Family Vacations With a Twist for Parents Who Need a Break


FOR SOME PARENTS, vacation togetherness is everything. Others have discovered the joys of enrolling their offspring in local camps, distracting clinics and absorbing lessons while on holiday. It’s a bit like sending the kids to ski school during a winter break so you and your spouse can ski unencumbered or linger over a lunch that doesn’t involve pizza and french fries.

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When Annabella Daily spent a month visiting La Jolla, Calif., this spring with her husband and three sons, she signed up her two energetic older children for a week of surfing lessons with a local outfitter, Surf Diva. The parents had time to work and relax. The kids loved riding waves so much that back home, 7-year-old Lucas chose it as the subject for his end-of-year writing assignment. 

“They remember the place so much more because they got to learn something cool rather than rush through some sightseeing,” said Ms. Daily, co-founder of the kids’ self-care brand Daily Jungle. “And the kids get a travel experience that’s outside of what you show them—they have their own relationship to the place.”

You can preoccupy the kids with water sports, golfing, biking, tennis and horseback riding—as well as general camps where they play games and do arts and crafts. While luxury hospitality brands such as Montage, Auberge and Rosewood have been launching or beefing up their kids programming, especially for the summer, you don’t have to be a guest at a particular property to participate in local activities. Here, we’ve zeroed in on four sporty schools or camps that run by the week or day, all in destinations where adults can easily occupy themselves until it’s time for pickup.

Horseback Riding in California

Traditional Equitation School (TES) has been teaching Los Angelenos to ride for some 40 years. It hosts daylong camps for kids 6 to 12 during summer, winter and part of the Thanksgiving holiday, as well as some long weekends. Children learn to ride and care for horses, do crafts and play games. TES is tucked into the Los Angeles Equestrian Center on the Burbank side of Griffith Park. From $595 a week, ridetes.com

Sailing in Maine

Portland Yacht Club, located on Casco Bay about 15 minutes north of the city, is normally reserved for members. But any local or visiting kids from 6 to 17 can sign up for its junior sailing program, which offers morning, afternoon and all-day sessions, depending on a child’s level. The youngest campers focus on being comfortable on docks and in simple dinghies. Older ones get into points of sail, rigging, capsizing and more. From $280, portlandyachtclub.com

IMG Academy teaches aspiring golf pros ages 8 and up.

Golfing in Florida

If you’re heading to Florida’s Gulf Coast and have a kid who is serious about sports, high-profile training center IMG Academy offers weeklong and multiweek athletic camps all year in Bradenton. Beginners are welcome, though so are aspiring pros ages 8 and up. The baseline golf-camp package includes two training sessions a day, three strength and conditioning sessions a week, and a program on mental toughness. From $2,300 a week, imgacademy.com

Mountain Biking in Colorado

In winter, the Elk Camp lift at Aspen Snowmass carries skiers to the top of a half-dozen blue runs. In summer, it services the Snowmass Bike Park, with 25 miles of trails for all levels of mountain bikers. Kids from first through sixth grade can fulfill their fat-tire fantasies with three-day camps run in partnership with local nonprofit Roaring Fork Cycling. Bikers aged 8 to 16 can join full-day clinics with Camp Aspen Snowmass. From $156 for a full-day clinic, aspensnowmass.com

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