The COVID-19 pandemic has halted travel around the world, and seasoned globetrotters are delaying or canceling their plans in an effort to flatten the curve. But it’s less easy to explain the need to sacrifice for the greater good to a toddler – especially when a long-awaited tropical vacation is at stake. 

That’s the situation in which one US family found themselves as coronavirus restrictions took hold. Mom Denyse and her beach-obsessed two-year-old, Jack, were counting down the days to their week in Turks & Caicos when she learned they’d have to be quarantined upon their return. She quickly canceled the trip, but rather than bail on the beach entirely, she decided to bring the sand and surf to Tennessee

A woman plays with sand with her son indoors.
Denyse plays with her son on their homemade beach © Denyse

“I had hyped him up for a whole week off [at] the beach, and I couldn't give him that,” Denyse tells Lonely Planet. “I felt like the worst person.” But Jack had faced a host of health issues in his young age, and though his mother had big plans to show him the world, she saw no need to chance it now.

Beachgoers on Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos
When their trip to Turks and Caicos got canceled, Denyse tried to recreate the scene for her two-year-old son © Claude Huot/Shutterstock

“His top things are the water and the sand,” she says. “And so I thought if I could at least deliver on sand….” Before she’d even canceled her reservations, she was hitting the hardware store for supplies, and she’d soon transformed her home’s sunroom into a sandy shore, complete with palm trees, bubble machine, and inflatable pool. 

The homemade holiday was a hit from the start. “There's a trail of clothes, with like a sock here, a sock there, there's a diaper that's been, like, chucked across the room,” Denyse says. “And I walk out there, and he's naked standing in the inflatable pool, just ready for whatever is going to happen.”

“I thought he would think it was neat at first, but every day now he wants beach time,” she continues. “There's definitely mornings I'll come down a little bit later [and] he's just running around...having the time of his life – and that's before breakfast.”

The immaculate clean shell of this young hawksbill turtle is an amazing sight in the clear water of Turks and Caicos.
Denyse says she's rebooking her trip as soon as she can – especially the snorkeling cruise she had planned © Ryan Henke/500px

It’s a solution she “absolutely” recommends for other parents – and landlocked peripatetics too. “There's all sorts of stuff around the house that you can use to create your own vacation,” she says. “Even if you don't have kids, you can create something for yourself. I definitely kick back in that pool in the evenings with a glass of wine.”

As soon as she’s allowed, Denyse plans to rebook her Caribbean holiday, but in the meantime, doesn’t regret opting for a staycation. “Just the amount of fun that we can have and kind of do our part of staying inside and, you know, not going outside so much – this is worth it,” she says. 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is now a global pandemic. Find out what this means for travelers

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