With elementary and high school around the world attending school virtually this fall, hotels are selling an unlikely travel opportunity — the "schoolcation."
Families are being enticed from their homes by hotelspromising a change of scenery alongside tutoring, round-the-clock tech help and after-school activities that are more fun than what's available back home.
Relieving parents of tech duties
Kimpton Hotels is tackling one of the most teeth-gnashing roles parents have undertaken since many schools shuttered this spring — the job of unpaid tech-support staff.
"In hearing from parents, one of the biggest pain points with virtual learning is getting their kids signed in and online — especially for those who have young children — while managing their own workload and meetings," said Kathleen Reidenbach, Kimpton's chief commercial officer. "Our goal is to provide some relief for parents traveling with kids and get the set-up portion of online learning off their plate."
The hotel brand has installed "Chief Virtual Learning Officers" to help kids with everything from Zoom log-ins to printing problems. Those officers, who can be called as needed or booked in advance, also provide snacks, school supplies and kid-sized desks.
Reidenbach said the program evolved from Kimpton's "Work from Hotel" packages and changing travel trends caused by remote schooling.
"We're seeing family vacations increasingly extend into the fall," she told CNBC's Global Traveler.
The pilot program is launching at nine Kimpton locations in the U.S. and Canada, with some allowing additional rooms to be booked during school hours from $79 per day.
Tutors and outdoor 'electives'
Luxury travelers can enroll kids from 6 to 17 years old in Montage Academy, a back-to-school package launched on Sept. 8 that comes with access to a "study hall" and round-the-clock virtual tutoring on more than 180 subjects through Tutor.com, a service owned by The Princeton Review.
"We've transformed meeting spaces at each property into a dedicated study hall," said Jason Herthel, president and chief operating officer of Montage International. The halls have staff "who greet students, proctor the room and answer questions, ensure social distancing, assist with IT needs, coordinate lunch arrival and movement breaks throughout the day, and facilitate the afternoon elective."
One "elective" is provided per day, and options — from woodshop and cooking to fly-fishing and astronomy — vary by hotel.
The program was created to help families during this "very unusual time" said Herthel.
It's available at Montage hotels in Park City, Utah; Laguna Beach, California; Bluffton, South Carolina, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
A 'schoolcation' for history buffs
Families who want to experience history, rather than just study it, can explore the Grand Back to School Package at Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel. Launched on Aug. 21, the program combines virtual study time with activities around the island, which is a National Historic Landmark in Lake Huron, Michigan.
"The package was launched as a way to encourage guests to make Grand Hotel their home base during this time of virtual learning and remote working," said Doug Dean, executive vice president of operations at Grand Hotel. "At the end of the day, families can take a break to spend time outdoors and experience everything Mackinac Island has to offer."
The hotel, which first opened in 1887, created a study space for kids within its 22,000-square-foot meeting room. The space has socially-distanced work areas and a staff member to assist with computer-related issues.
Dean said 13 families have participated to date.
"We are seeing shorter booking windows more than ever before and anticipate the interest will pick up in October as more families become aware of the option and start to feel more comfortable … to travel away from home," he told CNBC.
Children 17 and younger stay free under the program, which includes two daily meals, golf for kids, and admission and discounts to local museums and attractions.
Afternoons in the Magic Kingdom
Kids who struggle to finish their virtual work may have a new incentive to complete their classes — rollicking afternoons in Walt Disney World's four theme parks.
Starting at $50 a day, Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is conducting schoolwork sessions in small supervised classroom settings. Two schedules are available: half-day from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., or a full day that ends at 3 p.m. and includes lunch.
Spanish lessons and study cabanas
Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, located north of Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco, Mexico, announced a new "Knowledge for All Seasons" program for remote learners. The program includes 24-hour tech support, study buddies to help with classwork and reserved pool and beach "study cabanas" outfitted with monitors, Wi-Fi, portable chargers and snacks.
Kids can also learn about Mexico's history, cuisine and culture at the hotel through arts and crafts workshops and language lessons.
At the nearby St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, "workcations" come with workstations and happy hours for parents and academic assistance for the kids.
The hotel can help coordinate classes or private tutoring through The Punta Mita Homeschool, a local company that can assist with distance learning or coordinate art, music, sports or Spanish language lessons.
The company also holds Saturday morning environmental projects, such as turtle release programs and beach cleanups.
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