Skipping School for Disney: Do or Don’t

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Features, Park Wise

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Published on August 22, 2013 at 2:00 am with 75 Comments

Last week, we discussed some of the pros and cons of different times to visit Walt Disney World.  Maybe you’ve discovered that you’d rather head to the parks in the cooler, less crowded, value seasons.  Unfortunately, these often fall during the school year, so parents are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to pull their little ones out of school.  For some it’s a major DO, and others see it as a big DON’T.  As both an educator and a parent, I see both sides of this particular coin.  If you’re on the fence about what to do, read on and decide what works for you, and please share your thoughts on the matter with us in the comments below.

Full Speed Ahead If…

1. The three reasons I mentioned earlier are big factors for you when planning your vacations.  Avoiding the brutal summer heat, crowds and costs at a Disney Park make fall, winter and spring trips more alluring to parents picturing the perfect Disney vacation.

2. Your vacation time doesn’t fall during school vacations.  Sometimes you just have to go when the grown-ups can get the time off work.

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3. Special events are a must-do.  They often fall during the “off seasons,” and if your family wants to experience Halloween Time at Disneyland or the Holidays at Walt Disney World, skipping school may be your only option.

If You Decide to Skip School…

1. My first tip would be to take advantage of those younger days, or as I like to call them “the magic years.”  This is when the kids are wide-eyed and truly believe they’re hugging Mickey Mouse or that the actual Cinderella really did just blow a kiss from her carriage.  These are also the times when school may be a little easier to miss.  You can definitely help junior with his letter sounds, shapes and sight words, but will you be able to work on geometry (which, by the way, I haven’t often used since high school) when he’s missing a week of ninth grade?

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2. Work around smaller school holidays.  Most student get a week for spring break, so this can be a busy time at the parks, but not all districts offer, say, a fall break.  We’ll be taking advantage of this mini school break in October to hit Walt Disney World.  We have three days off, so we’ll just be missing a couple days of school as opposed to an entire week.

3. Let your school know in advance and be ready to make-up any work missed if allowed.  Different schools have different policies.  In our experience, it has not been an issue.  At most, my mouseketeer was asked to keep a daily journal of his experiences and turn it in upon his return to school.

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Homework isn’t too bad on the balcony at the Boardwalk.

Rethink Playing Hooky if…

1. Your school has a very strict attendance policy.  Look over this when planning your vacation time and see if you’d still be OK if little Sally needed to miss school for another reason during the quarter or semester (or however your district measures absences).  So many factors can play into this: excused vs. unexcused, military leave, length of absence, etc.  Make yourself familiar with this and ask questions of your district if anything is unclear.

2 . Missing school could pose academic risks.  Are mid-terms approaching?  Are grades on the fence?  Will any missed work count against your child?  Like I mentioned earlier, this often affects the older kiddos, especially once they reach high school.  Some children at this age also decide for themselves that they’d prefer not to miss classes (or other extracurriculars), so consider taking their thoughts into account, too.

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Hard to stop and smell the flowers if your mind is on English papers.

3. You feel uneasy about it.  It will be hard to have a good time on vacation if you’re constantly wondering if you made the right choice.

Have you taken the kiddies out of school for a Disney family vacation?  Why or why not?  If you have, did your decision have any consequences, good or bad? We look forward to hearing your opinion and experiences on skipping school for Disney.

About Jessica Ma'ilo

Jessica is a special education teacher by day and blogger and Fairy Godmother Travel agent by evening. When not supervising play dates or sleepovers, she can be found creating, sewing or singing. She loves hitting the Disney Parks, and she and her family escape to the World and Land as often as they can. She can be contacted at [email protected], and you can also check out her family blog, Magic, Memories, Mayhem.

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75 Comments

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  1. We pulled our kids out of school in late May last year for a trip to Disneyworld only to find out that other schools had already finished for the year. We got the worst of both worlds as kids missed a week of classes and the parks were crowded.

    Coming from Oregon, we have a long plane flight to get to Disneyworld and the kids are troopers about getting their homework done on the way there so it doesn’t interfere with their Disney time. We do block out a few “work afternoons” during the trip as well so they can do more and I can get up on work.

