How to Take Your Child Out of School to Travel (Without Making Enemies)

How to Pull Your Kids Out of School to Travel Without Making Enemies

Whether they’re missing one day before a four-day weekend or two full weeks of school for an extended trip, I have never thought twice about taking my children out of school to travel. Here are five tips that have helped me do this over the years without making enemies in the front office or classroom.

When my children were young, it was easy to take my children out of school to travel. Missing a day of preschool to visit the zoo or missing a week of kindergarten to visit family in New Mexico wasn’t a big deal. Missing two weeks of middle school, even if it’s to travel to Europe, is much more significant.  

But even as they’ve aged, I’ve never felt guilty about taking my kids out of school to travel. Whether it’s adding an extra day of padding to a school break or taking a full week off when school is in session, I’ve found that supplementing classroom learning with real-life field trips keeps my kids curious about the world and interested in the subjects that they otherwise would experience only from textbooks, the Internet, and movies.

That said, I believe it’s important that my children are doing their part to earn these enriching travel experiences and that our family’s travel plans don’t cause additional work for their teachers.

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Here are five tips that have helped me take my children out of school to travel without making enemies in the front office or classroom.

1. Ensure They are Succeeding in School Before Taking Your Child Out of School to Travel

Be sure your child is performing well before taking him out of school to travel

There’s a reason this is number one on the list. If your child is struggling at school — not turning in his homework, not performing well on tests, not meeting your grade expectations — it’s important to address these issues first.

Because it can be tied to the school’s budget, ability to recruit talented teachers, and standing in the community, educators monitor key metrics like standardized test scores, grade point average, and class ranking. If your child isn’t at least above average in all of these, any frequent or extended absences are likely to be flagged. In some cases, the school may even have an obligation to report them to your state’s board of education.

If you plan to travel with your kids by car, put packing on auto-pilot by subscribing to Everyday Wanderer. You’ll get a free downloadable packing list that will ensure you have all of the essentials and more.   

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2. Plan Around Existing Breaks to Minimize Disruptions When You Take Your Child Out of School to Travel

Plan around school breaks when taking your kids out of school to travel

Our public school calendar has several three and four day weekends throughout the school year, roughly one per month. So we begin our annual family travel calendar by first leveraging these opportunities.  But since it’s nearly always cheaper to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday, I often let the kids miss an extra day or two, as needed, around these planned school breaks.

3. Before Taking Your Child Out of School to Travel, Give Their Teachers Plenty of Advanced Notice

Since I keep a rolling six to 12-month travel calendar, there is plenty of time for me to notify my children’s principal and teachers of our upcoming travel plans.  The first week of school, I already notified Louise’s middle school teachers of our travel plans during the fall semester and reinforced the next point below.

Related Article:  Planning Family Travel with a Full-Time Job and School-Aged Children

4. Describe the Educational Experiences Your Child Will Have When He or She Misses School to Travel

Share what your child will learn when you take her out of school to travel

Teachers understand the benefits of travel and the importance of supplementing classroom learning with other experiences. That’s why they organize field trips!

Even so, I’ve found that detailing the ways my child will benefit from travel — just like teachers are often expected to do when proposing a field trip to administrators — goes a long way in gaining their support.

Louise missed a few days of school to visit Atlanta shortly after her 5th grade class studied the southeast region of the United States. When communicating with her teacher, I outlined the ways I’d be reinforcing and building upon her recent classroom studies.

  • Math – Plan our sightseeing experiences within an established budget
  • Technology – Keep and record receipts in Excel; take photos of her travels
  • Social Studies – Tour the Atlanta History Center; taste grits, black-eyed peas, and okra
  • English – Create and present a PowerPoint to share her experiences

5. Have Your Student Turn in Assignments and Take Tests in Advance Before You Take Your Child Out of School to Travel

Teachers have their hands full. I know I couldn’t do what they do every day! That’s why I insist that my children turn in any assignments, papers, or special projects before traveling. Because big tests often fall just before school breaks, the kids are also expected to take those in advance. My kids should not be granted additional time to do the work compared to their classmates, and they are expected to be organized and proactive to earn the opportunity to travel.

