An extended stay in France or Costa Rica may not be financially feasible right this minute, but thanks to technology you can take a mini vacation of sorts while never actually leaving your house or neighborhood. These "staycations" are possible in part due to various smartphone applications, websites and other clever uses of technology. From a spooky DIY backyard movie screening to virtual museums and beyond, your only limitation is your imagination and, perhaps, an Internet connection.
While a trip to the Louvre or New York's Museum of Modern Art may be out of the budget, today's technology makes it possible for you to visit both in the same day without ever venturing off the sofa. Popular smartphone and tablet museum apps include those from Musee du Louvre, American Museum of Natural History, MoMA, Van Gogh Museum and Philadelphia's Mutter Museum.
From learning a new language to Pilates or yoga sessions, from history lectures to cooking sessions, interactive online classes are an affordable staycation option no matter your age or interests. Kahn Academy, Fitnessglo and Powhow are a great place to start.
In centuries past, humans were lucky to cross a body of water. Today, we have the world at our fingertips, quite literally. For example, Photosynth is an app that combines maps and full spherical panoramas, explains Eric Escobar, host of the weekly podcast Tech Talker. "They have many user generated ones that you can find via their website and many official ones, such as the one for Stonehenge, which let you basically tour the site as if you were there." Other apps to consider are NatGeo's World Atlas and Star Walk.
"Geocaching is basically a treasure hunt," explains Escobar. "For instance, in any given city there is probably a cache cleverly hidden by some place you walk by every day. These can look like anything and are often disguised to keep muggles, or non-players, from stumbling across them." Locate each cache with a GPS to find a prize. "The treasure within is generally nothing of any real value, but as an honor system, you must place something in the cache of greater or equal value to whatever you take out."
Not feeling a physical scavenger hunt? Opt for the e-equivalent. For example, Wikipedia Olympics asks players to start off with any word, say, "Lincoln," and then open up a Wikipedia page. "From there, you have to navigate to another totally random page, such as 'Pineapple,'" explains Escobar. The catch is that you can only click links on the Wikipedia website and cannot use your keyboard. Educational and fun? Check and check.
Want to roam with the elephants? Go underground with the earthworms? What about chase tornadoes or watch baby turtles hatch from the sand? While getting up close and personal with African animals and unpredictable storms may be out of the question, you can always stream a nature documentary to sate your desire for adventure. Planet Earth and Frozen Planet are two examples.
If your goal is to get out of the house, but a road trip is out of the question, pretend you're a tourist in your own city. Research local hot spots at Yelp.com, Trippy.com or through Yahoo's Time Traveler, an iPhone app. Alternatively, check out Foursquare or Facebook to see where your friends have checked in or peruse Groupon for discounts on food, shopping, relaxing or adventure.
Provoke your competitive side with a little help from online gaming. While online gaming may seem a niche market, myriad games exist to suit your personal preferences. For example, try your hand at online poker, World of Warcraft, Bejeweled, Starcraft and thousands of others.
All you need is a digital projector and solid white surface to host a "drive-in" or outdoor movie screening at your house. Ideas include a pool party while watching "Jaws," a romantic comedy in the backyard, or an old black and white film. As for your white surface, use a garage door, house wall or large sheet. Make sure you serve popcorn and beverages.