There is always a lot of excitement about having kids start another school year: new lunchboxes and meet the teacher, full days where kids are busy and engaged and soaking up knowledge. It’s exciting for me as a parent; until I start to look at the school calendar and realize that suddenly we are limited on when we can vacation and millions of other families are too.
So do you pull your children out of school to travel or stick to the school holidays? Here are a few things to consider:
School Attendance Policies
First and foremost, check into your school or district attendance policies well in advance. Many schools will pre-excuse absences for travel within reason. Districts usually have a set number of days a student can be out of class for the year before it becomes a truancy issue. Private schools and smaller public school districts may offer more flexibility. Carefully read the policies and ask administrators your questions before putting down that deposit!
Age makes a difference. The early elementary years generally involve one class and one teacher. Once your child enters middle and high school, there are 6-8 teachers and classwork to coordinate for an extended absence. A day here or there, especially one tacked on to the start of a long weekend or a holiday break is probably much more manageable for older students than missing an entire week of learning. You don’t want them to be unable to enjoy their vacation because they’re too busy stressing about what is happening back at school.
What else is happening at school? State testing windows are a big old no for pulling kids out of school. Middle and high schoolers may have mandatory projects or events that are a big part of their grades. Go ahead and mark all those dates on your calendar before planning anything.
Lower Pricing and Crowd Levels
Pricing and crowd levels will be much higher during common school breaks (three-day weekends, Thanksgiving week, winter break, spring break, and summer). We’re seeing low wait times right now in the theme parks. Late August and early September are excellent times to visit the theme parks if you are comfortable with absences earlier in the year. Lower crowds also mean better availability across the board. You may find it much easier to book your first choice resort (looking at you, Polynesian Village Resort fans) or preferred cabin category on a cruise.
For overseas vacations, remember that schools in other countries may not follow the same calendar. Pricing will be higher during their breaks. Thanksgiving week is a great time to consider overseas travel. If your child is in a district that finishes in May, late May and early June may also be a great time to go.
We are frequently asked when to visit theme parks to enjoy the best weather. Florida’s weather is wild! It is not unheard of to need shorts and jeans for the same trip in December or January. It starts to cool off in November and stays pleasant through May most years. If summer break is all that works for your family, invest in portable fans. We’ll help you make the most of it.
Bottom line: I believe it’s important for kids to be in school, but I also firmly believe in travel as a tool for education. I also wholeheartedly think we shouldn’t postpone family travel until a “better time” or we risk missing out on precious memories. Over the years, I’ve found that most teachers feel the same. They have always been happy to work with us and accommodate a few days of absences in advance when we work around testing and projects.
If school year travel makes the most sense for your family and your budget, do it! Book the trip. You will not regret it. If school break travel makes the most sense for your family and your schedule, do it! Book the trip. It may be that some years you can work around the calendar. In other years you have to stick to given holidays. As a travel advisor, I am here to help you make the most of your time and make precious memories with your family whenever you can travel.