Family holidays: Life lessons

Family holidays: Life lessons

Turn the world into a classroom by recommending an educational escape

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When the final school bell rings signalling the end of another term, it’s easy to assume that’s where the learning stops and the holiday begins. But just because there are no textbooks or coursework in sight, kids don’t have to switch their brains off altogether.

In fact, holidays are a prime time to reawaken their natural sense of curiosity by proving learning isn’t just about reciting times tables or studying Shakespeare.

The new experiences that come with travelling the world can be just as educational as sitting in a classroom. And if parents want to boost the learning potential of their next family holiday even further, try a break that ties in with what they’re studying at school.


Where: UK

Kids have a natural affinity for asking questions about the world around us, which is why Haven’s Nature Rockz programme gets them into the great outdoors with rock pooling, sand sculpting, conservation, a bug safari and building a ‘bug hotel’, all showing how much there is to see in nature, provided you know where to look.

Sister brand Butlins is no stranger to science either. Fans of TV show Brainiac will love the explosive experiments in The Astonishing Family Science Weekend, which features on-stage demonstrations from the Brainiac Live! team and CBBC presenter Stefan Gates, and interactive workshops courtesy of the Science Museum and Aardman Animations.

Book it: The Astonishing Science Weekend starts at £69 for three nights at Butlins Minehead from September 18, based on four sharing a Silver self-catering apartment.

Or try: Getting hands-on is at the heart of the science-orientated kids’ club at Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, making slimey goo from scratch or a volcano that really erupts.

Funway Holidays’ Laura Smith says: “There are plenty of fun yet educational experiences, such as learning about dinosaurs through seeing fossils, becoming a budding scientist through experimental messy play, and learning to be a mini-archaeologist as they search for treasure around the hotel.”


Where: Italy

Why: Forget reciting the kings and queens of England – pick the right destination and history can be brought to life. Ancient Rome, for example, is on primary and secondary school syllabuses so there’s no age limit for a visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum, the two towns preserved in ash by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79. A guided tour is included on The Family Adventure Company’s Italy Family Holiday.


Another enduring symbol of Ancient Rome dominates on Trafalgar family tour Gladiators, Gondolas and Gold, where youngsters not only learn about these iconic fighters but also get to have a go at gladiatorial sword-fighting. Russell Crowe, eat your heart out.

Book it: Trafalgar’s 10-day Gladiators, Gondolas & Gold tour starts at £5,660 for a family of four, land-only.

Or try: Fellow Trafalgar trip Trails of Liberty offers an introduction to the history behind a more modern superpower, the US. It visits the first permanent colonial settlement at Jamestown; Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776; the Civil War site where Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address; plus many of Washington DC’s most famous monuments.


Where: Costa Rica

Why: Learning about tropical rainforests or volcanoes is all very well in theory, but it takes on a new dimension in Costa Rica, where guests can go deep into the rainforest and cloud forest, see the spectacular Arenal Volcano, and look for iguanas, more than 100 bird species and even monster crocodiles.

Colourful frog, Costa Rica

Closer to home, volcanic islands such as Tenerife or Lanzarote can also bring youngsters’ textbook knowledge to life, allowing them to see how eruptions shaped areas like Teide and Timanfaya National Parks into lunar landscapes unlike anything else.

Book it: The Family Adventure Company’s eight-night Costa Rica tour starts at £1,875 (£1,699 per child), departing December 23.

Or try: Understanding the landscape is also key to adventures in the western US, which combine incredible geological formations – the canyons of Zion National Park, sandstone hoodoos at Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon itself – with an insight into the area’s native peoples and pioneers.

Grand American Adventures’ Cowboys & Indians tour visits these parks, with a Monument Valley tour led by a Navajo guide, and an overnight stay at Mountain Ranch, Utah (from £1,679 land-only).

Marine Biology

Where: Orlando

Why: The theme park capital of the world has more than rollercoasters to capture the imagination, with just as much of a thrill from behind-the-scenes tours.

Meet some of the 1,500 vets, scientists and animal rescuers who work at SeaWorld Orlando, then get close enough to stroke a penguin or even a shark. Or head an hour up the coast to Daytona Beach, where the Marine Science Centre lets visitors touch stingrays, sharks and sea urchins, as well as learn about conservation and rehabilitation of sea turtles and seabirds.

SeaWorld Penguins

Book it: SeaWorld Orlando’s 75-minute Behind the Scenes tour costs £29 for adults and £14 for children; park entry is extra.

Or try: The new Mini Marine Biologist programme from The Residence Maldives offers inspiration to any budding scientist keen to learn more, with sessions on coral, how to use a snorkel and, for stronger swimmers, an excursion to see tropical fish on the reef.

Families also get 25% off a dolphin cruise to see the pods which frequent the waters around this Maldivian island. The programme starts at £170.

3 of the best learning breaks

English: Romeo & Juliet
Visit Verona to see where the star-crossed lovers met their fate, with budget-friendly accommodation and attractions aplenty at Lake Garda. A week in a two-bedroom mobile home at Cisano starts at £856 with Al Fresco Holidays.

Biology: Safari animals
Travel 2 recommends malaria-free Kariega Game Reserve in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, where kids’ activities include junior ranger sessions, making moulds of animal tracks, and learning survival skills.

PE: Football and tennis
Brush up on technique with the tennis and football academies at Portuguese property Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort or at the new Annabel Croft Tennis Academy at Sardinia’s Forte Village resort.


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