Should Kids Miss School To Travel?

Filed Under: Travel

I’m currently working on our family’s travel plans for the rest of 2016 and have a new challenge to deal with… school schedules.

My oldest daughter is currently in preschool. Thankfully her teacher has a great attitude and uses student travel as a teaching opportunity. So, we send a postcard or email pictures from anywhere we’ve gone and the class gets out the globe to learn more about the destination.


For the next school year, however, my oldest will start kindergarten and we aren’t sure about her new teacher’s outlook on missing class for travel. Her new school district categorizes travel as an unexcused absence unless the trip is deemed to have “educational value approved by the principal in advance.”

I personally think all travel has educational value. But, we obviously have to wait and see what the school’s standard is.

The “educational value” line reminded me about a story that went viral last year when a father took his kids out of school to see the Boston Marathon.

After returning from the race, he received a form letter from the school indicating the absences would be unexcused:

I understand that your family recently took a family vacation. I want you to be aware that the Abington School District does not recognize family trips as an excused absence, regardless of the activities involved in the trip. The school district is not in the position of overseeing family vacations or evaluating the educational nature of a family trip. The dates that the children were absent were recorded as unexcused. An accumulation of unexcused absences can result in referral to our attendance officer and a subsequent notice of a violation of the compulsory school attendance law.

The father’s well-reasoned reply pointed out all the ways the trip complemented his kids’ classroom education. Among other things, he explained:

In addition our children walked the Freedom Trail, visited the site of the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre and the graves of several signers of the Declaration of Independence.

These are things they WILL learn in school a year or more from now. So in actuality our children are ahead of the game.

They also visited an aquarium, sampled great cuisine and spent many hours of physical activity walking and swimming.

We appreciate the efforts of the wonderful teachers and staff and cherish the education they are receiving at Rydal Elementary School. We truly love our school.

But I wouldn’t hesitate to pull them out of school again for an experience like the one they had this past week.

I’m still figuring out exactly what I’m comfortable with when it comes to my girls missing school.

Limiting our trips to the school schedule means traveling at times where award inventory might not be ideal and competing with other families for the limited space. It’s not impossible. But it’s definitely more challenging. If the concern is just about trips being harder to book, then I’ll be more creative with destinations or routings to make sure they don’t miss school.

If, however, there is a particular event or trip that wouldn’t happen without missing school, I’ll probably pull my girls out of class to have the experience. This all makes me laugh about when the hardest part about leaving town was figuring out who would watch our dogs for us while we were gone.

I’m curious how those of you with kids deal with school schedules and what your philosophy is on missing class.

Do you let your kids miss school for a trip?

  1. We usually plan trips around the school calendar but our kids are older at 9 and 7 so they are learning more advanced educational material than a child in kindergarten.

    When we fly during the school year we usually take them out 2 or 3 days early because the airline rates go up the weeks they have off.

  2. Good God this is the reason why test scores in America are falling. Are you that dependent on miles and award tickets that you are even willing to consider allowing your kids to skip school so you can travel in business/first class and justify it as an educational trip?

  3. Mike –
    I agree with your sentiment, and especially the letter about the family trip to Boston. But I think you’re approaching it wrong – your argument seems to boil down to “it’s too expensive to travel during peak summer season, so we’ll do vacations another time”.

    Instead, the other father’s letter focuses on the learning that comes from traveling; experiencing history, geography and cultures first hand.

    I have no problem with kids missing school now and then. Probably not 2-3 weeks at a time, but 2-3 weeks over a year? That’s only 3-4 days per quarter, and excused or not, my kids will have a much stronger learning experience for having visited many of the notable or historical cities across the US than if they had perfect attendance.

  4. We do it every year around Thanksgiving – the kids miss 2-3 days that week. Award availability for international travel is generally exceptional at that time, and we take a break from (usually) cold weather to go somewhere warm, like South America or SE Asia. We may tack on a few days around Easter as well. Although our kids are older (high school and elementary school), we firmly believe that the value they get from visiting a new country exceeds anything they’d hear in school on those days. Plus, nowadays most teachers post their class plans and notes in advance, so they can either get a jump or spend 30 minutes each day reviewing the material.

  5. Quite frankly, as a long time reader and someone who is in high school, I think those travel experiences are worthwhile. We’ve never had issues regarding getting a day or two off due to travels, or to commute overseas before or after a break. Administrators are usually understanding, and doesn’t mind as long as there’s parental permission, although granted I’ve mostly been in private schools.

  6. I would advise you to enjoy it while it’s easy. Personally I always missed class to travel and think it only added to my education and culture in general. I was even ‘known’ in high school as the kid who skips class to travel the world and always affected both my understanding of material (like history, geography, etc) and my academic efforts in general as it served as motivation to work harder. Now I’m in college and it’s much harder to leave, but I don’t regret those years and all those countries I’ve visited.

    Go for it and enjoy! I’ll be jealous of your kids 😉

  7. P.s. I’ve never had trouble taking a couple of days off around a holiday break to streamline travel. However, I think taking weeks at a time in middle of the school year could be pushing it, particularly more difficult to catch up for higher level learning

  8. We’ve kind of created a tradition of traveling over thanksgiving break with our kids for long trips. It’s a great time to find off peak international award availability and they usually have the full week off school down here in TX. We let them skip a day or two or three and we have almost two weeks to hit up some new destinations. My kids always bring back souvenirs, foreign currencies, candies, etc for their teachers and classmates, which goes a long way. They’ll often times make a slideshow for their class with pictures, history, architecture, culture, etc. The teachers love it because it’s real world material and brings the world a little closer to the classroom. Plus they get a half hour to sit down while a kid teaches class.

    The rest of the school year we just take the kids out of school a day or two at a time attached to a minor holiday weekend. This kind of limits us to domestic travel but good for skiing and stuff like that.

    Schools toss around form letters and ominous warnings about unexcused absences, but you get a lot of absences before you get close to truancy. I see those absences kind of like vacation days– use ’em or lose ’em. If the kids ever got into some academic trouble we might rethink this approach but so far so good.

  9. And this is why some of the biggest travel bloggers are either Gay; Lucky and Gary or grandparents Mr and Mrs SFO777.

    Combining points travel and children is hard.

  10. Hey Mike:

    I live in Washington State, and here (I’m guessing laws are similar elsewhere), children don’t even legally need to be formally educated until they’re 10 years old, I believe. Your ones are too little for missing school to be impactful on their long term education – it’s more likely the administration needs for each student to hit minimum attendance targets to get public funding for the school.


  11. We have been going through this same issue with ours son, which is now in first grade. In preschool, he was literally there 60% of the time and traveling the rest.

    In kintergarten, we managed to have him miss only 4 days of school- 1 for a funeral, 1 for a trip to Panama & Santiago, and 2 for our first ever trip to Hawaii that I bought crazy cheap lie-flat business class seats for.

    He’s in first grade now and has missed 2 days (1 due to travel, 1 due to illness). He was 15 minutes tardy one day.

    He is already known by his teachers and principal as the one who travels all the time. We read the school policies closely, and we can pick him up 89 minutes before the official dismissal time without having it count against him at all. That makes it possible to drive 2hrs to our closest major airport, and take the early-evening flight out.

    The school allows 10 missed days before needing doctors notes, and also allows for up to a 10-day ‘educational trip’. Most families abuse this for a week in disney. We would never do that, and he instead enjoys museums, science, history centers, and about culture. We took him to DC for the Cherry Bloom, and he came back with a book for the teacher to read to the class and a huge choclate US Capitol building that we bought at Costco there. He takes his passport, boarding passes, Nexus card, and photos of him in Emirates First Class in to show and tell..

