When is it okay for children to miss school for a Disney trip?

September 22, 2016, 2:53 PM · It's fall and schools are back in session across the country... but you'll still find plenty of young children visiting Disneyland and Walt Disney World with their families on any given weekday.

For many families with kids, the start of the new school year doesn't mean the end of their vacation opportunities for the year, but the beginning. They have no problem pulling their children from class to go on a theme park vacation, whether it's just for the day or for an entire week. Sometimes, families have to do it because the school year is the only time that Mom or Dad can get time off their jobs. But other families make a more strategic choice and decide to vacation during the school year in the hope of finding smaller crowds at their destination.

In my Orange County Register column this week, I write about the decision whether or not to pull the kids from school to head to Disneyland. Ultimately, it's a parent's decision, but judging from the number of children I see in the park whenever I visit on a school year weekday, it's a decision to which many parents appear to be saying 'yes.'

FWIW, I never pulled my kids from school to go to a theme park, even though I cover parks for a living. That said, my kids' birthdays both fall during summer vacation, so that's never been an issue. (Especially for that one year when Disney admitted people for free on their birthdays - and children all over Southern California and Central Florida ditched class, which is one reason why we won't see that promotion return for a long, long time.) Thanks to my job, my children got more than their fill of theme parks during their vacations, so I think they would have seen another day at Disneyland as more an obligation that a treat. (First world problems, I know.)

So the lesson is... I'm a freak who is in no way representative of a "normal" parent. But what about the rest of you? What do you think about kids skipping school to visit the parks?

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Replies (40)

September 22, 2016 at 3:12 PM · Once, but if, and only if, its a part of a large overseas visit, like an Australian family doing a US tour lasting a few weeks. An American taking a week or a few days out? No, never.
September 22, 2016 at 3:24 PM · Sure, and mine is now studying for a career in the industry.
September 22, 2016 at 4:54 PM · Kids should be encouraged to ditch school as often as possible. Any excuse will do.
September 22, 2016 at 5:59 PM · Best thing about having a wife who homeschools your kids is that we get to take vacations whenever we want!!!! I still remember the first time we went on a family trip to WDW in late April/early May before public schools were out - it was perfect. And during the side trip to Universal (which was fairly inexpensive in those days) the parks were EMPTY. Don't homeschool just so you can vacation in the off season, or because you think it is easy or cheap (neither are even remotely true), but do take advantage of the perks when you can!
September 22, 2016 at 5:21 PM · I guess the answer may depend on where you live
September 22, 2016 at 5:41 PM · I think it's OK to take kids out of school for holidays if there is some valuable educational or life lessons in the trip, such as a trip overseas or something, but a theme trip park doesn't fit that Bill.

I'm disappointed so many people have said its appropriate to take their kids out of school any time they want for a trip to Disneyland. Trips to a theme park do not take precedence over a kids education.

September 22, 2016 at 5:58 PM · Missing a week off school is not going to have an effect on a child in the long run. There's nothing that can't be made up with extra studying before and after the trip. Schools schedule educational field trips to Washington, Paris, etc. as it is.
September 22, 2016 at 8:28 PM · I don't understand why anybody would take their children out of school just for vacation. There are plenty of times throughout the year when children are out of school.
September 22, 2016 at 8:52 PM · Have kids making A's in all their courses, whenever you want.
Have kids struggling in classes, don't do it.
September 22, 2016 at 10:07 PM · I don't have kids, but if I did I'd say that if they're performing well in school (say B or above in all classes), I'd have no problem pulling them out of school for one trip per year to go to a destination that they haven't visited before. Of course, this would be contingent on continued performance, and if performance fell they either would not get to go on the trip or would miss out on future trips. However, I would never pull kids out of school to go visit a local theme park or attraction as that is not something special and therefore doesn't justify missing school.
September 22, 2016 at 11:04 PM · I think it's more of an age thing. If your kids are in 5th grade or younger, a week out of school ain't gonna kill them as they'd probably be able to make up whatever they have to within a short period of time. However, if they're in middle school where education starts getting more serious, that's something that needs heavier consideration.
September 22, 2016 at 11:53 PM · I feel life is short. Who knows if you'll even see tomorrow. Live for today and teach your kids to do the same!
September 23, 2016 at 5:03 AM · The airline tickets from Brazil to USA during the high season (middle December to middle February plus July) is 2.5 times the price for the same ticket in the remaining of the year. Add to that discounts in accommodation and theme park tickets and you can find an overall discount of about 40%. That is the difference of going every year or every two years.