    • Uh-oh! We did late May a couple times (last year as a last day of school surprise!) and found it was still much better than the dead of summer. We’re actually planning a late May/early June trip next year to coincide with a Disney Cruise and Star Wars Weekends. Not too bad if you have a plan of action, but not as easy as October has been for us.

  2. Timely article and comments for us right now. While our oldest, who is a very good student, was in elementary school we took her out for a week four times. Two family weddings while she was in kindergarten and two WDW trips during 3rd and 5th grade for Food and Wine. Our younger girl, who has special needs, was in preschool, 1st and 3rd grade.

    We always were up front with the teachers and asked for work well ahead of time. The girls did work on the plane and we even left the parks in the middle of the day to rest and do work. Sometimes they would do work before or after going to the parks. We would also come home on Saturday to recoup and they could finish work on Sunday.

    It worked great! I highly recommend it. A week with your family on a memorable “special” vacation can bring your family together more than any regular week of school, If you hold the kids accountable and help them with the work they will be fine. “If we don’t get this work done today we can’t go to the park” is incredible motivation.

    My sister told us last week she wants us to go back with her DVC points between Thanksgiving and Christmas next year. The oldest will be in 7th grade and gone right before finals?!? Decisions decisions. Leaning towards going.

    • Thanks for sharing! Hope you’re able to come to a decision that works for everyone!

  3. This is a topic I have strong opinions about since I’m a teacher. In short, I disagree about taking kids out of school to go on Disney vacations. I was never fortunate to enjoy that privilege, maybe because my mom was a school teacher herself, but in our household, taking a family vacation during school times would be unheard of.

    However, I can understand why some folks would rather enjoy time at the parks during special events, or better seasonal weather. I don’t think avoiding crowds or long lines is an excuse anymore since it appears that Disney parks are now crowded most of the year, especially at Disney World, when special events take place, and with fast pass being offered, you could avoid most long lines even in the worst of circumstances I believe.

    I can also understand why some people think a Disney trip is educational. That may or may not be the case based on how you approach your experience there. Me? I don’t buy that. Disney parks are FUN to visit. Educational? Well we can all learn a thing or two from some of the attractions, but I don’t believe for a second that people on vacation go to Disney parks looking to be educated, otherwise, venues like The Disney Institute at Disney World would still be thriving today, and we all know how that ventured turned out in the end.

    Bottom line is, as a teacher and mother of two, NO I wouldn’t take my kids off school, but that’s my call as a parent and my husband agrees with me. But if other parents feel OK about doing that then, do it and enjoy your vacation. After all, you are your kids’ parents and the decision to pull your child from school to go to Disney World is yours and yours only.

    Thank you.

    • Thanks for your thoughts! As an educator, I also see your point of view. Of course, I’m working with younger kids and kids still in “the magic years” (some of my kiddos will be perpetually in those years), so I do have a different take on the question. I will say that there is a huge difference in summer crowds and wait times as opposed to fall, winter and even some parts of spring, and FastPass is possibly going to be experiencing big changes, so your comments may become null and void soon (although, I’m hoping not!).

      You’re absolutely right in that the decision and the consequences belong to the family, and each one has to determine what works for them.

  4. My parents always took us out of school for vacations growing up. I went on to earn a master’s degree and am 1 semester away from my second MBA, so obviously it didn’t impair us educationally. When I think back on my life most things are a blur, but family vacations are something that stay with you for the rest of your life, therefore I believe they are of more value than an extra few days in the classroom. My parents even took me on vacation when I was in University, and I was still able to do fine missing a week of school. It just requires extra discipline on the part of the student to either do homework before or during the trip. In my opinion travel is always worth it.

    • Yeah JediPrincess! I am 52 now and my wife and I just moved our oldest son into the dorm at University this week. We always bought annual passes and took him to Disney or Universal or wherever we liked. He got a great scholarship which paid over 30% of the bill.
      We are all great and I think we took all the vacations we could have fit in. We have two younger kids at the house and we are working out our next trip to Universal. The kids have gravitated more towards their parks as they have grown older. Our college student will work ahead as will the younger siblings, and their Dad, and their Mom. Our rweard will be a great vacation. The memories will last all our lives.
      Who would have the guts to tell us we can have 4 excused absences? If I were a different person I could give a colorful reply to that public servant.

