Is It Okay To Take Kids Out Of School To Go Travel?

This post may contain affiliate links. We may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase. Read Disclosure.

There’s a madness happening around the world – tightening rules restricting parents from taking their kids out of school to travel. In England, they even fine parents.

I feel violated.

Who do they think they are controlling my life, denying my freedom of choice, undermining my ability to make responsible and positive decisions for my child, and taking away the opportunity to develop a strong bond with my children?

Is school a form of education far too precious to miss for travel?

I don’t know the research, but I reckon if you did it, you’d find more problems in society based upon a breakdown in the family unit and not enough time spent with children because of the frantic rush of family life.

I also think if you analysed the results saying children missing school is impacting their ability to learn, you’ll uncover that it’s children who repeatedly miss school to laze around on the couch all day because their irresponsible parents can’t be bothered to take them to school. #TheMinority

I feel confident that one reason educational success rates are poor is because the system is broken!

Kids are too exhausted and unmotivated to learn because they don’t get the point, and teachers are overwhelmed and frustrated by the demands of an overstuffed, and mostly irrelevant, curriculum.

Don’t even get me started on the stupid tests that are given to get these results!

These tests are stripping the joy out of learning. The system is forcing the teachers and the curriculum to teach to the test so the kids can pass and everyone looks good.

Not to mention the impact that classroom management has upon the learning of students.

Trust me, as a former teacher with 15 years experience teaching in four different countries, there’s a lot of parenting and policing happening in the classroom compared to teaching!

Case in point – we taught Kalyra her school lessons in 1-2 hours each day during our 18-month road trip around Australia, and we often finished 1-2 weeks earlier than standard school terms.

What does that say about the amount of time wasted in school? It’s taking them 4 hours extra a day + another two weeks.

School lessons on the road in an old train carriage in Outback Queensland
School lessons on the road in an old train carriage in Outback Queensland

There are good things about school, and there’s no need to pull your child out.

We’re happy our daughter now attends an innovative school she loves. They do cool things like growing their vegetables and then cook food with it. Relevant, real-life learning that empowers children to connect and make healthy life choices.

But, school is hardly such an ideal form of education that your children will suffer if you take them out to travel, be it a week, a month, or like us 18-months.

Related article – Does travel negatively impact a child’s education?

It’s your freedom of choice

I believe that taking kids out of school to travel as a reason for bad results is just a scapegoat.

It’s pretty easy to blame kids who miss school to travel. I think the teachers and system are just annoyed at the inconvenience they perceive it to be, and possibly ticked off they can’t just take off and go travel.

The reality is they can. It’s a choice. It’s your liberty to do so.

There could be a few bad apples who take their kids out of school to travel too regularly and don’t take responsibility for their children’s learning, but there’s nothing within me that believes it’s the majority. Those responsible parents are not causing any damage!

What is damaging is the level of control the government thinks it has over our lives. We can choose what we do with our family and when. No one has the right to fine us because we make decisions to strengthen family bond and connection.

Go fine the parents who consistently forget to pack their child’s lunch, or fill their lunch box with packets of sugar snakes and fake juice. They’re damaging their ability to learn, plus the other kids in the class, far more than those who take some time out to travel.

Why let school – only 13 years out of your entire life – define your existence?

There are more options. Your child will not suffer from exploring those other options, as long as you do it as a responsible parent, which I have no doubt you are.

Do not hand over your freedom of choice, especially when you know it will only benefit lives.

Let’s get real about the educational benefits of family travel

I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging or blowing smoke up our butts, but I want to share in case you are doubting whether it’s a good idea to take your kids out of school to travel and you fear a little what the system is telling you.

My two daughters are well-balanced, intensely curious, and imaginative children.

Upon Kalyra returning to school here on the Gold Coast after “missing” 18 months of traditional school, her teacher reported to us that she’s the best reader in her class.

The exposure they’ve had to life as a result of our travels has been phenomenal. They see the world as their oyster, they interact with people of all ages and nationalities, their social confidence is mind-blowing, and their zest for life on high.

School is helping Kalyra refine her skills, but I know she could do it without school and I also know school has not taught her anywhere near enough as what the real world has.

I mean the school year is winding up, with three weeks left to go until summer break and there is a lot of colouring and Christmas decorating happening.

Is this more important than having real-life experiences with your children?

You don’t have to take your kids out of school to travel with them full-time, but travel with them as much as you can, interact with the real world, and you will see the same benefits.

The Cosmos Centre, Charleville, Queensland, Australia
Learning about stars at the Cosmos Centre in Charleville, Outback Queensland

If it means the only way you can travel is to take them out of school for a couple of weeks, then do it without guilt or fear. If need be, pay the fine, although I’d strongly contest it first.

