Man looking up at the ceiling in a historic building adorned with frescoes

Learning Vacations: 5 Holidays That Will Make You Smarter

Have you ever come home from a vacation wishing you’d done more? And when I say “more,” I’m not referring to FOMO-induced activities like collecting another passport stamp or checking another “must-see” sight off your list. 

I’m talking about a longing that you wish you’d learned something new, made a difference, or came back a better version of yourself.

If you’re a seasoned traveller and you feel like your holidays are starting to look the same, it’s probably time to shake things up a bit — and we’ve got the perfect way to do just that: a learning vacation.

Imagine whipping up pappardelle from scratch alongside an Italian chef in Tuscany or photographing the Big Five in Tanzania with a professional instructor to help you capture the ultimate shot. 

Not only does an educational escape have everything you love about travel — beautiful locales, fantastic food, and epic adventures — but this type of holiday allows you to satiate your curiosity while pursuing your interests and passions in the process.

Zebras standing in the bush in Africa
Learn to take photos like a pro on a safari in Africa | © Lisa H/Unsplash

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Why are learning vacations on the rise?

First off, what’s the deal with learning vacations? And why are they becoming so popular?

Simply put, people want to get more out of their holidays — and they want to bring home more than just a tan and typical souvenirs.

In 2021 and beyond, travellers are looking for unique ways to explore their passions, hone their skills, immerse themselves in a foreign language, and spend their precious vacation time learning about everything from wildlife to history, the environment and more.

Gone are the days when holidays were all about sitting on a beach and sipping mai tais. (Okay, so there’s definitely still a time and a place for those types of vacations, but educational escapes are on the rise for good reason.)

Man looking up at the ceiling in a historic building adorned with frescoes
Delve into the world of history and art on a learning vacation in Europe | © Joshua Earle/Unsplash

Five types of learning vacations for every traveller

Whether you want to take salsa dancing lessons, try your hand at scuba diving, or develop an entirely new-to-you skill, the possibilities are endless! There are so many fantastic places around the world where you can disconnect from your daily routine, embark on life-changing adventures, and learn something new along the way. 

Not quite sure what type of learning vacation is best suited to you? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Immerse yourself in a foreign language

Does “learn a new language” keep making its way onto your list of New Year’s resolutions? Commit to achieving this goal once and for all with an upskilling escape.

Although you probably think otherwise, becoming proficient in a foreign language doesn’t have to be a painfully long process — especially if you choose to go on a language holiday.

Whether you find yourself in Guatemala or Cuba, joining a language course is one of the best — and one of the most enjoyable — ways to level up your language skills in a relatively short period of time.

Best of all, you won’t have to spend your entire vacation stuck within the confines of a classroom — you’ll still have plenty of time to play tourist, get to know your destination of choice, and practice your newly-acquired skills in the real world.

Explore our range of Language Course Tours

Woman standing at the front of a classroom pointing to post-it notes on the wall
A language holiday is one of the best ways to level up your language skills | © You X Ventures/Unsplash

2. Hone your culinary skills

For hungry adventurers, there’s no better way to uncover the story of a new place than through cuisine. Not only will a foodie-focused tour help you discover the culinary secrets of the country you’re travelling through, but you’ll also foster a deeper, more genuine understanding of its culture, traditions, and people. 

There’s no doubt the highlight of a foodie holiday is, well, the food, but these types of trips also include one-of-a-kind experiences that’ll have you sharpening your culinary skills and increasing your knowledge on all things gastronomy — think: hands-on cooking classes hosted by locals, wine tastings at centuries-old estates, and guided trips to traditional markets.

Along with a passion for travel, you only need to bring one thing on a culinary-centered learning vacation: a healthy appetite.

Explore our range of Culinary Tours in Europe

Person making pizza from scratch at a cooking class in Italy
Whip up delicious food from scratch on a culinary holiday in Italy | © Jamie Goodwin/Unsplash

3. Up your photography game

Is your favourite part of travel capturing beautiful photos? Do you geek out over camera gear and golden hour light? If you said “heck yes!” to all of the above, a photography trip is the perfect learning holiday for you.

Now, if you’re thinking these types of trips are super expensive or only suitable for professionals, you’d be mistaken! You can find photography vacations for every skill level — beginners included.

Since mastering the art of photography is all about trial and error, getting one-on-one time with an expert instructor is an invaluable way to push your photography skills to the next level. And is there anything better than learning new tips and techniques while exploring insanely photogenic destinations like India, Scotland, or Vietnam?

Explore our range of Photography Tours

Woman looking through the viewfinder and holding a Canon camera
Master the art of photography on an educational escape | © Christian Wiediger/Unsplash

4. Learn to hang ten

A surfing trip is one of those holidays that’s great for the mind, body, and soul. Plus, it’s the perfect option for anyone who wants to totally unplug and hit the reset button in paradise. 

Whether you choose to hang ten in Costa Rica, Australia, or Portugal, you’ll spend your days catching waves, mastering the art of the sport, and chasing that magical feeling of riding your first wave.

Whenever you’re not out in the lineup waiting for waves to break, you can go into full-on holiday mode by sunbathing, kicking back on palm-fringed beaches, and bonding with your crew of new-found friends.

The only downside? This sport is a tad bit addicting, and once you’re hooked, you’ll be wanting to book your next surfing vacation as soon as the first one is over!

Explore our range of Surfing Tours

Two people standing on a beach holding surfboards at sunset
Explore dreamy destinations like Costa Rica or Portugal and learn to surf while you’re at it | © Frank Mckenna/Unsplash

5. Discover a new passion

Maybe you want to channel your creative side on a writing retreat or contribute to a marine conservation project. Perhaps you’d like to learn about the Amazon Rainforest’s complex ecosystems or delve into the world of sustainable farming. Or, maybe you’re just keen to try something totally new.

No matter what type of activity you have in mind, a learning holiday can provide the inspiration you need to step out of your comfort zone, better yourself, and uncover a new hobby or passion.

Sea turtle swimming in the ocean
Wildlife lovers can spend their holiday contributing to a marine conservation project | © Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash

Of course, these learning vacations are just the tip of the iceberg — there are so many unique, life-changing holidays to be had, so browse our selection to find your perfect educational escape today!

Ashley is a Content Editor at TourRadar. When she’s not writing, travelling, or obsessively checking flight prices on Skyscanner, you can find her attempting to fine-tune her photography skills or watching a shark documentary.

Two canoes on a lake in Alberta
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