Be sure assignments are turned in and tests are taken before pulling your kids out of school to travel

6. Don’t Make Extra Work for the Teachers When You Take Your Child Out of School for Travel

Our family’s decision to travel should not cause additional work for my children’s teachers. If they are going to miss a class lecture on cell reproduction or a lesson on multiplying fractions, they need to be prepared to teach themselves the material and it’s my responsibility to help, as needed.

Proof That Taking Your Child Out of School to Travel Enriches Their Classroom Experiences

When my son, Bo, was in 8th grade, an incredible opportunity presented itself — two weeks in Europe visiting Amsterdam, Paris, Normandy, and London.

The catch?

The trip was during the school year and he would miss ten days of class. Fortunately, when I presented the travel itinerary to Bo’s principal and teachers, they went above and beyond in support of this incredible educational opportunity.

Related Article:  What Every American Should Know Before Visiting Europe for the First Time

Understandably, his math teacher required Bo to teach himself the lessons he would miss at school. After all, you can’t really miss two weeks of math nor supplement those lessons with an alternative lesson plan. Fortunately, math is one of Bo’s natural talents and this was a piece of cake for him. But every other instructor came up with a special lesson plan that allowed him to fully embrace this educational opportunity.

For example, his English, social studies, and introduction to architecture teachers allowed him to write about his experiences in lieu of the planned lessons. For his English class, Bo wrote about the different foods he tried in the Netherlands, France, and England. After touring several historic sites in Normandy, France, and the Churchill War Rooms in London, England, he wrote a paper for his social studies teacher from the perspective of an eighth grade boy living in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. And for his introduction to architecture class, he documented three different types of architecture he saw during our travels with photographs and descriptions.

Bo’s French teacher was most excited about his opportunity to travel to France, and I insisted that he order every meal in France in the local language. I warmed up each waiter in French explaining, “My son is 14 and just learning, but I’d like him to order his meal in French. Thank you for your patience!” Most responded with an expression that was just short of a teenage girl quality eye roll, but clearly signaled a very limited patience for his budding French skills.

As Bo started to place his order with a tentative, “Je voudrais…” even the most standoffish Parisian waiter softened and was more than accommodating. At one sidewalk cafe, a waiter with a son the same age as Bo thoughtfully added plenty of conversational opportunities during our refreshment break like:

Comment ca va? (How are you?)

Comment appelles tu? (What is your name?)

Quel age as tu? (How old are you?)

Related Article:  9 Phrases to Know in the Local Language Before Traveling Abroad

Do You Take Your Kids Out of School to Travel? 

Do you have any hesitations about taking your kids out of school for travel? Why or why not? If you have signed your kids out of school to travel, what techniques have worked best for you? Share your experiences in the comments section below.


Thank you for sharing!

23 thoughts on “How to Take Your Child Out of School to Travel (Without Making Enemies)”

  1. I think the parent should have some say into this subject, but only if it is to benefit the child and not be a waste to society or be part of a reckless adult’s selfish plan. Our kids went to a private school and we were forever taking them out of town to go on “vacation” when we traveled for business. It was a great educational offering for them to see the world while able to make up their missed work on the trip itself. I doubt there is much in elementary, middle, or high school in this country that the kids can’t recover from when doing something bonding and memorable with their family.

    1. I completely agree. Since I don’t do Disney, my kids aren’t being pulled out of school to ride roller coasters or eat pancakes with a big mouse. They are being pulled out of school to learn geography, history, culture, and more firsthand. OR to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, because none of them live anywhere near us.

  2. sunsetsandrollercoasters

    We regularly took the children out of school for travel before my oldest entered high school but it has been difficult since. In grade 9 we started having vacations only in summer and around March break with still a few days off around then. It didn’t become an issue until last year when we left two days before March break only to learn that all four of his grade 11 instructors had major assignments or tests planned for those two days. The poor kid was a mess the full week before we left, trying to do all the testing in advanced (and they were different tests than the other students). This upcoming year we’ve decided not to put him in that position (in part because he asked). We will still do our March break but we will leave the day before March break which generally it is expected that some children will miss and return the day after March break. Hopefully that will work! As you said, travel is an education in itself so we really believe its important.

