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

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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?

29 thoughts on “Is It Okay To Take Kids Out Of School To Go Travel?”

  1. I found this a really interesting read as I hadn’t heard the viewpoint of a parent on this up to now. I certainly think that when a family member is ill and children are being taken out of school to see them, then fines should not necessarily be applied

    Suze

    1. Yes. I think if there is a valid reason for the children missing school, and their parents can help them catch up, it shouldn’t be a problem. And out of all the reasons to miss school, I think travel is the one that will benefit a child’s growth and development more than any other.

  2. We travelled overseas with our kids a great deal mostly in school holidays until their mid teens, when being with friends was much cooler than boring mum and dad! At the beginning of 2000 we took them backpacking for 4 months and it was the best thing we ever did. They were aged 7 and 9 and learnt so much and it was lovely to spend so much time together. They saw in the new millennium in Saigon, visited the pyramids, and learnt about Gallipoli, which is such an important part of Australian culture, from the trenches themselves. Had their first sea food at the beach in Vietnam given to them by a woman that sold it for a living who was the mother of some children they had made friends with. They didn’t share a language but managed to make friends anyway. It was a wonderful experience and we were lucky the school they attended actively encouraged us and helped them catch up upon return. It saddens me that now it is the exact opposite. What a boring, stifled, text book life they seem to want.

    1. What an incredible experience for your children. That’s priceless memories and infinite wisdom learned, they’ll have for the rest of their lives. I’m sure their school education did not suffer at all. And I bet they remember these times with you more than what they learned in school.

    2. Amazing Audrey, and something I would definitely want for my future children. I’ve been backpacking for 5 years, living as a scuba instructor in SE Asia, and I’ve seen, experienced, and eaten (!!), so many different things that I had never even thought about when growing up in Melbourne!! Your kids are very lucky. Even I’m jealous! x

  3. I think you are missing the point here. Yes, travel is great for kids. Yes, kids (and parents) learn tons from traveling. Yes, a week or a month or a year of travel is a great thing.

    I also understand the issue from the school/teacher perspective. When parents take their kids out repeatedly, the burden rests on the teacher to catch the kids up when they get back. That is time taken directly from other kids and is disruptive to the class. No matter how much we might want to say it doesn’t happen, the reality is that it does.

    That said – travel is, without question, an incredible education for kids, and I totally support parents taking their kids traveling.

    I think the key rests in respect. Parents need to be mindful that their children are in classes with many other kids – and those kids will suffer the consequences of the teacher trying to catch them up. If you only go for a few days, it’s probably not a big deal. But long trips? Or pulling the kids repeatedly? Not a good idea. Again – not a problem for the kids who are traveling, but it is a problem for the rest of the class. Consider the effects your absence/return have the rest of the kids in the class.

    That’s why homeschooling is such a great option. We traveled with our kids for 4 years and our sons learned a lot. But once we decided to come back here and our sons opted to take classes through the public schools, we made the decision that we would respect and honor that school calendar. As long as our boys choose to take classes, we will be here in Boise while school is in session. If we ever reach the point where our needs would be better met traveling, then we’ll withdraw them from school and hit the road.

    1. I’m not sure how I missed the point.

      I’ve said exactly what you have in Point 4 and Point 5 and Point 6 and Point 7 under the section.

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

      I know it’s a long post so perhaps you didn’t read all of it. I’m assuming you didn’t otherwise it doesn’t make sense because you repeated what I wrote.

      This post is written more for the parents who want to take their kids out maybe once a year for a couple of weeks or a day here and there. Not repeatedly. These parents aren’t interested in homeschooling.

      They don’t want to, or can’t, leave their jobs to do that full time. And many can’t travel in the school holidays for the reasons I mentioned above. You can’t just look at it through the eyes of what you were able to do.

      They just want to have life changing experiences travelling with their children, and why can’t they do that as responsible parents. That was the point, which I think you missed.

      That’s why I mentioned several times throughout the post as to the importance of being responsible with the decision to take your kids out of school to travel. It’s also why I included that section about being mindful, and respectful and making the decision to not let your child fall behind.

      Also I think you missed the point, I mentioned several and I mean several times that the issue is the government control and taking away parent’s rights to make responsible decisions for what is best for their families.

      So can you please help me understand the point I’m missing that is not in alignment with yours? I’m just a bit confused.

  4. As a child I was taken out of school heaps of times for travel. I firmly believe it is an excellent choice to make.
    I love learning. I generally didn’t like school.

  5. Hi Caz, We took the girls out this year for 10 months away in the UK and Europe. I bought some books for Maths and English to keep them up to speed, though will admit, it was not intense learning. What they learnt on the road and in Morocco was invaluable and has not made a difference now they have returned to school. They turned 10 and 13 on the trip and we lived together in a small caravan. The English school system is awful. Friends moved there in February, from Australia. The kids have all gone up 18 months in grades, due to difference in when school year starts and that they start younger. That means 1 lad went from prep to grade 3, another from grade 5 to yer 7 and the other from year 7 to 9. There seemed no choice for the parents to say, hold on! In Australia (certainly Victoria) we can keep kids back inthe kinder or prep year if needed. This is a parental choice and one I have seen benefit a number of children who needed the extra year emotionally. I understand exactly what you are saying.
    Hopefully, we will do a roundAustralia trip in the next year or so, but will register for distance education, depending on how long we go for.

  6. Oh my gosh, fines??? What??? That’s crazy. As a kid my parents would take me out of school in the middle of term at least once a year to take a family holiday. But they had a very similar approach to you guys – they made it educational. I went places and learnt about things other kids in my class hadn’t even heard of and nobody can put a price on that.

