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Should You Take Your Kids Out of School for a Disney Vacation?

by Mommy Frog on October 24, 2013 · 27 Comments · in Family Travel

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 Resort is a magical experience … and maybe, just maybe … the idea of visiting when crowds are lower is worth taking the kids out of school.

Pumpkin Drum Major

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 because there are some amazing special events, and experiencing the parks all dressed up for the holidays is truly magical.

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.

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

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. And, if you have taken the kids out of school for a Disney World vacation, please share with us your thoughts about it in comments below.

Now, 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 he and I are a little divided on this topic. Leap is more concerned with grades and any disruption to Tad’s learning process, and 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.

China Epcot

Here are a few questions to get you thinking about whether a Disney World vacation during the school year is a good idea.

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.

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.

Snow White and Prince Charming

How well is your child performing in school? 

If you’re 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 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, scheduling for shorter trips and over weekends, if you have a child who really needs an established routine to do well, then it’s probably best not to schedule during the school year.

Does your child want to miss school?

Sometimes there are special events going on at school or extracurricular activities that children don’t want to miss even for a Disney World vacation. Be sensitive to any concerns your child has about missing school, because, trust me, if he or she would rather stay home than go to Disney World, it’s a BIG DEAL.

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.

Downtown Disney art

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, we’ll be bringing you some tips to help make it a smooth and enjoyable process.

Would you take your child out of school for a Disney World vacation? Share any points you think parents should consider. 

Related: The Best Time to Visit Walt Disney World

Until next time … hoppy planning!
– Mommy Frog


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27 Responses to “Should You Take Your Kids Out of School for a Disney Vacation?”

  1. Jalan says:

    I think taking your kids out of school to go to Disney is irresponsible. It teaches them all of the wrong things. It teaches them to act selfishly in the interest of what is more convenient, cheaper, easier and more favorable to their own needs. It teaches them these misguided things at the expense of teaching them that you have obligations in life that mean you don’t always get what you want, what is most convenient for you and what you’d like to do at all times. Coddling parents are part of the problem of the younger generation thinking they should have everything they want, when they want it.

    • Mary says:

      As a teacher, I very much respect your recognition of the importance of education. I do think, however, that its also important to teach our children to live and enjoy life. There are too many adults in this world who never take a vacation and are constantly “plugged in.” They often do this at the expense of the family. While I certainly would not recommend making a habit of pulling the kids out for vacation, the occassional trip can with the family can be beneficial to a child’s development as well, especially for younger ones. Its important to teach children a sense of balance.

    • Rob says:

      My youngest son can’t take the summer heat in Philly, let alone Florida. Both of my boys are as polite and well behaved as any child I have ever met around their age. They excel in every class they take, they enroll in sports, never miss class, and they are always the first to volunteer when something needs to be done. We have done quite a few trips and have made so many memories in the short time they have been on this earth and every trip to Disney was during the school year. We take extra work from the school with us and its usually done before the plane touches down at MCO.

      I wouldn’t change a thing.

      I don’t just punish if my boys do something wrong. I also reward when they do right. Nice boys do nice things. It’s not hurting their grades and their teachers are fully supportive. I can see in some cases where a week from school is detrimental to the child, but that’s not always the case. A Disney trip doesn’t make a good parent, but a good parent knows when to make a Disney trip according to their child.

  2. Judy says:

    I’ve taken my kids (11 and 8) out of school twice now for a Disney vacation and plan to do it once more in 2 years when they are in grades 5 and 8. I think you cover the main points that should be considered. The only thing I didn’t think about when planning was school activities so my son was disappointed about missing his school soccer tournament – we didn’t know the date of the tournament when we booked our trip and when we found out it was too late to change. When we go again I will definitely plan around school events that the kids don’t want to miss.

  3. Jim O says:

    We have. My son was 12 when we started. And my he still managed to graduate from HS with a Regents diploma. We did when my daughter was in elementary school, but now that she’s in jr high and going into high school next year, we don’t pull her out.

  4. Erin M says:

    We took our 3 kids out of school at the end of September to go to Disney and it was definently worth it! Every line was a 20 minute or less wait. To me that was worth it. We got to do everything we wanted and more because we didn’t have to spend much time in the lines. We also went to Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween party and the kids loved it. The weather was still hot but it was tolerable. I would recommend taking your kids out of school to go to Disney because you pay so much money to go, you want to make sure to have the best experience ever and get your money’s worth.

  5. Valery says:

    Although our view is already skewed towards life- and world-learning because our three kids do not attend traditional school, so my emphatic response is YES! So worth it. Most kids do not get to spend very much uninterrupted time with family these days. School, sports, even church services are often separated by age. Siblings need to connect, and kids need to connect with parents. Disney is an amazing place to do this. Left to their own devices, we have found our kids to be amazingly inquisitive and engaged at Disney and they love the many learning opportunities in the parks. We return refreshed and more enthusiastically attack our day-to-day routine and schoolwork. Mental health is VERY important!!