  12. Maybe easy to say because my daughter is 3 and in preschool, but we do plan to take her out of school to travel if the situation warrants it. We just went to Italy for 10 days and her first day back at pickup, her teacher was telling my wife that my daughter was speaking Italian in class – something I’m struggling with getting her to do at home! Beyond that, she has an Italian passport like me, and I think it’s important that we go once a year to somewhere in Italy. My parents immigrated here to the US but never had the money to take us back when we were kids. I’m in a better spot now thanks to their hard work to get me an education, and I love exposing my daughter to parts of Italian culture that I never got as a kid. There’s so much education in that – language, world history, food, even just being able to relate to people of a different culture and understand how they think.

  13. I’m an elementary teacher in a suburban school district. I teach about ~600 students. It is extremely common for families to take vacations on school days lasting around one week at a time. Their justification is usually because travel is significantly cheaper compared to during school breaks.

    Taking these breaks seem worthwhile so long as they are not excessively taken (more than a week at a time) and that you as a parent don’t have unreasonable expectations about a negative school response. For example, if you pull your kid for two weeks and expect the teacher to come up with two weeks of extra work, you would essentially be adding to the teachers workload unnecessarily.
    If you get denied an excused absence, it’s probably a policy and not personal. My issue with the parent response noted above is how personally he is taking the school response based on policy. Trust me, schools get requests like this all the time and will not excuse an absence if it goes against policy. It doesn’t mean you can’t take them on vacation anyway. It doesn’t mean that the school faculty will think negatively of you or your child. They may think negatively of you with a sanctimonious response, though. 🙂
    And finally, check the school calendar before you book. For example, parents will book vacations during school events, such as concerts, science fair, etc. that are important to the student. I have had kids coming to me crying about a “stupid trip to Hawaii” because they are missing their second grade concert or similarly important event to them. I know this one seems obvious but it happens constantly.

    Other than that, use your best judgment and have a great vacation!

  14. You just need to know what your schools absentee policy is. Our son missed 10 days at the beginning of his Kindergarten school year. We told the teacher beforehand and she even said that’s fine, but they can only miss 20 days total for any reason in a year and they will send out letters after every 5 days missed. She even said if we were getting close we could take our son out of school and then re-enroll him a week later as long as their wasn’t a wait list.
    Our kids are now a few years older and in grade school and we have decided missing school is ok for trips as long as they are performing well in school, and they read and do workbooks over the trip. It sure does make the plane ride go by faster for them. Once they reach 6th grade, we will re-evaluate what our personal decision will be.

  15. As a teacher who loves traveling I unfortunately have no choice but to compete with everyone for the limited award space during peak school holidays. I understand your pains and thought process. I agree there is much that can be learned from travel and much of it can even augment in-class learning but there are also things taught in classrooms that can’t be learned on trips and is more difficult for students to learn on their own making it up after the trip.

    I think occasional 1-3 day absences are one thing, especially when for something with big life lesson or world learning value but missing two or even just one full week at a time is tougher. I’ve seen HS students struggle the rest of the semester to recover from missing a full 5-10 class days for international trips. I’ve also seen students miss a week without missing a beat. THAT mostly comes down to how responsible/dedicated the student is and how supportive the parents are in encouraging the student get his/her work in advance and make it a priority.

    Missing a few days to tag along on a work trip overseas or to the Boston marathon is one thing. Missing a week to go big game hunting on a big game ranch or skiing a couple states away is another thing.

    Grade level and general academic mindset of the student is also another consideration. Missing a week of calculus or physics class can be tough to “make-up.” Likewise, missing multiple days in any class can be tough to recover from for a weak student who is already behind.

  16. 3 months of summer vacation and 2 weeks at Christmas is not enough? ??

    I’m more surprised that the parents have more than 3-4 weeks vacation.

  17. Most people seem quite wrong here, I am surprised. My son is now 14 and in 8th grade. Straight A’s in all classes 3/years of middle school. He has missed 2+ weeks every year of his life due to travel. Fortunately our school authorities appear to be very flexible (perhaps because he is one of his school top students), and we have had no issues other than ask for the good will of teachers to allow him to take exams early or late or email homework. So far all has been good and he’s managed to visit 14 countries so far (he wants to keep 1+ per year… tough to accomplish). We have visited museums, sampled world cousine, mayan ruins, roman architecture, you name it. Please go for it, this is what real education is all about (as long as your children’s academics stay up).

  18. I’ve got no kids, so I cannot answer directly. But my observations.

    First, through elementary school, much is repetition of the same skills, slowly but surely making them more complex over time, but missing a week is not catastrophic – it just makes the next level of complexity a bit more difficult.

    Second, parental professional schedules do not always mesh with school schedules. Some teachers and others take terrible umbrage, but kids educational schedules sometimes must be subordinated to what the parents can swing. Obviously it is more palatable if the vacation is educationally enriching, but a family experience at Disney World or the beach may trump elementary school.

    Third, from a legal perspective, it is important to permit schools some discretion. Yes, Disney World, or even going to Paris for the Louvre might be unexcused absences, but the schools have a role in monitoring truancy. I would not have them intervene when a student is learning enough despite missing school to go to Disney World. But monitoring “unexcused” absences is an important role a school might use to detect when kids are missing school for less pleasant reasons. To that end, school officials deserve some discretion, letting them determine which “truants” require intervention.

  19. On one hand, of course the teacher knows that travel is an educational experience. On the other hand, the teacher’s salary is dependent upon how well your child does on some test developed by the state in the name of ‘teacher accountability’. Being a teacher, I know when its a great opportunity, but I also cringe at the material the student is going to miss and how that will impact my salary. (No raise for any teacher in our school this year because our school had several students who failed to exceed the state average in reading).

    I usually just keep my mouth shut. Kids have a lot of time off already, and testing schedules (not our idea) are pretty tight. Its just one of those downsides to teacher accountability. Just don’t make me chase down your kid to get their makeup work, because I will have less sympathy than the kid who missed because he was sick, or mom’s car broke down, or dad dragged him to work with him.

  20. Mike,

    We just returned from a 3 week trip to Europe. Our kids are 2 times 4th grade and 1 6th grader. We had to take them out of school for 7 school days before winter break since my parents had their 50th wedding anniversary in Germany. So not because of better prices or mileage tickets.
    We had no problem taking them out of school as long as you inform the teachers early and they prepare an independent study for them. This way they will not fall behind in school and the school gets their money. We did it 3 years ago and of course the younger the kids the easier it is. I would not worry about elementary school level at all! The older they get the harder it is to take them out of school because of school commitments. Travel is always an amazing enrichment!

  21. And I forgot a week for spring break. So there’s really no excuse to not finding time. 3 months in the summer!!!!

  22. Your kids are special and exceptional. All trips are educational. Attendance rules are for the other kids. And we wonder where these kids learn such a sense of entitlement.

  23. Stop with the “all trips are educational” line of crap. The kid is in Kindergarten. At 4th grade, the kid won’t remember anything about the trip. Time to act like a responsible adult and put your kids first and this game of finding a free business class ticket as second option. Many of us find tickets during the summer months. I have taken my family to Mexico, Hawaii, UK, Amsterdam, Spain, Italy, Paris, and many domestic states during the summer on award tickets. The first world issues this blog is creating is enough to explain the problems the country faces. Adults have lost their moral compass and sense of reality.

  24. @Anon,

    to the extent Christmas Break and Easter Break are in school schedules, does it occur to you that some families prioritize Christmas and Easter/Holy Week observances over travel?

    And, yes, ten or eleven weeks of summer vacation provide opportunities for family experiences, but not all parental schedules support even that. As an attorney, I know many colleagues who have had a significant case settle, an opposing counsel seek an unexpected continuance, creating an unanticipated break, etc., etc. These events create fantastic opportunities for them to capitalize on to reconnect as families, whether they are going to Disney World or to NASA. At least while the kids are in elementary school, let the families be families.

  25. The dude that wrote a letter to the principal and posted it on Facebook for all to see? Yeah, he cheated to even get in that race.

    My family loves to travel. There have been countless times where I want to go somewhere and then remember that my kid has school. In all reality, I understand why schools have a maximum amount of days and why they aren’t going to excuse trips. They don’t want to have to constitute why my trip to Istanbul deserves to be excused but another’s trip to Orlando to visit Grandparents does not. I get it. This runner on the other hand wanted attention.