    1. Taking kids out of school to travel definitely gets harder as they get older! When my three “Bigs” (now all off at college) were in high school, I think they only missed a few days around Thanksgiving (so we could have more time to travel to and visit with family) and around spring break. At least I have one last year of middle school with my youngest before she heads off to high school a year from now!

  3. Pulling children out of school to travel is such a wonderful teaching tool and a balancing act, one you have described so very well. A lot depends on the parents and the example of self-motivation they set for their children, on the children (to ensure they are succeeding and can handle missing classes and studying on their own to keep up) and the school system (to allow for these opportunties. In some states, even excused absences can have an impact on state funding (which is completely stupid if the absence is to enhance education) but there you have it.

  4. I don’t have kids but my parents always took us when they needed or wanted to. They made sure all assignments were turned in ahead of time and didn’t make more work for the teacher. We always did well in school and they didn’t take us out a lot. Usually only when my Dad had a conference for work and the family could come. But back when I was growing up no one got their panties in a wad about it like they do today. I don’t get it why they do!

    1. When we moved from the Netherlands to California, we were out of school for about six weeks from mid-October until close to Christmas break. My parents made sure we took plenty of time road tripping from my aunt and uncle’s house in Florida to many other family and friend stops before we settled in California. This was pre-Internet, and we needed time to adjust back to our homeland after living abroad for more than three years. I’m sure it was because we were moving and there wasn’t an old school or a new school checking up on us, but no one cared. And, we were able to start the new semester in our new school in a new place without missing a beat!

  5. My parents were very old school – they were totally against taking me out of school for pretty much anything. Their philosophy was that summer vacations were the only time to travel long distances. That said, I’m a child of the ’70s so it would be interesting to relive my childhood now and see what their attitude might have been.

  6. As a child, I know I’ve missed some school year beginning and endings and even a couple of weeks outside vacations to travel with my parents. If done with measure and with minimum impact (avoid missing tests and important assignments), I think it’s ok. The best way to go about it would be to discuss with teachers in advance about the plans (or to have the kid speak to them, depending on the age), to be provided with materials or copying advice in advance.

  7. I don’t have children, but I can see that these are all great tips when considering taking your kids out of school. I definitely wouldn’t pull them out if they were already doing poorly in their studies. Also great tip about doing their assignments and exams ahead of time 🙂

  8. My mother kept pulling us out of school to go on holiday earlier in order to avoid traffic jams… I remember getting a dressing down from the principal about it… not much I could do… It really wasn’t done in these days. More recently, my friend took her three kids out of school for 7 months in order to go around Australia in a caravan. The teachers gave their blessing!

    1. That would be such an amazing experience, spending essentially an entire school year touring Australia in a caravan! I think the digital age has helped many teachers and schools be more supportive. Here in Kansas (where I live), our tax dollars pay for our public schools which includes a state-wide virtual school. I sooooo wish my daughter would consider that so we could be a little more mobile.

  9. Pulling kids out of school for trips was difficult for us. They could only miss so many days before the school lost some of its state funding. We ended up homeschooling for a while, in part to facilitate days off to travel. Even (or especially) when home schooling, we wouldn’t let lessons be interrupted by travel. That’s a very important part of the preparation and it served our kids well to learn it young.

  10. We share the same sentiments about traveling with school aged kids. In addition to the steps you’ve outlined with the school and teachers, we also take steps to inform our child prior to departure. Reading books about the destination, in advance, can really help set the stage for learning while traveling. Traveling, domestically or internationally, turns the world into a classroom!

  11. Fantastic tips. Coming from a teacher, I would take an email like this much more positively than a last minute – I’m sorry but Sally will be out next week – It’s important that the teacher knows way ahead of time.

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