My kids are 7 and 5, so missing some days of school after an extended weekend makes sense, since the discount is very big and they will not lose enough subject to make any difference in their learning process.

September 23, 2016 at 5:06 AM · Kids can only miss school if they are going to EPCOT ;)
September 23, 2016 at 5:16 AM · Taking them on an overseas trip where they could learn some history and culture is one thing, but just going to a theme park is another. (And I say that as a former Disney cast member and all around Disney nerd.) I think it sends a terrible message to the kids that school isn't important and that it's ok to skip to go have fun. It also places an unfair burden on teachers because if you're trying to get homework in advance so the kids can work on it on the plane they have to run around and make copies and put together packets that they probably didn't have ready a week in advance. Plus, they're stuck trying to help your kid catch up on the vocab words or math problems that they didn't learn how to do while they were out riding rides. Just go during school breaks. You'll survive the crowds. You really will.
September 23, 2016 at 7:03 AM · Hell Yes - Take them out for a week...

But here is the Problem - Your title say's “Disney” ... Can't it be Universal, SeaWorld, Bush Gardens, Discover Cove, Cedar Point…Just Saying…. (Got ya Robert).

Anyway we do every single year. In May when the Prices are cheaper and the Parks are less crowed. If a family is going to spend thousands of dollars on a vacation, why not go when the parks are less busy.

We went in April Once and the Hotels, rental cars and Airfare were all very high during school vacation.

Just think about how much a child will learn about travelling, hospitality even the engineering aspects of the rides. You can influence a child to think about the whole world and not just about their local community by travelling once a year. Plus, you get to interact with folks from all over the place.

But it may also depend on the student, of you have a child that is a ‘C’ student you have to give it more thought that a child that is in an ‘A’ or ‘B’ student… - This is not skipping school or skipping a class, this is a planned family event.... And really, how much do you learn in a few days of skool? (oops looks like a lot)...

September 23, 2016 at 7:15 AM · We have made 2 trips to Orlando area parks with our children and both times we took them out of school, but only for a couple of days. Our school system in Regina, Saskatchewan gets the third week of February off, so when we have taken our trips we will pull the boys from school for the Monday and Tuesday following the break. This allows us to get to get 9 days for the parks, 2 travel days, and nobody really gets behind. Our 1st trip our oldest was in grade 9 and for the 2nd he was in grade 12. Our other son wants to go back to Orlando when he is in grade 12 and unless there are unforeseen circumstances we will be there in 2019.
September 23, 2016 at 7:17 AM · We take our grand children to our timeshare next to WDW in Kissimmee every year. But it's always with their teachers approval and as long as they are doing well in school. And the teacher always gives them home work to do on the trip.
September 23, 2016 at 7:46 AM · It depends... Best before they reach middle school. It's not going to matter much in elementary school. Once in high school, don't ever take them out especially if they need extra help. The problem with taking them out is losing concentration in doing homework. There's plenty of time to do vacations in the summer months, spring break, and the holidays although much more expensive.
September 23, 2016 at 7:57 AM · Never, period. I sends a wrong and very dangerous signal to kids.
September 23, 2016 at 8:30 AM · I was pulled out of school when I 8 for a week long trip to WDW. Prior to leaving, I had performed poorly on two different tests and the teacher told my parents "it's because she is so excited about Disney, she can't concentrate."

Looking back, my teacher was probably right. It messed up my entire life! I'm addicted to theme parks and often cannot concentrate on anything because of them. STAY IN SCHOOL KIDS!

And someone else commented about teachers preparing assignments is difficult. I teach high school and when kids leave for extended periods, if you are well organized, it's not a big deal.

September 23, 2016 at 8:57 AM · My family's first three vacations to Walt Disney World during my childhood were all during October, requiring my sister and I to miss a week of school. The savings from traveling in the offseason made it cost-effective for my family to afford the Northeastern U.S.-to-Florida trip once every three years or so. The missed classes did not have any discernible effect on us.

Of course, your mileage may vary. A different family with different students and different teachers might not fare as well. It's up to parents to gauge their specific situation.

