Have you heard of worldschooling? I came across it when I was looking for some ideas for our next vacation and found it just fascinating. Turns out, we’ve been worldschooling our kids all along without even realizing it. Read on for what it is and how to incorporate it into your next family getaway!
What is Worldschooling?
Let me answer that question with a quote. – Lainie Liberti of We Are Worldschoolers writes,
“In its simplest form, worldschooling is the act of intentionally learning from the world. Worldschooling combines multi-age and experiential learning with travel and/or cultural experiences to facilitate learning and discovery.”
The great thing about worldschooling is that there are no rules, aside from “learn through travel.” Some families travel with their kids non-stop, using worldschooling to replace traditional education. Others (like me) still send their kids to traditional schools but incorporate learning experiences into our family vacations.
If you’re worried that worldschooling means trading your relaxing beach getaway in for a stiff itinerary-driven week filled with stuffy museums and even stuffier “historical” tour bus excursions, don’t be. You’d be surprised at how much your kids (and you!) can learn from a trip to the beach, a family cruise, or even a weekend at Busch Gardens!
Don’t believe me? Keep reading! I’m starting off my list with some of the places we’ve visited as a family and sharing what we all learned at each one. Then, I’ll finish it up with some other destinations on my “bucket list.” Let’s jump in, shall we?
20 Amazing Vacation Destinations for Worldschooling Families
I tried to group this list into different areas for you. I started with Florida since I’m from Miami, then branched out into more of the US before moving to Central and South America, then heading overseas a bit. As for the +, you’ll see where that comes into play in a moment. 🙂
1. Busch Gardens Tampa (Florida)
I’m starting with this one to prove to you that you absolutely can go to a theme park and still learn a lot! Busch Gardens is one of the most educational amusement parks I’ve ever been to. Not only is it a blast, but your kids will learn about all sorts of different European cultures without ever leaving the US.
Even the rollercoasters are educational! They can teach kids about physics, aerodynamics, and entropy. Here’s a great guide you can read together before you go to help make stronger learning connections.
Read my travel review of Busch Gardens Tampa to learn more about what they have to offer.
2. Crystal River (Florida)
Located in Northwestern Florida, Crystal River is an amazing place to teach your kids about the Florida ecosystem and see some of our most treasured sealife up close. We spent a gorgeous weekend there just exploring the great outdoors.
Our absolute favorite part of the trip was swimming with the manatees (aka sea cows). These huge mammals reminded me so much of puppy dogs! They’re so friendly and sweet. If your kids are a little apprehensive about swimming with such big creatures, though, there are plenty of other educational experiences around the resort. Check out my full review of the Plantation at Crystal River for more activities.
3. Omni Amelia Island Resort (Florida)
We went to Omni Amelia Island Resort in Florida right around the time travel restrictions first loosened up a bit back in July 2020. It was our first real travel experience in the age of virus precautions, and I was really impressed with how they handled everything.
There’s quite a bit to do there, and you don’t even have to leave the property for most of their activities. We REALLY needed to unwind, so we spent a lot of time on the private beach. But we also spent some time wandering their nature trails, and that’s where the worldschooling opportunities really shine.
You can take guided tours of the area or just explore on your own. There’s also a 19th-century fort nearby that you can tour and learn a bit about history. Read my full Omni Amelia Island Resort travelog for more activities and ideas.
4. Marco Island on the Paradise Coast (Florida)
Marco Island on Florida’s Paradise Coast is the PERFECT worldschooling destination if you want to teach your kids about conservation and the environment. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is right there, and they do SO much with the kids. My daughter even got to drive a boat!
They also have the amazing e C’mon Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, which gives kids a totally hands-on experience. Even the local food teaches you something about the ecosystem since so many places source all of their ingredients locally.
There’s so much to do there that I actually wrote two travel blogs on Marco Island. Check out my guide to Florida’s Paradise Coast for an overview of all of the activities, and my review of the Hilton Marco Island for a great place to stay during your visit.
