E-learning, distance learning, remote learning – whatever you want to call it, most of our kids are not in actual school buildings as we embark on the school year. Many of us are hoping for some sort of hybrid school/work schedule, but a lot of us have already made the decision to keep our kids at home for the school year. Whether you are anxiously holding your breath hoping for some sort of in person learning or have committed to a year of remote learning and trying to cope with your decision, ‘schoolcations’ may be just what you need to break up the endless days at home.
You may have seen the term ‘schoolcation’ floating around on your social media feeds the last few weeks, but what does it mean exactly? Okay, it is easy to decipher that the word is derived from the words school and vacation, but we need to define how a ‘schoolcation’ works. It can work multiple ways actually.
Option 1: ‘Schoolcation’ Packages
Without a doubt, the ‘schoolcation’ term really gained traction when Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, recently announced that their resort would be offering supervised schoolwork sessions at their resort. Parents can pay $50 for a half day (9 AM – 12 PM) and $100 for a full day (9 AM – 3 PM) that includes lunch while their children are supervised in a bright and quiet learning environment where desks are spaced out in a socially distanced fashion.
This type of package is particularly attractive to parents at their wits end after months of trying to entertain and school their children in a responsible, socially distanced way. Parents need a break, and what better way to take that break than at the adults only pool, a quiet sanctuary surrounded by palm trees and white cabanas where parents can truly relax and unwind while your little virtual learner is being supervised in a small group setting by Kids For All Seasons staff, who have years of experience in working with children.
Kids, do not fear. Parents are not the only ones enjoying their ‘schoolcation’. Recess for kids partaking in the ‘schoolcation’ is nothing less than epic. With the Resort’s exclusive 5-acre Explorer Island as their playground, kids will have a blast swimming in the Explorer Pool, floating down the lazy river, zooming down the water slides, and enjoying outdoor recreation such as sand volleyball, basketball, foosball, table-tennis, and more.
Travel Tip: Book through a travel advisor that is associated with the Virtuoso consortia or Four Seasons Preferred Partner program for exclusive amenities.
For parents willing to leave the country, Four Seasons Punta Mita has launched their own remote learning program called Knowledge for All Seasons, which aims to make distance learning convenient and fun for parents and kids in their home-away-from-home. While Four Seasons Punta Mita does not offer the dedicated schoolwork sessions like Four Seasons Resort Orlando , it does offer study buddies as part of their program and private tutors are available for an additional cost.
Honestly, who needs an indoor school set up, when Punta Mita is converting pool and beach cabanas into private workstations with ocean views. Each study cabana is outfitted with Wi-Fi, a TV monitor, headphones, a portable charger, lap pad and energizing snacks such as fresh fruits, smoothies and popsicles.
What makes the Knowledge for All Seasons program really stand out is world schooling classes, which provide a unique opportunity for kids to learn about Mexico’s history, cuisine and culture. Best of all, a portion of the proceeds from the program goes to support education in the local community.
Four Seasons is not the only resort brand to offer ‘schoolcation’ packages. Playa Resorts actually started the trend earlier this summer when they introduced their Work and Learn From Paradise package. Some examples of amenities included in this package are IT support, laundry service, three weekly sessions with a personal fitness instructor, two select 50-minute facial and body spa treatments per week, and conversational Spanish classes at their Mexico and Dominican Republic resorts.
While the Work and Learn From Paradise package requires a 14 day stay, it includes everything you need to make sure your stay feels like a home away from home so that you do not miss a beat with your work or school requirements.
The popularity of the ‘schoolcation’ packages at both of these resort brands means one thing is certain, there will be more resorts to follow this ingenious concept.
Option 2: ‘Schoolcations’ In Paradise
Is it not better to gaze at the sea instead of the walls of one’s home while learning remotely? Would you rather rake leaves or splash in a pool as fall approaches?
The Playa Resorts concept is attractive for those who still want to oversee their children’s learning rather than soliciting the help of others, but want to do it somewhere other than their own home (where they have likely spent way too much time since COVID abruptly took over our lives in March). However, schooling from paradise does not have to require a resort package.
For those still wary of staying in a resort because of exposure to more people, even in a socially distanced way, ‘schoolcations’ in paradise can be achieved at private resorts or villas. For those not familiar with the private resort concept, you can familiarize yourself with this helpful article.
If you are currently paired up with a couple of families you feel comfortable spending your time with or are part of a multi-generational family who travels together, a private resort may be the perfect solution for a ‘schoolcation’ in paradise. This is particularly true for all of the families relying on grandparents to assist with schooling while both parents work. Grandparents would surely rather help out from paradise where recess can take place on the beach. They watch their grandchildren from under a palm tree whilst sipping a fruity drink with an umbrella in it!