  26. I am currently in high school and at my school (in Southwest Florida) I cannot miss more than 20 days (before being marked for truancy) of school regardless of whether or not they are excused or not (not including surgeries and school organized events). As long as my parents send in a note saying I wasn’t skipping, it won’t count as unexcused. However, at my middle school in Chicago I attended last year, they marked vacation days in the system desperately and you were allowed up to 15 days of vacation and after that they were unexcused (but they could be made up for by 1 day over the allowance = 5 hours of community service) I would call the front office of the Kindergarten during a day when they are open and discuss their policy as it is different with each school/district.

  27. I’m struggling with this too because this year I’m taking out my Kindergartener and 1st grader out for a week to go to, yes, Disney World. I initially booked it for spring break but my husband really wanted to go when the crowds weren’t as heavy. I still kind of feel bad about this but I figure it’s K & 1st grade so most likely they aren’t missing much (side note: we do a LOT of independent study at home anyway that’s usually ahead of school level, example: Kumon). I THINK this will be the last time I do this. As they get older I’m not sure I will take them out for international trips. Right now we just do them in the summer. We will probably continue to use the summer, spring break and Christmas holiday to travel.

    If something really special comes up then I’ll think about it because like I said I’m still a little uneasy about taking them out for Disney. I’d probably feel better if we were going to the Galapagos or something, more educational. I don’t know. BUT, I do think us having a nice family vacation is important too. Spending time together is always important and both of my kids love to travel so they tend to be super happy and loving while traveling. Plus, our phones and iPads are out of our hands because we’re too busy exploring new places together.

  28. Jfscott,
    That’s a straw man. Everyone knows you can’t have everything.

    Moreover you don’t need two weeks to celebrate christmas. We barely give retailer workers a few hours before it’s time for black Friday.

    A normal school year is 180 week days. That’s 16 weeks off!!! As a supreme Court Justice said, only justices and kindergarteners have summer off

  29. When I was in the states during my exchange program, my host parents took me out on a trip twice each being 2-3 days of absence from school.
    I then graduated High School with honor and a degree in Computer Engineering with top grade. I don’t regret missing those days I missed school back then. It’s kind of fulfilled my experience and complement my career and study.
    If I had a kid, I would not hesitate to take my kid off school for a couple days for a travel to new places (assuming he/she maintain an acceptable grade). It will fuel your kid with passion and an experience that you cannot get in classroom.

  30. And whatever you do, please don’t hit me up 3 days before your trip and ask me to put together a packet for your kid to ignore during his week overseas. I will hate you, and I will resent your kid for the rest of the year.

  31. It’s not about the issue of missing 2 or 3 days of school, but the habits that your children will form. They will feel like they deserve time off of school even up until high school age.

  32. I could talk about this topic forever.

    You know your kids best, what they can handle and you know what travel will positively affect them best. Most here have mentioned the things to take into consideration as far as keeping up with School. I will start to be the most careful once my kids are in High School.

    The fact is that the right travel has the ability to be defining factors in your child’s character development. Beyond that not only do I see my children’s character grow with each trip, but they seem to come back smarter and more confident than when they left. They are known as knowing more geography than anyone else in the school. 🙂 Of course perhaps the greatest part is it brings us closer as a family which is great for a child’s self-confidence.

    Here’s one idea: Have each kid do research into a topic/location related to where you are going. Have them write a script for a video they’ll make. Then have them practice and have them make a video on the trip. Depending on age you’ll need to help them more and provide more or less guidance. I’ve done this a lot and so they’ve got a growing number of nice videos now on youtube. This one project teaches a TON of skills. If you mention that’s the plan (and follow through) on the form you have to send in to request the absence I think that will go a long way as well.

  33. Just go for it. School is not that useful for most people. Just think about, a collage course can be reviewed in a week (which most collage students do before finals). It is totally worth to take your kids out of class for traveling. Why not? Just think about that rich people’s kids don’t even need school that much. If they are learning science, that can be catch up in a short time. They have plenty of time studying that in collage. If they are learning business, great, they don’t even need school that much (most business classes I take in collage are useless). If they are learning arts or humanity, great, they need to travel a lot. Conclusion, go for it.

  34. We were all students once and can determine whether missing school to travel is a good thing or not. 😉 BTW, regarding your example of the parent who brought his kids to see him run the Boston Marathon, the parent allegedly cheated on his qualifying race to qualify for Boston (in the running forums, he is practically shunned!) One person even offered him $100,000 if he can run the 3:11 he ran in his qualifying race.
    Anyway, back in high school freshman year, I missed 2 weeks of school in December/January to attend my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary (my family is an immigrant so we went back to our home country for 3 weeks total.) We got approvals from the principal and each of our teachers and I was able to make up all the work with no issues. Then again, back in the 90s, air travel didn’t have any IFEs and I was able to read workbooks and do homework on the plane with no problem. Yes I missed quizzes and one or two exams but I was able to make up those tests with no problem. Would I do it again if I were in a similar situation with my kids? Yes since it had sentimental meaning and an actual family/personal story to it. Would I take my kids to some random country and have them miss school because there’s award availability going there? No.
    I understand travelling is an education in itself but I also think kids can learn more by travelling when they’re older and on their own (i.e. studying abroad for a semester in college or backpacking during the summer between high school and college.) One of my friends went on an eastern european trip back in 2001 after we graduated high school with his family since back then eastern europe was very cheap (his parents told him he can earn the money and go to the usual Paris, London, Barcelona, etc. on his own thereafter.)

  35. If you want to be complicit in your child’s truancy for your personal benefit, that is your choice and a reflection of your parental values.

  36. PLEASE READ and ignore the useless rants.

    Unexcused absences are ones that are not “approved”.

    So how do you make them approved? Easy!

    Most school districts have “Travel Study” programs. You fill out a form, specifying your absence period in advance. A lesson plan and homework is prepared. Do the homework in advance and/or on the trip. When you return, the district takes the homework as proof academic work was done. This is the way we do all our trips now. Problem solved!

    Unlike when many of us were children, the school systems are handicapped by “performance-based” funding mechanisms now. If your child’s butt isn’t in a seat, they don’t get paid for those days. It’s really that simple. If you are taking your kid out for only a day or two, just call in sick. Sick days don’t penalize school funding. WE all made this system the way it is. It’s like being angry at your computer, it doesn’t help. Learn how it works , then operate it within it’s boundaries.

  37. I used to be all for taking the kids out for a few days each year for a family vacation, and took my kids out more or less annually, but I’m starting to lean towards the other camp. Honestly, my kids (maybe they are weird) don’t really like to miss school for a trip because it means that they come home to a pile of classroom work and homework that they have to take care of in addition to their regular school work, activities, sports, etc.. Last year, my high achieving and very responsible daughter who was in 5th grade made it very clear that a family getaway during the school year was not worth the disruption or added stress to her life after returning home. I have to respect that and am proud that she cares as much as she does about school and learning. Going forward, we’ll probably limit taking the kids out of school for the important things like weddings, funerals, or really special once in a lifetime type of event. We’ll figure out how to make do with traveling for the next 10 years or so with the school breaks.

  38. We have taken our son out of 1st and 2nd grade school for trips to Paris, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. I will do it every time, there is no possible way those 4-5 days he missed are more valuable in his life to time with his family seeing the world. That’s an arrogant argument by a egotistical educator. My son kept a journal, read at the museums and say historical sites that the majority of his class will never have the opportunity to see.

  39. We come from a school district where international travel is commonplace due to the diverse student body. I try to combine travel with the school calendar, but take off early and/or return late. I can save thousands of $$ and provide educational opportunities I couldn’t financially during spring break only dates. I did get grief once though and blew it off like the guy above cause it was a very educational trip. In general, I try to be low key about it. It’s a modern mobile world. I have 13,11, and 9 year olds and we have missed school for travel probably every school year, but not excessively.

