Dissecting the School Calendar for Travel Opportunities

If I asked you to guess what I’m most excited about at this moment, I bet you would never guess it’s the revealing of next year’s school calendar. But, it is!

Yes, I’ve been not-so-patiently waiting to get a copy of the 2018-2019 school calendar in my hands. I managed to get a hold of a draft for the next school year, and I felt like a kid in a candy store!

Dissecting the School Calendar for Travel Opportunities

Photo by Sneha Chekuri on Unsplash

Living and Breathing by the School Calendar

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, my family’s travel schedule now depends almost entirely on the school calendar. My oldest son will be in 8th grade, and two of my three kids are now subject to days of standardized testing toward the end of the school year. Gone are the days my kids can get away with missing school days for vacations with almost no consequences.

The thing I have a hard time wrapping my head around is how last-minute the calendar seems to come out for the next school year. Last year, the new school calendar didn’t come out until January. How do people even plan summer vacations without knowing when the first day of school is?  I’m used to planning my vacations about 11 months (or more!) in advance based on the strategy of capturing award flights when airlines first release them.

At least this year, it appears the school board will finalize the calendar in December instead of January. I still think that’s not ideal, but I don’t have a say in the matter. The school board is voting on the calendar tonight! I hope the draft calendar is approved with no changes, because in my head I’m already planning some trips.

Travel Opportunities within the School Calendar

End of School Year. My kids’ school district calendar has started shifting to earlier start dates. The kids will now start in mid-August instead of the end of August. You would think that we’d get out earlier at the end of the year, but we still have school a few days after Memorial Day. Since many schools on the East Coast are still in school through mid-June, those first two weeks of June are potential “off-season” vacation opportunities in some markets. For example, we took our Alaska cruise last year during that time so that we could get lower rates than even the week right after that.

Also, over the years I’ve learned that almost no actual schooling happens that last week of school. It’s mostly movies, games and parties. I’ve noticed that many parents pull their kids out of school the last few days of the school year to get a head start on vacation.

Long Weekends. After noting the start date and end date, I look for 3- and 4-day weekends. The school district has teacher work days and other single day holidays next to the weekend that will work for shorter trips to visit family or shorter vacations. I’m counting three 3-day weekends and four 4-day weekends in the calendar draft that are possible travel opportunities. I especially like the ones that fall over non-holiday weekends in October and April, because those are truly non-peak travel opportunities.

Extended Days Before/After Scheduled Breaks. Finally, I look at the timing of the longer school breaks within the school year. Our district has a whole week off in November, two weeks at the end of December/early January and one week for Spring Break. Even though those actual weeks are usually pretty congested travel weeks, if we take a few unexcused absences before or after those breaks we can extend a vacation with minimal penalties.

For example, I put a deposit down on a Disney Cruise for early January 2019. It happened to be one of the cheapest sailing dates (woohoo!). And now it looks like our winter school break will back right up to our cruise, and my kids will only miss four days of school instead of the entire week. We can even fly down to Orlando early to spend a few days at theme parks without worrying about missing additional school since we will already be off. I’m thrilled!

Skipping school just a few days before Spring Break officially starts also gets us into the American Airlines MileSAAver Off Peak dates for Europe and Hawaii. That would save us some miles at least on the way out if we choose one of those destinations in the future.

Dissecting the School Calendar for Travel Opportunities

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

My Ideal School Calendar

When I was a kid from Kindergarten through 7th grade, my school district was year-round with three tracks due to overcrowding. Each track of kids went to school for four months and then had two months of vacation.  My four months off fell in August/September and February/March. My parents chose this track so that we would always be able to vacation in the off-season. We had the luxury of visiting Disney World with low crowds on several trips. What I wouldn’t give to have that type of off-season schedule with my kids today!

I don’t see the school district here going to a year-round schedule. But, I would still welcome a few changes to the school calendar.

For starters, I would love a longer fall break in October. Even though many school districts have a fall break at this time, it’s still a relatively uncrowded off-peak time to travel.

I would also love it if Spring Break was two weeks instead of one week. That would make it much easier to travel farther, like to Europe or New Zealand. My nephew’s school used to have a two-week October break and a two-week Spring Break. So, that type of schedule is not unheard of.

I realize that many of my calendar ideas that are more convenient for traveling are a lot less convenient for childcare arrangements for families with two working parents. And I understand, because we used to be one of those families!

Do you have the 2018-2019 calendar for your kids’ school district yet? What would you change about the calendar? How do you plan to work with/around the school calendar for your vacation plans?

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Author: Nancy

Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.

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16 thoughts on “Dissecting the School Calendar for Travel Opportunities

  1. We have modified year-round school and I really like it. My kids get 8 weeks off at summer, 2 weeks for fall break, 2 weeks for winter break, and 2 weeks for spring break. This schedule makes travel fairly easy!

  2. Although this wasn’t the impetus behind the decision, homeschooling our kids means we can always travel off season, if desired. Or catch an amazing fare deal. Or find that perfect award space. It’s definitely going to be a benefit.

    I’d much rather take more breaks during the year and shorten summer a bit than stick to anything close to the “traditional” school year our local schools use.

  3. Oh yes, when my husband and I start our family I will be hunting for that calendar when they begin full time schooling. I want to be able to take them places and travel all over. These are great tips, thanks!

  4. We have to wait until March/April for the next school year calendar which makes it nice to plan spring break the following year. I would love to get out in May so we could take advantage of off-peak flights, but I don’t think that will ever happen. For now, I just plan summer vacations in late June or July and avoid August like the plague since the past few years the schools have required hard copies of residency documentation a week or two before the first day back (this isn’t Beverly Hills people so why all the extra work).

    • @Stephanie My kids’ school district is really strict about that residency paperwork also! Plus some school sports and band activities start early in August, so we will likely avoid August vacations.

  5. It would drive me crazy to get a school calendar so late, but I think a lot of families just aren’t able to make traveling work, either financially or for whatever reasons, so it doesn’t matter for a lot of them. But I’m always trying to plan my next travels, so it would drive me crazy not to know what my schedule would be like!

  6. You are not alone – I know many with this same predicament. You did mention that this is an east coast issue – I wonder if it has to do with the natural disasters we face each year (me being in Florida, I know our school curriculum changes due to missed school days from hurricanes). But that would be such an annoyance not being able to plan vacations out more than a few months, and school days falling on off-season times of the year. I was home schooled up until 6th grade, and I know thereafter my parents had a difficult time FINDING times of the year that would accommodate their budget as far as trips (probably from the same situation now!). I know so many who are going back to home schooling – my neighbor is home schooling her 3 kids right now!

  7. We are just starting to think about this. We live in Canada but have family in the States. Often holidays and school breaks don’t align. My daughter still has one year before she’s in kindergarten, but we are inquiring about how flexible the schools are with family travel.

    • @Melissa I hope you find that your school is flexible! Here in Texas the truancy laws are very strict on paper, but we’ve found our schools to be very accommodating for missing 5 or fewer days for vacation.

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