5. Stowe (Vermont)
Back in 2016 when my kids were still super young, I REALLY wanted to give them an opportunity to see snow. So, we packed up and headed north to Stowe Vermont! We stayed at the Spruce Lodge, a gorgeous ski resort surrounded by mountains.
While the resort is best known for its winter sports and spectacular ski trails, it offers plenty of activities and learning opportunities for those who don’t really love “flying down the face of a mountain with nothing but a pair of sticks strapped to their feet,” as one of my non-skiing friends once put it.
The resort is surrounded by acres upon acres of conserved nature, including forests, streams, and wetlands. Over the years, we’ve done a lot of activities focused on learning about Florida’s ecosystem as a family, so it was neat to learn about a totally different environment and northern animals. If you’re REALLY lucky, you may even see a moose!
6. Napa Valley (California)
We visited Napa Valley way back when my son was still practically a toddler and my daughter was an infant. I definitely want to take them back now that they’re older!
Now, maybe you’re thinking that a place known as “wine country” doesn’t really seem like a good educational destination. Sorry, but you’d be wrong! There’s a lot to do there aside from touring wineries, including outdoor activities exploring local nature, hot air balloon rides (which teach kids about science), and tons of museums.
That said, your family can learn a lot from touring a vineyard, even if you don’t drink the wine at the end of the tour. In fact, several vineyards and wineries offer family-friendly tours with special perks for the little ones. Today’s Parent has a good list if you’re curious.
7. New Orleans (Lousiana)
I’ve never been to New Orleans with my kids, but it’s definitely high up on the list of places I want to take them. There are such an astounding number of educational opportunities in the Big Easy that I have no idea where to start!
Kids can learn about wildlife at the Audubon Zoo and Aquarium or on one of the zillion swamp tours. The famous City Park encourages literacy and reading with all of their book character statues. There’s a place called JAMNOLA that teaches them about the art and culture of the city, and SO many museums that teach history, art, science, and more.
Then there are the cemeteries. It sounds a bit morose, but they’re an educational attraction all on their own! The entire city is just oozing with cultural sights, sounds, and tastes. You could easily spend a month there and still never see all that it has to offer.
8. Boston (Massachusetts)
Boston is another place I’d love to take the kids one day, and a must-visit worldschooling destination for history buffs. Like New Orleans, there’s so much to see that it’s hard to know where to start. A lot of the educational opportunities are even free (or super cheap).
Take one of the free self-guided tours to teach your kids about the history of the United States and colonial times, walk around the grounds of Harvard and learn about the very first college in America, or check out Bunker Hill to learn about the battle that kicked off the Revolution.
If your family loves science and technology, you can take a public tour of MIT or visit the Coit Observatory (free on Wednesdays). If you have time, you can also drive about 30 minutes away and visit Salem. Most of the tours focus on the more infamous and insidious aspects of American history, but you can also visit the House of Seven Gables. Yes, the very same one from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book.
9. Washington, DC
Last up in the US-based worldschooling destinations portion of this post, we can’t forget about the nation’s capital! Again, there’s a TON to see and do and learn there. First, you have the more obvious learning opportunities like Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and such
Then, there’s also the HUGE Smithsonian Museum complex, which is home to 21 museums plus the National Zoo. Most of them are close to each other on the National Mall. The zoo is about 5 miles away, though, and there are a couple of other ones scattered throughout the city in different locations.
10. Quebec City (Quebec, Canada)
My family spent Thanksgiving break last year road-tripping through Quebec, Canada. We went to Montreal and Mont Tremblant before finishing off our trip in Quebec City. While all three destinations are spectacular, I think QC is definitely the best place to visit for worldschooling families.
Old Quebec City is filled with historical sites dating back more than 400 years, all beautifully preserved. You can also meet the Founding Nations and learn about the indigenous culture in Canada. Plus, if you’ve always wanted to visit France but can’t really afford to go to Europe, Quebec City is the next best thing!
For more ideas and educational experiences, check out my Quebec City Canada family road trip guide.