We took Kalyra out of school for two days last weekend to visit the Lamington National Park, we left on the Friday morning and returned Monday afternoon. When Kalyra heard about the activities we were doing, she said, “Yep, I’m okay with missing two days of school to do this.”

She understood she was going to get more out of it than a day of school.

This trip was so welcome because I felt like I was losing connection with my children and life was just about cleaning up the mess, cooking, keeping to a hectic schedule, and attempting to fit in random conversations amongst the anxiety, stress and tears.

The opportunity arose to have fun and spend time together, so we took it. Plus, for us, it’s for our business. I love how children can be involved and how much they learn because of it.

We walked through the rainforest with Ranger Dean and learned so much about interdependence, evolution, parasitic and symbiosis.

Exploring Binna Burra Mountains in the Gold Coast Hinterland with Ranger Dean
Exploring Binna Burra Mountains in the Gold Coast Hinterland with Ranger Dean

They know the difference between a rainforest and Eucalypt forest simply by walking from one into the other. They learned about bush food and medicine – what’s edible and what’s dangerous.

Travel turns learning into an unknown natural joy that we crave more of.

School has you memorise those terms from a textbook. Hands up if that was you and you feel pretty clueless still about what it all meant. You just did your best to memorise it because you knew you’d be tested for it.

Travel gives you a deep knowing about life’s processes. No fancy confusing terms needed.

They met pademelons and a northern funnel web spider.

How cool that they could see this in action up close as we used a piece of grass as a food decoy. In this process, they learned about being safe and caring for the animal’s safety as well.

They had a chance to develop their creativity skills. We were filming video on one of our hikes. Kalyra took over as creative director and blew us away with her talents on setting up shots, being a confident host and putting the story line together. We had an absolute ball as a family working on this together.

They learned maths concepts such as what a kilometre meant. Kalyra asked me what it was, and I could say, “the distance we have just walked from our cabin to this lookout has been a kilometre.”

“Oh wow. So that’s quite far. That took us about 20 minutes.”

Bingo.

On our 5km walk the next day she had a better understanding of how long that was going to be. And when we hit 4km she wailed, “But we’ve still got 1km to go, it’s soooooo far!”

They worked on their awareness and leadership skills by taking the lead on our walk and looking out for danger – making responsible choices to stay clear of the edge of the cliff and treading carefully over mossy rocks.

They developed their communication skills by engaging with the people we met on tours and activities.

They had a chance to look fear in the face and jump, zip lining above the canopy of the forest, harnessed to us.

Savannah staring fear in the face on the zip line at Binna Burra Mountain Lodge, Gold Coast Hinterland
Savannah staring fear in the face on the zip line at Binna Burra Mountain Lodge, Gold Coast Hinterland

They worked on their physical skills taking long hikes through the forest as well as their hand-eye co-ordination and patience with their first game at archery. Persistence and determination followed.

Kalyra decided to skip afternoon tea, which involved cookies, so she could continue to practice and hit the bulls-eye. I got to see my daughter being this person and fell in love with her all over again. Families deserve these experiences and connections.

Savannah focused on bullseye
Savannah focused on bullseye

Now our family feels like we’re back to being close-knit and a team.

And the government tells me this is damaging to student’s education? Head slap twice against the wall. The government make rules for the minority of irresponsible people.

I sure did not sign a document to say the government could control my life when I was born. Did you?

We have to start standing up to them more and staying true to our sovereign essence.

Why do parents take their kids out of school to travel?

You can’t deny the value of travel, especially for kids, but THEY might argue, “you’ve got school holidays for that.”

There are two important reasons why parents take their kids out of school to travel.

1. High Cost of travel in school holidays

The cost of family travel is high, which only rises during holiday weeks.

Why would parents deny themselves a valuable experience to connect with their children, make incredible memories and help their children learn more about the world around them because they can’t afford it in these peak holiday times?

That’s not fair. Parents have a right to make decisions that are best for their family, taking into account their budgets.

Related articles:

2. Demand and availability

The demand for travel in school holiday periods is high, which means many families won’t be able to have the holiday experience they dream of, or when they get there it will be crowded, and the experience won’t be so great.

PLUS, many parents are working so they can provide all their children’s basic needs. They might be unable to get time off work during peak school holiday times – I’m sure all the parents in the office are requesting it.

The family’s dream might be to enjoy Europe in the summer. You can’t go to Europe for two weeks, and you can’t do Europe in the summer for six weeks over Christmas.

Why should parents let their family connection and ability to earn income (to provide adequately for their children) suffer because they are disadvantaged in the school holidays?

As you can see from my points below this is not an excuse to take them out for multiple weeks every term, but once or twice is not going to hurt anybody.