    • Thanks for sharing! So far it’s been an easy decision for us. It may change as the kidlet gets older, but for now we keep his attendance record near spotless and hit Disney a couple times throughout the year. Works for us for now.

  5. My parents always took us out of school for vacations growing up. I went on to earn a master’s degree and am 1 semester away from my second Master’s degree, an MBA, so obviously it didn’t impair us educationally. When I think back on my life most things are a blur, but family vacations are something that stay with you for the rest of your life, therefore I believe they are of more value than an extra few days in the classroom. My parents even took me on vacation when I was in University, and I was still able to do fine missing a week of school. It just requires extra discipline on the part of the student to either do homework before or during the trip. In my opinion travel is always worth it.

  6. I recall my parents taking me out of school, twice in middle school, and once in high school for WDW trips. I remember the horror of having to do assignments in the hotel room before getting to go to class one time.

    However, here’s a thread no one has mentioned. Home School. Our son has done public school, but learns more and does it faster the years we homeschool. Since we decided to stay with homeschooling, I’ve never had to think about the school factor with vacations. We have brought a light set of books or a few assignment which mainly see light during travel.
    Then again, when we homeschool, we don’t have set hours. We do things daily, at night, on weekends. It’s the month long plan/calendar we focus on and not the hour by hour/day by day.

    • Interesting thoughts with homeschooling. Obviously some of the questions posed wouldn’t apply to those in home school, but I think it’s great that you bring along some work to stay on track over your trips.

  7. We took our kids out of school when they were little to attend Space Shuttle Launches and a few days at Disneyworld (hey, you never know when the launch might slip a day). In Elementary school you had to have the teacher’s ok, and then I had my kids write a report. I did feel some guilt but I made sure there was some educational aspect. I was on a transatlantic Disney cruise a few years back and there were homeschoolers onboard having to do homework quite a bit. I agreed with the moms/teachers completely!

    I understand why school districts make the point of having kids attend for a certain number of days–continuity of instruction is VERY important. If you are allowed to miss so many days, someone will want to miss more, and it is a viscous cycle, in which the children lose. This is especially important with middle and high school.

    I always thought year round school would be a blessing! You go three months then are off a few weeks, still have the major holidays and a few weeks in the summer. Vacation would have been SO much easier with that much freedom!

    • I’d love year-round school purely for personal vacation reasons! Two weeks for fall break, a week at Thanksgiving, a month at Christmas, two weeks and spring break and two months for summer. Not a bad deal and aligns perfectly with our vacation style and schedule! The impact it seems to be having on retention with the neighboring district is a plus, too, I guess. ;)

  8. I had always pulled my daughter out of school to take our trips to Disneyland. Generally what we did was to try and work ahead so when she got back she was right in step with the rest of her classmates. This worked well for several years and then the new school board suddenly decided this wasn’t okay. So, I decided to talk to them about their decision and try to find out why they suddenly changed policy. Their first reason was that the kids grades would suffer. When I showed them how we dealt with it and demonstrated that their reason was false they changed to, “It disrupts the other children in their class.” When I tried to get them to explain that they changed to, “It’s unfair to the kids who can’t go on vacation during that time of the year.” At this point I was getting pretty angry since none of their reasons were legit, so I started talking with other parents at various school functions. What I learned was I wasn’t the only one questioning the new policy, and I wasn’t the only one getting the run around.

    So, about 30 of us got together and requested a public meeting with the school board, and we invited our local newspaper to send a reporter to attend and also asked if they wouldn’t print an announcement in the paper encouraging other parents to attend. After some waffling from the school board they decided to hold the meeting. What transpired surprised those of us who started the ball rolling. First, there were at least 300 parents who showed up to express their dislike for the policy. The second thing that happened was they were trying to do the same run around they did with me and a few others, but while doing so they let the real reason slip: money. For every day a kid misses school, the school doesn’t get paid by the state ($24 a day at that time). Now if the school were underfunded then I could be sympathetic to their reason, but the school district was far from being underfunded. Voters in the area had passed every levy for the past 16 years.