  40. Well, I’m in two minds about this one. I think travel has incredible value, especially when the traveler is old enough to have some vague understanding of the trip. Which, when you think about it, coincides with school.

    When I was in elementary school, just about anything was workable. I think the district was pretty willing to make things work, and it was a small enough school that parents/teachers/administrators could figure it out amongst themselves.

    Now I have to say that high school was a totally different ball of wax. I got crazy-sick one year and still had trouble dealing with certain teachers and absences. And I was legitimately super sick. I can’t imagine how that would have worked if I were out of the country. And my AP classes had really strict attendance policies.

    So I guess I would say that your strategy makes sense for now, but it gets harder as they get older. But I would also encourage you to keep it to simple (like maybe one big one and one small one). Do what you can to keep your kids there because a) it helps them (I can attest to the fact that missing school when you’re a six-year-old girl means everyone becomes friends and forgets you exist) and b) some districts can use excessive absences as leverage if they want to hold your daughter back (they want the $$ her attendance brings in!).

  41. Who knew this was such a controversial topic? I take my kids out of school pretty regularly for travel. We travel for leisure and also one of my kids participates in travel sports so we travel at least once a month.

    It’s important that you learn the school policies as it varies by district for public schools and private schools have their own rules. Most public schools have independent/travel study that must be requested 5 days in advance and cannot be for longer than a specific amount of time (ours is 15 days). If you go this route, it’s important to schedule time for the kids to do their work each day so that it’s not too overwhelming and as they get older, the work can be significant. Also, sometimes if you tell the teacher where you are going, the teacher may customize some of the work to the trip. My kids got to learn about marine biology in Hawaii, draw art from the Louvre, write a report on the history of theater after visiting Italy, etc. Good luck with your future kid travel experiences!

  42. I cancelled my ticket after my SAT score came out though.. I gave up BREAKS for school, albeit CLASS TIME?

  43. My school district had a similar policy about travel as is discussed here, and I traveled anyway. A lot of my family lives in Australia and New Zealand, including my grandparents, so I would take a week off directly before winter break to spend more time with them and get tickets at non-outrageous prices in the peak season. I did this every year through Grade 8, and never had any problems making arrangements with teachers and administrators about my absences. I was often given a small amount of work to complete whilst away, but was nearly universally told that time spent with family–the only time I would spend all year–was more important. Even when policies are written and enforced in a draconian manner, there is often room for deals to be struck, especially if you are diligent in class and have good relationships with teachers.

    Regardless of the destination or the reason, I think that travel is much more important than primary education. Your children will learn the material anyway–it’s not hard, and they will be much richer human beings for having seen the world. Flout the law–rebuff it to its face, for you will never get the time back.

  44. Have you considered homeschooling? We homeschooled three children through high school and traveled extensively with them. Homeschooling allows them to explore so much more in the world than being tied to a chair all day. Now, my oldest just graduated law school and passed the bar exam, my middle will finish a Master’s in public health in May, and my youngest just got her Bachelor’s. It can be done!

  45. You just have to look at it as…. what if you HAD to? What would happen?

    If a family HAD to move to another place for a month…. and then come back. Would all be lost? Or would they be back in school when they returned?

    Kids enroll midyear in a new school and things go just fine. This is much less chaotic than that and people manage.


  46. I teach at an international school so often have kids who are travelling for a variety of reasons – family bereavements, weddings etc.

    With regards to attendance – children who attend school consistently are likely to stay at school longer and live more successful lives. That is why governments and school districts have policies regarding attendance. Patterns for schooling attendance are often set by behaviours in the first two years at school. Children whose attendance is lower are more likely to leave school before achieving the necessary qualifications for success.

    A week or two of ‘extra holidays’ might not seem like much, but when you factor in days for illness those absences start to add up. It is worth noting that a child who has an attendance rate of 90% at school has already missed a year of schooling by the time they reach middle school.

    With regards to setting extra work – early in my career I spent countless hours preparing extra work for the children to do on holidays and been keenly assured that the children would concentrate on their school work. Then the kids show up at school completing a sum total of zero of the tasks I spent time preparing.

    These days I encourage daily reading, commenting on the class blog, sending in updates, journals, photographs by kids, maybe some maths around exchange rates etc. At the risk of sounding sanctimonious, if the parents believe this is an ‘educational trip’ then surely the shouldn’t need work set by the teacher.

  47. When I was younger, my parents would take my sister and I out from school for a week in January to go to Disney/Hawaii/cruise etc. Teachers were never really happy but my parents would always get all of the homework and lesson plans from the teacher and would have us do it either before leaving on vacation or have it turned in by the time we got back. Never really had an issue by doing that.

  48. Here in the UK, you would be considered a bad parent. Absence for family trips could result in your kids being expelled from their school and your family would be reported to social services. In most of Europe, school is compulsory, by law. However, they get 16 weeks of school holidays. I know it makes travel more expensive during those dates, but all you need is a bit of forward planning…

  49. Hey Mike,

    Thank you so much for posting this! I don’t have kids (yet!) but when I was younger my parents would let us miss school from time to time to travel, and it was such a great experience! I learned more than I would have learned staying in school. As my sister and I got older, it became harder to miss school, simply due to the workload, but the school had a rather generous policy, and I actually missed about 2-3 weeks in my junior and 2 weeks in my senior year, simply due to traveling, or trip organised by the school, which were even more fun! I learned more in the few months of lost school that total up than I would have learned spending an eternity in school, and I hope I’ll be able to give my kids the same opportunity one day!

  50. In a single word, Yes! My parents would take me for vacation and travels across the world, often resulting in my missing 1-2 months of school at a time. Of course this was during my elementary and middle school years since it does become harder to miss as much during high school (although this didn’t prevent my parents from taking additional months away from my school year to travel during 9th and 10th grades). I probably received more useful education on my travels with my family. However, the deal with my teachers was that I would stay up-to-date with my academic work and my schools subscribed to this on-line academic platform called BlackBoard, which enabled academic correspondence remotely. All in all, if you can negotiate it with the teachers, then go for it! After all, life turned out just great 🙂

  51. Just to confirm what Alex is saying above, in the UK parents have been successfully prosecuted and jailed for child absenteeism not due to illness. But I believe most, if not all, of those are the deadbeat parents who don’t care if their child attends or not.

  52. I live in Poland. Currently Junior HS. Here, if you have an unexcused absence, for whatever reason, you just have to bring a note written by parents saying ‘Please excuse the absence of my child. He was sick’ and that’s all. It gets harder if classmates had told the teacher about where I was 😉

  53. The UK hates any sought of school related absence- even tell children to come in with colds.

  54. Kids should not miss school, they should only miss the classroom-part of it. One should still study and learn while on the trip. When I was younger my parents often took me with on their travels, but I always did my homework and followed the curriculum when absent from the classroom. They discussed it with the school long in advanced, and always ensured that I had a plan to follow for the entire length of the trip.

    As a side note, I would like to add that the travels I did being younger really sparked an interest in foreign culture and other countries. I think that is part of the reason why I studied abroad both in the UK and in the US (I am Norwegian), before I turned 20. Now I am 21, already in a high-paying job and still love travelling. I think much travelling when I was younger motivated me to study hard enough to manage to get into the schools and educations with semesters abroad. I am really grateful for all the travelling I did when I was a kid.

  55. I’m in high school and have studied in both Germany and Egypt, the latter being a full-German educational system. My experiences vary widely.
    In Germany, there are no excuses whatsoever. Especially with the educational level being so high and the vacation times being so long and frequent, you have many opportunities to travel on holidays and (except for Christmas) the ticket prices don’t really go up. Award inventory is shitty in all cases. I did, however, have a serious problem as one immigration officer did not want to stamp my exit at FRA, because I was missing two days of school to create my own long weekend. He had to call my school to ask where this was excused, and my principal, although she hadn’t known, said I could pass.
    In Egypt, I have had absolutely no problem getting the stuff we did in school my friends and even had my teacher change the date of our Maths exam next week because of my trip to Germany. She sees it as something cultural that school should be no obstacle for as long as we can coordinate.
    Morally, I think skipping 1-3 days of school is fine, as long as you don’t do it too much and you have someone telling you what you have missed precisely.

