10 skills to learn at home that will get you ready for your next vacation.

Prepare for amazing future experiences and brush up on skills that make you a travel champ. From reading maps to water sports, here are 10 skills you can learn in the comfort of your home.

1. Hone your map reading skills

Take on your next adventure the old-school way! From road map to tourist map, you can learn how to read them properly in no time whilst dreaming of foreign roads, new cities and your next adventure away. Because let’s be honest, we all rely a little too much on our phones and there is always fun in a new challenge! Learn all about map legends (its features), grid references (the map division) and the map’s scale (its size relation) and become a walking GPS. Order the map of your favourite holiday destination or even your own hometown and see if you can find popular hotspots, certain streets or the quickest routes!

2. Brush up on your geography

What is the capital of Spain? What is the highest mountain in Canada? What was the longest river in the world called again? Learning facts about this beautiful planet won’t only give you impressive knowledge but it also can make you a more conscious traveller and prepare you for your next adventure! Get yourself some guides to read through for different countries and continents, learn some travel-related fun facts and be inspired for your next trip along the way. Turn learning into a family travel quiz night and become a world expert. You’ll have the power of knowledge to impress your travel companions on your next trip.

3. Teach yourself a new language

Looking to wow the family, make the locals smile and expand your language skills? Learning the basics of a foreign language is a great way to become a travel champion.. Locals often really appreciate visitors who try to speak in their lingo, even if it’s just a few nice words. You can make someone’s day a bit nicer and recieve a little reward, like a discount, a compliment or a smile. It’s an amazing way to teach your kids something new - you could even turn it into a challenge or game that brings some added excitement to your vacation.

There are various apps and podcasts that will help guide you through the process, like the apps Duolingo and Mondly or Podcasts like the Coffeebreak series by Radiolingua. These programs will not only show you the basics of a language but also focus on relevant topics you might actually need, ranging from introducing yourself, to situations on holidays, in restaurants or in a pharmacy. We recommend writing down the new things you learned so you can memorize them later and recall them any time.

 If you want to dig even deeper into a language, you can search online sellers likeAmazon or bookstores for starter books on vocabulary and grammar, or even take a deep dive on the Internet to look for vocabulary starter lists, language blogs and more. In your downtime, you and the whole family can enjoy a subtitled movie or language program for children that also teaches the parents a thing or two.

It’s said that even 15 minutes a day will make you more secure and fluent in a new language. Start by waking up a bit earlier and escape to a new country in the first hour of the morning.

4. Learn how to cook like a local 

There’s nothing like an authentic culinary dining experience abroad, but sometimes it’s all about the meals enjoyed together, from cooking in a vacation rental kitchen to dining on the terrace while watching the sun go down. Not only is this the ideal family time but is also a great way to save some bucks that you can spend on shiny trinkets, cheesy souvenirs or exciting experiences!

Start with getting a taste of your future vacation and some valuable skills in the comfort of your own home. Already know where you’ll be going? Take your time and dive into blogs, videos or even cookbooks to practice on how to master an Italian pasta dish or the best Schnitzel in town. You can look up specific ingredients and dishes and learn how to say them in the destination’s language to know exactly what you’re looking for. Then, visit your own supermarket and try out the dish you fancy – local drinks and listening to the country’s music are a great way to make this a fun event. With the knowledge you gain by reading and experimenting, you will learn how to use the local ingredients like a pro and bring a little piece of your vacation into your home.

5. Take your pictures to the next level with Smartphone photo hacks

Gone are the times of lugging heavy camera equipment around the globe or needing to pack 3 different SD cards to capture the whole vacation – our smart little phones do a great job. But did you know that there are some awesome hacks that will make your pictures even more jaw-dropping than you thought possible? Grab yourself some pen and paper (or your iPhone notes) and write down some expert tips you can try out at home. If you struggle in getting the right selfie angle or if there is always one family member cut out of the frame, here's the solution. Instead of using the front button, use the volume button on the side. Already knew this tip? What you probably didn’t know is that the same trick works for the volume button on headphones, too. You can also create awesome looking pictures by playing with the exposure on the front screen. If you want this adjustment to stay, hold the square on the screen a little longer to lock the setting with an AE/AF lock. It’s also fun to play around with what your phone has to offer, like panorama photos, time lapses and slow-motion videos. Create awesome family content to practice for your next trip and to familiarize yourself with the features! Finally, share all the content you’ve created with the whole family by using the “shared album” feature.

