Disney Vacation Planning: Taking Kids Out of School

Anyone with school-age children has probably considered taking them out of school to visit Disney World at some point, especially with the very attractive free dining offers available during the school year. But making the decision can be tough, and in my experience at least, the right answer was different at different stages of our daughter’s life.

The “take them out of school” discussion is one that I personally struggled with. The first time we dealt with this dilemma was when our daughter was in middle school, and we made the decision to plan a 7 day Land/Sea vacation with Disney Cruise Line in October. Her school system had 2 days off during this one week, so I figured that she was only missing 3 days of school. We notified all her teachers in advance, she got her work from most of them before she left, and so she was able to do a good bit of it on the way down to Florida and back. No real problems.

I can’t say as much for the next time this came up, because by then she was a sophomore in high school…which is an entirely different ball game. I was going to be at Disney for a business conference, so we decided that we would all go. It was only for 3 days, in early December. She was an A student, so we figured that it would work out fine, and that she would have no problems.

We were wrong. In high school, the work load is a great deal more, and things move rapidly. Despite her best efforts to keep up with her homework while away, it was hard: who really wants to do calculus problems instead of seeing Wishes? And coming just a few weeks before Christmas break, every teacher was cramming to get things accomplished prior to the break. She was loaded with work before she left, and had even more when we returned.

She was able to eventually catch up, and her grades did not ultimately suffer…..but it was hard. And now that she is in college, it isn’t even up for discussion: if we are going with her, we have to go during school breaks.

If you have younger children though, you may have more flexibility in scheduling your vacation. Many folks do take their children out of school to go to Disney World on a regular basis. If you are considering doing this, here are a few tips that I would offer that may help:

  1. Be sure to discuss your trip with your child’s teacher well in advance. Some teachers can give your child their homework prior to your vacation, so that he/she can complete it before you leave….or at least have it to work on during the trip there and back. It will really help when they return, if they are relatively caught up with their classmates.
  2. Depending on the age/grade of your child, see if there are “Disney-related” assignments that your child could do instead of regular work. Many teachers are very happy to encourage creative reporting on some of the educational aspects of Disney World: and there are a lot of great ways to do this! In fact, I think nearly everything at Disney World is educational in some aspect, so see if your child can take advantage of this by keeping a journal, doing a report or preparing a slideshow.
  3. I do think it is important to consider your child, and any challenges they face in school before you decide to do this. A vacation in the middle of the school year can be a real disruption to the routine of many children: how will your child handle this? Does he/she struggle for average grades? Some children can easily miss a few days of school without missing a beat, while others may be challenged for weeks afterwards trying to catch up. Again, there is no *one* answer here, it really depends on your own family situation.

So what about you? Have you taken your children out of school for a Disney vacation? What tips do you have to make it successful? And….would you do it again?

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11 Responses to Disney Vacation Planning: Taking Kids Out of School

  1. Kelly says:

    We pull our kids out of school for Disney. This year when we go Lexis is a freshman so it will be the last time we are pulling her out for a while. She is off 1 of the days and is on blocked scheduling so hope that helps with the homework. Then when we return she is off on Monday so that she can catch up. :0)

    • Nancy says:

      Good luck Kelly! It’s great that it has worked out for you so far. Yes, high school was definitely different for us. You will enjoy having this time together I am sure, as your next family trip may have you fighting the crowds with the rest of us! 😉

  2. Lauren Cortright says:

    I am a mom and a teacher, and I love Disney! I would pull my kids out of school for a trip. As a fifth-grade teacher, I never have a problem with parents pulling their kids out for trips to any place — that family time is what they will remember when they are grown up.

    • Nancy says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Lauren. This is always such a delicate issue and people feel so strongly on both sides. It is a hard decision for many families, as everyone wants to do “the right thing”. Thank you for offering your perspective!

  3. Jenni says:

    I’m having a huge struggle with this issue. We have planned our first trip to disney this week-end, and my daughter will be missing 4 days of what we thought would have been her 2nd week of school, however, due to hurricane Irene, school has been delayed and now she will be missing the first 4 days of 1st grade. I’m very upset and have considered re-scheduling our trip as I don’t want it to negatively effect her at school. I initially spoke to her new teacher prior to the storm hitting and she was completely understanding and supportive but ofcourse that was when we thought she would miss 4 days of the second week! I’m trying to work thru this and feel better about our decision. Any words of wisdom or thoughts would be appretiated.

    • Nancy says:

      Oh Jenni what a shame that it is working out this way! 🙁 I am sure your daughter will fine, but totally understand the struggle you are facing! Perhaps you can touch base with her teacher before you leave? Perhaps some other teachers out there can offer some thoughts…Hugs to you!

  4. Jill says:

    I am interested to see what others say about this. This will be our first year taking them out of school for Disney. Our district had a nice long holiday break in December, but since they revamped the calendar, they won’t get out until the 23rd. We decided we still wanted to do our usual holiday trip, so we will be pulling them for a week. One is preschool, one 2nd grade, and one 6th grade. The only one I worry about is the 6th grade. It is the first year of middle school with multiple teachers to deal with. Hopefully all goes well. If it doesn’t then I guess our holiday tradition may have to come to an end.

    • Nancy says:

      It’s hard Jill to have to think about changing holiday traditions! But one thing I have learned as our DD has grown, is that new traditions get born that way too! Hopefully you will have the chance to speak to your oldest child’s teacher before you leave. Best of luck with your trip, you are traveling at a beautiful time at Disney World, which you already know!

  5. Mark N says:

    Elementary school, no problem with taking them out. took ours out of 4th, 1st, and K in 2008 for a week and no problems. don’t think with middle school i would risk it or high school. Luckily we are lucky in that we have year round schools and get 3 weeks off every 9 weeks or so. Early december is a break so we are back this year in 1st week of december with free dining 🙂

  6. Valerie says:

    I am a middle school teacher and occassionally have students out for family trips. It always works out fine when the parents communicate with the teachers well in advance. I teach science I and do everything I can to provide alternative assignments for students who will miss labs. It does take some planning so give the teacher some time to get everything together. They are only young once – Go and enjoy! (I wish I could take off and go during the value season)

  7. Tiffany says:

    My daughter is only 1 now but I don’t think we will be taking her to Disney until she is old enough to remember it. We are low income so it will have to happen when we can afford it. I think that when she is older if she proves to be a well behaved child with good grades it would make for a very nice reward to be pulled out of school for a trip to Disneyland. We’d better be able to afford it and she would probably work harder in school after being rewarded for a job well done. My only concern is truancy issues, do schools allow you to take your children out of school for non-emergencies?

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