Stuck at home dreaming of golden sandy beaches or bustling exotic markets? There may not be guaranteed sunshine, but you can still enjoy a staycation in the UK this year. Because rules are constantly changing, you’re probably wondering where you can travel to right now, and whether staycations are allowed in your area. We’ll take a look at the latest travel rules and staycation ideas, including what applies and when in England, Scotland, and Wales.
Then, we’ve got some fantastic, imaginative staycation ideas that let you enjoy travel from the comfort of your couch, whether you love food or history, or want to experience some of the world’s most iconic buildings for yourself.
Staycation rules for the UK: Where can you go and when?
On 5 November the UK entered a second national lockdown, which applies to England only. The rules may be different depending on which part of the UK you live in, so take the time to read through our guides below for England, Scotland, and Wales, and find out if you can go on a staycation right now.
The second national lockdown in England began on 5 November and runs until 2 December. Under these restrictions you should only leave your home for essential purposes such as going to work (if you can’t work from home), education, shopping for food, caring for an elderly or vulnerable person, medical reasons, meeting others in your support bubble, childcare, daily exercise, or attending a place of worship for a funeral or individual prayer.
Non-essential shops are closed, as are pubs and restaurants, although some remain open for takeaways. Cinemas, and most other non-essential businesses are also closed. You can’t currently go on a staycation in England and this extends to any overnight stays including camping, road trips, and hotel stays. Keep an eye on the latest government advice, as when the current lockdown ends it may be possible to enjoy a staycation in England – keep reading for staycation ideas you can try at home.
On 2 November a tier system was implemented across Scotland, with areas placed into one of five tiers depending on their number of coronavirus cases. Non-essential shops, restaurants, and pubs remain open, but pubs can only serve alcohol with a main meal, and curfews are in place, so most businesses are operating on reduced opening hours. The number of people that can meet indoors varies depending on the tier of the area you intend to visit. Note that there are higher levels of restrictions in place in tier three areas and many non-essential businesses may be closed or open during limited hours.
If you live in Scotland, you can currently go on staycation but are advised not to travel to England or Wales. Travel into and out of tier three areas is currently advised against, unless essential. It’s recommended to check the latest government advice and restrictions for the area you’re planning to visit to see which tier it’s in, before booking travel.
Wales’s ‘firebreak lockdown’ ended on 8 November and now a new set of regulations has come into force. People in Wales can now form a support bubble with another household and travel anywhere within Wales. Non-essential businesses such as pubs, restaurants and retailers have reopened but there is no travel currently allowed to and from England without a ‘reasonable excuse’. You can go on staycation in Wales provided you adhere to the regulations in place, and it’s a good idea to check the latest rules before booking your trip.
Virtual staycation ideas to enjoy from home
With regulations differing across the UK and changing on a constant basis, you could find yourself making last-minute changes or cancellations to your staycation plans. You could plan a staycation for the future, but in the meantime, why not enjoy a destination virtually from the comfort of your own home?
Thanks to the internet and VR, there are loads of ways you can discover a new destination. All you need is a phone, tablet, or computer with internet access. We’ve picked a few top destinations and some of the best staycation ideas for exploring them from home: the only question is, which will you ‘visit’ first?
Sun, sea, pasta, pizza and of course history. There’s nothing quite like a trip to Italy, and a virtual one is the next best thing. You can make Italian food from scratch at home, like pizza, pasta, or this easy recipe for home-made gnocchi. But there are also plenty of online retailers offering delicious gourmet Italian food delivered direct to your door, like Pasta Evangelists, who deliver fresh artisan pasta boxes to save on the washing up.
Once you’ve got your Italian food ready, you could enjoy a night in with a virtual wine tasting, like the ones on offer by The Three Wine Men. Tickets for a virtual tasting start at around £10 for the webinar, but for an extra fee you can have the wines (and sometimes some delicious food) delivered to you prior to the event too.
If history is your bag, why not tour the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel online? The fifth-largest museum in the world is home to paintings by Italy’s finest artists, artifacts and statues from Ancient Rome, and a surprisingly expansive collection of Egyptian Mummies. Plus, the virtual tour is free.
The Land of the Rising Sun is best known as the home of sushi, sake and geishas. With so much culture to discover, it’s easy to explore Japan from home with our virtual staycation ideas. First: food. Sushi is one of the easiest Japanese dishes to prepare and you’ll only need a few basic ingredients, most of which you can source online or at your local supermarket. Plus, you can tailor the fillings to suit your individual preferences. For something a little more imaginative, you could always give Onigirazu (sushi sandwich) or gyoza (Japanese dumplings) a go.
There are some excellent Japanese shows on Netflix right now, from the heart-warming Midnight Diner, a series of shorts about an eclectic Tokyo diner and its patrons, to the more obscure Japanese Style Originator, with each episode taking a deep dive into a different aspect of Japanese culture. Both shows are the perfect backdrop for a night of gyoza and sake.
For those who love a cuppa, an online course on Japanese tea making is just the ticket. The Tea Crane hosts regular Tea Workshops where you’ll learn how tea is cultivated and processed, as well as the finer details of brewing and tasting Japanese tea. You’ll even get a certificate of completion after the course.
As night falls, head for the district of Shinjuku in Tokyo for a virtual walking tour, or set off on a virtual tour of Kyoto’s shrines and geisha district – you’ll be mentally planning your next trip to Japan as you watch. If you own a VR headset or Google Cardboard, which you can use with your phone, you could even enjoy a VR 360-degree tour of Japan.
Unearth World Heritage Sites
If you’re not quite sure where you’d like to go but want to be inspired, why not check out some World Heritage Sites? From the Taj Mahal to the Sphinx and Stonehenge, you can visit 30 World Heritage Sites with Google’s 3D virtual tours. Check out the Towers of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, wander around the archaeological treasures of Pompeii, or visit the Taj Mahal. You can stroll around using street view, and make the experience even more immersive by viewing it on your TV or a projector screen.
See the world from someone else’s window
Feeling in need of a change of scenery? You don’t need to go far thanks to WindowSwap, one of our favourite virtual staycation ideas right now. The concept is simple: view a video of somebody else’s view, with users posting their views from all around the world. Watch the sunset in Sao Paolo, look out over the rooftops of New York, or enjoy the sunshine in Santa Barbara. There’s nothing quite like it for a moment of escapism, and flicking through all the different Windows is surprisingly addictive. You can even submit your own Window.
Discover where you can go
Making plans to get back out there? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.
England is currently in lockdown until 2 December, so travelling to Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland is not permitted unless for essential reasons. This means that you can’t currently go on staycation to other parts of the UK.
We recommend starting on YouTube, which often has plenty of virtual tour and VR videos to get you started. You could also try searching for live webcams in specific destinations or booking an online event such as a wine tasting or cookery class to give you some ideas.
You can’t travel abroad from England right now unless it is for essential purposes, due to the lockdown. If you live in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, travel restrictions may vary depending on your area. We would advise checking any restrictions and travel advice in place before booking travel, and be aware that these are constantly changing so you may need to change your plans or cancel your hotel at any time. There are restrictions and quarantine measures in place for many European and worldwide destinations, so it’s important to check these too before making any plans. The official advice right now is to avoid foreign travel unless essential.