6. Shop like a local

Oh, those local markets with awesome trinkets and that silk scarf that mom would love so much, the little toy the children have their eyes on or the desk decoration that dad suddenly really needs in his life. When visiting a different country, you’ll surely end up in a local market or shop at some point. But did you know that in many countries you can usually lower the price of your desired object? The truth is, you can – and it’s not as difficult as it seems if you have some pre-learned skills up your sleeve. First, research the country’s etiquette to learn the cultural norms behind shopping and haggling. It’s always helpful to learn some typical phrases in the local language, like “This is too expensive”, “Do you offer discounts” or “I’m thinking about it” as well as simply “yes” and “no”. And of course, a great bargain includes an offer, so brush up on your skills in counting in different languages. Make the bargaining conversation a fun game to practice at home and see who is negotiating best. After all, haggling should be a fun thing to do, whether it’s at home or abroad, so always stay fair and friendly.

7. Learn to surf - at home!

No, you don’t need to occupy your bathtub or flood your home for this hack - you’ll stay dry throughout the whole process. Become the next surf legend with some easy practice in your living room that you and the whole family can do by following a surf tutorial. Every surf lesson starts on dry land and covers the basics you need to ride those waves, and expert surfers offer these in videos online. By practicing the right moves beforehand, you will be a star on the board in no time and gain some experience without even falling off. The surf tutorials will show you how to lie on the board in the right position, paddle and stand up. These videos take you through common mistakes and show you the best moves, which you can practice by lying on the floor, stretching out your arms and lifting yourself up like a real surfer dude. Once you feel comfortable, you can take on balancing by using two round bottles and a board and see how long you can stand on them. But make sure you hold someone’s hand for support! Exercises like Yoga or Pilates will help with your balance too, and get you ready to stand on the board as light as a feather.

8. Train for your next hike

Become one with nature and master hiking skills in your home or your backyard. If you dream of climbing that mountain this might be the tip for you. To become a top hiker, endurance is useful to make it to the summit without breaking a sweat (or breaking down). There are some exercises that will help you with endurance and prepare your legs for the hike, such as jump squats, high knees and, as the name suggests, mountain climbers! In addition to doing these general fitness drills, there are other fun ways to get everyone involved: go for little runs together or compete to climb the most stairs before taking a break. Read all about how to use a compass, spot different plants and pack the right gear. You can have fun choosing the next mountain you want to conquer together!

9. Learn how to find the best restaurants

Strolling through the streets with a rumbling belly is part of the fun of a vacation, but it sometimes leads us into tourist traps and overpriced places. If you follow some easy steps, this won’t happen on your upcoming adventures! Get ready for a future of culinary gems, authentic cuisines and the best experiences you can have. There are easy and quick steps to research a town or city’s’ best places to dine: the bakery with the most mouth-watering pastries, the latest brunch hotspot or even the best affordable snack on the go. Become familiar with websites like TripAdvisor or Google maps reviews and build an appetite for your next dream destination by navigating through recommendations, filters and submitted pictures. You can also learn how to make use of maps on your phone, virtually strolling through the city, tapping on restaurants to check their reviews and marking them as a favorite. Familiarise yourself  with apps like ‘Local Eats’, or Open Table Spotted by Locals, or browse the App Store for other useful travel and restaurant apps. When you have a list of favorite approaches, gadgets and filters together, you will find the best culinary experience on your next trip in no time – and impress the whole family with your taste and researching skills!

10. Learn to camp like a champ

Camping is a great way to enjoy nature, a long weekend and time with the family.  You can’t wait for the next adventure, start preparing for it as soon as you can - in your own home! From pitching a tent to building a bonfire, there are several things you can learn while staying home. Watch some tutorials and make a fun game of seeing who can set up their tent the quickest. Why not take the adventure further and use the already-pitched tent for a camping night in the backyard? Next, you can practice how to make delicious s’mores for a night in the great outdoors.

Written by Sarah Heuser, Social Media Specialist at Vrbo