Not to be a downer, but there haven't been many bright spots in the world of travel: the travel industry is estimated to lose $320 billion, and luggage companies continue to see sales decline. But if there's one new (positive?) effect, it's that the pandemic has afforded many workers—and their families—the unique ability to work from anywhere. Enter the flexcation. While that's exactly what it sounds like—flexible vacation—parents are taking the trend one step further to take schooling on the road, too.
According to data released by vacation rental platform Vrbo, half of the travelers surveyed noted that many schools' pivots to virtual learning provide them more flexibility with vacation-planning. Whereas summer was typically the sweet spot for traveling with kids, online education has meant parents can now book trips for late August, September, October, and beyond, well into months that typically conflict with the classroom.
"What's interesting is the shift in when people are traveling and how families are blending vacation time with working from home or remote learning," said Vrbo president Jeff Hurst. "Families can use this flexibility as an opportunity to travel outside of peak seasons and try new experiences, like seeing the mountain leaves change, catching the first snow of the season, or visiting the beach when it isn't as hot."
In addition to traveling off-peak, parents are also looking at more extended stays. According to Vrbo's data, searches for one, three, and four-week stays have increased by as much as 25 percent compared to a year ago.
"Typically, we see families taking vacations just shy of one-week-long—the average length of a Vrbo stay in 2019 was five days," Vrbo travel expert, Melanie Fish, told TripSavvy.
And home rentals aren't the only area seeing a boom with parents.
The Dyrt, which has reviews and photos of more than one million campgrounds in the U.S, said that in one month alone, the site was used to plan more than 14 million miles of road trips. A recent survey of the site's users found that 81 percent of parents are actively considering remote learning on the road.
One parent who's doing just that is Texas-based Jennifer Ganley. This spring, she hit the road for three weeks with her children, ages 10, 15, and 17, to explore state parks.
"We had international travel plans that were canceled, and while bummed at first, we now realize that opened the door for learning more about our beautiful country via our RV," Ganley said. She says being on the road and out in nature has helped teach her children hands-on lessons about science, history, and even current events.
Though travel plans changed, schooling for her kids remained constant. The family turned their phones into unlimited Wi-Fi hotspots so they can stay connected for early morning and afternoon learning.
"We are blessed to have a pretty roomy RV, so my kids set up for classwork and Zoom meetings at the table and even outside when the weather is nice on our trips. We keep folders, binders, and school supplies in laptop cases for each kid," explained Ganley. "So far, we've been able to run three kids on laptops as well as our computers for work."
Ganley says the family plans to enjoy shorter trips this fall to some of the state parks they haven't explored yet. But even for parents who don't have a camper, even hotels are making it easy to combine travel and learning.
Back-to-school deals are usually associated with buying clothes or electronics, but the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, Michigan, is offering a special specifically for parents who want to set up a classroom while away from home.
Starting on Sept. 8, a meeting space in the hotel will be designated for learning. From 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday, children can enjoy a socially distanced space and Wi-Fi. Box lunches are even available for purchase. The back-to-school deal also includes free admission to Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum.
As Aesop said, "adventure is worthwhile," so in a year where we've all been missing travel, why not add a little adventure to your child's education?