Every year our kids’ elementary school gives out an award for perfect attendance. I have clearly told my children that I will have failed as a parent if they are ever the winners of said award.
See, we are firm believers in pulling our kids from school to travel. Yes, there are school breaks and long weekends built into the school calendar, which is when families are supposed to travel.
But who wants to travel when everyone else is?
Crowded highways, jacked-up airfare, and inflated hotel rates? No thanks.
If you’re on the fence about why you need to stop caring so much about the kids missing school, check out my 6 reasons below.
1. Travel Teaches Kids Responsibility
Whenever our travels take our kids away from school, they know that they are responsible for meeting with their teachers ahead of time and getting any homework assignments they might be missing.
They know that we fully expect them to keep up with their studies, so if that means they spend some time on the plane working on math, or complete their reading on a lounge chair at the pool, then that’s what they’ll do.
Often times they’ll miss an in-class assignment or a quiz. That means that when they return, a recess period might be missed because they need to make up the work, These lessons not only teach them to take ownership but also organization and time management.
2. Travel Can Be More Educational Than School
Yes, kids need to learn about the constitution and how to convert fractions. But guess what? Lessons learned from traveling can be even more important.
Traveling abroad? Learning and using common phrases in a country’s native language helps kids to communicate and immerse themselves in other cultures.
Exploring a new city? Helping to navigate a subway system or bus route, teaches them how to navigate their world and helps them to feel more independent.
Hiking in a National Park? Reading the trail maps and keeping watch for wildlife helps kids to feel connected to their environment, and allows them to develop a deeper understanding of how they fit into our world.
Simply Lounging on a beach? Good for you! You’re teaching your kids about self-care, which is a skill we can all be better at.
A recent study suggests that travel will even help your kids do better in school!
3. Travel Makes Real-Life Connections to What Kids Learn in School
Reading about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. with your teacher is a valuable lesson; but, going to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, seeing the balcony where Dr. King was assassinated, and peering into his preserved motel room, instantly brings those lessons to life.
Travel can also make it easier to have conversations that so often come with learning about difficult topics like slavery, the holocaust or the events of 9/11. On our trip to Montgomery, Alabama, we visited the National Memorial For Peace and Justice.
We had to explain what lynching is to our 8-year-old. However, being in a place dedicated to honoring victims, provided a natural context in which to have that hard, but necessary conversation.
Walking under the hundreds of steel "coffins" hanging from the ceiling, and learning about this dark chapter in American history probably left an impression she probably won't ever forget.
Now, when they talk about slavery or Jim Crowe in Social Studies, they’ll have a new, more in-depth understanding than if they had just read about it in a textbook or watched a video in class.
4. Travel Is Cheaper Off-Peak!
Ok. So all of the stuff I said about responsibility and acquiring knowledge is important, but let’s be honest. Everyone likes to save money.
Why fly to Florida over President’s Day Weekend when you can fly the weekend before for over $100 less per person!
When our kids were little, we would take them out of school and go to Disney every winter. Avoiding Disney during holiday weekends, not only saved us a ton of money but helped us avoid the crowds too. Who doesn’t appreciate a much shorter wait time for Space Mountain?
The same thing holds true for ski trips. Check out hotel prices before and after MLK weekends and President’s weekend. It’s probably half the price. And your lift lines will be shorter.
5. Travel Makes You Appreciate Time at Home
The school year is crazy. Between homework, after-school activities, packing lunches, and field trips, our family gets pretty burnt out.
By taking our kids out of school to travel, we’re able to fully embrace the well-earned laziness of a three day weekend at home.
Instead of cramming a trip into the pre-determined school calendar, we get to sleep-in, stay in our pajamas all day, or go to a mid-day movie.
6. Travel Teaches Our Kids What Is Really Important
We live in a society that values success, to a fault. Do we really want our kids to grow up believing that getting an A, getting into the “best” college, or being CEO is all that matters? We know that we want our kids to believe that spending quality time as a family is the most important thing.
As they get older, and their lives get busier, taking time out of a normal schedule to travel is what helps us to reconnect as a family. Time slows down, we experience something new or explore a new place, we create shared memories. For our family, these are the things that matter most.
It's the Moments That Matter
So the next time you have wanderlust and hopelessly look at your school calendar, don't limit yourself to holiday weekends and designated school breaks. Those aren't the best times to travel, anyway!
It's OK to miss a couple of days of school, so expand your travel-options.
Then think back to your childhood, and what stands out the most. I guarantee you’re probably not going to remember how you scored on that 3rd grade spelling test, or what year the Magna Carta was signed!
However, you will remember moments. Moments shared with your family. The time you all got soaked on the log flume in Disney, toured the Tower of London, camped out West under the stars, or saw a Broadway show. These are the moments that will shape who our kids will become.
So, while my kids will never win that perfect attendance award, they will have the memories of our family travels. Plus, I’ll save some money traveling off-peak; It’s a win-win!
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