5 activities to keep you and your family busy and entertained

Many people aren’t traveling far beyond the grocery store as they’ve sheltered in place for several weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some parts of the country have started to re-open, but restrictions remain in others and uncertainty abounds as to when laid-off workers will be rehired and if stay-at-home orders will be extended.

If you’re going a bit stir crazy at home, try these activities (if you haven’t already):

1. Attend a virtual performance. Research has found that music helps reduce stress, help you concentrate better and improve your outlook. Although many performances and music concerts have been canceled, there are plenty to hear and see online. Most are free. NPR Music has compiled a list of  live audio and video streams with links. New York’s Metropolitan Opera is offering free shows of past performances (its Live in HD series) daily at 7:30 p.m. on its website and through its on-demand apps for Apple, Amazon, Roku and Samsung Smart TV.  The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is providing free access to video streaming of past performances. The Seattle Symphony is sharing music through YouTube and Facebook.

yoga

To do yoga, you can replace a mat with a large towel or just use the floor. (Pixabay)

2. Stay fit. Exercise is important to keep your body and mind healthy. You already may be exercising, but perhaps you’re growing bored with the same routine. Earlier this month, I wrote an article for Next Avenue about exercising at home without special equipment. A plethora of free classes online make it easy to try something new. Anyone can follow Orangetheory’s workout videos using household items or Planet Fitness’ live-streamed daily workouts at 4 p.m. PT on its Facebook page. Yoga beginners can follow this video: “20-Minute Hatha Yoga for Beginners by ChriskaYoga.”

3. Learn something new. The options are endless. Take language lessons via the Duolingo app or website. You’ll find many free cooking lessons on YouTube and social media channels. YouTube offers many cooking tutorials, such as six episodes of the Cuisinart Culinary School. Google Arts & Culture offers virtual tours and online exhibits of more than 1,500 museums and galleries globally, including the British Museum in London; National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; and Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

YouTube cooking tutorial
The Cuisinart Culinary School is just one of the many cooking tutorials you can find on YouTube on social media sites. (Sheryl Jean)

4. Read a book. Now that you’ve binge-watched all of the television shows and movies on your wish list, settle on the couch with a glass of wine and a good book. Tackle thick classics like Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy that you’ve never had time to read. Raid your own bookshelves first (it doubles as a bit of spring cleaning). While most bookstores are closed, they’re still selling books online. And you can download borrowed books to an e-reader from closed libraries.

5. Socialize virtually. If you’ve developed Zoom fatigue, try Facebook’s new video feature, Messenger Rooms, or throw a Netflix watch party.

Note: The featured image at top of a concert is by Anthony Delanoix on Unsplash.

Need to change air travel plans due to COVID-19? What you need to know plus links to major airlines

The global Coronavirus pandemic has affected the way we live, including air travel.

As a result of the fast-spreading virus, also known as COVID-19, changing company travel policies and cancelled events and conferences, many airlines have waived their ticket change and cancelation fees for customers. Such policies differ from airline to airline, so make sure you check. (If an airline cancels your flight, you are eligible for a cash refund.)

Here are direct links to the COVID-19 policies for major U.S. airlines:

  • Southwest Airlines (Southwest’s usual policy is to never charge a fee to change or cancel a flight within at least 10 minutes before the scheduled departure time.)

Here are direct links to the COVID-19 policies of several international airlines:

  • EasyJet (It’s free to change or cancel a flight online, but customers will be charged 5 pounds, or slightly over $6, to do so by phone.)
  • Lufthansa Group (Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Swiss, Brussels Airlines, Air Dolomiti)

In addition, travel companies, including AirBnB, Hotels.com, Orbitz and TripAdvisor, also have instituted flexible policies with no change or cancellation fees.

If you have questions about upcoming domestic or international flights, visit your airline’s website or the site through which you bought your ticket. Airlines and travel companies have posted information and instructions on their websites.

You can call your airline, but you may have to wait hours to speak to someone. In fact, today some airlines, such as British Airways, Delta and Lufthansa Group, are asking travelers no scheduled to travel within the next 72 hours to wait and contact them closer to their travel date so the airline can focus on “customers with immediate travel needs” and those affected by travel restrictions from Europe to the United States.

For the latest health information about COVID-19, got to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.