Why Travel Trumps the Classroom

Travel trumps the classroom.

Yes, I realize that might sound strange, coming from a former teacher…but the idea is that travel fosters new experiences, new perspectives, and new real life learning. And yes, fine…there is learning is most classrooms, and I am a supporter of public school education…BUT… there is no substitute for the education that comes from travel.

Not everyone would agree with me. In fact there are those that believe that taking kids out of school for travel is a bad idea.  They believe that children should never miss school unless they are sick, because the learning that happens day in and day out is crucial to a child’s development.

Taking Kids out of school for travel | LiveDoGrow

To which I shake my head.  Although I do believe that being in school is important for a myriad of reasons, I do not subscribe to the notion that school learning is the only type of good learning.  There are things that are taught in schools that are valuable, maybe even crucial for children like socialization and cooperative and collaborative learning. But beyond the classroom, the world has SO much to offer when it comes to educating our children to become 21st century thinkers.

Which is why I did not feel bad when I took my daughter out of school to go to NYC for a day last fall.

Why I did not think twice about taking out of school for five days for a family ski trip.

Why I believe that two days spent at Disney World for the Disney Social Media Moms Conference will be just as educational and impacting as two days in school.

Benefits of Taking Kids out of School for Travel

Every trip has the potential to be educational.  While I grant you that trips that bring history to life, like visiting the ancient ruins in Rome, or  Independence Square in Philadelphia makes for a very different learning experience than skiing in Colorado or a trip to Disney World,  teaching our children that there is always something to learn is a skill that teaches them to embrace life long learning.

I know why I think travel is such a powerful educational tool…but what do other moms think about taking kids out of school for travel?

Travel teaches perspectives

taking kids out of school to travel | LiveDoGrow

Jeannette Kaplun of Hispana Global and Mamifesto thinks “travel not only teaches you about different cultures, people, languages. It allows you to experience them.” Not only is travel educational, but Jeannette believes that  family travel is a great investment.

TravelingMom, Mary Heston, a passionate world traveler and believer in exposing children to life outside the United States,  believes “School is great but I think the real world lessons learned when traveling cannot be replicated in the classroom.”

Taking kids out of school to travel | LiveDoGrow

Travel teaches real world lessons

Traveling Mom, Teronya Holmes is of the belief that  “travel opens up worlds of experience, education, and exposure to other cultures, languages, history, and especially people, that could never be experienced in the classroom.”

Melanie Nelson uses travel to teach her children things that they cannot learn at home. “I took my kids separately to NYC to teach them how to navigate things like subways and airports (we don’t have subways in Oklahoma). My son was 13 and he had to fly from NYC back to Tulsa by himself, navigate the Chicago airport by himself, and get to his gate.”  During her trips, Melanie’s children were involved and responsible for figuring out how to get around the city while there, which trains to take, when to leave for activities, and more.

Travel reinforces academic concepts and areas of study 

Taking Children out of school to travel | LiveDoGrow

Tech Savvy Mama, Leticia Barr believes in the practical applications of travel as learning tools, reinforcing geography and map skills by having her children help navigate during their family trips. Children can engage in critical thinking by planning out activities with time schedules, which involves prioritizing, budgeting, and using elapsed time.

Monica Sakala of Wired Momma,  uses travel, even to places like Disney World, as a tool for learning by having her daughter “write in a travel diary – and write about her day and include details beyond it was “fun.” I know she won’t get to it every day but want her not only to have this to look back on but teach her now to pay attention to the details in a trip – because those are often the best part, right?”

Amiyrah Martin  says about an upcoming trip to Disney World for the Disney Social Media Moms conference, “we’re using this trip to increase my son’s love of science, so we’ll be doing quite a bit at Epcot. Lucky for us, the Flower and Garden Festival will also be going on, so we can incorporate learning about particular flowers, making arrangements, and even the life cycle of a butterfly in there. My goal is to have him do a video or write a report on it and share with his class when he gets back.”

Just like any other parenting decision, decisions around taking kids out of school for travel is a personal decision. Each family has to decide what is right for them.  I just know that I am thankful for my parents having made travel such an important part of my childhood, and that I have the ability to do the same for my daughter.

What about you? Do you take your children out of school for travel? Why or why not?