  56. Best comments so far have come from teachers, who seem to get the delicate balancing act going on here. They recognize the benefit these trips have for the students but also address the realities they face with performance-based pay, unreasonable requests for packets of busy work, and the high expectations for standardized test scores placed upon them. I have a one-year old and will struggle mightily with this when she gets older. However, as a former teacher, I will not do anything to impact her educational success, so I plan to have very frank conversations with her teacher at the beginning of each school year to ensure that I have a solid understanding of his/her expectations and what I can do to ensure that any missed days from travel will not impact my daughter’s schooling.

    I also agree with others commenting about Thanksgiving travel, which I have found is THE BEST time of year to travel internationally. Shoulder season in most places, award availability tends to be good, and it’s great to escape the heat of Florida. Many schools are off that entire week, while others have an activity- or video-based curriculum that won’t be nearly as beneficial as a week spent traveling the world.

  57. Remember parents wouldn’t give a damn about pulling me out of school when I was a teen – like the time I went to London in the middle of the school curriculum for a week, or to New York for two weeks, one of those which was a school week (the other was on spring break). My parents always see travel as a learning opportunity, and given that I had no trouble doing well, they don’t hesitate to let me miss school.

  58. I had this challenge, since my daughter emtered school. As a your tou bus driver and travrl agency owner, I felt the difficulty of balancing trips and school. My daughter starting traveling with me from 6 months old and every passenger loved her. She is now 11 years old and has traveled most of the US and many foreign countries. Schools poem concentrated on little more than test prep, so I enrolled her in virtual school. Now when we travel some portion of the day must be spent on the computer to complete some school, in addition to her experiencing culture and history. Nothing beats learning about Ponce Del Leon and Spanish Conquestidors while visiting St. Augustine, FL, or Early American History while in Cape Cod, MA. At 7 yeasts old she got to actually touch Plymouth Rock. That does far more, in my opinion, then a text book.

  59. P.S.
    It may look like I need to go back to school, but comment was entered by an auto correcting tablet, which doesn’t correct very well. I just need to proofread better, before hitting enter. Sorry.

  60. honestly, who gives a crap about what other’s think about what you want to do with your kids/family? Do what you think is best for your kids. Bottom line.

    Me? I have an 8 yr old and a 3 yr old. We are taking a cruise with another family and their son in few weeks. We picked this week becauase it’s MLK Holiday on Monday and Tuesday, the school is closed for teacher’s work day. In all he’ll miss 3 days of school. When we return on Saturday, we’ll get missed assignments from one of his classmates and make them up on Sunday. Big whoop.

    To those who complain that why people can’t take vacations in the summer? Prices skyrocket for cruises as soon as school let’s out, double, almost triple sometimes. (and Thanksgiving, and winter break and spring break times) Plus take a week to go to somewhere warm for a week in the dead of winter is a nice break.

  61. I think it’s the school that does something wrong (not offer a motivating enough curriculum) when you even consider to travel instead.

  62. I’m actually a teacher and fully see travel as an “excused” absence. Travel is the best type of education, and it is so much more than what you can show children through textbooks or even “virtual” field trips.

  63. All these comments about what kids learn from vacation and from school.

    What the teacher thinks about a child’s absence is irrelevant.

    Bottom line is the school is not paid funding when a student has an unexcused absence. That is the primary issue for the school. Plus, reports have to be created by school on how students with 10% absentee rate (17 days in school year) will be reduced.

  64. I just want to comment on how several people mentioned getting work from teachers before travel. I think that when we were all kids that was more customary. In my experience with two different highly regarded school districts in two different states, this is not the case anymore. The kids receive the makeup work upon return and it is at the teacher’s discretion. I’ve had some teachers tell my kids not to bother with the makeup work (just keep a journal) and have others threaten all zeros for work assigned during an unexcused absence (this was in 5th grade).

    The turning point was really around 4th grade for my kids and my kids didn’t want to miss school for vacations, doctor’s appointments, or anything because of what they were missing in the classroom. My kids go to school that is big on hands on, collaborative learning (not a lot of worksheets) that can’t be replicated with work sent home. I get it that travel is educational, but I don’t kid myself that what my kids gain from traveling makes up for what they are learning in the classroom.

  65. Absolutely yes !!As a kid who traveled a lot and missed school and a student now who does pretty much the same .. I’m nothing but grateful to my parents for every trip really..Sometimes it was challenging to keep up with school when i returned from a few days (or a week ) trip , but nothing too hard or impossible..
    Also it’s funny how according to some people the trips should have educational value lol ..When traveling you learn different kind of stuff ..I have friends (20+ years old) having nightmares when they have to transfer an airport or laugh in my face when i suggest that they should visit a certain city during a 10 hours layover for example..
    No doubt that school is important ..but it isn’t everything 🙂

  66. You’re overthinking it. In all honesty, I don’t think it’s a big deal AT ALL for the kids to miss school for travel or a vacation, unless they’re missing some important tests or something that will actually impact their ability to move forward academically.

    We’ve taken our kids (currently 4th and 2nd grades) out of school a couple of times for trips. What’s the repercussion if the absences are not excused?

    Also, that guy that took his kids out of school to go to Boston? Turns out he was a total cheat and liar. He embellished (read: LIED) about all the educational activities they did, and also cheated to qualify for the Boston Marathon by cutting the course of one of the qualifiers. He also followed up after the fact with the school to try to get it excused, rather than trying to do so in advance, as school policy dictated. So maybe not the best example.

  67. This fall our family is going to Yellowstone and all of my grand kids will miss 4 days of school. Yes, we could go in the summer and fight the crowds but if we go in September it won’t be near as crowded and we can take the time for the kids to learn more and experience the natural wonders of the park. Their parents are already teaching them facts about Yellowstone. The schools here won’t like it, up until 3 or 4 years ago, individual districts had enacted policies that were contrary to state law. Some tried to say you had to have a doctors excuse for every absence, or it would be unexcused, and your child was only allowed 4 unexcused absenses before they turned you in to authorities. The State Board of Education finally reigned in those districts, and it appeared the districts were only doing this because they lose money every day that the child is absent. Now state law prevails, I think it is 10 days per semester, no matter what the reason, no doctor excuse needed. I view it as a parents decision, if you want to take your child on vacation, go. Some peoples work schedule doesn’t allow summer vacations.

  68. Yes, they should if you can manage it!

    Once a year, we make the pilgrimage to Thailand and SE Asia in April to celebrate the new year (Songkran). We get the school permission and sign a “homework contract”, but the principal is never happy with it. The teachers are always encouraging and actually tell us that our kids are learning much more from our travels than sitting in their own classrooms. The kids love it, it’s the highlight of the year and just as exciting as christmas morning when they open their gifts. In Asia, they are exposed to wonderful cultures, delicious food, and exotic animals … not to mention their enthusiasm at airports watching planes landing and taking off.

  69. when you realize the truancy laws are not in place because they are concerned for your child’s welfare, but because the school gets paid for every day the student is there, the answer is pretty clear.

    The less incorrect and untruthful government education your child has, the better.

  70. In TX, truancy laws are some of the strictest in the country. Travel does not count as an excused absence and at 10 unexcused days per school year, any given school is required to report the student and the parents to the district, who are required to take the parents to court.

    I always try to have the kids miss zero school. That is certainly more than doable in the summer, but at x-mas and spring break it just can’t be avoided for them to miss a day once in a while.

    The reality though is that what is FAR more onerous than the vacation schedule is the COST of travel as the kids get older. With 2 kids, you’ll be looking at using mileage for 4 people (or paying fare for 4) and in many countries (especially Asia) it will REQUIRE 2 rooms in most hotels, thereby doubling lodging costs.

