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5 Tips for Learning While on Vacation

By Huntington Learning Center

Family vacations provide much-needed downtime, but they can also be terrific learning experiences! Vacations can bring school lessons to life, aid in personal development, and help children to become more culturally aware. Plus, the uninterrupted family time allows children – and parents – to give their full attention to what they are seeing and doing. In this blog post, we’ll tell you how you can make your family vacation a fun learning experience that your kids will never forget! 

What Kids Learn from Vacation

Children take more away from a family vacation than you might realize (even if there is some arguing in the backseat). Did you know that traveling can make children better students? A survey of almost 1,500 teachers, commissioned by the Student and Youth Travel Association (SYTA), found that 74% of educators believed that travel has “a very positive impact on students’ personal development.” Most teachers surveyed (53%) also confirmed that travel directly influences a child’s understanding of curriculum. 

Family vacations also offer practical learning opportunities for kids. Valuable lessons such as responsibility, compromise, and patience are easily taught during a trip. This development can lead to better performance in both classroom and social settings.

Learning from vacation doesn’t require visiting exotic, faraway destinations, either! A trip to a new place within driving distance from your home can significantly enhance learning for your children.

Tips for Making Vacation a Learning Experience

  1. Do Some Planning
    Maximizing learning on vacation takes some pre-trip planning, but that can be part of the fun. To get the most out of your vacation, spend some time researching your destination with your children. Look up interesting facts about where you are headed and identify educational attractions you would like to visit. Some vacation attractions that make great learning experiences include museums, historic landmarks, animal encounters, and nature trails.

    Encourage your children to research the attraction that interests them the most. Besides being a great way to learn about something new, this process can also make your child more interested and engaged when you visit the location. The internet is obviously a great resource, but consider visiting your local library to do some destination digging as well.

    Once you have identified the attractions you would like to visit, come up with a schedule. This schedule can be flexible, but having a roadmap for when you will do certain activities will help to ensure you fit in the learning attractions family members are excited about seeing.

  2. Come Up with Learning Goals
    Vacation learning goals don’t have to be as formal as the SMART goals you create for the school year. They can focus on new things you would like to be able to see or do. Here are some examples:
    • “I want to take a picture of an animal I’ve never seen before.”
    • “I am going to write down the name of each city we drive through.”
    • “I will try five foods I have never eaten before.”

    Inspire your kids to come up with their goals by creating ones for yourself! Hold yourselves accountable by writing down your goals. Your child can even kick-start a travel journey with a page about goals and then fill the journal with notes about what you saw and learned during your trip.

  3. Expose Children to Local Cultures
    Vacations are a wonderful opportunity to open your child’s eyes to diverse cultures. There are tons of ways to experience the local culture of a new location. Here are some of our favorites:
    • Check Out the Arts and Crafts Scene
      Local markets can be filled with arts and crafts that tell a story about the area’s culture and traditions. Ask your hotel or search TripAdvisor for local arts fairs or craft events for kids. There’s no better way to learn about local crafts than to make them yourself!
    • Eat at Local Restaurants
      The food we eat is often passed down by generations and is unique to certain areas. By eating at local restaurants and trying their traditional dishes, you can learn a lot about the area’s culture and history. Plus, you get to enjoy yummy food, so it’s a win-win!
    • Take a Stroll Through Community Centers
      Besides hitting the attractions you plan to visit, spend some time where the locals live. Visit the center of communities and observe things that are special about the location.
    • Look for Children’s Activities
      Some hotels and vacation destinations offer activities for kids that expose them to the local culture. Do some digging online before you travel, ask your hotel concierge, or go to the town’s visitor center to see what programs are offered that your child might enjoy.
  4. Explore Nature
    Nature can be a wonderful classroom! Getting outdoors during your vacation is a great way to reinforce science curriculum your child is learning in school. Botany, zoology, geology, ecosystems, and climate are some topics you can talk to your children about while exploring nature.

    No matter where you are going on vacation this summer, there are opportunities to see the wonders of nature. Here are some ways you can make nature a part of your next trip:

    • Take a Hike
      Find a local hiking trail that everyone in your family can enjoy. Keep in mind the age of your children to make sure you find a trail that’s a good fit. The AllTrails app and website has a database of over 200,000 hiking trail maps, plus detailed trail information, photos, and reviews.
    • Visit a National Park
      There are over 400 national parks across the country! Find one near your travel destination on the National Park Service website.
    • Go Birdwatching
      You don’t have to be a birder to enjoy birdwatching. Preserves, observatories, and sanctuaries offer great opportunities for bird finding.
    • Check Out a Wildlife Refuge
      There’s no better way to educate your child about the animal kingdom than visiting a refuge! Your children will have a chance to really understand an animal’s way of life, plus the challenges that threaten their existence in the wild.
  5. Make a Scrapbook
    Throughout your vacation, help your children collect little mementos from each stop you make. This can include brochures, plane or train tickets, museum passes, and postcards. Try to keep some items that symbolize the local culture and nature as well. Once you return home, go through your trip photos and print ones from attractions you visited and activities you did as a family. Then, you and your child can make a scrapbook that will reinforce everything they learned and serve as a forever reminder of the great experience they had.

If you’re planning a family vacation this summer, you’re already helping to set your child up for academic and social success. By following these tips, you can make your trip a learning adventure. 

Do you have any other suggestions to share with parents about how to make vacation a fun learning experience? We’d love to hear them! Join the conversations on the Huntington Learning Center Facebook or Instagram pages.