After kids go back to school, family travel gets much more affordable and most destinations are far less crowded. So should you take the kids out of school for a family vacation? Or should you wait until school breaks when prices rise and everyone else is traveling too? It’s a complex equation, made more difficult after more than a year of virtual schooling. Here are the things to consider before making your choice.
Starting in preschool, my kids missed at least a few days of school every year to travel with me.
Yes, it cemented our family bonds. But it also bolstered their in-class learning. My son was far more engaged in his fifth-grade lessons on Mayan culture because he had previously visited Tulum Mexico.
My daughter, who announced “I hate history” when I told her she would be skipping a few days of school to go with me to Colonial Williamsburg, ended up majoring in history when she got to college.
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But that was before we ever heard the words “Covid-19” or “Zoom schooling.” After more than a year out of the classroom, our TravelingMoms say it’s not so easy to decide to take the kids out of school this year.
Here are 7 questions to ask before taking your kids out of school to travel this year.
How Many Days Will My Kid Miss School?
The big challenge here is testing and quarantines. When Keri Baugh took her kids out of school in March for a family vacation, Covid testing requirements meant a shorter vacation but more missed school days.
“The kids had to be home for four days BEFORE getting a Covid test and then had to wait for results, which required them home another day or two. So what would have been missing 5 days of school turned into 7 days of missed school,” she says.
While she says that trip was worth it, the logistics were so challenging that they don’t plan to take the kids out of school to travel this year.
Jamie Bartosch says she is more hesitant than normal to pull her kids out of school this year “because there is so much catch-up going on. Missing 1-2 days is probably missing like 3-4 days worth of school.”
Is There a Virtual Schooling Option?
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But this year, their Georgia school isn’t offering a virtual option and “after 15 months virtual, my kid needs to interact with other kids and is going back in.”
What is the School’s Position?
The Texas school Nasreen Stump’s kids attend is funded based on attendance. The school administrators have “made it pretty clear that they want everyone attending unless they are super sick.”
In fact, Nasreen is worried that kids will be going to school sick rather than risk an absence.
Another Texas TravelingMom, Heidi Gollub, isn’t planning to take her kids out of school to travel. The school isn’t offering a virtual option and she figures that the lack of a mask mandate in Texas means the kids will end up having to quarantine at some point and miss two weeks of school for that.
Should I Go Anyway?
When I wanted to take my kids out of school to travel, I just told their teachers and the school administrators. They weren’t always happy about it, but no one pushed back.
That’s not true any more.
Even before Covid, schools that are funded based on attendance were less and less willing to look the other way. Some even threatened to prosecute parents for their kids’ truancy.
In a pandemic, schools are even more focused on keeping their students and staff safe from the virus. You don’t want to risk being the source of a super spreader event.
One of Kendra’s kids is in a selected academy that really drills home the importance of character. “They’ve asked the kids and us to practice integrity and be honest because it impacts our whole community — 3 values in that one sentence.”
Will it Hurt My Kids to Miss School?
My kids got good grades, so I never worried about them missing a few days of school. Still, it’s easier for kids to miss school during the primary grades. If nothing else, it’s easier for us parents to help them continue to learn when the lessons are teaching basic addition and subtraction rather than geometry or calculus. (Or is that just me?)
We continued to take our kids out of school throughout their high school years. I always gave them the choice. My son, with his AP classes and plan to become an engineer, grew more and more reluctant as his school years passed.
Only once did I force the issue. His uncle, my husband’s brother, was getting married in Mexico on a Thursday. My son was torn but agreed that he had to be there. Unfortunately, missing a week of chemistry in his junior year meant that he got his first (and only) B that semester. He did not agree to skip school to travel with me again.
Margot Black will not be taking her teen out of school this year. “Although I miss traveling enormously, and it’s so much easier (and cheaper) to take them out of school than try to travel with everyone else — this year I won’t be taking him out of school at all because we’ve learned how precious the in person school time is, and so necessary for personal development too.”
Can You Wait Until Spring Break?
Family travel during the school year is So. Much. More. Affordable. Even if you are lucky enough to travel free with points and miles, those points and miles will buy more during the school year than they will during the high travel times like school holidays, spring break and, especially, Christmas break.
How About Homeschooling?
That’s what Mary Moore chose for her kids. “We went to a virtual school and liked it so much we’re staying. School can be done from anywhere now.”
And it’s what Nasreen and her husband are considering for their kids. “Then I can make my own rules.”