Some people go to the beach. Others learn to make soufflé.

A hot phenomenon in today's travel market, learning vacations combine education, adventure, relaxation, and, of course, fun. From gourmet cooking to rock climbing to lectures about ancient civilizations, these trips provide a journey for the mind as well as the body.

Once the province of retirees, educational travel now attracts interest from people of all ages.

"It's a wonderful way for children and adults to learn, and a great way for families to spend time together," says Robert McCaffery, director of the University of New Hampshire (Durham) Familyhostel program. Current destinations include Spain, France, Austria, Switzerland, and Costa Rica. Call 800-733-9753 or visit Familyhostel on the Web.

The program relies on professional educators to provide age-appropriate learning experiences for children and their parents. Children participating in Familyhostel's scheduled trip to Florence, Italy, will learn not only about Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo but will get the opportunity to sketch where the great masters painted.

For the 55-plus crowd, Boston-based Elderhostel offers programs in 50 states and 70 foreign countries. Immerse yourself in the literature of Jane Austen in New Hampshire's White Mountains, enjoy the thrill of white-water rafting on the Colorado River, or conduct field research in Belize to save endangered dolphins.

Check out Elderhostel's on-line catalog or call
877-426-8056 for more information. Hostelers are responsible for providing transportation to and from the sites for U.S. and Canada programs.

Kay Smith, a spokeswoman for Elderhostel's Midwest region, says the organization is seeing solid growth in demand for international trips as well as interest in innovative programs in the U.S. The reason: Today's retirees are healthier, better financed, and share a fine appreciation of educational travel opportunities.

"We tend to get a person who loves to learn," Smith says. "What people enjoy about Elderhostel is meeting interesting people from different backgrounds, traveling together, and sharing the experiences."

Elderhostel tours have upgraded accommodations so travelers are more likely to stay in hotels or conference centers instead of on college campuses, Smith notes.

Ann Ostrom, a retiree from Middleton, Wis., has been going on Elderhostel tours for 10 years. Her travels have taken her to Hawaii to learn about volcanoes and to a natural resources center located in the pristine wilderness of Pingrey Park, Colo. On another trip she stayed on the University of Chicago campus and attended a course at the Shedd Aquarium. An added bonus: watching Chicago's dazzling Fourth of July fireworks display from a boat on Lake Michigan.

Ostrom enjoys her fellow travelers as much as the destinations. "The people you meet on these tours are absolutely fabulous. It's a wonderful way to travel and learn," she says.

Search the Internet, and you'll likely be overwhelmed by the options for educational travel. Here are a few destinations and some resources that will help you find the perfect learning vacation experience.


      Ostrom enjoys her
      fellow travelers
      as much as the
      "The people you meet
      on these tours
      are absolutely

From gourmet cooking
to lectures about
ancient civilizations,
these trips are a
journey for the mind
as well as the body.

Destinations to discover and explore
Ever wanted to create your own cartoon character? Or prepare a Viennese pastry from scratch? The Disney Institute, located on a 57-acre campus at Florida's Walt Disney World Resort, features a performance center, full-service spa, and cinema and television production studios. At least 40 courses in cooking, gardening, photography, and animation await visitors. You also can fine-tune your golf swing at a golf clinic, or learn basic rock climbing. Call 800-282-9282 or visit the institute on the Web. Three-night packages are available from $539 per person.

Chez Soleil, a bed-and-breakfast located in Stratford, Ontario, features culinary courses taught by trained chefs. A first this year: a weeklong Master's culinary course featuring excursions to nearby farms and to visit a chocolate maker. Call 519-271-7404 for more information.

Stratford, located 90 miles west of Toronto, is known for its quaint riverside setting, acclaimed theater festival, and fine dining. Shakespeare aficionados will want to check out Stratford's Web site.

The Chautauqua Institution, in New York, is the granddad of educational vacations. Started in 1874 as a retreat for Protestant Sunday school teachers, Chautauqua now is a haven for the arts, music, education, entertainment, and recreation. Vacationers can enjoy golf, lectures, opera, the symphony, and big-name entertainers such as Bill Cosby and Ray Charles.

"Part of the beauty of the place is a broad range of choices for a broad range of age groups," says Jack Voelker, director of schools and services. Courses for 1999 include chess, line dancing, ballet, Ukrainian egg decorating, storytelling, yoga, commonsense investing, computer skills, and Oriental painting. Visit Chautauqua on the Web or call 800-836-ARTS.

At Oldenberg's Beer Camp, Fort Mitchell, Ky., beer lovers indulge in three days of discussion, demonstration, and, of course, tasting some of the world's finest beers. Campers, divided into groups with names like the Stouts, Ambers, and Pilseners, are assigned a counselor and beer guide. Sessions are held in March and September; cost is $369 per person based on double occupancy. Call 800-323-4917 or visit the camp on the Web.

Hook a rug or attend a workshop on doll making, quilting, woodcarving, or bookbinding at Fletcher's Farm School, Ludlow, Vt., a historic farmhouse nestled on 600 acres in the Green Mountains. After class, enjoy hiking in the mountains or antique shopping in nearby Woodstock. Call 802-228-8770 for more information. On-site accommodations are available.

The Equinox Resort in Manchester Village, Vt., allows visitors the rare opportunity to handle birds of prey at this American outpost of the British School of Falconry. The Equinox also is home to the Land Rover Driving School, the first dedicated off-road driving school in the U.S. The price for a four-day falconry course is $1,338 per person double occupancy and includes breakfast. Call 800-362-4747 for more information or visit Equinox on the Web.

Smithsonian Institution Study Tours offers 360 tours to 250 destinations worldwide each year. Top educators escort the tours to enhance the travel experience. Check out the Web site or call 202-357-4700.

Bike Riders Tours, based in Boston, specializes in small-group bicycle tours with unique itineraries through Italy, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Canada, and New England. Visit them on the Web or call 800-473-7040.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation offers a wide range of study tours including destinations in the U.S., Canada, South Africa, and Europe. Visit on the Web (click on travel) or call 800-944-6847.

On-line:—a bimonthly travel newsletter focusing on special interest travel options. Subscription ($48) includes Directory of Museum Tours, programs from 118 museums in the U.S., Canada, and Britain; also, Directory of Special Interest Travel with information about 300 tours. Call 800-648-5168 for more information.—links to tour operators offering golf, language, and cooking schools; cultural tours, art, and architecture; and outdoor adventures.—information about more than 3,000 learning experiences ranging from art and craft workshops to golf camps to photography and language schools.

•"Fodor's Great American Learning Vacations" (ISBN 067903224X; Fodor's, $17)
•"Peterson's Learning Adventures Around the World" (ISBN 1560798602; Peterson's $24.95)

©1999 Credit Union National Association Inc.