  6. Karen says:

    I had taken both my children out of school during the elementary years to take advantage of the low cost and low crowds during the off season at Disney. I notified the school in advance which gave their teachers time to prepare a packet of work they could do on their way there or even at night while on vacation. We drove from Mass to Florida so they had lots of time to get their work done. We would normally plan the trip to overlap with a school vacation week. We could go to the parks the week before the school vacation week (winter breaks in the north are usually the third week in February) and spend the remaining last few days doing non-park things. My kids could handle it then, but as soon as my oldest entered 5th grade the strategy changed. The most we would take them out for would be 2 days prior to give us a jump on the travel.

  7. Jennifer says:

    We have only been to the parks in Florida once- this past February. We decided to go during school because I didn’t want to deal with the heat and extremely busy parks in the summer. And we chose this past year because of the school grades my kids were in- 8th, 6th, and 3rd. Everyone was still in the same school building and there was no high school for my oldest to deal with as there is this year! I arranged it ahead of time with the school to check on dates that might be problematic such as standardized testing and other events. We went from the middle of one week to the middle of the next week and saved so much on plane tickets that we were able to spend it on an extra night at the Disney hotel. Luckily, my husbands vacation days are flexible and he was not required to take a weeks vacation between Sunday to Saturday. Once our trip was booked, and I was talking to my friends about what to expect, etc, I discovered many families that took their kids out of school for a week or so for a Disney trip or a beach trip or such. This year, my youngest who is now in 4th grade told me last week (mid-October) that for the first day this school year, every child was present at school for the whole day. There had been at least one family who pulled their child out on vacation every week until mid-October! I don’t feel at all that it’s problematic for kids to miss school for vacation. However, you did bring up a good point… watch out for those after school activities that they will miss… my son was fairly upset at missing out on basketball practice and a game- even though the season lasts for months!

  8. Amanda says:

    Disney is a very educational place. Many of the rides and shows are very entertaining and still educational. What better way to learn about the world and history? I went to Disney when I was 13 and was taken out of school to go. My teachers were able to give me assignments so I could keep up with school work. I would look at a Disney trip as a field trip instead of vacation for kids.

  9. Carol says:

    I have never been to Disney when the schools are out. I always go off season. We now have a problem with the jr high not allowing kids to miss a week of schoo unless medically necessary. I’m not sure what we are going to do. May try to see the less crouded of the summer. Or we my just do a disney cruise. I hate crouded.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I have taken my kids out for a trip & would do it again. We did it when my son was struggling in school, but we worked with him the whole week and he made it through. I would love to do it again, especially now that he is doing so much better. I’d love to go in the off season, especially the fall. I love fall at Disney. We need to spend more time as families! Kids are too “scheduled” these days. Nothing wrong with a little fun!

  11. Liane says:

    I have taken my kids out twice, but now that my son is in high school it’s harder. There is a limit on how many classes they can miss in a term. I think it’s unfair that kids who go on school trips to Europe, or California are allowed and they don’t count as missed classes, but time for a family vacation does.

  12. Judi says:

    This question is a no-brainer for our family. Absolutely YES! My girls are now 19yo and 21yo, and have been to WDW 100+ times (visits never being less than 3 nights) in 17 years. Most of these visits were made when they were in lower and middle school. TIME WITH FAMILY is a priority in our lives. By the way, my oldest is an HONOR STUDENT at the University of Florida, with a 4.0 GPA and is currently studying abroad in Tokyo. My youngest has a 3.6 GPA at FSU and they are both very RESPONSIBLE young women who still can’t wait for me to announce a future trip to Disney World…ABSOLUTELY YES!!

  13. Dave says:

    I haven’t had to take my kids out of school for a trip (yet), but I would in a heartbeat. Life is about LIVING, and there are so many things my kids can learn outside of the classroom. About 30 years ago, my family went to So. California during the school year for five weeks for my dad’s work, and we went to Sea World, Disneyland and Universal Studios more times than I can count. Of course we were given extra work to make sure we “kept up” with the class. When we got back, we were two weeks AHEAD of the class and had memories that have lasted a lifetime.

  14. Kimberly P. says:

    We’re taking them out in early November to go. We included election day and Veteran’s Day as part of our trip so the kids miss less days. Both teachers were happy that they were going. Their response was “they’re only young once!” Both need to keep a journal while we’re there for homework but they end up being great souvenirs. We all take time off of work for vacation and figure out how to make make-up work, I think its a great early lesson for kids about how to balance work and play.