Related article – 5 benefits of traveling with kids

UPDATE: We are now travelling full time again overseas. This time we have chosen to homeschool rather than do distance education. I share why, plus my homeschooling strategy, routine, and resources in this post.

Things to consider if you want to take your children out of school to travel

I’m not one to encourage parents to take their kids out of school to go travel and NOT make it an educational experience. (But really, that’s travel isn’t it?)

Parents are the first and foremost educators of their children. That’s why I hear these ridiculous rules and I want to give the government the bird and say, “Thank you , I’ve got this under control and have since my girls were born.”

1. Take responsibility for your child’s learning

This is your priority. Not the schools or the governments.

Read to your children every night from birth. Encourage them to spend time with you engaged in real life activities that develop their mathematical skills and general life decisions skills. Talk to them about the processes of the earth, help them grow their social skills and make responsible choices themselves. Help them pursue their passions, talents, and zest for life.

If you devote time to this, you’re winning and will feel more confident to give the schools the bird.

Don’t let your teens wonder around with their ipod hanging out of their ears 24/7. They need to be present!

Related article – Tips for homeschooling on the road

2. Consult with your child

Let them know you care about their opinion and you believe they are also responsible decision makers. If they don’t want to miss out on school to go away then perhaps you can rethink your decision.

But, tell them where you are going, why, what you are going to do and how they can benefit.

We thought our dreams of road tripping across the US might not happen as Kalyra wanted to stay in school. The backflips came out when she made the decision herself that she’d had enough of school and wanted to do the US road trip instead. No cajoling or heart-breaking required!

We encourage family travel planning to be a family affair. Involve your kids as much as you can. We have a free family travel planning toolkit to help you do that, which you can access here

3. Involve educational experiences

As you can see from our weekend getaway to the Lamington National Park, there were a lot of educational experiences, so I was not concerned at Kalyra missing out on any learning back in the classroom.

  • Incorporate activities that develop their skills and learn about the world’s processes.
  • Have your child provide a report for their teacher on what they did and learned and how they benefited from the travel experience.

4. Make a decision: holidays out of school time every now and then or long-term travel?

We know that taking our children out of school to miss several weeks several times a year is not the best option. Missing a couple of weeks throughout the school year, or a few days here and there for extended weekend trips away are perfectly fine and won’t set your children back.

But, make the decision, it’s one or the other. School or long-term travel. It does work out better for everyone to have more of a stable choice.

5. Don’t harass your child’s teacher for catch-up work

You can definitely ask your teacher for work your child will miss. But, don’t expect your teacher to run around frantically on a Friday afternoon preparing work for your child.

It’s your choice to take them out of school, it’s your responsibility to ensure they don’t fall behind.

When you return to class, it’s not your teachers responsibility to catch them up either. So make sure you dedicate extra time of a night if your child has fallen behind.

6. Know where your child is at

Understand your child’s learning level and ability.

If they are struggling at school, it might not be a great idea to take them out for extended periods of time, unless you think that family travel experience together will help them unwind and gain brain clarity and rest, and you can help them catch up yourself.

We know Kalyra’s learning levels are above her grade level. Therefore, I don’t flinch about taking her out of school to travel. I know she won’t fall backward and can quickly catch up if she did.

I also know she LOVES learning and is self-motivated to do her best. Maybe your child is not motivated to learn, so taking them out of school to travel could slide them backward.

Related article 10 things you need to know about traveling with teens

7. Keep up with these skills

Don’t worry about useless fact memorisation and things that aren’t relevant to helping your child grow into a curious and independent thinker.

The travel experiences will give them enough, but it’s important you do keep up with a few critical skills.

Have them read every day and practice their basic maths skills. Encourage them to creatively express themselves and evaluate their experiences. It would be beneficial to have your child journal their daily experiences, but this can be like pulling teeth for some kids. (Here’s an easier alternative)

If they hate writing, let them express themselves creatively in other ways.

  • Paint a picture
  • Write a song
  • Put on a play and have a discussion with you about it
  • Or, record their thoughts as an audio or vlog.

On the ferry to Moreton Island, Queensland, Australia

8. Enjoy it

Drop the guilt and concerns the Red Coats will come after you and lock you up.

Enjoy this opportunity to connect with and enjoy valuable time with your children making precious memories. School will be forgotten about in 20 years time, but the bond you have together won’t be.

Stand up for your ability to brilliantly parent. Tell the government, “thank you, I did not give you permission to control my life and take away my rights to freedom and responsible decision making. I’m a responsible parent who can make decisions that will only enhance my child’s growth, not impact it. Your doubt is your problem. I will not let you control my life purely because of a few irresponsible choices of the minority parents.”

Does taking your child out of school to travel concern you? Does your school support it or wave the finger? Have you ever been fined?