Once upon a time, way back when—you know, around February—it was frowned upon to take your kids out of school and on vacation. What a difference a pandemic makes. Now dozens of hotels and resorts worldwide are vying for family business and offering all kinds of remote learning experiences to help parents with the interminable new homeschool life.
Recognizing that you can Zoom with a teacher from anywhere—and that it doesn’t have to be the closet of your apartment, or at the same table as two adults try to accomplish their own jobs—they’ve dreamt up several new ways for kids to learn remotely while on vacation.
Some hotels have designed bespoke services to help with online learning; others have extended their usual onsite educational options; and many have commandeered conference rooms and tech support to offer backup. From the Montage’s new Montage Academy to the Marriott Cancun’s NED Talks (that’s “nature, education, and discovery”), options abound (and we’ve listed many of them below).
Consider the Four Seasons Punta Mita, which has expanded its Kids for All Seasons education and childcare program to “support learning remotely with a new ‘worldschooling’ offering that features a tech hotline, study buddy program, and art, culture, history and after-school sports classes to encourage education learning through travel.”
The resort says it has a tech team on hand 24/7 for computer issues, as well as printers, monitors, and portable chargers you can borrow. It’s really decimating the opportunities for homework excuses. Cabanas will be converted into classrooms with Wi-Fi, headphones, lap pads, and energy-boosting smoothies. Those staff study buddies will help with homework; private tutoring is another option. The idea is that parents chill poolside (or, I suppose, work if they have to) while the kids learn and the whole family has time together in the evenings.
Perhaps most interesting, though, is the Four Seasons’ focus on local geography and culture: Kids learn about indigenous Huichol people of the Nayarit region (history!), make papalotl, or butterfly kites, and learn folkloric ballet (art and culture!), and help with sea turtle releasing (science!).
The idea has drawn a mixed reaction from teachers.
“Sign us up!” says Becky Dougherty, a vice principal from Orange County, California. “It sounds like an amazing experience all around for people who are able to take advantage of the opportunity. At home, students often don’t have any extra support because their parents are working. It sounds like this program would provide students with the resources and extra support they need.”
Anna Kealoha, an author with more than 30 years of educational experience, was more skeptical. “It sounds more like cultural enrichment than a focus on academics,” she says. “Sure, it sounds like a great way to supplement a student’s education for those that can afford it, but it sounds more like dessert, not the main course.
“I don’t see how teachers could pull this off as a legitimate curriculum for students, except the ones they have already hired to do the ‘schoolcation’ that they’ve outlined. It does sound like fun though.”
While poolside taco making or local wood carving can’t replace rigorous in-person learning on a real curriculum, some of the hotel schooling programs could help fill in a few educational gaps left by COVID—or at least keep students engaged for a week or so while kept off campus. And many are designed to immerse kids of all ages in the culture of the destination, which could help instill good vacation habits for the whole family.
Here are more schoolcation options worldwide and closer to home.
Work From Paradise Internationally
At the Anse Chastanet in St. Lucia, private local tutors are able to help kids with virtual schooling from $35 an hour. The resort accepts children aged six or above and already has a “Naturally Educated” program that includes farm visits, cooking lessons, sustainability tours, and marine biology workshops focused on coral reef restoration.
The Marriott Cancun Resort just launched NED talks. These nature, education, and discovery discussions are designed for elementary and middle school kids. The curriculum? Everything from piñata-making to lessons on protecting turtle nests, cooking, and Spanish.
The Conrad Punta de Mita, which opened in September as Mexico’s first Conrad resort, is offering Work From Paradise (WFP) and Learn From Paradise (LFP) packages. The latter teaches kids about Mexican culture and geography through Spanish and cooking classes and nature walks, and it promises to focus on ancestral Huichol traditions. Again, local tutors are available to help with virtual schooling.
In Belize and Guatemala, the Family Coppola Hideaways group of resorts has launched the Coppola Curriculum, featuring three to four hours of cultural activities daily. This could mean bird counting, wood carving, tree planting, reading stories to local school kids, Creole classes, or getting PADI certified. Belize airport is reopening this fall and both the brand’s Turtle Inn and Blancaneaux Lodge will open November 1.
