And don’t stray from it. If you find the jammies that you decided on are not near as comfortable as the baggy-butt boxers you like to wear most of the time—tough! Wear what you have. Or be naked. Naked is fun.

In the bathroom, completely clean off your sink. Just have the essentials you’d bring on vacation. I mean, don’t be crazy or anything. But realize that the preparation is a great deal of the fun of a trip. Do this like it’s real—and it will be.

8. Take Pics and Keep a Journal

Again….wha…tt? But think about it. Snap that pick of the awesome meal you created, and of you and your buddy or kids or fine self in your party clothes. Like relevant Instagram photos and comment on them. Save things to a Pinterest souvenir board, all the stuff from a certain place that you would buy if your budget were limitless.

ultimate virtual weekend
A recent salad sampler I made for a Moroccan dinner at home. I was just experimenting, so didn’t record recipes. Looking at this, I remember: that potato salad was The BOMB.

Even better: buy something. The shipping is likely to be outrageous—but still quite a bit less than a planet ticket, right? And meanwhile, you’ll be supporting a local artist, and also have something beautiful to help you remember this part of the world that you now, thanks to this weekend, know a little better.

The more you treat this like a real trip, the more it will be one.

9. Make Sunday Evening Special.

Normally, you’d be on the plane watching some dopey movie, trying to stay hydrated, feeling a little grumpy that you’re vacation’s over. The beauty of a virtual trip is that the re-entry is a lot easier. “Unpack,” i.e., put your regular stuff back in your bedroom and bathroom. Review your pictures. Tell your friends. The beauty part is, if they want to follow in your footsteps and have a similar experience, they can—not something one can say about a live trip that cost a whole lotta money.

Those trips are great. But these trips can be great in a different way. And they’re a lot more sharable. We need that in this currently crazy world. Isn’t it cool that we can do it?

Do leave a comment or drop me an email: [email protected]. Thanks, and happy virtual trails!

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