This post contains affiliate links.
I have always loved family vacations. Ever since I was young, it’s been my favorite week of the year. Road trips, swimming pools, tourist traps, sightseeing….. I love it all!
Growing up, my parents made our vacations a good mix of fun, relaxation, sightseeing, and education. That’s the way I try to design our trips now that I’m the parent. Creating a vacation that’s part education and all fun can be done. It just takes a little prep work and research.
Research The Area
No matter where you go and why you choose to go there, there is something to be learned. After choosing your vacation destination, do a little research.
- Visitor and Tourism Bureaus – Both states and municipalities have tourism bureaus that can be contacted by phone or online. Many times, they will send you lots of information on the area about what to do and what to see. If you let them know you are interested in history, nature or other educational area, they can customize the information they give you.
- Specific websites – If you find interesting activities or sites that you would like to visit near your destination, visit their website for more information. Use that information to help you decide if it is a good fit for your family.
- Travel Books and Guides – Your local library or bookstore probably has a travel section with travel guides for the area you would like to visit.
Ask Your Family
After doing your research, make a list of activity and destination options that they can choose from. Keep in mind your time frame, budget, and the feelings of everyone. Let everyone choose something that they want to do. It’s a vacation. Everyone should have fun. This year, we are going to the Gulf Shores, Alabama area. My daughter chose a dolphin cruise. My son wants to go go-karting. My husband and I would like to spend time on the beach. The whole family wants to visit the Estuarium at Dauphin Island. That is all do-able. We had other things on our list, but I don’t want to spend the whole trip running around. No one wants that! Do Not Over-Plan!!
Gather Specific Information
After choosing your destination and your activities, it’s time to do gather specific information. From your earlier research, find interesting information about things on your activity and destination list. Start gathering materials to help the whole family learn about them.
While preparing for our last trip to the Gulf Shores area, the kids were really interested in the sea turtles that nest on their beaches, so we did a Sea Turtle Unit Study before we left. That helped the kids appreciate and get excited when we did find a nest.
We’ve, also, read biographies and historical fiction in preparation for our vacations. These were great for our trip to Boston. So much history there!
Growing up, my parents always threw maps into the back seat for my brother and I. This helped us learn how to read maps and to always know where we were. It was part education and part method to make sure we weren’t asking “Are we there yet?” every 5 minutes. Map reading is a lost art in this GPS age, but it is a necessary and useful skill to have. Vacation is a great time to learn!
We always pack a few books for the kids to read on the trip and few field guides for the kids to use to identify what they might find when we reach our destination. DK eyewitness books have always been a favorite and since they are now available in paperback, they are great for travel. (Check out the new DK Eyewitness Books: Ocean paperback edition.) DK even publishes Eyewitness Travel Guides for many destinations. We’ve used these for geography studies in the past.
There are, also, coloring and activity books available for many people and places. These make great time killers for the long car or plane ride.
Another useful tool that goes along with the maps, we loved as kids, and that taught us lots about the country was AAA tourbooks. These little guide books are available at AAA offices to their members. They list tons of interesting tourist attractions, historic sites, and landmarks by town. We still get them for our kids. Each time we pass a town or see a interstate sign for a town, we look up that town in the Tourbooks and see if anything interesting happened there or if there is something to do or see there. There is even a AAA tourguide online.
Most importantly….HAVE FUN!! The whole purpose of a family vacation is to have fun and enjoy each other’s company. Don’t try to make your trip so educational that you lose sight of the main goal.
If the kids think you are more interested in the education than the fun, it’s all over. Don’t ruin your vacation by getting stressed about the kids learning something. Make it natural. Keep it fun.
Have you ever made your vacation an education? Where did you go? What did you see? What did you learn? What tools did you use to prepare?
Where would you like to take your family on an education vacation?