11. Punta Cana (Domican Republic)
We visited Punta Cana right around the time the devastating Hurricane Dorian hit back in 2019. The Dominican Republic was spared the bulk of Dorian’s rage. But our flight home ended up getting delayed and we spent an unexpected extra 4 days at the resort, which gave us a lot more time to explore.
With such stunning beaches and gorgeously lush forests, Punta Cana is a great place to learn about tropical ecosystems. The Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve is one of the best educational attractions for exploring the Dominican Republic’s nature and wildlife. Or you can take a boat tour out to the reefs and other natural wonders of the Caribbean sea. Either way, you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful breezy island weather!
Check out my travel review of Punta Cana’s all-inclusive resorts for more ideas.
12. Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands are so much more than just a tax shelter for the super wealthy (and often super shady). We visited briefly a few years ago on a cruise, and I’d definitely like to go back one day to explore more.
While the beaches are definitely the greatest treasures, there are loads of great educational things to see and do, too. The National Museum in George Town is a great place to start if you’re interested in history. It not only showcases the island’s cultural history but its geological beginnings as well.
Other notable educational attractions include the Cayman Turtle Farm (see sea turtles up close!), the Cayman Islands National Trust (no, it’s not a bank, it’s a conservation organization), and the Heritage Museum.
FYI, if you’re planning to take a cruise to the Cayman (or anywhere else for that matter), check out my first-time cruise tips for families.
13. Cozumel (Mexico)
We saw Cozumel on the same cruise that took us to the Cayman Islands, so again we didn’t get to see quite as much of it as I would have liked. It’s really a great worldschooling destination for families who love history. If you can only do one thing there, the Mayan ruins are an absolute must-see!
Head to the San Gervasio Archeological Site, home of the largest of the ruins, and explore all of the ancient temples. If you still have time, visit the Museo de la Isla de Cozumel to learn about the culture, history, and ecology of the area. Or, you can take a boat tour of Punta Sur Ecological Park and do a little of everything- exploring the ruins AND learning about the ecosystem.
14. Lago San Pablo (Ecuador)
Although we’re originally from Peru, my family lives in Ecuador and I spent many years there during my childhood and early adulthood. A few years ago, we took a trip back to the middle of the world to visit.
I think when you grow up somewhere (and this is true of any vacation destination), you don’t really think about all of the interesting places and cultural experiences. I mean, you’re part of that cultural experience already! Writing about it from a worldschooling perspective made me look at it from a different angle, and it really is an extraordinary place to explore.
There are a bunch of activities and sights to explore if you’re interested in history and culture. Take a boat tour of the lake and see all of the unique wildlife. Or visit one of the museums or archaeological sites for a deep dive into Ecuador’s history. You can also take guided tours of the village if you want more of a cultural experience.
I also HIGHLY recommend visiting Papallacta! It’s a small village with amazing hot springs, courtesy of the Antisana volcano looming beyond it.
15. Lima (Peru)
I know that there is currently a travel advisory for Americans considering visiting Peru due to unrest, but hopefully, that won’t last forever. It truly is a beautiful place to visit and worth adding to your worldschooling destinations list once things settle down a bit.
Honestly, there are so many stunning and neat places to visit in Peru, but Lima is definitely one of the most popular vacation destinations there, after Macchu Picchu of course. Sadly, as of this week, Peru indefinitely closed Macchu Picchu because of the protests. So even if you were to visit Peru right now, you wouldn’t be able to see the famous ruins.
Lima is just as extraordinary, though! I recommend checking out the Museo de la Nacion if you’re interested in archeology, and the Larco Museum for a look at pre-Columbian Peru. For animal lovers, visit the Parque de las Leyendas zoo and botanical garden. Last, but not least, if you want to visit an ancient ruin and can’t get to Macchu Picchu, the Huaca Pucllana is just as neat!
16. Pucón (Chile)
One last destination in South America, then we’ll head “across the pond” to explore Europe. Pucón, Chile is a vibrant city that’s roughly halfway down the country. While there are more popular places to visit in the country (like Santiago, about 500 miles north), I picked this one for my worldschooling destinations list because of the unique geology.
