Skipping School For Your Family Vacation

Beat the crowds, save money and create a learning vacation when taking your kids out of school for family travels.


A family reunion. A business convention at Walt Disney World. Great off-season rates to Europe or the Caribbean.

In our hectic, over-scheduled world, parents are sometimes tempted to pull their kids out of school to go on vacation. 

A 2007 poll conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) found that one in five parents has allowed his or her child or children to miss some school days to go on a trip.

Homework Can Travel

Kids who often miss school for travel skip class for a day or two to get a head start on vacation, but some families plan an entire vacation during school time. Sometimes it is for a once-in-a lifetime experience. Karen Gee-McAuley from California took her 4th-grade daughter out of school for two weeks to travel to Ireland and Scotland to celebrate her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. “What made it possible for our daughter was that her teacher tailored projects in history, social science and writing that related to our trip,” says Gee-McAuley.

Super Savings and Special-Needs Support

For other families, saving money is the motivating factor for taking the kids out for a getaway. Bobbie Carlton of Massachusetts, took her two sons out of school in May to take advantage of 50 percent savings at an all-inclusive family resort. “So much of what my kids experienced—especially the walks with the naturalist—related to the topics they covered in school,” Carlton says. “What they learned went right back into the classroom with them.”

Some parents piggyback a family vacation after a convention as a cost-effective way to combine business with pleasure. Ken Peterson, a California father, took his 8-year-old son out of class while he attended a conference. Most recently the family traveled to Philadelphia and visited Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the Franklin Institute. “We tie our vacations to some enrichment for our son, so it’s not just lazing on the beach in Hawaii,” says Peterson.

For parents of a special needs child, taking time out of class to travel during the school year can be a necessity. “Traveling during the time that neuro-typical families vacation can be a disaster for us, because of the long lines, extra security checks and delays,” says Norma Rosenfield, the parent of a 10-year-old son with autism.

Why Schools Don’t Like It

“Anyway you slice it, teachers don’t like it when you take kids out for vacation during the school year” says Lonna Corder, a former teacher and preschool director, and now a parenting consultant.

Some school districts mandate that teachers create independent study plans for kids that miss school for vacation. In other schools, teachers will not give out work ahead of time for vacations, but have a policy that assignments must be made up when the child returns.

In some states, schools receive state financing based on their students’ daily attendance. Vacation is generally not an “approved absence” and in some cases parents are asked to pay the state the revenue lost when their kids miss school for a planned trip. Peterson paid the cost of the school’s average daily attendance revenue—about $35—for each day his son was out of class.

And of course, missing school can make it difficult for some kids to catch up with their academic work. A packet of homework is not really a substitute for in-class instruction, discussions and hands-on activities that occur daily in the classroom.

“What message are you sending your children when you take them out from school because you have cheap tickets to Disney World?” says Corder. Of course, the ultimate decision to take kids out of school for a family vacation is up to the parents. If you decide that taking your child out of school is justified for a family vacation, here are some ideas to make your trip work for you and your family. 

Tips When Taking Kids Out of School for Vacation

  • Know the vacation policy of your child’s school—check with your school’s principal or guidance counselor.    
  • Make arrangements with your child’s teachers well in advance for schoolwork assignments to be completed either during the trip or immediately upon their return.
  • The age and academic ability of your child is key. The older the child, the more difficult it can be to miss class. And while a high-achieving student may get back on track easily an under-achieving student may struggle to catch up with the work.
  • Consider leaving for vacation before a school holiday, rather than the days after the school’s designated vacation. Teachers often review work in the days before a school holiday and are presenting new material in the days after a school vacation.
  • Travel during the school year can be a true learning experience. Include visits to museums, cultural attractions and historical sites during your vacation. 

Themes: Family Travel

User Comments

Good Tips The author provided useful tips for parents wanting to take their kids out of school. I would have no problem taking my boys out of school for a vacation. Learning is not confined to a classroom!

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