In marketing, the measure of an ad or a commercial’s success is if the consumer remembers the product and company. Now I don’t remember the organization, but one message has stuck with me—for more than two decades. This memorable commercial was part of a series on literacy, touting the opportunities for kids to learn through participating in everyday tasks; it featured a family cooking together, gaining reading practice with recipes and math skills with the measurements.

With the end of the school year upon us, I started to wonder about learning opportunities on summer road trips and vacations. Travel in itself is an educational experience, ticking all of the boxes—experiential, hands-on, and “big picture”—but whether you’re planning day trips, weekend road trips or far away flights, consider the opportunities, large and small, to teach some school subject basics and ultimately, life skills.

There has been much ado in the teaching sector about B.C.’s new curriculum and admittedly I am not yet an expert on the changes so for the purposes of this article, I’m kicking it old school.

English Language Arts
• Have kids keep a trip journal and encourage daily entries describing trip experiences—sights, smells, tastes. Suggest adding in collected ephemera—tickets stubs, business cards, pamphlets, tourism brochure cut outs, maps.

• Make kids responsible for composing email updates to grandparents on their own or with prompts, for example: my favourite thing at (insert place name) was ______; today we travelled ___ kilometres; from the car or plane I saw ______; today I tried _______ (sport, food, etc) for the first time.

• Stock up on reading material for the plane, beach and bedtime.

• Encourage kids to read a local tourist magazine to learn about, and pick out, things to do in a new location. Once the day’s activities are decided upon, ask them to look up the hours, admission, and other important information.

• If a particular meal stands out, ask them to jot down the ingredients listed on the menu. (And try to recreate it when you get home!)

• Ask kids to record of all the towns and cities visited. Let’s hope you’re not heading to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales, because let’s face it, Nanaimo and Chemainus are hard enough.

• Visiting friends or family? Cook together as noted in the introduction.

• Heading to a non-English speaking country? Make a point of learning at the very minimum, their words for hello, goodbye, please, and thank you and more if you are spending longer than a few days there.

• Provide a set and firm amount of money with an expectation they budget their spending. This is also an opportunity to learn about sales tax.

• Have kids document the distance travelled, by day if on a road trip or by flight if flying. At the end of the trip, add all distances together. If travelling in a country using the imperial system, work on conversions to metric.

• Convert temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius or vice versa.

• If heading to the mountains, calculate elevation.

• Teach about volume and cost per litre by allowing them to help pump gas.

• Heading to a different time zone? Ask them to calculate the time difference, especially if you plan on calling family or friends from the road.

• Remember that recipe idea? Convert measurements—ounces to millilitres, cups to milliletres, etc.

• Include a visit to a science or natural history museum in your itinerary.

• Document species of flora and fauna with the iNaturalist app.

• Invest in a nature field guide for your destination.

• Join a naturalist or ranger-led talk, or walk through a regional or national park*.

• Visit a botanical garden, nature centre, aquarium, wildlife refuge or reputable accredited zoo.

• Visit a history museum or historical site*.

• Look for buildings with historical importance; these can be marked with plaques stating important information on dates, architects and other significant details.

• Seek out local historical societies; they may offer free or inexpensive tours.

• Stop to read plaques on statues and street art installations; there may be a historical connection.

Physical Education
• Participate in swimming, hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, or stand up paddle boarding.

• Take a lesson in something new, i.e. sailing, surfing, rock climbing.

• Try a new adventure, for example, white water rafting, ziplining.

• Take advantage of the hotel pool.

• Visit the town or city events calendar and look for kids runs or walks supporting a favourite charity.

Social Studies/Geography
• Include the kids in the trip planning; have them determine the best routes from A to B and research points of interest along the way.

• Make kids meteorologists; they can be responsible for looking up the weather report each day.

• Record distances and routes traveled on a paper or digital map.

• Include a geocaching adventure to learn about coordinates.

• Look for diverse landscapes and geological features—fresh water, salt water, bogs, alpine, forests, volcanoes, desert, valleys, sedimentary rock, etc.

• Visit an art gallery; check their website for special hands-on kids’ workshops or events or simply ask kids to photograph or sketch their favourite pieces.

• Encourage kids to draw what they see outside the tent or hotel window.

• Attend a local musical or theatre performance.

• Try different local radio stations to experience different genres of music.

• Document the trip through photos. Upon returning, learn a movie making program and create a moving slide show to send to family and friends. Consider setting it to the music of your trip’s soundtrack or songs with lyrics that represent the feel of the trip.

This summer pick a journal, pack some pens and hit the road. Happy travels.

*Remember in honour of Canada’s 150, National Parks, National Park Reserves and National Historic sites are free for 2017.

Tina Kelly is the Director of Learning at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea. She is planning her own short trip that will include visiting three museums, an art gallery, a National Historic Site, a historical walking tour and hopefully many recipe ideas she can bring home.