OK, we know this is a controversial topic. There are some parents who wouldn't dream of having their kids miss school for anything in the world, including the Happiest Place on Earth. And we respect that. For others, a trip to the Walt Disney World is a magical experience ... and maybe, just maybe ... the idea of visiting when crowds are lower is worth taking the kids out of school.
Lately, many of us find ourselves managing alternative school schedules or choosing online learning. We may find ourselves with a little more flexibility in the school schedule. Traveling during the least crowded times of the year has a lot more appeal when you are trying to stay physically distant. Only you know what's best for your family — we frogs have no judgement! Let's hop into all you need to know if you're thinking of taking your kids out of school for a Disney vacation.
Should You Take Your Kids Out of School for a Disney Vacation?
While it's great to visit Disney World any time you can, we think fall and winter are particularly great times to visit Walt Disney World. The weather is usually not as hot as summer. Plus there are some amazing special events. It's fun to experience the parks all dressed up for the holidays — it's truly a magical time. Then after holiday crowds vanish, even more festivals at EPCOT appear, making a winter trip a nice getaway, especially if you are escaping cold climates. Plus you can get a taste of numerous international destinations all in one place!
Parents who plan a vacation during the school year often save more money on airfare and hotels because they are traveling during off-peak times, and of course, they have much more flexibility in choosing when to go, so they can pick a less-crowded time to visit the theme parks or go for a specific special event, such as Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. Even though there was no Halloween party in 2020, fall was an incredibly special time to pull the kids out for a few days and have the whole family get to wear costumes at Magic Kingdom.
We also love the holidays at Disney World. It's especially nice when we can sneak away for a few days in November or early December before the holiday crowds arrive. Much like fall, winter of 2020 brought some modified events even though Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party didn't hoppen.
Questions to Consider When Deciding Whether to Take the Kids Out of School for a Disney Vacation
We're not here to judge, but we do want to offer some food for thought as you consider taking the kids out of school. Leap and I have taken Tad out of school for occasional trips. (Lily is so little that it's less of a disruption to her schedule.) But I must confess, even Leap and I are a little divided on this topic. Leap is more concerned with grades and any disruption to Tad's learning process. Even though I am usually the stern task-master at home, I feel like the exposure Tad has to other cultures and new experiences at the parks (especially EPCOT, right?) means that he is not forgoing all learning just because he is going on vacation. You only have so many years with your tadpoles before they leave the lily pad. I guarantee they will remember their Disney World vacation throughout their life better than a couple of days in school. However, I also recognize as Tad gets older that it will be harder to pull him away from his studies and sports.
Here are a few questions to get you thinking about whether a Disney World vacation during the school year is a good idea for your family.
Does your school allow it?
Obviously, this is the most important question. Find out what your school or school district's policy is on absences — whether excused or unexcused — before you even think about planning that trip to Magic Kingdom.
Does your child have a flexible schedule or learn remotely?
If your child has more independent work, or can log in for some classes and then go have fun, it may be easier to do both school AND a vacation.
What grade is your child in?
Elementary-age children generally have less homework and less testing than older children, and it is often less disruptive for them to take off than it is for older children, who carry heavier course loads, and have more teachers, assignments and tests to square away. I would also argue that it might be more worth it if you have younger children simply because they really believe in the magical place called Disney World. For them, Cinderella, Snow White and Mickey Mouse are as real as you and me.
On the other hand, your high school student may have much more important tests, papers and harder assignments. You'll have to involve your older kids in this decision. If you do pull older kids out, a shorter trip or long weekend is likely a better plan than a longer trip. Older kids have bigger consequences to missing school and other obligations such as sports and theatre.
How well is your child performing in school?
If your child is struggling with grades, it is probably not the time to take him or her out of school. The good news is that Disney World isn't going anywhere :)
How often does your child miss school?
If your child already misses a lot of school due to illness or other issues, then it's not a good idea to miss more. But if your child wins the perfect attendance award every year, he or she may be able to afford a few days off.
How well does your child do with change in routine?
A trip to Disney World during the school year will be disruptive no matter how much planning you do. While you can minimize impact by planning ahead, schedule shorter trips over weekends if you have a child who really needs an established routine to do well. It's probably best not to schedule during the school year.
Does your child want to miss school?
Special events going on at school or extracurricular activities are things some children don't want to miss even for a Disney World vacation. Be sensitive to any concerns your child has about missing school. Trust me, if he or she would rather stay home than go to Disney World, it's a BIG DEAL. If you plan to pull your child out a day or two early before a holiday, thinking he or she will "only" miss a celebration rather than important classroom time, make sure your child is on board. You child may not want to miss that performance, class party or costume parade.
Is your child open to having more work to make up?
Your child isn't just missing homework. They are missing class time and all of the lessons that go along with it. Expect your child's teacher to give extra assignments to cover work that was missed in class as well as homework. Are YOU up for more work? Because you will likely be the one teaching these assignments.
For some parents and kids, a trip to Disney World will offer relatively minimal impact on the school year, but the memories will last a lifetime. For those of you who have decided to take a Disney World vacation during the school year, your froggy friends have some hopful tips for preparing to visit Disney World with kids.
Tips for Taking Your Kids Out of School
If you decide that your kids can handle missing some school for family bonding time at Disney World here are a few hopful tips.
- Do plan ahead.
- Do not surprise them. (Kids and teachers need time to prepare.)
- Involve your children in the decision-making process.
- Do be honest with the teacher and school. Your kid will spill the beans when he or she returns with a suntan and Disney World souvenirs and stories.
- Schedule the trip for just after a mid-term grading period (rather than a testing period).
- If flying, do some schoolwork, studying or reading on the plane.
- Consider your child's age, academic performance and reliance on routine.
- Consider other obligations such as school performances or sports competitions.
- Do aim to keep bedtime consistent so it's easier to hop back to your routine when you get home.
- Have fun making hoppy family memories!
Sometimes it's challenging to plan a trip for the middle of the school year too far in advance. It's hard to know what the next school year will look like or what new important events will pop up. If you see a period approaching that might make for a good time to take the kids out of school for a Disney World vacation, hop over to our post on taking a last-minute trip to Disney World.
Would you take your kids out of school for a Disney World vacation? Share any points you think parents should consider. If you decide to go, you can save money on discount Disney World Resort tickets and hotels when you book with Undercover Tourist.