The Rosewood Mayakoba has multi-bedroom villas available for stays of 20 nights or more, with “personalized Family Discovery programming” on offer. What does that mean exactly? We’re talking “private offerings custom-tailored to the preferences of each family” including “interactive dinners celebrating the cuisine of the Yucatan . . . mangrove kayaking . . . cultural offerings including cenote tours, Mayan storytelling, and Spanish and Mayan language lessons.” A 55-foot private yacht is on hand, too, if that’s how you roll.
Palmaïa - The House of AïA, a retreat on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, has launched a Beachfront Wellness Work-Away program. With prices starting from $7,500 per month, it includes a waterside suite with all the remote working capabilities you need, meditation sessions, IT support, and Waldorf-inspired educational activities for kids to help with remote learning and homework.
Schoolcations across America
Hotels across the U.S. are flagging their capabilities as a remote learning location—and they’re not all super expensive.
The Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa might not have the world’s most succinct name, but it’s touting its Work From Anywhere / School From Anywhere chops, with several desks for Zooming, fast Wi-Fi, kitchens for family meals, and two pools for poststudy dips.
Remote Learning at the Kimpton Rowan in Palm Springs, meanwhile, includes access to a dedicated meeting room from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wi-Fi, a monitor, and lunchboxes from its executive chef, for stays Sunday to Thursday from $239 per night. Guests need to book and stay by November 30. Like most hotels, the Rowan has a dedicated page on its coronavirus health and safety policies.
Kimpton has also rolled out Chief Virtual Learning Officers (CVLOs) at all its properties across the country, to troubleshoot Zoom connections, help print documents, and provide school supplies as part of the company’s “Forgot It, We Got It” program.
Montage raised the game in early September with the announcement of its Montage Academy. Families visiting properties in Deer Valley, Laguna Beach, Los Cabos, or Palmetto Bluff can enroll students for $175 for a day or $725 for a full school week with five days’ notice. For that, they get a lot of instruction. Each day is split into two, with classroom work based on their home school’s learning structure in the mornings (with time zones factored in) and “support from both the on-site Montage Academy learning concierge and virtual tutoring [on up to 180 subjects] through Tutor.com.”
The company is promising a paper review service, practical quizzes, video lesson libraries, and Princeton Review test prep for SAT/ACT exams. Afternoons will be spent on electives, including PE (like paddleboarding, archery, mountain biking), science and history (such as astronomy or conservation), and art.
The Auberge Resorts Collection, with hotels in Aspen, Utah, and Napa Valley, just announced its Remote With Auberge program. It encompasses both remote working, with “office cabanas” or an in-room office setup, and remote learning, through a partnership with L.A.-based tutoring service Advantage Testing for in-person or virtual learning for kids (and adult education opportunities for adults). Courses for the latter range from statistics to Latin American avant-garde art.
Tour operator Scott Dunn is offering a series of “Travel Classrooms” to help kids learn more about the world around them. In Hawaii, that means joining a volcanologist and University of Hawaii professor for a guided adventure around Volcanoes National Park. Or it could be a civil rights tour in Atlanta, an edifying trip through Thomas Jefferson’s Charlottesville or a behind-the-scenes visit to Capitol Hill with a former congressional representative.
Airbnb has launched a new set of Experiences, entitled Field Trips. These 75+ extracurricular activities include everything from a virtual leopard safari in Sri Lanka to online origami and a Zoom call with a shark expert in South Africa. There are some big names involved, too, with Bill Nye presenting “Decoding the Science of 2020” and Olivia Wilde offering a Socially Conscious Story Hour. Prices range from $7 to $100.
Finally, the entire city of Miami is getting in on the act. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau has just launched a Work and Learn Remotely initiative, with 30+ hotels enrolled and offering everything you need to take the education show on the road: poolside work stations, afterschool camps, private tutor access, and even “Zoom lighting locations.”
Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication. This article orginally appeared on Aug. 31 and was updated on Sept. 23 with new information.