Tour planners can satisfy the increasing demand for tours with an educational component by designing their own program or buying into an existing trip offered by a company that specializes in learning vacations.

Road Scholar tour group in Havana, Cuba

Road Scholar tour group in Havana, Cuba

Your travelers may travel with you for a myriad of reasons: fun, camaraderie, intellectual or spiritual growth, excitement and others. Yet, travel companies are finding that one of the top motivations nowadays is education. If we are designing our trips properly, we find that we can insert the learning experience into the trip subtly so that participants come home excited at having learned something new –something they didn’t expect on their trip.

Types of educational travel programs

But above and beyond that, there are companies that openly feature their trips as learning adventures – nothing subtle about the educational content. In fact, many such trips are no longer called “tours” or “trips.” They’re often simply referred to as educational adventures. Road Scholar programs, for example, offer a broad array of programs – some are actual tours on the road, others a stay in one locale with daily activities and lectures. Many stay in moderate hotels and university lodgings, while others operate at a more deluxe level. The topics around which the trip is woven are as broad as the specialty of the hired lecturers.

This type of trip can appeal to a type of client whom you may not be servicing up to now. It could be the retired individual looking for intellectual growth – often a university graduate (perhaps long ago). It could be those who enjoy the programming of their local PBS television station, who buy season tickets to local theater, who are members of a book club and read prolifically.  It’s often those who quietly bemoan that their personal life no longer offers the lifetime learning experience they crave. Being in the company of other like-minded travelers discussing what they’re learning as they go along has great appeal.

Pre-packaged learning vacation or plan your own trip?

If you might like to try a trip of this nature, how should you go about it? One way would be to buy into an existing trip from a company that may offer such trips.  Another would be to do it yourself, putting together all the usual trip components (transportation, accommodations, etc.) but locating an expert on a specific topic to work with you in designing the trip, escort it and give lectures en route. A third approach would be to buy into a cruise and bring your own lecturer with you for the intellectual content (although some cruises offer onboard lectures but not as frequent or as deep as you might prefer). Similar trips could be built around blockbuster museum exhibits.

Still another approach would be to build the trip around an historical figure or music festival or theater performance. A few years ago I enjoyed a three-day Shakespeare study tour sponsored by a local senior center in Northern California. We attended the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. We stayed at the dorm at Southern Oregon University – permission granted because we were an official study tour with our own professor/lecturer giving classes during the trip.

As a member of AAUW (American Association of University Women), I just received notice of an innovative trip to Warsaw, Poland they’re offering. It follows in the steps of physicist/chemist Madame Curie in her lifelong quest for radium. Since one of AAUW’s goals is to encourage women in the U.S. to study science, the trip fits into the organization’s goals and purposes. You could locate other organizations for which a trip might become part and parcel of their goals.

Spread your wings and search for those in your community who would make good “Pied Pipers” for learning vacations and other types of educational travel programs.