    The time wasting thing is a pertinent point as well; I remember being in only Year 7 or Year 8 when my classmates and I had a conversation about how much time we wasted in class. We all said we’d be happy to come to school earlier and work harder and more intensely (usually in the mornings when our brains were fresher) if it meant we got to go home before lunch and spend the rest of our days doing all the other things we’d prefer to be doing. And this wasn’t just the nerdy kids talking either, it involved the entire class, including the class clown and bully. Traditional education doesn’t have to take 6 hours per day just because that’s how long the school day is. And the weeks at the end of the year spent colouring in and making Christmas decorations – yep, what a waste. So much more they could be doing with their time.

  7. I totally agree with what you have said. As yet I don’t have to worry as my little boys is only 2 and 1/2 but I will be taking him out of school to travel. The culture and experiences he see can not be learnt f I’m a book. I will ask for work sheets and buy educational books to be done but I do not agree with the U.K. Government on the fines and it is deffinitely something I do not like about living here. I don’t agree with taking kids out of school to lay on a beach for 2 weeks but to travel and experience the world I think is more beneficial than anything you can learn from a book. Some things Ali cannot teach him and he will need school but our travels are very educational and the government need to realise this. X

  8. I don’t have children so can’t comment from that perspective but we were taken out of school by our parents to travel and what I gained from it was so much more than anything that could be lost. Mum also made us do our school work but it was only a couple of hours a day and we returned to the formal education system ahead of our peers on the curriculum. I don’t believe it harmed my academic potential at all and I went on to complete a masters degree. Meeting new people in different environments can only enhance a childs social skills. It’s a shame the system won’t recognise the best results come from suiting the child and the situation.

  9. When it comes to kids, traveling remains a great learning experience for them. It also provides them with huge relaxation from their regular school routine. Hence, it is a very good idea to take kids for traveling to different places.

  10. Yay good on you for taking kids with you! We are thinking of taking our 2 to trip next year during school time and I think it’s going to be an enriching experience for them. Even though the kids are young (7 and 5), i think learning about other cultures will open their minds up and help them appreciate where they live and how others live. Go you!!

  11. I don’t have kids, but I’m a teacher, so I comment from a teacher’s point of view.

    If parents generally went about their kids’ education the way you do, I’d be happy to see them take their kids out of school for traveling from time to time, or even for months of long-term travel. I even think it’s an enriching experience for the other kids in class when their classmates return and have stories to share.

    As it is, often enough I deal with parents who don’t give a damn about their kids’ education, who don’t even care about parenting itself all that much, and who are definitely not able or willing to provide the educational experience travel could be.

    Sad as this sounds, due to this apparent general lack of responsibility and parenting abilities in a lot of our students’ families, for many, school is the only place that provides a chance for learning, personal growth and development. For many, class trips are the only chance to travel. For far too many, classmates and teachers are more family than their own parents.

    So, yes, please take your child out of school to see the world if you can afford to, are able and willing to actively help making travel an educational experience.
    Please don’t make your child miss school if traveling in your family means hitting the cheapest resort, dumping your kid at the pool and spending 10 days between bar and buffet.

    1. yes I do totally agree with you Svenja! I wish it were the case that all parents were responsible with their child’s education, whether they were travelling or not.

  12. Love this. Wise words spoken and fantastic outlook. I will be referencing this on my website. Seen you speak at the Caravan show and happy to see you guys are progressing with your trip to America! 😉 xx

  13. The reason the schools don’t like you to miss is that everyday that your child misses to attend a vacation the school looses 29$ a day in revenue per child. Our school this year lost $65,000 due to absences and the year is only half over. Many were due to vacations. Schools have little money to rely on as is, and to loose more for you to take your child on vacation hurts

    1. Great insights. Thank you. I figured money was involved. Maybe they can charge the families that money if they choose to travel with their kids. I’d pay it.

  14. I stumbled across this page while researching and I guess trying to validate my own belief that taking a few months of school is not going to be the end of the world for my child. After two years of trauma, both my Son and I are completely exhausted. Every single day is a struggle for him and he struggles to ‘fit’ in and is growing increasingly frustrated that his teachers don’t ‘get him’. They don’t know he can speak a little Thai, having learned it while we cook together in the kitchen and learn new words for fun. They don’t seem to understand and certainly don’t encourage/foster his thirst for knowledge about world issues. In his spare time he researches things that interest him, world history, major events that have shaped the world, the ADF, nutrition, motorbikes/mechanics, medical facts and other cultures.
    I have had the Co-ordinators literally come to my house and take him to school.
    I literally cried when I read this page, It was exactly what I needed.
    I do feel that school can offer some great things, but it’s not everything.
    I am personally looking at Asia for 3 months.
    For me this offers a complete immersion of experience and culture that cannot ever be replicated in a classroom. What he will learn and experience during this time only motivates me more to start making arrangements.
    Thank you for leading the way and sharing your journey.
    Sue

    1. Asia sounds like a great idea and a perfect fit for your son. Thank you for sharing your experiences and keep making a stand for your way of life!

  15. This is powerful stuff! Glad we found you on Twitter and navigated to this article. We don’t have kids yet but as a couple who love to travel we want to believe that we can find the right balance for our kids education both in the classroom and in the real world. We’ll be coming back to this post over and over again. Thanks for such a brilliant piece!

  16. I found this really interesting! To me, the opportunities to take the kids on trips during the school year is a huge advantage of attending private school vs. public. My kids haven’t started school yet, but where we live the kids can only miss 5 days per year without a valid excuse. I have no idea what constitutes a valid excuse (they give examples like doctors appointments) but I imagine it would vary from school to school. Once my kids get to that point I will have to see how much wiggle room there is for educational travel, but in the meantime, I am resigned to thinking we’ll have to travel during school holidays and weekends. For now, I am just pulling them out of preschool to travel without thinking twice.

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