This pandemic has been full of tough moments, but some nice walks, too. I try to hold on to those nice walks, but for parents who are staring down the barrel of an entire school year of remote learning, the silver linings can seem pretty damn dim. Enter, the “Schoolcation.”
In 2020, anything goes, including creating new words by smooshing together two previously unrelated words: school and vacation. And it’s basically exactly what it sounds like. If they can learn from home, why can’t they learn from the Poconos or Yellowstone or a freaking tropical resort? They can (maybe, within reason).
A schoolcation isn’t going to be for everyone. To pull it off, a couple things need to be true: It has to fit with your own employment situation, whether that means you’ve got the vacation days to use or you can work remotely alongside your kids, and you need the current financial means to actually be able to afford to go. You also should consider the potential risks involved in where you travel, how you travel, and whether you are coming from a hot spot and have a higher chance of bringing the virus along with you. We can’t forget the reason we’re all stuck at home to begin with, and there are varying degrees of risk with everything we do right now, including our choices on travel.
Still, it’s a trend families are exploring. Big name resorts like the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort are starting to seize on the opportunity by marketing schoolcation packets that include supervised remote learning and fun “recess” options. If you’re curious, the Washington Post breaks down how the Four Seasons’ program works:
Overnight hotel guests can send their child to supervised schoolwork sessions in settings that promise natural light, private terraces and ample physical distancing between each desk (no more than six children are allowed in the “class”).
Monday through Friday, you can choose from a half-day or full-day schedule, at $50 for 9 a.m. to noon, or $100 for 9 a.m. [to] 3 p.m. That includes lunch, which students order off a set menu, you know, like school. An optional enrichment period is also available midday to make room for arts and crafts or exercise.
Staff from the Kids for All Seasons team will oversee your child’s e-learning, so you can get your own remote work done (or forget about the chaos of 2020 by floating down the resort’s lazy river).
At more than $500 per night, that option probably isn’t going to work for most families, but maybe a private Airbnb cabin in the mountains a few hours’ drive away is within budget and your COVID comfort level, and is the change of scenery you all need.
Travel advisor Jen Campbell Boles writes for Scary Mommy that she, her husband, and their two kids traveled out west from their home in North Carolina. Over the span of a month, they visited Gateway Arch National Park, Badlands National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park.
While I have always had a desire to see the National Parks out west, I never thought of it as a vacation. That is why the ability to work and school our way through the big parks out west was so appealing. We could see a big part of the country without spending too many vacation days.
If you are going to plan your own schoolcation, you should consider and address a few things first.
Make sure it’s feasible with your work schedule
If you’ll be working remotely from your destination, rather than from home, you should run it by your boss. It might seem as though there’s no difference working from the wifi at the resort versus from your home office, but you’ll want to get the go-ahead anyway to make sure there aren’t any policies in place that keep you tethered to your town. (Also, that there isn’t some big in-person meeting coming up in three weeks that no one told you about yet. You don’t want to have to say, “Sorry, I can’t make it; I’m at Great Wolf Lodge with the fam.”)
You’ll also want to consider how time zones might impact when you work versus when you vacation. You’ll want to call ahead to ensure your host does have working wifi (and think through your Plan B if it were to go down). And you should think through what attractions you’ll want to visit and whether your off-work days and hours are the best time to visit them, given how early the sun sets or how crowded certain locations may be on the weekends.
Also, don’t push to do too much. This isn’t a typical weeklong vacation where you want to cram in as much fun as possible. You’re all still working and schooling, so you can’t toss out the usual bedtimes and still be able to function throughout your day. The point is not to add more stress to your lives, but get a break from the monotony.
Research local COVID regulations
As Boles points out, different states, cities, and communities have different COVID-19-related rules and regulations. Businesses are operating under different levels of restrictions (or not at all). Face masks are required in some areas but optional in others. And some states, she says, require a negative COVID test within 72 hours of arrival:
New Mexico requires all out of state visitors to quarantine for fourteen days upon arrival. Most people are not going to want to pay to stay somewhere where they cannot leave their accommodations for two weeks. New Mexico is one of the states I am most interested in exploring, but we had to skip it because of their quarantine rules.
If you do take a schoolcation during a pandemic, make plans to travel as safely as possible. That includes wearing masks when indoors and around others outdoors—and only visiting places where it is required that others do the same.
Choose attractions where you can stay physically distanced from other visitors, particularly by being outdoors as much as possible. Choose accommodations that offer private entry to your unit, or in which you can limit your time in public gathering spaces, such as lobbies or elevators.
Finally, remember that there is no totally safe way to travel right now; there is only safer.
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