Educational Travel for Kids

Take your little ones on smarty-pants trips that are close to home.


I live with an Ivy League graduate who also is a doctoral candidate, so you can imagine that education is pretty important in our household.

So much so that, at one point, my darling husband (and Professional Student) suggested we homeschool our 3-year-old daughter.

The suggestion came at the tail end of a rather, er, heated discussion about where we might send her to school when she enters kindergarten. I believe she should go to public school, while my husband is fiercely in favor of private school.

In fact, he suggested we send her to boarding school.

And then my head exploded.

Send my baby away? Before college? Voluntarily? Clearly the man is delusional.

The debate raged on until we reached a stalemate. Then, my husband threw down the gauntlet:

“OK, then, we’ll HOMESCHOOL her!” he yelled.

“FINE!” I shouted back, and stomped out of the room.

I fumed in our bedroom for a bit, sitting on the bed and muttering to myself (we’re so mature, aren’t we?). I thought about boarding school, my own private high school experience and all the stuff I’d need to teach my girl to prepare her for the world.

Stuff like math.

I walked to the top of the stairs and called down to my husband, prepared to say what are to him the three sweetest words in the English language.

“Honey, you’re right!” I yelled. “I think boarding school might be the best idea!”

That, my friends, is what my spouse likes to call a “teachable moment.”

Educational Travel for Tots

Fortunately, we don’t have to make those decisions for several years, and according to the experts, Emmeline’s education won’t be defined solely by what she learns in classrooms.

Sheryl Kayne, educator and author of Immersion Travel USA, says you can make even the smallest adventure into an educational experience that your child will never forget.

“Every day is an education,” says the Connecticut–based writer. “Educational travel is exposing children to anything in their environment that you would like them to be exposed to and understand.”

In these days of economic uncertainty, expensive trips requiring air travel, and hotel stays aren’t always within reach of every family budget, but according to Kayne, you don’t need to be wealthy to create a rich learning environment.

Raising her two girls as a single parent, Kayne says that cash was often tight. That didn’t stop her from traveling with her kids though.

“I learned early on that a great vacation could be [a] trip to the state park, where you could experience the environment and the outdoors, and rent a cabin for $50,” she says.

Smart, Easy Trips Close to Home

Travel, she says, need not be elaborate for it to be memorable. The key to making the most of your time away from home is letting the kids take the lead. Know their interests—and their limits—and then look at the map to find opportunities within easy traveling distance.

Science Centers

That’s exactly what Tracy Zollinger Turner of Columbus, Ohio, did when she took her 3-year-old son, Declan, to NASA’s Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, this past June.

Declan has a keen interest in space, and Turner knew he would love the chance to get a peek inside a NASA control center that is rarely open to the public.

“Declan wore his ‘Galaxies fade away, all stars merge’ shirt, and carried a small space book around with him,” she says. “His obvious interest drew a few smiles and comments from the very friendly staff.”

With just a little research, Kayne says, you’ll discover endless opportunities to immerse your kids in activities that cater to their interests.

Local Farm

Living in an agricultural area, my daughter asks if we can “go see the farmer” whenever we drive by a farm, or see a herd of cows grazing off the side of the road.

Up until now, my answer was always, “I’m sorry, baby girl, but we can’t.”

Guess what? Turns out we can.

Kayne filled me in on Bluffdale Vacation Farm right here in Illinois, where we can feed the chickens, collect eggs and ride on tractors. Not to mention that Parents magazine calls it one of the “Top 10 Family Resorts in North America,” according to the farm’s Web site. [For more farm trip ideas, read our Farm Stay Vacations article]

Local Adventure Sports

Farms not your bag? How about flying through the air on a giant kite?

“There’s a place in Kitty Hawk, N.C., where you can go hang-gliding, and they take kids as young as 2 years old,” Kayne says. “You’ve got to know your kids, but for the right child, that would give them such a feeling of empowerment.”

And isn’t that what education is all about? Empowering your kids so they can meet every challenge with aplomb?

Hmmm. Maybe my parents should have sent me to math camp. I hear you’re never too old to learn …

I’d better start researching boarding schools. 

Themes: Family Travel, Experiential Travel

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