    International travel with kids is not for pikers, that’s for sure.

  71. Let’s be honest, taking a vacation during school term is for the parent’s benefit (better fares, better awards) and not the child’s. The child can still experience all the enrichment of travel – they just need to do it when school is closed. “You can’t always get what you want” is the mantra here.

    Missing a week of kindergarten is not a big deal but with my oldest in 2nd grade I’m very reluctant to take her out anymore. It is a big constraint when booking travel but I just suck it up as I know that travel is my hobby, not theirs, and it has to take a back seat to my children’s education.

    Schools are closed for 4 months a year so there is still plenty of scope to travel. We’ve got 4 foreign trips in the calendar for 2016 and my two will miss a grand total of 1 day of school each. That includes 4 x J award seats on JAL to Tokyo for the exact dates I wanted in the spring recess week. Arranging award travel for a family is like hunting unicorns but occasionally you can bag one.

  72. For me it really comes down to the individual student. If the student is excelling in school and earning good grades, a few missed days are not going to impact their education in any significant way. If they are floundering and behind on coursework, then they should not be taking time off for vacations where they will fall even further behind. That sends the wrong message and inadvertently teaches the wrong lesson. But assuming your children are in good academic standing and haven’t missed school for other unexcused reasons, I don’t see the harm in missing a few days especially if it really is an enriching experience as you said. Having worked in a school environment, I can tell you that nothing is going to come from those letters you received.

  73. My daughter has been in three different school districts and the response to absences for travel have been very different. From a rigid stance of any absence gets you a nasty form letter to extremely supportive of travel and new experiences for their students. If travel is important to you, you need to make sure that you put your children in a school district that supports you — otherwise be prepared for the unpleasant letters to arrive on your doorstep.

  74. Definitely pull your kids from school to travel. The “school” most kids experience gives only a minimum of learning. Getting out and seeing the world, learning about history in a hands-on fashion, learning geography in a tangible way, having actual experience in cultural anthropology, seeing archaeological sites in person, and learning real-world travel skills–all when they’re young and quick to learn–will be far more valuable than sitting in a classroom catering to the lowest common denominator.

    I’m only 27, so my high school experience is less than a decade ago. I was homeschooled for most of my life and then spent my last three years in a private high school. My dad is a travel agent and we traveled often all throughout the year. This did not abate when we started going to a private school. The teachers got ticked at us, but my parents did not care. And the teachers could say nothing of substance as we maintained A to A+ scores with all of our work done.

    “V” wrote, “Good God this is the reason why test scores in America are falling. Are you that dependent on miles and award tickets that you are even willing to consider allowing your kids to skip school so you can travel in business/first class and justify it as an educational trip?” Actually, the precise opposite is true. Giving kids hands-on access to the world they’re learning about inspires them to dive into their formal studies with genuine curiosity and interest. It shows them (us!) that the cultures, geography, geology, wildlife, engineering (airplanes!), physics (airplanes!), architecture, and people of the world are endlessly fascinating. It gives us the push we need to delve with vigor into the theory that animates all of this. I would not write the following other than to empirically refute this comment by V, but I consistently scored in the 97th to 99th percentile on the standardized California Achievement Tests all throughout my grade 6+ school years. My constantly-traveling siblings all scored similarly.

    Wealth and academic success are often closely correlated. There’s a lot that goes into that equation, but I believe one of them is ability to travel. The world of FlyerTalk, BoardingArea, etc has made it so you don’t need wealth to travel well. Seize your historically unprecedented opportunity with both hands.

  75. My wife and I decided to homeschool our child for many reasons, but one was we wanted additional flexibility to do things like travel and take time off when “normal” people don’t. It has worked really well for our family and we are extremely happy with our decision. My son is advancing through grades faster than the pace schools set and is thriving in this environment. Our trips also always include an educational component (even when we travel during summer break). Our school never totally stops.

    The problem we are faced with is slightly different though. We pay for extra curricular things for my son to participate in. Most times those things would be included as part of attending school. So, when we make the decision to travel somewhere during the school year, we are faced with missing events we have paid for him to be part of.

    As a final thought, if you travel to Disney see if you can get connected with their Youth Education Series. It is excellent. This past November, my son learned a ton about Physics in a 90 minute session…and we did it on the attractions at Disney. It was great!

  76. We would only add a day or two at the start or end of the school year but not a really long period. And it would get harder with each grade. In first grade I don’t see that large an issue but now with us having a 5th grader it would be much harder. And it will get worse with each grade.
    You did not really specify how often you plan to do this. If its like 2 x per year in a lower grade not a big deal, if its like once a month its a different story.
    Somebody else mentioned it already that all the heavy travel bloggers have no school aged children and there is a reason for it.

  77. I don’t think anyone here would argue that travel is an enriching and educational experience. However, going to school is more than just attending lessons in a classroom. School is a child’s career and there’s much discipline to be learned in simply showing up in accordance to the rules.

    What are our thoughts about a security guard who takes a nap on the job because nothing is going on? What are our thoughts about a restaurant employee who does not wash hands after using the bathroom? Or that coworker who regularly skips work for personal reasons? In practice, chances are quite good that nothing will happen and nobody would be harmed. But we all know whether these are the right thing to do. It’s about work ethics, a habit that needs to be built from the early years in life.

    I’m not suggesting that exceptions can’t happen, but the popular attitude here that travel trumps school is concerning to me. Kids need to learn to respect school, which is their job to build on their own future. Parents need to teach them that respect by respecting school themselves.

    Thanks for the post Mike. I will face the same dilemma in a few years myself. Certainly will be tempted with the same problem, and might even find myself an excuse every now and then. But deep down I’ll know that the only honest reason for a child to miss school is the parents’ selfishness. Disney can wait till July. Cherry blossom in Japan can wait till they’re done with college. No child has to attend the Boston Marathon as part of growing up.

  78. I’m also a teacher who travels. Very few of the kids who are pulled out are going on trips with an educational purpose. Disneyland, cruises and trips to Vegas for select sports teams have little if any educational value, so when you try to spin the trip that way we get annoyed. Last year, I had a student who missed a month of school because of pneumonia then within a month missed two weeks of school for a hockey tournament. The mother couldn’t understand why the student had a “C” grade.

    Personally, I try to schedule work time for major projects and assignments around vacation periods, so my students aren’t missing a lot of critical information.

    Several tips to help the situation:

    * You might be creating a lot of unpaid extra work for the teacher. A thank you e-mail or card after the fact recognizing this will help. Few parents understand that grading assignments after the fact, making packets for the trip and the extra tutoring are time consuming tasks not included within our paid work day. Please don’t take on an entitled attitude – we have lives outside of work too.
    * Few students come back to school ready to work. It’s hard to anyone to transition from vacation mode to school, but please realize that your kid’s grade may take a hit. I rarely see a student coming back from a trip who is ready to go. If your student has an iffy grade in the class already, it is very hard to overcome a lot of absences.
    * By the time you get to high school, much of the work is based on a scaffolded approach where topics build on each other. Missing a couple of days might have a negative impact.

  79. School is a “social” experience. School attendance is a part of the experience. So, you should not expect missing school for “family travel” to be excuse, regardless of any “educational” value that it may have.

    The lesson that one learn through school attendance is responsibility to meet one’s obligations.

    It is a question for “group discipline”.

  80. This is so odd to me. When I was in school 20 years ago, excused vs unexcused was based on whether my parents wanted it or not. Maybe I just never realized that wasn’t actually the dynamic. My mom probably just called in every day saying I was sick.