  15. Winter says:

    I am an adult now, but even when I was a kid, i was taken out of school for a fall disney trip (i can still remember it was the year Nightmare Before Christmas came out!). I was never a good student in school, but even with missing school between illness, hating school, and disney, i still managed to get a professional job and i hold multiple degrees and certifications in my field. I even did TWO disney internternships in which i received no credit. Talk about putting disney before my education!

    Each family is different and each child is different. I for one, think that taking a child out of school for a few days will not ruin their lives. While a disney trip does not have to be a classroom lesson, they can still learn things (like reading a park map, managing their time getting on rides, placing food orders, memorization of disney trivia) that lead to a well rounded person. Encouraging a shy child to order their own meal at a disney restaurant may be just the ticket for them to gain confidence in other aspects of their life. Encouraging a child to take charge and manage their ride times and meal times (of course give help as needed) can give the child a sense of independence and they can learn real life time management skills while still having fun.

    Sometimes, breaking up the normal routine can be good because it can help a child to think more on their feet, be ready for the unexpected (and to be OK with the unexpected).

    I also think that many families do not get to spend much time with each other. Most dual parent households have both parents working now adays. Children are either in day care or school. Even during the summer the children still go to summer camps while their parents work. A week at disney can be a great bonding time for the entire family.

  16. Julie says:

    Yes, take them out of school – it CAN be an educational experience! We live in the UK and it can be VERY expensive to fly to WDW during the school holidays, ridiculously so. I took my daughter out of school twice to go to WDW, first when she was in reception age 4 (that’s pre grade 1) and once age 7 when she was in year 3 (US grade 2 I believe). During our trip she did Maths – converting £’s to $’s,time zones etc, we did Art (paintings, buildings around World Showcase), History (talking about events in American Adventure etc), Geography (America and where Florida and specifically Orlando is in relation to our home town) and she wrote a report about the trip (daily diary) to give to her teacher (English). WDW can be a fantastic learning experience if you think about it and plan accordingly. I still think she learned more in her 2 weeks at WDW than she would have done in the classroom – and guess which she remembered! I wouldn’t take her out of school during exams, or if it was an important school year like GCSE year (Year 11), but if your kids are young, then why not. Plus its important to spend time as a family, and lets face it – life is for living, you never know what is around the corner.

  17. Denise says:

    We’ve taken our son out of school every year until 8th grade. He is an honor student and does his work so we knew he wouldn’t fall behind. If there had ever been any doubt about his school work we would not have done it. Now that he’s in high school he has told us he does not want to miss school so now we go on shorter trips that revolve around teacher professional development, when he has off school. To us there is nothing more important than family time and we never hesitated to take him out of school.

  18. Matt G says:

    It depends on the age of the kids and how well they do in school. I took two of my kids out a few year ago when they were in the 4th grade and K5 (which isn’t even mandatory where I live). Now my kids are in grades K5, 2nd, 5th and 7th. My older one will probably have the roughest time with homework when we go at the end of January, but elementary school age children don’t have as much new material being taught on a regular basis. Also, when the schools start actually teaching the kids the 180 days that are required by law, I will make sure my kids will be there to learn. There are too much “party days” “video days” “field days” “pizza party and watch movies days” to count along with all of the standardized testing that goes on. Schools need to stop focusing so much on attendance and what they are actually learning or not learning.

  19. Jess says:

    We have taken our daughters out of school for Disney trips and will be doing it in February for another. Our girls are currently in3rd and 4th grade and are A/B students. We talk with their teachers first and plan for special “projects” to help keep their minds learning, like reports about their trip or something then they have to tell the class about it which helps with public speaking! We try and get some work early to take with us for the drive/trip. So there isn’t so much to do when we get home. We have only done a trip to Disneyland so far and find exciting things like scavenger hunts at the park ( I grew up in ca so I know the land!) have the kids budget our trip money, ect. That way there is still some sort of learning going on. This year it’s a special trip because their big sister is a dancer in the parade and the Aladdin show…so is it worth it…..yes the memories we are making and the learning experiences that get while there and traveling, are priceless! My kids are now 8 and 10. They know how to budget their money ( they already have over two hundred dollars each from chores alone that they have saved to buy their own gifts and toys when we go again( btw allowance is $10 a week if their chores are done….correctly)). I think it all depends on the child and the parents, if you make a trip both fun and educational. Then it’s a win win for everyone!

