Just because schoolâ€™s in session doesnâ€™t mean you have to swear off all family getaways. In fact, non-summer travel offers some of the best bargains on hotel and transportation options.
Here are lessons in school-year travel:
1. Shoulder season travel is a steal. Spring and fall are called â€œshoulder seasonsâ€ in the travel biz. Book during the shoulder season, and youâ€™ll typically save about 25% off of summer prices.
2. Winter offers dark days and deep discounts for hardy travelers. Up to 40% in some tourism-dependent regions like Victoria, BC and the Oregon Coast. If you select a city location with plenty of indoor options (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver or Victoria), you may be happier and drier.
3. Research weekend getaways that only require a two- or three-hour drive. From Portland, a Friday night departure can offer two full days for coastal stormwatching. Remember though that winter nights start early in the Pacific Northwest â€“ around 4:30 p.m. â€“ so for a daylight drive, see whether you can leave work a few hours early or pick your child up at noon.
4. Return home on early Monday mornings to ensure a full weekend getaway. We typically leave Vancouver, BC at 5:30 a.m. The kids sleep en route, and we arrive in time for work and school.
5. Plan a trip around a long three-day weekend falling on a holiday like Veteranâ€™s Day or Remembrance Day. Then take the kids out on Thursday for a five-day fall or spring vacation. Or look for teacher in-service days (which seem to fall in random fashion), which can also give you three-day weekends.
6. Select a destination with plenty of hands-on learning possibilities. Particularly if you’re going to pull the kids out of school for a few days,Â Seek out museum-rich cities, tidepool-dotted coasts and historical sites. You may even find an educational Â option on your trip, such as aÂ glass-blowing class at the Museum of Glass (ages 8+), create a historical lantern at the Burnaby Village Museum or a engage in aÂ hands-on science lab at OMSI where kids can build robots or dissect a squid eye (ew).
7. Chat with your childâ€™s teacher beforehand. Many teachers are OK with a short trip or smarts-building journey. Offer to create a parent-child journal or online blog while on vacation and spend a half-hour reading and writing about the smart stuff youâ€™ve learned while traveling. But ensure that youâ€™re not leaving during the class pizza party or an important test.
8. Integrate learning into your travel day. Money management teaches math, reading a ferry schedule is real-world time-telling, a museum weaves real stories into history and beachcombing reveals natural science. But remember, youâ€™ll need to take the lead on integrating fun, interesting facts and learning opportunities into the day. Do your parental homework when choosing a destination (#6) and researching the trip.
9. Bring a little homework help. Worried about your child falling behind? Itâ€™s unlikely that five days off will ruin your kidâ€™s future at Harvard. (But youâ€™re taking advice from someone who never did any homework until sixth grade. Long story.). If youâ€™re so compelled, ask the teacher what will be covered. Some parents worry more in middle school, but by this age, your child should be able to juggle assignments. If not, then a three-day holiday break may be best.
10. Listen to your child. If they resist a school-year trip because theyâ€™re afraid of missing out, that should be respected as well. Seek a series of days that work well for everyoneâ€™s schedule.