But I certainly would not dismiss the concept out of hand. Telling others to only vacation during the summer or other breaks is not a feasible solution for all families.

September 23, 2016 at 9:32 AM · Proabaly the same kind of irresponsible parents who bring infants -- hot, miserable, possibly sun burnt and just wanting to take a nap -- on vacation with them.
September 23, 2016 at 10:50 AM · We did this a couple times when I was younger with no affect. But it was planned, homework ahead of time and make up after. People that just straight up say no to it need to give it a try.
September 23, 2016 at 11:23 AM · Both of my kids are now in college, however we did pull the kids out of school about 1x every couple of years. Usually it was in early March but never during Spring Break. We live in Michigan so the fact that they were able to escape the cold made it more enjoyable for everyone. It also made them work harder in school knowing how important it was that they get good grades. It also gave them something to really look forward to during the brutal winter months.

I think it's OK, but not to be overdone.

September 23, 2016 at 11:25 AM · I think it is irresponsible for parents to take kids out of school for family trips or vacations like this. Until a child is old enough to make choices for themselves, that is, college, academics should be FIRST PRIORITY over everything. I feel that as well with respect to SPORTS. My criterion with my kids was HOMEWORK FIRST, then there's time for sports, and everything else.

I think the tendency of parents to do this is an example of the continuing demise of appreciation for scholarship in the United States, with the exception of certain minority groups who value education and see it as crucial for future advancement.

20 or more years ago it was clear that placement in jobs and pay for work was going to be dependent upon one and only one thing: Education, and not just testing scores, but UNDERSTANDING. And, moreover, I'd say the key subjects are MATHEMATICS, STATISTICS, and SCIENCE.

Moreover, the idea of taking time off of school to go to WDW or anywhere sends a really bad signal to kids, that the parents just don't think school is that important.

So, I'd ask: If you knew that taking a child to WDW even once meant that there was as a consequence a 50% chance that their median annual earnings over their lives just dropped by $20k per year, would you still do it? I'm making those numbers up, of course, just to be specific. If your answer is yes, well, then, you have your answer. If it is "No", how much loss in earnings at 50% chance would you accept? $10000? $5000?

September 23, 2016 at 11:34 AM · I am taking both of my children to Disney World in November this year. One is a Freshman and the other is 5th grade. We have done this before with them. First step get with the teachers and get work that they will be missing before you leave. Next make sure they do the work before they return to school. While on the trip I educate as we go. EPCOT has a lot of teachable things as well as discovering geography and history.Then there is Biology in the seas and the land. Engineering in mission space and test track. Then Animal kingdom has the sciences and world geography covered as well as dinosaurs. The studios are more just for fun now days, but I can work some physics, engineering and math in with TOT and RARC. Magic Kingdom has history, engineering, arts and geography to mention a few lessons there. So there is a lot of hands on practical lessons that can be incorporated into a Disney World Vacation. We are also going to be heading to NASA to see an Atlas 5 Launch and have lunch with an Astronaut. So just because they are not in a classroom doesn't mean that they are not learning, just learning in a different method.
September 23, 2016 at 11:53 AM · Jan you sound like Trump making up BS number as you go... hahahaha..
So taking a child out of school for 3 days means they will be unsuccessful in life.... got it...

Wolf Wolf I see a wolf... Oh never mind - it was just a dog...

You cannot put a price tag on experience. Travel is an experience..

September 23, 2016 at 12:24 PM · Yes, skip school and visit Disney in the low season. In the end it is well worth it and I never regret skipping school to visit Disney or Universal.
September 23, 2016 at 12:56 PM · Parents, you know what's right, and what's not YOU know your own kid(s). You have my support either way!
September 23, 2016 at 1:19 PM · @Brian Emery As I indicated, it's what it says to them in terms of what's important.

And, mind you, I think I have a little street creds on this. Proudly, I have one son who graduated from Harvard with a double degree in Physics and Maths, and a Master's in Applied Math (done in 4 years), and who is now head of Jane Street Capital's operations in London, at the age of 30. The other son has a doctorate in Maths from UC Berkley and is currently on dual post-docs paid for by the National Science Foundation.

