The summer travel season is in full swing. Opportunities abound to escape "normal" life, create cherished memories with the family, and share your passions with your children through a non-school lens.

Guaranteed: No matter where you travel this summer, you’ll be in a place steeped in backstories of historical importance.

So how do you weave that history into your family vacation?

Tip #1 – Find the “way in” that's perfect for you and yours

The key is to make learning seamless with experience. To do that, harness your kids’ own interests and curiosities to lead the charge. Whether you have a sports fan in the family or a budding artist, tap into what already motivates them to find your “way in.” This will make the past instantly meaningful.

If you’re traveling to Rome with a child who loves cars, for example, be sure to check out the ancient roads and bridges and aqueducts. If yours is a budding fashionista, use clothing styles throughout the ages for your unique historical lens. Or organize a cooking class while visiting Tuscany with your young chef.

Almost any interest can be turned into a learning opportunity and a way to link yesterday to today. 

Tip #2 – Look for connections to current trends or events

Are any of your children’s favorite musicians from the country or city you’re visiting? 

Were their favorite movies filmed there? 

Did their grandfather march across your destination country as a young soldier not much older than they are now?

A quick Google search before you leave using keywords pertaining to the history of your destination will help you bridge the past with the burning issues of today. It may even yield more information than you need. 

Travel guides often contain historical tidbits that you can read up on and then share when on site and the time is right. And you'll look pretty darn smart as you do!

You can also consult online sites such as for traveler recommendations. And don’t forget to tap the history buffs and history teachers — as well as friends and relatives — in your own personal circles. They can be rich resources for a quick history lesson... for you!

Tip #3 – Make it fun


Set up a scavenger hunt or a family contest. Search for treasures in the city or museum you’re visiting. To get you started, you can find some great tips here and here. To extend your activity, consider a family contest: 

The first to find the following X things gets to choose where or what the family eats, or the next sightseeing stop.

Challenge your young ones to act as photojournalists. Get them to take pictures and write about the places and things they're experiencing. Then let them share these personal tidbits in real time with their friends and family back home via social media.

I know, I know, you’re on vacation and hoped to leave Facebook and Instagram behind. You can, for most of the day. But then use these tools to get your kids communicating about what they’ve done and seen, thus scratching their itch to touch base with their peeps while also practicing valuable literacy skills.

Tip #4 – Include them in the planning

When Lily was 10, I had her plan out our itinerary for visiting Roman France. All she needed was a destination guidebook including all the potential locations and a map. Another time she helped chart our course through Morocco by seeking out all areas where Berber culture – her interest – is still alive and well.

Including your children in this way not only makes history relevant today, it also puts mathematics and reading skills to real world uses. They won’t even know they are learning.

While on location, task your kids with helping you decipher signs and menus in another language, identify next-stops on the map, and calculate ticket prices. Involve them in setting the vacation budget and/or making reservations for your trip. In addition to reinforcing school-based skills, it will get them further invested in the family journey.

Tip #5 – Teach about the old through the new

At Time Traveler Tours, our mission is to walk young people through history using story-driven mobile app tours. But we’re not the only ones passionate about enriching the traavel experience. Search your favorite store for tourism apps and books about the target destination. You might just find perfect one.

Our app tour to Florence is coming soon. You can pre-order it here.

The key is to keep it enjoyable – it is summer vacation, after all – while taking advantage of opportunities to educate along the way. This is how you weave history, and learning, into a family vacation.

This summer, I urge you to invest a bit of time in research before you hit the road. Your reward will be rich memories, closer ties, and educated kids. Plus, they’ll have some impressive “What I Did on Summer Vacation” reports to bring back to school in the fall!

Happy travels from all of us at Time Traveler Tours & Tales.

Special thanks to Diane Krause of WeGrowMedia for helping to craft
and prepare this post while I was on the road... yet again!

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