Tourschooling: How to Make Any Trip Educational

The following is a guest post written by Kara Anderson.

Last year, my husband and I sat down to look at our finances and were not exactly shocked to see that we wouldn’t be heading to Spain for a family vacation.

But he had some time off available, and we wanted to spend it having a family adventure. It was around that time that his parents invited us to Wisconsin Dells — the land of wax museums, T-shirt shops and waterslides.

That sounded like a terrific get-away. But as homeschoolers, we like our vacations to offer educational opportunities too.

My husband and I often say that if we had the time and resources, we would be tourschoolers – traveling the globe as a family and learning along the way.

And so, we challenged ourselves to tourschool our way through our Wisconsin visit.

Since then, we’ve taken other family trips, and have realized that if you approach your vacation, long weekend or holiday travel with a solid plan, any trip can be both educational and fun.

Here’s how:

1. Plan.

The first step in any trip is to plan.

While you are looking up hotel rates and finding restaurants, look at all an area has to offer. Are there museums? Historical sites? Natural offerings like lakes or caves? Tours? Think like a teacher and a tourist and plan activities that are educational and fun.

2. Collect.

Start gathering books and brochures. Contact the convention and visitor’s bureau where you are going and request information. Hit the library.

On a recent trip to South Dakota, we took along library books about Mount Rushmore, buffalo, prairie dogs and Native American history to read on the way there.

3. Investigate.

Search out special programs or activities for kids or specifically for homeschooling families.

National parks often offer Junior Ranger programs where kids get the chance to research and answer questions to achieve Junior Ranger status. We have gotten discounts on museum admission and even educational souvenirs by using our homeschooling ID card while travelling.

4. Select.

Decide what you really want to see on your trip, and keep education a priority.

That may mean choosing a scenery-packed, historical boat tour over an arcade visit, for instance. But the boat trip can be just as fun!

5. Share.

Learn as a family. There is nothing like immersing yourself in an experience to realize how much there is to see and learn – for the adults too.

Ask questions. Read the literature. And talk about what you are seeing together.

6. Bring it all home.

Keep the learning going when you return home. Find more library books.

Create a wall board where you post pictures, postcards and other (educational) souvenirs you picked up during your travels. Expand on what you did. Did you see bears? Hear coyotes? What are their scientific names? What do they eat? Where else do they live?

Any trip can provide educational opportunities if you take the time to seek them out.  And learning together can create memories that last a lifetime.

Do you have any upcoming holiday trips that you can turn into a learning opportunity?

About Kara Anderson

Kara is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom, with a goal of encouraging fellow mamas in real-life homeschooling. She also's the happy co-host of The Homeschool Sisters podcast.


  1. I was on a school field trip a few years ago and the teacher encouraged the kids to ask “intelligent questions” of the tour guides and docents. The kids did, and the guides were very impressed 🙂 Of course, we still remember all those little facts!
    Angela @ Homegrown Mom’s latest post: The Verdict is In

  2. Great article, Kara! It all looks so simple, but I bet there are very few people out there who approach their vacations that way. I spent the first 30 years of my life in a developing country with very little money left for entertainment. We had to make sure that every day of our rare trips was unforgettable.

  3. Love this post! This is us! We are known for our epic road trips. With seven children, we learned quickly that a travel trailer (even having to drive two vehicles) was cheaper than 2 hotel rooms and 27 meals per day. We have been all over the U. S. I am the planner, and we usually have my sister, brother-in-law and their 6 kids come with us. I make a big notebook for each trip that contains all the historical or noteworthy places along our route. It helps to have it all in one place to use as a reference, because it provides us the information we need to adjust our schedule as we go. I always include hours of operation, admission prices, and any coupons I can find. We take lots of pictures and put them into a photobook when we return. The kids also keep their own travel diary for each day. They love to look back at these later and remember all the fun things we did. We also print up information for each state and landmark to put in a notebook for them that they can read as we go from one thing to the next. It takes a great deal of planning to take a family of nine on a road trip that lasts 19 days and covers over 4600 miles, but there is nothing else like it! In fact, we are in the planning stages of our next great adventure for next summer!
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  4. we are planning a long trip out West next summer, so this is great to get me thinking how to make the most of our adventure. thanks!
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  5. Patricia Nelson says:

    I love your idea of making a vacation an educational adventure..for all. I did this with my boys when they were little. I did a lot of planning ahead of time..mind you this was before internet…so it was all calls to Chamber of Commerce for each areas brochures, maps and anything else they would send me. It was fun checking the mail box each day for a month or so before vacation and finding all the treasures that helped me plan the trip with a huge variety of activities for each town we stopped or or drove by. While at each stop we would collect a map if we didn’t have one and a post card or two for each of the boys.

    I love your idea on the Wall board posting all your finds so you can further your study on the areas you visited…since you can never stay long enough at a site to really learn as much as you would like.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas on tourschooling…love it!

  6. Rebecca M. says:

    I love to do this. My mom currently full-times in her RV, so this is our preferred method of travel. My mom & I have taken the three kids (ages 8, 5, &3) to South Dakota for a family reunion and Kentucky to visit an old college buddy this year. Next year, we are hitting the tulip festival in Holland, Michigan — lots of Geography/Botany ideas there. When we visited South Dakota, we hit the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites along the way (much more comfortable to travel in a 34 foot RV than a 10 ft horse drawn wagon, by the way!). All of the kids really enjoyed making rope at the homestead in DeSmet, seeing the tiny log cabin in the big woods of WI, and visiting the one-room school house by Plum Creek. Next year, my husband finally will get in on the action when we go to his family’s reunion in Colorado; we hope to hit the Missouri and Kansas LIW sites to finish off our tour!

    • I totally agree Rebecca! The Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead was absolutely one of the highlights of our recent trip to South Dakota!

      My very favorite part was the handmade sign when you enter that encourages children to touch the exhibits and ask questions!

      We have been on a Laura Ingalls Wilder kick around here since our visit!

  7. Great post! We’ve done the cross country thing 2 summers in a row, and are planning for next summer! We have 4 children, who are great travelers, and we go in our minivan. We pack up a baggage carrier in the back, and off we go. We stay in hotels and cabins, but prefer tent camping. We focus on National Parks where the kids participate in the Junior Ranger programs. We have had some great adventures, and it is wonderful to hear them talk about things they’ve seen and places they’ve been to.
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  8. Fantastic! Love this. Thanks so much for sharing your tourschooling ideas. I wish I possessed a time/space travel machine so that we could visit all the places we study and dream about. 🙂
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  9. This is a great post! Funny enough, even when learning isn’t a priority, this is how I plan all vacations! It usually starts with wanting to go somewhere to experience a different culture. Right away you want to research to find the best places to go for the best experiences.
    Went to Paris with my husband several years ago and it was awesome because of all the planning and research I did. I would’ve never found the restaurant where everyone sits at tables together and sings and drinks (this place was so much fun). Made traveling the Metro easier too.
    This kind of planning ensures that if something goes wrong or the kids just aren’t into it, you’ve got a backup.
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  10. Thank you for this wonderful reminder that learning can and does happen everywhere – but we can expand it by our thoughtfulness and preparation.

  11. LOVE the wall board idea! I also can’t believe I’ve never thought to bring library books on a family trip. Super duper idea and I’m totally doing that next time. Thanks so much for the great article! Very helpful! 🙂

  12. What’s a homeschool ID??
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  13. Great ideas – especially the ones for post-trip. I get excited and do lots ahead of time, but kind of forget about the afterwards.
    We love to take audio books along on vacation too. The library has a great selection of them. We all enjoy listening to them and they usually put the littlest one to sleep!

  14. Great article, Kara. I think we’ll make use of the wonderful ideas on our next trip.

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