Family vacation has always been a special time for travelers in the United States. Whether it’s a winter trip over the holiday break or a summer off on a cruise ship to an exotic, warm destination, vacation is a staple of the American family experience. This year has been a little different, though. Many of our opportunities to get away were cut short or made more restrictive. Coupled with difficulties in getting the kids back into the classroom, you may be coming up short on answers to a number of pressing questions. A vacation with an educational foundation could be just the solution you need, and the good news is that making a holiday trip into a learning experience is easier than you might think!
Discover geological processes in the scenery of the great outdoors.
Scouring a list of national parks in your local area as well as those a weekend or extended vacation away is a great way to discover both the biological components of forest growth and the geology of the landscapes the forest life inhabits. Hiking in the open air is fantastic for both the head and heart. Time spent outdoors on a hike provides a powerful calming effect that may be just the thing you and your family needs, not to mention the breathtaking views available to hikers that city dwellers often overlook in the hustle of daily life. The National Park System offers a huge variety of landscapes to learn about with your kids — canyons, hot springs, the Everglades, volcanos, and caves — as well as the flora and fauna in the form of grizzly bears, black bears, bison and wildflowers.
Don’t forget to add fall clothes for women to your lineup for trips into the natural environment. Out in the elements in a national park like Yellowstone, Joshua Tree, Acadia or Bryce Canyon, you will really come to appreciate the warmth and protection of a new pair of boots or raincoat. Getting your wardrobe prepared is the best way to be prepared for whatever the elements bring — whether it's a swamp or dunes.
Learn the art of scuba diving.
A coastal vacation that includes snorkeling or scuba diving lessons provides a great opportunity to dive headfirst into the world of marine life. Gradually floating through a sea floor reef or cave system provides unparalleled access to the natural wonder of an ecosystem of underwater plant and animal life unlike any you can glimpse from the mountain trail or a kayak above water. It’s also a great way to learn about the human body’s dependence on oxygen and our innovative ways to provide it in harsh environments that cannot support our needs. Scuba diving is a wonderful experience that requires an adventurous spirit and responsibility, teaching valuable lessons in the process.
Consider a trip to historic battlefields.
The battlefields of the Civil and Revolutionary Wars are scattered all across the country as part of the National Park Service. They are incredible pieces of American history that can be used as massive open air classrooms to teach your children about the history of the nation and of the important social issues that drove two very different generations of Americans to war in the first place.
Plan a road trip with budgeting in mind.
A great lesson for new or soon to be drivers is the planning and execution of a road trip to visit sights in neighboring towns or states. Learning to budget for gas, pre-departure maintenance, and stops for food, sleep, and fun along the way can be a fantastic learning experience for teens as they prepare to leave the nest for college and learn to live on their own. A road trip gets your family out on a great vacation while imparting these essential lessons in self-sufficiency and planning.
Learn about other cultures.
Travel abroad for a great opportunity to immerse yourself and your family in another culture. Traveling to Quebec or Mexico provides the added advantage of interaction in another language for those studying French or Spanish in school. These can be great cultural experiences that expand your children's horizons while helping them to put those language skills to use in a real world setting.
Vacation doesn’t have to have a singular purpose. There are learning opportunities in the world all around us, you just have to be creative in your approach in order to take advantage of them.