Are All-Inclusive Vacations Educational?


“Please respect our school schedule when planning your family vacations.” This was a note in the September newsletter when my child signed up for school in junior high. He lasted two weeks before he decided to come home and unschool again. I was intrigued by the directive in the newsletter. I realize that a school has an institution to run, but are family vacations not a form of education as well? You bet they are! Maybe they don’t meet the grade outcomes for that particular year, but who cares? If a child is learning, anything, what does it matter that it is not in a particular sequential, outcome-based school year?

Sure, a trip to Germany or Australia may go over well for getting school permission to go, but school officials tend to dismiss all-inclusive vacations as “not real learning.” They are considered the junk-food of vacations. However, in unschooling, we don’t put different types of studies on a pedestal. All learning is good, and all learning contributes to either knowledge acquisition or personal growth. So what do children learn on an all-inclusive vacation? Plenty!

We learn math by counting up all the calories from the desserts we consume. We also learn the properties of shapes and space when we find out which sand structures hold up best against beach waves. We learn factors and multiples when playing card games at night, and how to add and subtract with board games in the gaming lounges. We figure out Pythagorean theorems when trying to sink a ball in the pool table’s corner pocket, and we learn fractions when watching the bartender mix a virgin Mai Tai. (Then we launch a discussion about sex education when the kids ask why a drink is called a virgin something.)

We learn English by reading a suitcase of books, especially when all digital screens are purposefully not brought along for some much needed unplugged time. One child burned through 5 Warrior books in a 7 day all-inclusive. And the kids talk and listen more than they did at home. They hear real conversations and have heated debates with the adults about all kinds of things. I actually get to see the color of my gamer children’s eyes instead of the back of their heads playing computer games all days because they make eye contact with me when speaking.

We learn social studies by discussions. Tons of discussions. Everything we see on vacation can spark a discussion. We see the poverty of the land during the bus ride of the airport transfer. We discuss governments, social structures, economies, and political regimes. We discuss if resorts help the local people or hurt the local people. We discuss how first world families can help third world families in real ways.

We learn science by playing with sand, snorkelling in fish pools, observing the natural wildlife of geckos, iguanas, skunks, and many small creatures in tidal pools. One child wondered why the sun set so fast and earlier around the equator than in the North at the same time of the year. They learn about lunar pull, and tides when they leave their favourite shirt on the beach and discover it gone the next time they look up. We discuss how it will perhaps turn up in Australia in five years. They learn about flight and turbulence and just how those monstrous airplanes get off the ground. I didn’t take my first flight until age 29. My kids? They are flying veterans from the time they were 10 months-old.

We do physical education by swimming, snorkelling, playing beach volleyball, and hiking.

We do art by making sand creations, and drawing on paper during times we wait in the restaurant.

Yes, all-inclusive vacations are very educational. Sometimes, I feel that we learn more on a vacation than at home because we have long, uninterrupted periods of relaxed time together. I wonder if we could get our expenses reimbursed from our education taxes? Wouldn’t that be nice?



About Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE

BA, DTM, CCFE, Certified child development specialist and master of non-punitive parenting and education practices. Keynote speaker and best-selling author of "Discipline Without Distress", "Parenting With Patience", "Attachment Parenting Tips Raising Toddlers to Teens", and "Unschooling To University."
This entry was posted in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Ages 0-5, Elementary-Primary Children Ages 5-12, Homeschooling, How to Unschool, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Are All-Inclusive Vacations Educational?

  1. Erin says:

    Well reasoned, Judy. I
    As a public school parent, I feel that time with family is consistently undervalued. It is better at the kids current small French catholic school. But it is one of the reasons that I am pretty firmly against homework in elementary school. You had several hours to teach them “schoolwork”, now I’d like a few hours to be people with them. Any thoughts on whether and how to transition a 10 year old to home-schooling, or even unschooling?


    • I am sorry. I just found the comments section! If you are transitioning a 10 year old to unschooling, allow at least one month per year that he was in school to de-school. That would probably be 5 months. Let him explore his passions, even if it is videogaming! He will come to discover other passions in that time as well. Best wishes!


  2. That’s another blog post – homework! There should be no such thing. As far as transitioning, the biggest question is whether your child wants to. If she or he is looking forward to getting an education in the community, then just do it! Notify the school at any time, and pull her out. As we are in February, take the rest of the year off to play, go places and have fun. The learning will happen. She won’t be behind. If you choose to homeschool next Sept, you will be relaxed and ready. If you choose to continue unschooling, you can sign up for all kinds of daytime activities over the summer. Don’t feel that you have to fill her time. From day one, make it clear that she owns her days and she may be bored for awhile, but if you don’t rush in, she will find her projects and passions through her own exploration.


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