As £5,000 fines are brought in for foreign holidays, how you really can: Bring the seaside to your sitting room
- Strict measures around leaving the UK are set to remain in place until June
- Antonia Hoyle challenged herself to create a Caribbean style break at home
- Inspired by Stacey Solomon who made a makeshift beach in her bathroom
Azure sea stretches as far as my eyes can see, as soothing to my senses as the sound of the waves breaking on the beach.
While I watch groups of friends chatter joyfully on the white sand, not a socially distanced thought between them, my son Felix, eight, practises surfing and my daughter Rosie, ten, dips her toe into crystal-clear waters.
Reaching for my iPhone, it’s the perfect moment to take an envy-inducing snap of the three of us to post on social media #holiday vibes #beachliving #tooblessedtobestressed.
From Monday, Britons face a £5,000 fine for holidaying abroad, with strict measures around leaving the UK set to remain in place until June, and the threat of lengthy quarantines after foreign trips until at least August.
Antonia Hoyle challenged herself to create a Caribbean style break at home. Pictured: Antonia’s transformed conservatory
But I’m not in the midst of a forbidden foreign jaunt. Instead, I’m enjoying a beach holiday … from the confines of my conservatory. Inspired by television presenter Stacey Solomon, who covered her bathroom floor with sand to create a makeshift beach for her three lockdown-weary sons, I decided to see if I, too, could fake a Caribbean-style break at home.
Admittedly, my efforts may not convince all my Facebook friends. But here’s how I temporarily transported my family to far-flung climes worthy of filling this year’s slot in the holiday albums. Sunglasses and smartphones at the ready …
A PLAYPIT STAPLE FOR SANDY LIVING ROOMS
Like Stacey, I knew I had to start with sand — and lots of it — if I had any hope of convincing anyone that I was setting foot on a bona fide beach. Luckily, play-pit sand is easy to get hold of; mine is from Argos and costs £5 per 15 kg bag. It takes ten bags until it’s deep enough to wiggle our toes in and build a sandcastle.
To protect the floor, and keep my marriage intact, I first lay down a waterproof tarpaulin (5m x 8m, £25.99, amazon.co.uk). Once our beach is in situ, we could be at the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados. From our ankles down, at any rate.
As a finishing touch, I find some shells we kept from a real trip to Lanzarote to scatter on top.
POOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER
To bring the ‘sea’ inside without flooding the ground floor, I buy a paddling pool purportedly for indoor use (TrekPow Inflatable Swimming Pool, £89.99, amazon.co.uk). Big enough for a family of five, filling it with the garden hose hooked through the window takes three hours and the temperature, alas, is more December Dorset coast than Dubai.
Luckily, adding five kettles of boiling water (this pool is heat resistant) makes the temperature marginally more enticing.
While I’m not yet convinced by my ‘beach’ set-up, at least the kids are impressed by the novelty of bringing the pool indoors. ‘Best. Day. Ever,’ says Rosie as she clambers in.
Antonia bought a backdrop with white sand and palm trees to transform the space into a tropical location. Pictured: Antonia’s conservatory before
SUNSHINE ON A LOCKDOWN DAY
Who isn’t dreaming of a taste of Continental sunshine after months in Lockdown 3? In search of its mood-boosting properties, I use my husband’s SAD [Seasonal Affective Disorder] lamp (Lumie SAD Light, £75, johnlewis.com), that recreates sunlight.
To make our conservatory as bright as the great outdoors, I also buy a natural daylight lamp (Kenley Natural Daylight Floor Lamp, £99.79, amazon.co.uk). Once it’s switched on, I have to reach for my shades.
BRING BACK THAT TROPICAL AMBIENCE
There’s no chance of a convincing holiday photo if there’s a rain-lashed window, or the sofa, in the background. Luckily, there are a host of nifty location backdrops available online.
While our beach picture has had some digital help, I bought a physical backdrop to give the same effect. Ocean Islands (3.6m x 3m, £38.22, buy-backdrop.com) is made of printed polyester and features white sand, palm trees and skies worthy of any Thai beach.
Alternatively, why not stream your own photographs from years past using a wi-fi projector compatible with your smartphone onto a supersized screen?
A white noise machine such as ours from Avantek (£30.99, amazon.co.uk) will evoke holiday memories for those wanting a soundtrack to their efforts. The size of a small radio, it features 20 natural sounds, from rivers to raindrops. I put on the ‘ocean waves’ setting.
BONKERS SPORTS FOR INDOOR USE
Antonia used Indo Boards (pictured) designed for surfers, to capture photos of her children taking part in beach activities
What’s a holiday without photos of the children taking part in beach activities? The Indo Board (£150.45, surfdome.com) is a wooden board set on a roller, designed to help surfers improve balance and strength on dry land by keeping the board off the floor.
Or if replicating swimming is more your bag, the Zen8 Swim Trainer (£159, zen8swimtrainer.com) — an inflatable bench to lie on that comes with cords you attach to a door and pull to mimic swimming strokes — could tide you over, and you won’t even get salt in your eyes.
For a cheaper indoor workout, throwing and catching a blow up beach ball will raise the heart rate without smashing any windows.
COCKTAIL UMBRELLA AT THE READY
You’ll want a cocktail as you pose in your deckchair. Try toasting Brazil with a Caipirinha (cachaça, sugar, and lime, served with crushed ice) or enjoy a Cuban Mojito (lime, sugar, mint, rum and soda water) which was designed as a medicinal drink, so feels apt in the lockdown.
Rosie and Felix enjoyed making alcohol-free cocktails with b’Lure Colour Change Butterfly Pea Flower Cocktail Concentrate (£7.99, lakeland.co.uk) which magically turns drinks from blue to purple to pink.
GADGETS TO BRING FANTASY TO LIFE
Antonia said a VR headset with a video of a tropical island is ideal for those who want a more convincing glimpse of the beach. Pictured: Bnext VR Headset
If you’re desperate for a more convincing glimpse of the beach, with a VR headset — a device like a thick pair of goggles — playing a video of a tropical island, you can almost pretend you flew with BA.
Our VR headset was a Christmas present to the children (Bnext VR Headset, £39.99, amazon.co.uk) and, has a space in which to fit a smartphone.
I download a virtual tour of Mallorca from the iPhone App store for £1.99, and insert my iPhone. The 3D-view is strikingly realistic, and as I turn my head to take a 360 degree tour I take in the promenade, sand dunes and — gasp — holiday makers.
For those with (unused holiday) money to burn, pricier headsets such as the Oculus (£299.99, johnlewis.com) have their own apps. They include Paradise Beach, (£2.29), that lets you choose which time of day you want to view its idyllic sandy beach and Beach Bar (£7.99) that tests your cocktail-making skills. Cheers!
BEWARE, CLEANING UP IS NO JOKE . . .
My efforts mean I’ve amassed an enviable collection of ‘holiday snaps’. But like all holidays, there comes a time when it’s time to go home. Or the version of home we’re used to, at least.
I realise, too late, that I don’t have a pump to drain the pool, such as the Hardcastle Electric Fully Submersible Water Pump (£29.99, amazon.co.uk), so I empty all 330 gallons by hand, using our waterproof laundry basket.
It takes two hours, overflows the drain, leaves our garden looking like a swamp and nearly breaks my back. Then it’s time to tackle the sand, which I remove with a spade and put into our green waste bin, while I work out what to do with it.
When I’ve cleared enough sand to be able to lift the tarpaulin, I gather up the four corners and my husband helps me drag it outside. Then I vacuum the conservatory twice and mop up the sandy mud.
Afterwards, I feel exhausted. Like I need a holiday, in fact.
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