How to Minimize Missed School Days & Experience Amazing Family Vacations


missing school travel strategy

Minimized Missed Days

One of the biggest challenges as a traveling family is finding the best time to take trips. Sure it can be easy to take trips when the kids are out school during the Summer, Winter, or Spring breaks, but traveling during those peak times can be chaotic and expensive. (Not to mention much less award availability.)

Have you ever been to Disney World or Paris in the summer? It is hot, lines are long and both you and the kids are going to tire quickly. The combination of heat and large crowds turns what should be an amazing trip into something that is far from that.

For those reasons and more, I often choose to travel when kids are in school. When children are smaller it is possible to take them out of school for a week or two weeks during the school year. Of course this is something that needs to be cleared with the school, but most schools feel that the education provided through travel is worth it.

Then as kids grow older, it is much more difficult to pull them from school. My son is going into the 10th grade for example and missing a week of school would no doubt be disastrous. With that said, there is another option that sort of gives us the best of both worlds.

Look for Local Holidays/Staff Development Days

missing school travel strategy
The sweet spot!

One of the best things you can do is look at your local school district’s calendar and find local holiday and/or staff development days that create three/four/five day weekends for your kids. In those cases you can still enjoy a great trip, but may only have to take your kids out of school for one or two days.

Lets look at an example here in Las Vegas. In addition to being Halloween, October 31 is also Nevada Day. This holiday is generally celebrated on the closest Friday or Monday to the 31st. (The 30th this year.) Additionally, the local school district schedules 2 staff development days for the same weekend. This results in a stretch of five days with no school.

This year, for example, that means no school from October 30 – November 3rd. That is a nice stretch of time and one where most kids around the country are going to be in school! If we want to take a week long vacation, this is how it looks:

  • October 29th: Miss School
  • October 30th: No School Holiday
  • October 31st: Saturday
  • November 1st: Sunday
  • November 2nd: No School Staff Development Day
  • November 3rd: No School Staff Development Day
  • November 4th: Miss School
  • November 5th: Return to School

So as you can see, in this scenario we get a full 7 day vacation while only having to take our children out of school two days. Also, generally workloads are lighter right before and after a holiday weekend, so by missing those two days, chances are they aren’t going to miss much. Of course, you can ask the teacher to give your kid make-up work as well.

Taking Kids Out of School Controversial?

missing school travel strategy
The Eiffel Tower. We took him out of school the first week of the year for this trip. (This was arranged with the school.)

Some people try to make this subject controversial and it simply isn’t. Everyone knows their kids and knows whether it is good or not to take them out of school. I for one believe that taking a child out of school to travel is a great gift. We have done nearly a dozen trips over the years during the school year and it has never had an adverse effect.


There is definitely a middle ground between pulling your kids out of school for weeks at a time and not ever having them miss school to travel. I’m still finalizing the plans, however we are most likely going to enjoy a week long vacation on the exact dates mentioned, since awards should be easily available, the weather should be nice (in certain places) and we deserve it gosh darn it!

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  1. With older kids I’ve been dealing with this for years. The pushback isn’t from their schools, it’s from my husband.

    As soon as my kids’ school calendars are out I compare them to the Disneyland and Disneyworld crowd calendars – even if I’m not going there. That gives me a good sense of whether my kids’ holidays line up (or don’t) with other kids in the country. I found out their Spring Break next year is two weeks after most others so I’m planning on heading to either Disneyworld or the Grand Canyon, another popular destination.

  2. I’m with you 100% on this topic. The tricky thing is where you can go in 7 days: you don’t want to eat up too much time traveling.

    But you are lucky in the fact that Vegas has good connections. Panama would be on the top of the list for me, if you haven;t already been!

  3. My brother took lots of family vacations when his daughter was in kinder (they had Disneyland annual passes), but the school came down on him come first grade. He ended up calling the state dept of ed to clarify the official state policy, and the guy there was surprised he was getting guff over family vacations, since that is not the intention of the policy. It’s in place to keep people from keeping their kids at home. My brother thinks the school got a reprimand from the dept of ed, because the next week they loosened their definitions of unexcused absences!

    My daughter is starting first grade in August, and we have 2 week-long trips planned for during the school year (strategically scheduled around odd breaks), so we’ll see if we get push-back like he did.

  4. Speaking from personal experience (public schools), if your children are good students, then taking time off is: a) easy in elementary school, b) a bit more difficult but not too bad in middle school, and c) a pain in the rear in high school. So, young parents, enjoy it while you can. A plan like Shawn’s is great for long weekends, or even potentially stretching it out to a week. But, of course, you won’t be the only parents trying to stretch a 5-day school weekend into a 7-day trip. Which means that there might be more scrutiny around kids “falling ill” around those weekends. If you can get official clearance, that’s obviously preferred. But I know that our schools are a pain, even for a great student who will be taking a truly educational family trip.

  5. Love the mentality here Shawn. Sending this link to my wife right now. Our daughter enters Kindergarten next fall so we have one year of flexibility left.


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