What Is a Learning Vacation?

How to make your vacation an education

family on theme park roller coaster
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No, it's not a way to take time off from learning. In fact, a learning vacation, or educational travel, is a rapidly growing genre of travel as parents seek to combine the excitement of travel with the opportunity to create teachable moments for their children.

Planning a Family Learning Vacation

Learning vacations don't have particular destinations or agendas. The great thing about learning is that it can happen in any environment that's new to your child, and in which she's is exposed to something she has not seen or experienced before.

Even Disney World can be the setting for a learning vacation! There are a number of educational attractions in the Magic Kingdom and the other parks that can provide learning benefits for your child.

Types of Learning Vacations

There are a number of ways to make a regular vacation into an educational trip, from highly structured programs to more relaxed opportunities. Here are some of the options:

  • Informal learning: Simply find interesting monuments, museums or other sights that can be explored as part of your travel plan. Even a beach vacation can provide a few hours at a historic site, aquarium or just a nature walk. 
  • Pre-determined learning: In short, do some homework. Research the educational aspects of the trip ahead of time, and choose specific sites to explore. This type of educational travel is a nice combination of vacation and learning, as it gives you the chance to set aside time to go to specific venues, while also leaving enough time to relax. It also gives your child the opportunity to do some research ahead of time, too. Involve the whole family in selecting activities, and you'll give your kids a window on the workings of democracy, too!
  • Thematic learning: This type of learning vacation is often more geared toward learning than relaxation, although the peace of mind gained by a happily occupied child is no small benefit for weary parents. Discuss some topics that your child is interested in, and plan accordingly. An interest in Native American culture might entail a trip to New Mexico's pueblos.
  • Family adventure tours: Joining an adventure tour allows for your family to be guided through an often unforgettable experience by a seasoned guide and tour operation or both.  

Top Destinations for Learning Vacations

  • National Parks: From Grand Canyon National Park to Yellowstone Park to Acadia National Park, national parks across the United States offer not only dazzling beauty but a surfeit of learning opportunities. You can plan a vacation to visit national historic sites, monuments, historic battlefields and many other sights in America's parklands.
  • Children's Museums: Children’s museums can be found all over the globe. Some are hands-on, interactive museums that can occupy the whole family for hours. No matter how the museum is set up, there are always opportunities to extend learning.
  • Zoos: From local petting zoos to the Animal Kingdom in Disney World, there are numerous learning opportunities at the zoo. You can talk with your child about habitats, life cycles, and animal habits, or you can take advantage of education programs provides at many bigger zoos, such as those offered at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
  • Historical Monuments and Sites: For history buffs of any age, visiting a place where history was made (and can be relived) is a perfect learning vacation. Ideas for these types of vacations include a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, a visit to Washington, D.C. to see the Smithsonian museums or even a day trip to a local Renaissance Fair or local sites of historical interest.
  • Theme Parks: You may not think of theme parks as a place where a lot of learning can take place, but you’d be surprised. Disney World's theme parks have a number of both formal and informal learning opportunities. Even a roller coaster provides an opportunity to engage with your children with mechanical engineering and gravitational science.