    As someone who has done a fair number of school observations for work, I find it off-putting that a school would consider the academic part of what it does to be totally unmissable. I can see the point that asking for individual lesson plans adds work for the teacher. But to say that I can’t sit down and keep them on track overstates the product the education system provides. There are alternative schools and distance learning primary schools that get creative with scheduling all the time. I work with kids that are in class one day a week and graduate with full diplomas and AP credits. So I don’t buy that my kid needs to sit in class X hours X days to learn. At the end of the day if they can complete work and display proficiency isn’t that all that matters? I know legally the answer is no, that they can’t have rules designed to keep some kids in school and not others. Still, I’ve sat in on every class from art to AP at very prestigious schools and there isn’t a whole lot going on that a dad with a textbook couldn’t do himself. Or maybe better stated: that my kid, his iPad and an Internet connection can’t do. I’m sure the response will be “then you should home school if you think you’re so smart” or “well then take him to those alternative schools”. Fair. But then I’d be neglecting the social product public and traditional schools offer more than I think is prudent.

    I hope that when my kids are ready for school I can have a relationship that allows me to approach the school and collaborate on something like taking a month off to go live in France. Granted I will be swinging it as a work thing and not vacation so maybe that’s the trick.

  81. Gosh! This certainly brought out the comments!

    As a former teacher I often had students gone for a week or two weeks during the school year. But I think parents should abide by some common sense rules if they do it.

    1. If your child is not a super academic who an make up the work herself, then consider a tutor to help her catch up as part of the cost of the trip. Many subjects, especially math, build on past lessons. The traveling child can’t simply return to class and start to function at their full potential. Do not expect the teacher to work additional unpaid overtime in order to subsidize your vacation. That is not fair.

    2. Don’t blame the school, teacher, etc. if you child does not do well on those standardized tests that everybody is so concerned about. You pulled her out of school. She missed two weeks of math, reading and how to properly write up a science lab. What did you expect?

    3. If you ask for classwork that your child can do while on vacation, then please actually make them do it and take time to help them as they need. it. Putting together a week or two of future assignments can take several hours. I can’t tell you how many times a student returned, and when asked for the work, said it did not get done.

    I loved teaching my students, I had ‘study club’ after school two days a week for any student of mine who needed extra help. I wanted my students to learn. But, no teacher has the power to overcome parents who don’t provide properly for it.

  82. Missing any amount of school for nearly any instance IMO sends the wrong message to students/children. Aside from an extreme illness, death of a family member kids really need to be in school. It’s hard enough for students to catch up on material they’ve missed (across age levels) and it also creates extra work for the faculty. Most importantly, it sends the wrong message to your children. Missing school for cheaper flights or award availability is non-sensical (at least that’s how I was brought up).

  83. This thread makes clear one contributor to poor learning by students in the US: a mystical belief that days in school bring education and success. I’m very glad that my parents made it clear to me that I’m responsible for my education, I need to do the work to educate myself, I need to put in the hard work to make it happen rather than taking the perspective that as long as I show up and as long as schools have enough funding, I will get education. It’s two totally different mindsets on display here and both lead to two very different results.

  84. My son was 10 when we had the opportunity to travel to Thailand. It was a tag-along on someone else’s trip, so we didn’t get to control the timing, and it fell while he was in school. I got permission for him to go, and he got as many assignments ahead of time as possible. Luckily, he was in elementary school–his middle and high school teachers he’s had since probably wouldn’t have been as nice about it.

    However, his teacher did make it clear that he didn’t appreciate him being gone so long. Worse, the teacher clearly had some pre-conceived notions about Thailand, as he made some rather disparaging comments when my son did his presentation on it (for an assigned project, and he was granted permission to have Thailand and his trip be the topic). The most egregious thing, in my opinion, was the teacher not allowing my son to use his favorite photo from the whole trip, of a massage place in Bangkok called “Miss Puke.” My son thought the name was hilarious, and actually pulled the photo up on his camera throughout the trip just to look at it and laugh, so of course he wanted to include it in his presentation so his 5th grade classmates could also laugh at it. But his teacher told him he couldn’t use it, and said it was “inappropriate.” My son couldn’t understand why it was inappropriate, and I suppose I could’ve just told him it was because of the “puke” thing (though it was a proper name), but he’s smarter than that and would have kept pressing, so I ended up having to try to make a very non-kid-friendly topic more kid-friendly. I doubt that particular establishment was anything but an up-and-up actual massage place (and my son had gone with me to a legitimate Thai massage arranged by my brother’s mother-in-law), but even if it wasn’t, neither my son nor the other kids would have known any different, as it was just a photo of a sign, but by commenting on it, the teacher put it out there that there was possibly something inappropriate about it. It just pissed me off the way the teacher handled it.

    But overall, my son (who had previously only visited a couple other US states than the one he was born in, and no foreign countries) got invaluable exposure to a very different culture. We talked about other religions, and being respectful in the Buddhist temples we visited. He learned to eat new-to-him foods, some of which he liked and some of which he didn’t, but he was polite when refusing further helpings of the ones he didn’t like. He met people who looked different from him and spoke VERY differently from him, and made some legitimate attempts to learn a few basics of the language, and use them when appropriate. He visited a school and got to experience the morning calisthenics and a few minutes of English class with kids his age. He learned about a different culture, such as taking off one’s shoes, feet being “dirty” and heads being “sacred,” and not having complete freedom of speech (can’t denigrate the king). In talking with the family we stayed with and traveled the country with, he also got to learn more about how their schooling works, how the school year and vacations are structured, etc. He learned about a different climate, how the day lengths and tilt of the moon are affected by proximity to the equator. He got to see a large city with lots of pollution, a rural village with “heirloom” crops and animals (i.e. scrawny chickens and cows) grown alongside houses ranging from tin shacks to nice brick houses with satellite dishes, and pristine wilderness. He got to visit a zoo and see that while their animals in captivity aren’t kept as nicely as most of our American zoos, at least the laws about liability there allowed him the chance to pet an adolescent tiger. 🙂 He got to ride in planes large and small, a subway, a tuk-tuk, a taxi, and a long-tail boat, among other conveyances, plus see what it’s like to drive (well, ride) on the left side of the road.

    I’d say he learned a LOT more in that trip than he would have in the 9 or so days of school he missed, but what do I know? 🙂

  85. As a 34 year veteran, retired educator – I wholeheartedly agree with allowing children to travel during the school year. There are those who believe the school year is sacrosanct, however, I do not feel a family’s schedule should always be forced to follow that of an arbitrary, state-mandated school year schedule. If the opportunity arises for a family to travel, then the experience alone more than makes up for a few lessons in a classroom.
    Did I send assignments along to be completed? Of course I did. But I tried to keep them in line with what time I knew the child would have while away. Most of them involved keeping a travel journal and a few math assignments to keep those skills sharp.
    If I could get on a soapbox, I would definitely be a proponent of year round schools with staggered weeks off so that ALL vacation did not have to be squeezed into the 9 weeks of summer.

    @sabowin I would have LOVED to see a presentation that included ‘Miss Puke’!!!

  86. Sorry – accidentally hit ‘Return’ before I finished that last thought about year round school. One reason I would advocate for that is because so much of what is learned throughout the school year is not retained after an almost three month break. Rather, if that were split up into an extra week here or there, students would retain more and teachers would not have to spend the first six weeks of school reteaching last years skills.

    @Hans Thank you for your well thought out points of view. As always, right on target. (well, maybe not ‘always’ 😉 )

  87. As a third grade teacher for 20 years I have seen this issue come up many times. While I think travel is of great educational value, it should not be done at the third grade level (this is the only grade I can personally speak for) during the school year as there is a pacing plan that we follow during each semester. The biggest problem occurs with math when a student misses any significant time. Third grade is the most important of all the grades for learning all the basic math concepts (addition, multiplication, fractions, division, probability, rounding, etc) that when a student is absent for learning one of the concepts, they will have great difficulty understanding the next concept (as each on builds on the next). When a student returns from a long absence they are usually quite “lost” about the new concept and this creates a gap in their learning. Overall, parents should consider what is best for the child and save their travel time until either winter, spring, or summer break. There’s plenty of time (3 months of school breaks) for travel, but once a student gets behind in their academics it can be a struggle to catch up.

