5 Tips for Traveling During the School Year

Thinking of traveling during the school year? More and more families are finding there are many advantages to taking some time off outside the typical school breaks. Of course, there are raging debates arguing to the pros and cons of taking kid’s out of school even for a couple days. In many school districts this can land you in some serious hot water. If you can squeeze in travel days that are typically off-peak you can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on airfare and/or hotels. Just do a search for airfare during the average spring break week – the last couple weeks of March. Anywhere you want to go airfare and hotels are generally 3x higher than off-peak. Can someone write to congress about this price gouging? Not fair.

Try to add an educational element to your travels. Here are the kids learning about Apartheid and District Six in South Africa

Another advantage of traveling off-peak or in the shoulder season means less tourists, shorter lines and intact sanity at the end of the day. You can’t put a price on that. I personally don’t want to spend my precious holiday standing all day in a line with my young kids just to see an attraction. Ok – so that excuse may not get you the school pass needed for an excused absence but it does make for a good argument regardless.

Isabelle and Isaac learning about animals and practicing their writing and spelling at Tanekwa Conservation Centre in Africa.

They have pledged to be eco kids and always respect creatures and habitats.

After traveling quite a bit during the school year with my school-aged children, I have found the time rewarding and never a detriment to their education. But we work with our childrens’ teachers well ahead of time to make sure we have assignments so they don’t fall behind.

I have considered home-schooling so we can travel more… but then I wake up from that nightmare in a cold sweat.

Remember, every situation is different and every school is different. Here are 5 tips to help make traveling during the school year a tad-bit easier.

The kids got to learn Xhosa on a safari in South Africa

Find out your child’s school policy on absences

Before you plan any trip that involves even missing a day of school, it would be wise to find out your child’s school policy on absences. No need in planning your dream vacation during the school year only to find out you will be in hot water when you return. Believe it or not travel (no matter how ‘educational’ you make it) is generally considered unexcused and many schools will only allow 10 unexcused absences before they get authorities involved. Most schools rely on your child’s attendance for funding. The more absences your child has, the less money the school receives. So naturally they will fight to keep your child in school. Private schools tend to be more lenient as they get your tuition regardless if your kid is in class or not.

Isabelle working on her math during a plane ride.

Speak to the administration and teacher

Once you are armed with knowledge of the school policy, schedule a time to speak with your child’s teacher and administration about your plans. Always talk to them as soon as you know your plans. It’s not worth trying to pull one over on the school as most everyone is on social media and will either see posts or pictures of your travels. It always pays to be up front and your child will be the one to ultimately suffer the consequences. Find out what you can do to help ease any burden the teacher may face with your child’s absence. Be proactive and offer suggestions such as getting work done ahead of time, bring assignments to complete while gone or even write a report upon return. Most importantly: Follow through!

Learning about geography and where in the world we are!

Schedule a vacation around school holidays

When we plan our vacations we do try to overlap with a longer school holiday to lessen the impact of missing school. For instance, I can plan a 3-4 week vacation over the winter holidays with fewer interruptions to school days. I find that often the school workload is much less intense right before or after a major holiday break. Also, if we plan anything over spring-break I try to find flights a few days before spring break starts and before prices sky-rocket. Again, the kids aren’t missing many school days yet we can get enough time in for a nice holiday. I also recommend never planning vacations when your child may have a large exam.

Check-in with your kids!

As much as you want to travel, always check-in with your kids. It may be too stressful for them to miss school and that will negate any family holiday. Some kids simply don’t want to be away from their friends and that is completely valid. Kids are always trying to fit in and friendships wax and wane especially in elementary school. Also, some kids may be struggling with school work and to miss any days for any reason will have an impact on their grades. My son has never had a problem being gone and can get caught up right away. My daughter, as much as she enjoys traveling, has more difficulty returning to school and will get stressed out. It’s not as easy for her to make-up assignments. Always take your children into consideration and know their limitations.

Stay healthy!

Easier said than done! Nothing is worse than taking a vacation and getting sick upon return. It has happened to us – we returned from Africa and my daughter missed an additional week of school because she got sick right after we returned! Practice good hygiene, wash hands regularly and keep hand sanitizer readily available. If at all possible schedule long flights during nap times or night-time so kids are forced to get some shut-eye. You certainly don’t want to be run-down when you get home and hit the ground running to get back into a regular schedule.

Have you taken a long vacation during the school year? Please share your stories!

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