New Trend in Family Summer Travel: Hands-On Destination Learning

These days, families want to continue their children's learning experiences while on vacation.  I've always said that traveling is like the world's biggest classroom.  In 2013, when families go on vacation, they want to make pasta in Italy, or learn how to ride a horse while staying at a resort. 

My children on vacation in Hot Springs, Virginia
Caroline Michaud with Preferred Hotels says this is the latest trend in vacations. Hotels are being creative and providing more activities and learning experiences for families rather than just having guests lounge by the pool, like we did with our parents. Swimming and pool lounging is still a coveted, luxury amenity though.  Don't you think? 

Ojai Valley Inn and Spa in Ojai,CA

Give me a Pina Colada by the pool, and I'm a happy gal.  But, the best vacation has some educational balance, too. 

“Well-traveled parents and grandparents want to further the education of their children through travel, so we’re seeing an increase in requests for hotels that offer experiences beyond the typical kids program," remarked Michaud. "Families are requesting more active itineraries so they can experience destinations, not just see things. Our resorts in South Africa that offer safari excursions are very popular among families for this reason.”

This summer, education and vacation will go hand-in-hand for families that embark on global travels with the Preferred Family collection from Preferred Hotel Group. Whether raising an aspiring professional athlete or a budding historian-to-be, parents can extend the learning opportunities for their curious children beyond the classroom by visiting and booking stays at more than 230 family-friendly hotels and resorts worldwide.

Here are some of my recommendations for hands-on experiences in Summer 2013 after searching through their travel portfolio.   It was hard to narrow down the choices because there are tons of properties out there, and the destinations look so much fun.  Based on my travels, I've been pleased with Preferred Hotels and have loved my stays.  My most recent was at the Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, N.C.  Here are some ideas for you.

Ojai Valley Inn and Spa in Ojai, California

·         Learn to Golf Like a Professional – Ojai, California, USA
Where to Stay: Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, a member of Preferred Golf
For 90 years, dozens of Hollywood and PGA Tour greats – from entertainer Bing Crosby to World Golf Hall of Famer Arnold Palmer – have tested their handicaps at the historic golf course at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, a member of Preferred Golf located just 35 miles south of Santa Barbara. This summer, children can learn to golf for free with a new “Kids Play Free” stay-and-play package that includes overnight accommodations and a complimentary round of golf for one child (16 years and younger) when playing with a paying adult after 1 p.m. After tallying their score for the day, children can enjoy other on-property activities through the Camp Ojai (ages 3-12) and Teen Club (13-17) programs.

OH! All-Suite Hotel in Crete, Greece

·         Experience Greek Culture and Mythology – Crete, Greece
Where to Stay: OH! All-Suite Hotel, a member of Preferred Boutique
Taking learning beyond the textbook, Crete’s famed Capsis Minoan Amusement Park – the only Minoan Mythological Park in Greece – engages children in a hands-on lesson about Minoan culture and Greek mythology through a variety of interactive games, ranging from archaeological treasure hunts to mini-Olympic trials. Families looking to experience the educational fun can stay at OH! All-Suite Hotel, a brand-new luxury home-away-from-home that is located less than 300 steps away from the amusement park and presents spacious accommodations, the best of authentic Greek cuisine, and other exciting activities and services to entertain travelers of all ages. Day-trips to Crete’s historic sites such as the Minoan Palace of Knossos and the Archeological Museum of Haeraklion can be arranged.

ShaSa Resort

·         Practice An Ancient Art Form – Koh Samui, Thailand
Where to Stay: ShaSa Resort and Residences, a member of Sterling Design
Children looking to explore their creative side can practice the ancient art of batik painting at ShaSa Resort and Residences, Koh Samui, an all-suite retreat set on a hillside along the Gulf of Thailand. Daily art classes offered at the property’s Kids Club (ages 3-8) teach the history of batik – a wax-resistant dyed fabric and a symbolic product of Koh Samui – and show them how to paint the fabric in the style of local traditions. In between painting sessions, families can explore nearby sites, which include the Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo and Nu Muang Waterfall, or relax while enjoying the resort’s multiple pools and surrounding gardens.

The Jefferson in Washington, D.C.

·         Study  Up on World History – Washington, D.C., USA 
Where to Stay: The Jefferson, a member of Preferred Boutique
From the Smithsonian and the Spy Museum to the Washington Monument and the White House, Washington, D.C. abounds with destinations where children can learn about world history. Located mere blocks from the top sites in the United States capitol, The Jefferson helps guests maximize their sightseeing time by providing complimentary house car service from the hotel to any destination within the city limits. In between the history-rich excursions, families can relax in spacious suites and take advantage of the hotel’s unique just-for-kids spa services and dining menus.

For more information on Preferred Family and to book special offers from its certified hotels, visit

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, but I have visited many Preferred Hotels through the years and feel comfortable recommending this hotel membership to you based on my prior stays.   I like to share some of the best hotels with my readers.  If you go to any of the hotels I've selected for you, please let me know.

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