I have to admit that I truly have a love of learning.  When I was in high school, not so much. But as I grew up and, well, had to start paying for my own education, I remember hearing "your education is something that no one can take from you." You don't need a degree to be educated. Heck, isn't that what the internet is for! (I'm kidding. Please don't believe everything you read on the internet.  Do your research) The point is, being a life long learner will help you reach success.  Now, our definitions of success may be different, but learning will help you succeed! Maybe it is the teacher in me but my husband and I have always encouraged (trained) of kids to learn new things. 

Every year, we take at least one family vacation.  And every year, at least one of those vacations happen during the school year.  

I spent 7 years getting a Master's of Education and am doing nothing related to my degree.  I sell home fragrances!  But, now I love my job and the freedom and travel that goes along with it. 

So how do you make a vacation educational?  Let me start off by saying that the majority or learning will be centered around life skills, which we do not have enough of in the school system.  You don't have to know common core or calculus, just the basics of how to function in the real world.  

Planning

Planning should be a class taught in high school.  This section can be adapted based on age. 

  1. Make a list of everything that needs to be completed.
  2. Purchase maps. Yes, maps.  You can teach the child how to use a GPS later. Basic map skills are a life skills that these up and coming generations are not strong with because of technology.
  3. Computer. Microsoft Word.  Microsoft Excel. 
  4. Notebook.
  5. Library books geared towards the area that you are traveling to.
  6. Groupon and Living Social. Don't be afraid to have kids check actives on these sites.  Here, they can get ideas on things to do and also save some money!

If possible, include children in the majority of the activities int he planning stage.  If you are surfing the net looking for lodging, let them help.  Children can take notes in their notebook to help compare prices, amenities, distance to and from activities, etc.  They will not only learn about a budget, but also have a better understanding of the cost or taking a vacation and HOPEFULLY, be more thankful for the opportunity to be able to travel.  Show kids how to use a map. Whether flying, driving or taking a train, maps come in handy and knowing how to navigate one,  a great life skill to have.

Travel  

We tend to drive to our destinations.  We do this for several reasons.  One, our kids are still younger and depending on the vacation plans, we made need extras (stroller, tent for the beach, beach chairs, etc).  Two, we like to find things to do on our way to our destination.  There might be a cool restaurant that we saw on TV or a museum that we would like to visit on our way and driving allows us the comfort of going at our own pace! We keep the drive educational by supplying our kids with maps.  Depending on age, what they can and can't do may vary. Our 8 year old will look at the road signs to find out where we are, our 5 year old looks for the states that we are driving through and keeps us informed on how many more states we have left to drive through. 

1.  Journal.  The kids keep a journal of their trip and most recently, I have too.  I remember when my grandparents had their RV, my gram used to keep a travel journal.  I'm not talking all PInterested out type of journal, with stickers and fancy cut mattes for photos.  I simply mean a writing journal.  Write about your trip and what you saw.  Where did you stop?  What did you think?    The kids can keep an eye out for difference in gas prices.  What color cars they seem to see the most of, etc.

2.  The State game.  We print out a photo list of all of the state license plates for a scavenger hunt.  These lead to questions on why the plates look the way they do and then leads to some mini research on the states.

3.  They can keep a running total of gas/food/entertainment cost for the trip.  Even if you are flying, kids can keep track of what was spent during travel.  As I said before, this can lead to a better appreciation of the vacation once they know how much it costs. 

Vacation Activity

    1.  National Parks.  Many national parks have a Jr. Rangers Program where kids can learn about wildlife, become archaeologists and so much more.  Follow the link for free printables. 

    2.  Geocaching.  We are horrible at this activity but it is so much fun.  This app will teach kids how to follow directions,  problem solve and how to use a compass, all on your smart phone! 

    3.  Writing.  Journal.  I know I wrote about this already but it is so important.  Kids should be writing in their journal every day.  This helps them decompress from a full day of fun and activites, while working on creative writing!  Not old enough to write, let them draw their pictures and explain them.  (It's Ok, to write what they are saying under their drawings.) Comic book. Another great way to get kiddos to write is to have them create their own graphic novel about their travels. Make sure to pack colored pencils, a sharpener and a notebook.

    4.  Local culture.  Heading to somewhere new?  Check out the different foods.  Observe the architecture and learn about the towns history.  With technology at our fingertips, let the kids use it to research.

    4.  Physical Activity.  YES!!! This is soooo important. Make sure that the kiddies are getting their blood pumping and their legs moving. If you are driving, stop often along the way and let them run around.  Everyone will have a chance to burn off some steam and you may even be able to tire them out. 

    5.  Instagram.  Do your kids have an Instagram account?  Let them do a picture journal.  Have little ones? Even more fun!  Let them hijack your Instagram account for the length of the vacation .  You will be surprised how much fun the have working on their pictures!  We don't use this as a substitute for the writing journal, just as an extra fun thing for them to do. 

    There are so many resources out there that can help you make your trip fun and educational.  It's all about planning.  The more prepared you are the more fun everyone will have.  

    Most importantly, remember that kids are not mini adults.  Think of the travel frustrations you deal with as an adult.  Long lines, uncomfortable seating, kids are going to struggle just as much as you, if not worse.  Cut them some slack.  Help keep them busy and encourage them to enjoy what is around them.  

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