    Needless to say this enraged a lot of the parents who had the same scheduling issues during school breaks and summer vacation as I did, and who also took measures to make sure their kids grades wouldn’t suffer because of their vacation. What really got the school board to drop the whole policy was when one enraged parent shouted to the board, “Well I’ll make it really easy for you to deal with the issue. I’ll put my kid in private school.” That comment opened a flood gate and almost half of the parents there threatened the same thing. It took only a matter of moments for the school board to change policy back to what it had been before.

    • Wow. That’s intense. We had a discussion with our principal about a similar plan, that would affect a students grades if they had a specific amount of unexcused absences. We reasoned that there is a difference between a student who misses that many day, who maintains an “A” average, and a student who is falling further and further behind as a “D” student. And that a student who (like your child) is able to keep up with the work should not be penalized the same as a student who isn’t able to. We live in a district that is underfunded, and has far too many students who are barely passing. And the vast majority of those barely passing are the ones who are taken out of school for more extended periods of time. But in your district it sounds like a really bad choice by the school board.

    • WOW! I have heard this before and mentioned it in an earlier post here. The real reason is $$$s, and the govt does this by counting rears in seats. It’s all money.
      We have had our kids in private schools for years. Ours has a great system where one group of kids go Tuesday and Thursday, while the othewr group goes Mondays and Wednesdays, and all the extra things like band, etc are on Fridays. This cuts tuition in half since we have two families splitting the bill. We have three locations and rent out a nearby church. The church doesn’t need the space until after 6pm during the week and we promise to be out before then. The church gets extra rent money and we get a great value for a private school. The kids do all the other assignments at home on the computer on the days they don’t attend. My oldest just went to university and got a scholarship worth more than 1/3 of the total bill so the school works great.
      With so many people in private schools these days but ALL still PAYING the TAXES for PUBLIC schools but NOT USING them, where is all the EXTRA MONEY going? They are flush with $$$s SOMEWHERE in the system.
      WHY threaten families and put them under so many rules and regulations when we are all paying taxes?

    • Power of parents!! That’s great!

      I will say that, although I obviously don’t know the specifics of your district, there is never enough funding for education, so I can see the thought process. Sometimes that money doesn’t always trickle down to the classrooms (where, in my opinion, it’s needed most!!), so in addition to funding, districts also need great leadership to make those decisions.

      Buuuut, I’m going off on a tangent here. Back on topic! Looks like you are in favor of skipping school for vacations. It’s worked for us so far, and I’m glad you were able to get what you needed from your district!

  9. This entire argument really, to me has nothing to do with what the school is telling you and more about being a responsible adult and knowing whether or not your particular child will be hurt academically from being absent from school to go on a trip. Many kids make up the work easily and it’s no big deal. But to make any general statement to everyone that it’s perfectly fine to take your child out of school whenever you feel like it is not okay. Far too many parents are looking for any justification to do what they want without considering whether or not it’s really the best idea for their particular child. My guess is that everyone here has children who are doing well in school and make up the time without any issue. So for you, it’s not an issue. But, parents with struggling children, really need to think twice. Because I’ve seen those kids fail hopelessly behind and just give up.

    • Absolutely! This all comes down to parents parenting and making responsible choices for their children. However, whatever school you choose for your children to attend, you choose to play by their rules, which often includes an attendance policy. If you want to remain in good standing with your child’s educational team, one should be reasonable.

      In my experience, teachers are often ready and willing to work with parents for the success of the students, Disney vacations or not. Is it the end of the world if a student misses a week of school for Disney? No. Is it the end of the world if a student has to wait until spring break to head to the parks? No. The decision is solely in the hands of the families, and they are the ones who will accept the outcome.

      • Well, again it’s dependent on the student. Teacher’s are always willing to support this sort of thing from good responsible students. But those same teachers are very frustrated by the parents who take their struggling kids out of classes for vacations. I’ve had to take time away from helping the entire class to get one student caught up, which is not fair to the rest of the students. It’s definitely a decision for parents to make, but my major point is that it’s not a decision to be made lightly.

      • Oh, of course! Definitely not something to be taken lightly.