@Timothy Hoster Epcot? Seriously? I'm a big Disney fan and DVC owner, and Epcot is my favorite place, but as an educational venue Epcot has seriously deteriorated over the decades. Why? Because people don't want to be educated: They want to be entertained and excited. Ergo, @Brian Emery, _that_, the lack of a sense of history (*The History of the Peloponnesian War*: http://classics.mit.edu/Thucydides/pelopwar.html), and no rhetorical skills is _why_ we have the unqualified Donald Trump in the running.

September 23, 2016 at 2:12 PM · We take our children to WDW for the week of Halloween every year and have done so for at least the last 15 years. Our oldest son, 27 has a Master's in History and our youngest son, 11, spent his summer vacation at Washington University studying Structural Engineering. This has never impacted schoolwork and I doubt this decision will negatively affect their future as some posters have suggested. My husband works a job that peaks during common vacation times. So if we want family time it is either now or never.

That being said I believe it is up to each family. You know your child best.

September 23, 2016 at 5:59 PM · Jan Galkowski, who cares? I have 3 grown children: one is a venture capitalist in San Francisco, one is a federal judge and one is a doctor at the Mayo Clinic. We took the kids out of school for vacation every year. No big deal. And I read the history of the Peloponnesian War in the original ancient Greek. Guess what? I'm still voting for Trump.
September 23, 2016 at 8:50 PM · Benefit of living in Florida for four years was being so close to Disney World, only two hours away. So my mom would be able to pick sister and I up from school, head over, enjoy a few days, back Sunday night. Earlier, had been able to work it near holidays like Easter and Thanksgiving that worked out nicely.
September 24, 2016 at 3:26 AM · Personally, I believe the stimulation of neural activity and the relationship between vivacity and memory would mean the amount of information learned at school would pale in comparison to the amount of retained information from an exciting vacation.

I think people overestimate the efficiency of schools.

Failing all that - Life is way too short to worry about a week of schooling when you could be eating German sausage, Japanese katsu or experience some of mankind's most amazing entertainment creations.

September 24, 2016 at 4:47 PM · I'm a teacher, and I say heck yeah, let them skip school for a week. As an older teacher with a young daughter, I plan to do this after I retire so we can take in the Disney Christmas decorations at the start of December when crowds are lower than at the end of December.
September 24, 2016 at 5:36 PM · I think people are kidding themselves if they think that Epcot is truly an educational experience, and that a theme park can substitute for school. taking kids out of school on occasion is not necessarily a bad thing, but lets not pretend that they learn much at Disney (particularly as many here go every year or 2).

Go overseas, learn stuff about different cultures from the source, rather than the Disneyfied version. I love Disney and Universal parks, and they're great for a holiday, but you're missing so much more if that's what you always do.

Holidaying internationally on a budget isn't that hard, once you've passed the airfair hurdle, often the rest of the holiday can be remarkably cheap. And kids will get 5 times as much from a holiday to Europe, Asia or South America than they will to Disney, and they can even stop for a quick Disney or Universal (or Efteling) break on the way through.

September 24, 2016 at 9:53 PM · This whole "Disney is educational" argument is a lot of nonsense. First of all, if education is your main concern, school is far more educational than any theme park. Second, they can get their "theme park education" when school is out. Third, any educational benefit from theme parks is the same as last time, because nearly all the attractions are the same as last time.

By the way, what kind of work ethic are kids learning when you periodically yank them out of school to go on vacation?

September 25, 2016 at 8:24 AM · Jan - if you have to say you have street cred then no have no street cred…. I can envision you sticking your little pinky out while sipping Tea saying “My son went to Harvard”…. Heck, Bill Gates quit Harvard and I guess is unsuccessful now.

Taking a child out of school for a few days has no correlation on what college they attend. If this were true, what happens when a child gets sick. Do you not keep they at home or do you send them to school with a vomit bag?

The world needs well rounded children with many experiences. Theme Parks open a child mind to creativity. Life lessons are not learned form a book in a school. – Great comment – “Personally, I believe the stimulation of neural activity and the relationship between vivacity and memory would mean the amount of information learned at school would pale in comparison to the amount of retained information from an exciting vacation”.

September 26, 2016 at 11:46 AM · All of this is a point of view. And depends on your kids and how they are doing in school! Some parents have no choice it's their only time they can get off from work. For others there are circumstances. I feel they are my children and if it's a park or a hiking trip anything it's my right and choice. But tell you what life goes very fast and is short, live in the day make memories and be with those you love.

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