  88. If you’re planning on your kids’ teachers being responsible for their education, don’t. If you’re an active participant in your kids’ education, go for it. Don’t expect the teacher to bend over backwards to accommodate your kid missing class. That’s your (our) job if you take your kids to travel.


  89. Property Taxes used to fund school districts are allocated based on government math – which often includes student-attendance days. Every day out of class costs money. Where I am it’s $8 a day per student day, so bang – you cost them $40! Now I am hyper-involved in PTA and personally fundraise tens of thousands a year for each of our schools for all 4 kids. We inform the educators, we do the coursework BEFORE WE LEAVE on vacation. We have no guilt, and our kids outperform.

    The reality is involved parents have kids that are more likely to get ahead. We only use the schools because of the socialization aspect, otherwise we could bust through a common core scholastic curriculum in the first 30 days of the year and handle things as a home school family. The other 150 days of instruction are to learn how to get a long, get into lines, and enjoy government prescribed nutritious lunches..

  90. Thank you everyone for your thoughtful replies. It’s nice to see we aren’t the only ones with this dilemma and I appreciate the perspective of the teachers who have added their comments here as well.

  91. “He takes his passport, boarding passes, Nexus card, and photos of him in Emirates First Class in to show and tell..”

    I doubt you are impressing the teacher all that much. As a teacher I can tell you that these trips are a huge pain in the ass. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to resort to almost bill collector type tactics to get the make up work submitted. When it is, inevitably it is done in a haphazard manner. It’s great you have the means to fly your kid in Emirates First, but there is a ton of extra work you’ve created for the teacher. We really don’t appreciate having to subsidize your trip. I can tell you most of my colleagues scrimp and save to afford a more modest trip every three or four years. You deserve the fruits of your success, but rubbing others’ noses in it isn’t cool.

    The extra work happens outside of our work day. There have been numerous mornings I’ve had to get to work before 6 AM so I can use a scanner that is shared by 90 teachers. I can’t just push a button and get instantaneous make-up work custom tailored for the situation. Seriously, I hope you send an e-mail thanking the teacher for the extra work.

  92. Cant believe some of the crap I’m reading here: “A normal school year is 180 week days. That’s 16 weeks off!!! As a supreme Court Justice said, only justices and kindergarteners have summer off.” “Plenty of time in the summer”

    What are you a blue collar factory worker whose schedule never changes? Or a principal? Or European (where they get 90 bajillion weeks of vacation)? Some of us are compelled to attend to business during summer months, cover for the boss during HER vacation, etc., all on schedules not of our choosing or liking. Like you think we can just pick up and go whenever we want?

    Take the time with the kids when you can get it. Its about money for the schools, as noted many times here. That’s not inherently wrong, but only you can consistently do what is in the best interests of the child and family.

    The comment about all travel bloggers being gay or grandparents made me laugh. So true. Two men who are good friends of ours and neighbors a few doors down are living the life! Every cocktail hour is like a travel seminar ! Jealous!

  93. From elementary school until high school, I regularly missed about a week of school to travel since my mom would take the family along with her on business trips to touristy places. My parents always notified the teachers in advance so they would have ample time to prepare a packet of work. The absences were a little more complicated junior high and on, since there were multiple teachers to try to work with but I don’t recall any negative backlash or falling behind. Senior year of high school, I missed a good 2 weeks of school to travel internationally for a big family event. Fortunately, I had already submitted all my college apps, but with AP courses and some projects I just wouldn’t be able to complete independently, it was a bit of a challenge.
    I don’t have kids myself, but as long as you are proactive and keep a few hours a day set aside for homework (for instance on the plane would be perfect), it shouldn’t be an issue. I had friends growing up who would go to Disneyland for several days and leave the park to go do homework…not fun by any means but still good discipline.

  94. Is it me or educational system in America feel like the 3rd Reich ?

    It’s crazy that you don’t have the liberty to do what you want with your kids. Don’t you guys have freedom in the USA ?

    Anyway, good luck with that.

  95. The learning experience gathered from travelling is “priceless”. For children to experience different cultures, learn about the world around them, learning about history and above all just spending quality time with their family are reason enough to travel when you need to and not when the school/school district dictates!

    Whilst I would condone people always taking their children out of school for every trip they do, the odd few days each year won’t hurt a child’s education.

    I know whey my children were little (and something my parents did with me) they had to write a journal or read a book/travel guide etc each day whilst we were away. Even when they were pre-school aged they did a scrapbook each night about the day they had. We also encouraged them to talk about the activities of the day and always refer back to them our trips.

    Travel is a great form of education!

  96. 7 months into 1st grade, my 6 year old has 10 absences. 2 sick days, the others were to visit his elderly and sick grandparents on the other side of the world. He is doing excellent in the classroom and none of these absences have had any negative impact on his learning. My job, the one that supports this boy, that feeds him, clothes him, insures him….is at its peak when students are out of school, so for me to be able to take him to see his grandparents – summer, Christmas break, spring break, are all times that I’m refused time off, so when can I take him!!!!

    Well, we were called into the principals office and he is now on an attendance contract. No absences at all unless we have a doctors note, etc.
    I think this is ridiculous! I understand these laws are in place to protect the neglected children, but there needs to be situational exception type program in place for the kid who wants to see his Nana!

  97. Our son will start Kindergarten next Fall he is currently in pre-k. We have a big trip planned for April 2017 flying from California to Brisbane Australia spending a few days then boarding a cruise ship with many ports in Australia -Bali-Malysia-and we are going to disembark in Manila and then going to Boracay spending 10 days before heading home; we have a sponsor child who is now in College and want my son to meet her and see how life in the Philippines is. We will be gone five weeks in total. I haven’t talked to his School yet as he was just enrolled but hopefully it won’t be a problem as long as we do the home study; I think a lot will be repeated in Kindergarten next year that he is learning in pre- k anyway. I feel it will be a trip of a lifetime and he will take a lot in. Has anyone in California school system taken a student out this long?

  98. Some of these comments are entertaining, trying to make parents who take their kids out of school for travel, feel selfish, and preventing kids from meeting their obligations? – Really?

    The rest of the world doesn’t run on the same schedule as schools. I have a day job and teach, as does my wife and the kid’s have a school schedule, do you think all of these schedules line up with the school? And taking time off to travel is a good thing, just traveling is a good experience no matter how the trip turns out, and taking a break from your normal schedule is rewarding and great way to “recharge”. I am also guessing folks who think it is bad never bother to take vacations from their jobs.

    I agree with Sofian’s comment…educational system in America feels like the 3rd Reich ?

  99. When my son was younger we would travel whenever we could. The relationship he built with family out of town was priceless and the experiences we had together are memories that will last a lifetime. Even his 4th grade teacher encouraged travel as there is so much life learning when doing so. We attend a private school in pa so it was wonderful.

    Fast forward to 6 th grade. I have been VERY diligent about traveling around the school schedule now so that my child has a good attendance record. He was so proud to have only missed 1 day the entire year. We are in the 3rd and last marking period . To my shock when I got his winter report they had him as missing 5 days! I called they looked into it and said that all children who went on the class trip ( that’s a requirement) for 4 days were marked as absent. They can do this because they are a private school :/. Well with that response my conclusion is travel to your hearts content. Schools are so backwards these days they will learn more with you then in the classroom ( this coming from a former educator) Just make sure they aren’t falling behind in studies or missing too much. Other than that live life! It’s far too short my friend

  100. Nowadays, every literate person with internet connection seems to think that: a) their opinion is fact, b) the rest of the world needs to hear their opinion. Who cares what these people think? Follow your gut and do what feels right for your family. Your kids are young and the odds are good that they will learn to read and count despite missing a week or two of school. The situation may change when they get older, but you can reevaluate then.

  101. I’m a highschool student and there’s a florida trip next month my dad really wants me to go on and I’ve never been anywhere really. I’ve decided I’m not going, missing school for a trip and then getting super stressed out and struggling to keep even an okay grade doesn’t sound like fun or a break. Disney can keep their characters and beautiful scenery, work always comes first.

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