        Obviously, every situation is different, but I do think there’s some merit in even having a struggling student miss school. Kids feel stress just like we adults do, and sometimes time away with family can do wonders. I’ve seen students who, on paper, shouldn’t be missing any instructional time leave for a camping trip or some such and come back a little less stressed and a lot more happy. Then there are those kids who never seem to quite catch up after missing an extended period. There’s just not one right answer, and a lot of times, we don’t know what will happen until it happens.

        Yes, again, you’re right. Definitely a decision that requires some thought!

  10. There is a group of us are looking at going to WDW in Oct ’14 for Halloween. In that group there are my friend’s two daughters who at the time of the trip will be in 3rd and 8th grade. Both girls do well in school and are pretty much straight A students with a rare B. I know the school district allows unexcused absences, I think 10 per year but pushes back when you take kids out.

    Thanks to the responses above I have some ideas on how to handle the homework. The plan now is to go to the school a couple weeks in advance and get all the assignments and make sure any test that were that week were taken before we leave. We found a week where they have 11 am dismissal on a Thursday and Friday and the following Monday off. We planned on Sat – Sat trip (The rest of us have vacation days/time share restrictions), then they would have Monday to finish catching up with any homework or study for upcoming tests. Going this week they would only miss 3 days and 2 ½ hours.

    I have faith that we can make sure they stay on track. I think if they were poor students she would not want to take them out of school. There will be four adults and two kids on this trip, so I think working together we can make sure they don’t fall behind. (In our group we have people with degrees in engineer, accounting, finance and my friend is going to school to get a business degree as we speak)

    I think this is a personal decision, some teachers/administrators may not like it, but people should do what is best for their family. I highly doubt missing three days will have a major impact on their educational progress.

    • That’s great that you can take advantage of some time off! Just bear in mind that asking for assignments and tests ahead of time does put extra strain and stress on the teacher(s). If assignments aren’t able to be given beforehand, just be ready (or have your friend be ready) to play a little catch-up once they return.

      Have a great time! We love October!!

    • This is exactly what I’m talking about, You are doing everything right. But mostly you’ve really given it the serious thought it deserves.

  11. Having raised a couple of kids and being one of those parents who took their kids out of school for a WDW trip (even though we live within an hour of DL), I never had an issue. I think that a lot of it had to do with the fact that my children never attended public school. They went to private schools from K-12. It was a personal choice for us (I don’t want to get into any political arguments, but the school systems stink in California). I once had a conversation with a public school teacher and when I told her what school my children went to the response was “Oh, they like to read there.” Go figure, reading classics, novel idea!

    Any how I digressed (again), my point was although we didn’t have to deal with state testing and the curriculum was tougher than our public school system. This was all about communication with the teachers way before the trip. We had a plan in place to ensure that they wouldn’t get behind.

  12. if you take them out of school a lot of times for that, schools are cracking down on that these days and parents could be arrested for kids missing too much of school. I guess it depends where you live. I do not think its worth to skip school a lot on Disney these days for children since in this economy its just too expensive and unaffordable these days.

  13. I only skipped school for Disneyland twice. The 50th Anniversary celebrations on May 5, 2005 (my teacher was already there!) and the Filming of Saving Mr. Banks. I highly recommend that if you plan to skip a day, make it worth while. A day that you’ll never forget and will tell your kids about. (BUT always make sure that your grades and classes are in order before doing so!)

  14. As a former public & private school educator, homeschool parent, adoptive parent, and diverse traveler, I find it interesting to hear comments about having a child never to miss school. The family is more important than anything learned in a textbook, or what an adult can impart in a week. The textbook will still be there when they get back and any other day of their lives. The information to be learned is always there. Nothing, nothing, nothing, missed from a week (or two) of school will change or devastate their lives. However …wonderful, quality, fun, interesting, adventurous family time WILL most definitely change their lives. I never took a family vacation til I was an adult on my honeymoon. We just didn’t do it. Looking at my own family of six (2 grown kids who took vacations being pulled from the school year & doing very well), the times we are connected & have great memories is during vacations. We still laugh today at the adventures we’ve had. TAKE the vacation when it is best for YOUR family. Take them, and enjoy them without guilt or grief. Go make your memories! They don’t happen in a classroom!