Tip Tuesday: Taking kids out of school to travel

Every week, we speak with experienced family travelers to discover tips and tricks.

Question for this week:

Would you take kids out of school to travel? If so, how do you get the teacher’s permission? We talk with two travel bloggers who have older children. Read over their thoughtful responses (and read more on their sites) — then share your opinion!

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Answers:

Our family’s solution to this challenge comes from presenting the travel experience as an educational opportunity.

First, I provide the teacher with advanced written notice, as early as possible – this gesture is always appreciated, particularly if there is a major project due during our absence. (If there is, we work with the teacher to determine deadlines to see what could be accomplished prior to departure, or during our journey, as a last resort.)

I discuss our trips at approximately two months in advance of departure. If it’s too far ahead of time, it’s difficult to estimate workloads, and the teacher will forget we’ve spoken at all!

I’ll be notifying our new teachers of our planned first-week-of-school absence (for September), in June before this school year ends, and reminding them via email before we leave in mid-August. I don’t think the kids will be missing all that much the first week of school, but I like to keep the teachers informed as best possible.

We also organize a meeting with the teacher and describe our trip destination and duration, and invite the teacher to indicate the ways in which she might like to see our kids best learn from their travel experience.

This could take the form of a written journal or booklet, photo board display, or oral presentation that combines segments of both. Or, it could involve doing reading and research beforehand in preparation for the journey (part of our usual trip prep), and proposing the child become a ‘travel reporter’, bringing back to the classroom an evaluation on how the destination measured up to the literature, what the child’s favorite moment or memory was, and so on.

Some teachers may take the view that the act of travelling abroad, and soaking in the culture of a new place is education enough, and that no additional work or make-up homework is required. This seems to happen most often in the early grades, when the workload isn’t as onerous as in later years.

Claudia, parent of two (10 and 12) and blogging at The Travelling Mom.

Related post: The Trouble with Travelling with School-Aged Kids.

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In elementary school teachers are generally pretty flexible and most just tell the kids to have fun and catch up with the homework when they get back.  Be sure to ask how the teacher wants to deal with missed homework, projects and tests.  Some may give you the work ahead
of time while others may make you play catch up when you return.  It is usually totally up to the teacher – be polite and don’t argue with them. And make sure the kid delivers on whatever is asked.

I am really anti-taking kids older than about fourth or fifth grade out of school for vacation travel. Missing more than one day is basically a crisis for our middle school and high school kids, because of the volume of homework and the pace of the classes. Even if you could convince the teachers to give you the homework ahead of time (which you usually can’t) who wants to make your kid do three hours of homework a day on a vacation?

Once the kid hits middle school, listen to your child and see if they are comfortable missing out on school, sports, etc.  The trip may not be worth it if there is going to be a negative impact on the report card or if your kids are the type who will be stressed and struggling to catch up.

As kids move on to middle school and high school they communicate more directly with the teachers and parents have less interaction.  Make sure the kids have all the info they need about dates, etc. so parents and kids are on the same page.

In middle school, it is probably mom who emails teachers individually, but the kid has to make the rounds to pick up the assignments so mom and kid need to be on the same page.

So, my advice is to take advantage of schedule flexibility when the kids are young. In elementary school teachers are generally pretty flexible and most just tell the kids to have fun and to just catch up with the homework when they get back.

Mary, blogging at Travel with Teens, and parent of two (aged 13 and 16).

Related post: General site Travel with Teens.

What do you think of traveling with kids during the school year? Would you do it? Have you taken your kids out of school for a trip? How did it work out?

Travel Tip Tuesday: Road trip snacks

Every Tuesday, we’ll chat with experienced family-travel bloggers to discover cool tips and tricks. I’d love to hear your opinions and suggestions as well.

Question for this week:

Which kid-friendly snacks do you bring on a road trip to fight low blood sugar and growling bellies? Are there any snacks that you avoid at all costs (the problematic snacks cause messes, crazy behavior, and general nuttiness)?

Answers:

So the snacks changed as my kid got older, but really they fall under three categories crunchy (crackers, pretzels, chips), protein (nuts and cheese), and the occasional cookie, granola bar or chocolate bar.

I prefer water as the drink of choice because I hate the way those juice boxes spill all over the car. We keep the coolers and snacks in the back seat within easy reach, and if I’m really organized my kid gets his own snacks all packed up in his own container.

Now, the very best snacks are those that you pick up at roadside stops along the way. They bring in a bit of the local flavor to your trip. I love to check out small local markets whenever we get the chance. And I’m not opposed to pulling in to the drive-thru for some fries with our shakes.

— Carolina at Kids Go West: Tales of family travel in the Western U.S.

Related post: Waimea Canyon with a Side of Chip.

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We have a few tried and true car snacks (the criteria being: they can’t melt, they have to last a long time, and SOME of them have to be healthy!).

Our favorites are Babybel cheeses (the kind that comes in wax), because they’re fun, playful, and don’t melt everywhere; Jelly Belly jelly beans, because picking out flavor combinations is both a snack AND an activity; and cored apples stuffed with peanut butter (healthy, quick protein, and not messy!).

— Amy from Pit Stops for Kids: Find kid-friendly stops by airport, state or Interstate Highway.

Related post: Road Trips! (tips, including a section on snacks).

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When we’re on road trips, I come well-armed with snacks for the kids. Crackers, cereal, and raisins are our standby items, as they’re easy to pack and portion out.

Cheez-its are favorites of the kids, as well as fun cereals like Froot Loops. I put it into containers or small bags, or sometimes buy the individual portions at Sam’s Club. And, while not healthy in any way, a large bag of Tootsie Pops can buy us a lot of happiness in the car!

Our food choices while on the road are more restrictive than some travelers’ because we have a child with food allergies. We try not to let it slow us down, however!

— Linda from Travels with Children by Minnemom: Finding fun with four kids.

Related post: Traveling with Kids with Food Allergies

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Can you suggest any great snacks for road trips?