Option 3: ‘Schoolcation’ Road Trips
This is the type of ‘schoolcation’ our family has the most experience with since we just returned from a 30 day road trip from North Carolina to the National Parks of Montana, Wyoming, Utah, & Arizona. We would have liked to add New Mexico to the list as it has long been on my bucket list, but they are currently requiring a 14 day quarantine for all visitors to the state.
For our family, the National Parks was a trip we had thought about taking but because I am a travel advisor with relationships with resort brands and destination suppliers all over the world, I am always looking to fly to another country for a dose of culture. As much as I would like to see my own country, I want to see the rest of the world more so we always end up traveling internationally. That is not as easy right now, so we knew now was the time to just go.
While the National Parks seem like an obvious choice for traveling while socially distancing, there are other areas of the country that allow travelers to spend time in the great outdoors, especially as leaf peeping season starts. There are so many options for road tripping. One can drive their own car, fly to a spot to rent a vehicle, rent a RV, stay at resorts, rent homes, etc. The possibilities are endless, but luckily there are suppliers that work with travel advisors to curate the perfect trip for a family looking to embark on a ‘schoolcation’ road trip. Working with a professional really does help narrow down the myriad of options.
If you are considering packing up the family to work and school from the room, here are some tips from someone who has been through the experience (me!):
Internet: Clearly, you are going to need a good internet connection to allow for the children to school and grown ups to work. You must ensure that wherever you are staying has excellent connectivity.
Work & School Days: Do not move on work and school days. The long hours in the car are tough on everyone, so do not complicate the long travel days with additional school or work. Also, do not arrive at a destination late at night and expect to work and school the next day. We covered a lot of ground each weekend day arriving at our ‘home’ for the week on Sunday afternoons. This gave us time to recoup and restock.
Consider Work Schedules & Time Zones: Before we left, I sat down with my husband and mapped out his work schedule. There are certain days that he simply can not be off of work. We ensured that I understood those days as the travel planner in me created our itinerary.
We were lucky that we were traveling west from the East Coast. I was able to finish the kids school by lunch so we had time to explore our weekday destination then my husband could join us at 2 PM or 3PM every day. Some of the fun activities we were able to experience after school and work included a covered wagon ride, horseback riding, and attending a real life rodeo, yee-haw!
Rest: This is not strictly a vacation. You will be juggling a lot, so try not to overextend yourself. Build rest days into your itinerary. My kids are young, they are seven year old twin first graders. As much as I wanted to go, go, go, I knew that they would not get everything out of their school days if they were exhausted each day. Not to mention, my husband and I were tired from working while trying to see as much as possible. I had to give up some of what we would have liked to accomplish. Which leads me to …
Be Flexible: You may have to take things off of your itinerary if your family is having an off day, and that is okay! You also may learn things along the way that you want to add to your itinerary because it sounds like a perfect fit for your crew. Either way, just be flexible with your plans.
Also, be prepared that not everything is running like normal, so one must also be flexible with one’s expectations. The National Parks are famed for their Junior Ranger programs, but they were pretty much nonexistent while we were there. We were given Junior Ranger workbooks for our boys, but there were no interactive activities with the National Park rangers. While it was disappointing because there likely was a way to do these activities in a socially distanced way, I understand that the parks are short staffed and everyone is doing their best right now.
A 30 day road trip was an epic undertaking for us, especially with school and work on top of it, but it was absolutely what our family needed as we prepared for the months of unknown ahead. We needed to satisfy our sense of wanderlust that was squashed when our trips to Spain, Portugal, and Mexico were canceled earlier in the year.
No matter what type of ‘schoolcation’ appeals to you, one thing is certain you need to act now. For those of us lucky enough with the means and virtual schedules, now is the time to take advantage of the flexibility afforded to us with our new remote lifestyles. If COVID has taught us anything, it is that we can not predict the future. Things seem to have leveled off enough to allow some travel for those willing to travel smart and safe.
There are hurdles to overcome when traveling during a pandemic such as negative COVID tests for entry, possible quarantine, road closures, and fewer amenities than normal. For those willing to face these logistical challenges, a change of scenery is a welcome respite from the monotony of the last few months. We would all rather have our old lives back, but you know what they say about lemons, they make tasty lemonade – so it is time to drink up! Cheers!
Photo Credit: ÀNI, Four Seasons & Explore More Family Travel
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