First, there’s the Ojos del Caburgua Waterfall, which is the largest waterfall in the region. Then, there’s the Villarrica Volcano, which isn’t just gorgeous but also a great place to learn about how volcanoes play a role in shaping everything from culture to farming.
Pucón is also considered a major “adventurer destination” in Chile. It’s perfect for active families looking for interesting educational hiking locations. All Trails lists an incredible 58 trails of various difficulties that you can try out.
17. Rome (Italy)
If you read my recent post on tips for visiting Europe with kids, you know that we spent an incredible vacation touring Italy, Spain, and France last year. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Italy, but we were there long enough to see a hint of all that Rome has to offer.
First, there are the obvious sites. The Colosseum (where the gladiator battles were held) literally stands out as one of the most popular attractions. For an even farther look back in time, there’s the Forum and the Pantheon. Then, of course, there’s the Vatican, which you also literally can’t miss.
If you don’t want to travel all the way back to ancient times, though, there are other more modern experiences to explore. The Capitoline Museums, for example, showcase art and sculptures from the Renaissance to today. Even the food itself is a cultural experience!
18. Barcelona (Spain)
We spent most of our Europe trip in Spain, and a good chunk of it just exploring Barcelona. Again, there’s so much to do there that it’s really hard to fit everything into one trip. If you only have time to do one thing, I highly recommend Sagrada Família and Park Güell, especially if you love old architecture. The viaducts in the park are definitely a must-see. They’re so impressive and unique.
The Picasso Museum is a neat place to visit if you’re looking for a fun way to teach your kids about art. Or you can head to the Barcelona Aquarium and learn about European sealife. The best part is that you can do all of these things on your own or as a part of a guided walking tour. Either way, you’ll definitely learn a lot!
19. Paris (France)
Our trip to France didn’t take us to Paris this time since we visited the country as part of a cruise. There are definitely other educational destinations throughout the French countryside, but if you want to see a little of everything Paris is the best option.
From the iconic Eiffel Tower to the Louvre, the City of Light is practically overflowing with learning opportunities. Aside from the famous Louvre, there are a bunch of other museums showcasing different aspects of European and French history. The Cluny National Museum of the Middle Ages is neat if you love medieval history.
For architecture lovers, you cannot miss the Champs-Élysées and the famous Arc de Triomphe. Other highlights include the Natural History Museum, the Catacombs, and the Aquarium de Paris. With so much to explore, it really is the perfect city for an educational trip.
20. Aomori (Japan)
Let’s finish off by hopping over to Asia. Yeah, yeah, everyone wants to go to Tokyo. But according to a friend who lived in Northern Japan, Aomori offers so much more in terms of true cultural experiences and charm. She says, “It’s an insanely gorgeous city and not nearly as packed as Tokyo. Definitely go to the Nebuta Festival around August if you can. It’s like Mardi Gras but MUCH tamer.”
If you’re into science, visit the Iwaki City Science Center for exhibits and activities that explore the science of energy, magnetism, light, and sound. The Sannai-Maruyama Ruins are incredible for history lovers. You’ll get to explore the 6,000-year-old Jomon village there. If you can’t go during the festival, you can still see some of the traditional floats at the Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse.
While the 20 cities above are places I think every worldschooling family should definitely put at the top of their travel bucket list, they’re far from the only educational destinations. I mean, the world is pretty darn big, in case you haven’t noticed! Honestly, you can turn literally any city or town on the planet into a learning experience with a little research and creativity.
Remember, you don’t have to completely ditch traditional schooling to teach your kids through travel. Short weekend getaways offer just as many learning opportunities as longer overseas trips. So, even if your budget can only take you on adventures within driving distance of your own home, you can still incorporate worldschooling into your kids’ education!
As my kids get older, I feel like vacations give us a real chance to reconnect and bond. That’s the best part of traveling as a family. All of the things we learn along the way are just extra bonuses.