  20. Vern Woodruff says:

    My family wanted to visit during a less busy time of year, so we choose the week after Thanksgiving. This week seems to be considered about the best week to visit due to the combination of smaller crowds and all of the festive Christmas decorations and activities. Plus, the kids also had the day off before Thanksgiving to get a head start on their school work, and we wanted to take our children while they were younger and before they became involved in school activities that would preclude them from being able to go during the school year. Our children of course had to miss school for the week, and I remembered reading debates about whether or not to take children during the school year. There were some teachers and others that said just how bad of an idea they thought it was to miss school just for a Disney trip. However, I wondered if these same people complain when school bands or choirs miss school to visit Disney. Do they campaign against such trips and advise the school board to deny such requests? While we were there, a number of high school choirs were participating in the Candle Light Processional. Also, our local high school’s band takes a trip to Disney every 3-4 years. If schools do not see a problem with letting the band or choir go on a school authorized trip to Disney, why should it be such an issue for kids from an individual family to do so? I would argue having a large group of kids missing would be more disruptive to classroom instruction because of the number of students (as well as teacher chaperones) involved.

  21. JessD says:

    We take our children out of school for vacation every year. One of our children has very intense special needs and we go when it is most comfortable for her and she is able to truly enjoy our vacation. They usually miss 6 days of school and I let the school know, but I also tell them it is non negotiable. Last school year my kids did not miss a single day of school outside of vacation and this year one of them has missed one day due to illness and the other has missed none. We’ll be going in January and again they will miss 6 days of school. Education is very important to us, but our goal is a well rounded education and not simply teaching to pass a standardized test. Children can learn things outside of four walls and I hope ours learn that family is a priority.

  22. A_teacher says:

    Great! You all have fun. Mean while, your child’s teacher is working extra time to plan and prepare lessons sooner so you can have a shorter wait time. I hope you enjoy your memories while your child’s teacher is feverishly trying to administer assessments which are year round now and catch your child up on missed concepts. I am delighted that you saved a few bucks while the teacher’s family loses his/her family time so missed work can be graded.

    This is not just about you! Anyone ever stop to think how much more work you create for a teacher with this decision? Now multiply that by x number of students on vacations during the school year. Think about that please.

    • High School Teacher says:

      Thank you, yes! I’ve had several students have planned absences and it’s a lot of work for me. I’ve wasted entire prep periods figuring out work to give to students who are going away (and I only get two hours of prep each week). And God bless all of you parents who give advance notice, because I’ve only once had more than two days notice. And its not just about your child having enough time to get the assignments done. I often give out busy work to practice basic skills because your child is missing valuable instrucional time. I’m not going to give students assignments that they will do incorrectly because they missed the instruction. Then, when your child return to school, I take time out of my lunch, prep, and study hall periods to teach them the material they missed.

  23. Precious says:

    My husband is active duty military. He has been gone HALF of my sons life because of things that have to do with his life in the military. So guess what.. when he is here to enjoy a vacation with his family we will take it. My son is 4 and in Pre K. My daughter is 2. IN addition my husband is a Drill SGT. SO we don’t have much time together. Family needs to be a priority to people.. if you are a good parent, your child’s education is also a priority. You will make sure that all work is done and done ahead of time. Spend time together when you can. Sometimes it is not the best time, but it is time none the less.

  24. Tricia says:

    When my kids were younger, we took them out of school to go to Disney during the off-season. We used the money that we saved to do a “Behind the Scenes Tour” of Sea World, which proved to be incredibly educational. In addition to keeping journals requested by their teachers, they also brought their books and kept up on their homework. Once in high school, however, neither of them wanted to miss a single day of school. So the Disney vacations went on hold for several years, but guess what? Last year, they both wanted to go once again, so they took time away from their COLLEGE courses and we all had a blast. And they are both straight A students, and remained so, despite taking a little break to have fun with their family.

    To the teacher who complained about having to do advance lesson plans, I say this. You are supposed to do them anyway. If teaching those concepts is so important, those lesson plans should be done at least a few weeks in advance. Good teachers don’t wait until the last minute and fly by the seat of their pants.

    I home schooled my youngest for two years due to illness, and here is another little bit of news. The state told me that I had to teach three hours of school daily. When I expressed surprise that the days were so short, I had a school official tell me, “Take your average six hour school day. Now subtract lunch, a minimum of two recesses, “passing” time, assemblies, and all other times spent on non-educational endeavors. Now think about how long it takes to teach a concept to twenty children, including the ones who are working below grade level, but have been mainstreamed into your child’s class anyway. A concept that takes 40 mins to teach in the classroom can be learned at home in 10.” We did six hour school days anyway, and my child ROCKED the standardized test scores not only for those two years, but for several years thereafter. The point is, if your teacher is willing to give you a short list of what will be covered in your child’s absence, you can totally teach that in the evenings, or on the trip to and from, and your child will miss NOTHING. More importantly, you will all have memories to last a lifetime.

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