Written by Elena Sonnino

Elena Sonnino

Freelance Writer, Digital Media Strategist, Runner, Cancer Survivor and Chaser of Dreams. Elena writes about finding everyday wellness in far off lands, at home in the Washington D.C. suburbs and everywhere in between.



  1. I agree 100%. My kids are homeschooled, so it’s not an issue for us, but I believe kids learn so much from traveling. They learn to be flexible and patient, they learn that they are not the center of the universe and people live differently beyond their backyard, they learn navigation skills and social skills. It also teaches them that time with the family is valuable!

  2. The man and I have always loved travel. We travelled before we met each other (I had lived in Cape Town, South Africa by then for 2 years) and we travelled after we started dating.

    Cue arrival of our daughter. Add in a pinch of “we don’t have family to leave her with” and you have a kid at 7 who has been to NYC 6 times. Also London and all over Canada and other parts of the US including Hawaii.

    She can hail a cab. She’s seen Rothkos, Picassos and Pollocks up close. She knows how to be in an airport, in a museum. She’s played in playgrounds everywhere.

    I couldn’t imagine a life without travel.

    • This was our situation as well. We live abroad and both kids were born here. There were no relatives to leave them with when we wanted to go, so they came as well. As a result, they have traveled the world and can’t wait to see more.

  3. I feel the same way. My son has been traveling since he was a baby and is 8 now. He is one of the most independent little travelers I know. We were at Logan Airport once and I watched him give a grownup directions confidently and was so proud. He tends to be an outgoing learner so I think he benefits from learning while doing rather than being in the classroom where he has trouble sitting still.

  4. We have actually talked about taking the kids out of school for several months to travel. Whether or not that happens is another story, but I believe that they learn so much by visiting places. I also think it makes them well-rounded and more aware of the world they live in. It does get harder as they get older. It’s more of a sacrifice for my junior high students as they end up with a great deal more make-up work, but I still think it’s worth it in the end. Great post!

  5. We have taken the kids out of school for travel as I strongly believe as you do, travel can be such a wonderful learning experience! I think as long as parents are willing to take on the role of educator during the trip, that missing a little school won’t hurt most kids. It’s important to know that your child will miss some things in the classroom so as a parent, making sure to help them catch up/review those items is key to keeping them up with the class on their return. No, I’m not a classroom teacher :) just an experienced parent who has played ‘teacher’ a few times after one of our trips!

  6. I totally agree! Seeing the world (or even just another state) is learning in itself and completely trumps a day sitting inside for our kids. Although, I find my kids are the ones who get a little more stressed about the whole thing because of the pressure the school puts on them when they miss a day or more. And at our elementary our principal calls and chews the parents out if you take kids out for travel – grrr – which urks me more than anything. In the past I have had teachers that reinforce my decision to pull kids out for trips and actually said that quality family time and learning in a new environment is more beneficial than anything she could teach them. I thanked her a million times for that comment!

  7. I’m a Dutch citizen, married to an american for over 18 years. My first son was born in Brussels, Belgium, where we lived for 5 years, my 2nd son was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where we also lived for 5 years. We then moved back to The Netherlands for 6 years and currently live in NJ since 2012. So, my children have not only been traveling a lot (Caribbean, European countries), but they’ve actually LIVED in different cultures, having to adjust to new environments and schools, bringing them a wealth of life skills and experiences. What I notice now, living in the USA for the first time, is how rigid people are when it comes to schools! Kids can almost not be sick longer than two days, so you send them back with Dayquil and tissues before they should, and I wouldn’t even know HOW to take my boys out of school for travel without lying about it. The american school system hasn’t built in enough vacation days during the year for any travel, even Thanksgiving week they only get 2.5 days! And then they get almost 3 months off in summer!! So, YES, I whole heartedly believe if you have the luxury to afford travel with yr children, DO it! But the US system does not allow for it at ALL. We should relax a little on the grades and be more concerned to raise all-rounded well grounded citizens of the world, instead of stressing our high-schoolers to stay up till midnight to finish their ridiculous amount of homework so they will be graded nothing less than an “A”.

  8. Great post.
    My girls have experienced so much beyond the classroom … playing with kids in villages in Mexico, cruising the Old City of Panama, helping to teach children in Nicaragua,running dog sled teams in Banff.
    The world is their classroom, and we embrace it xxxx

  9. 100% agree! The former teacher-in-me wants to say that missing school is no good, but there is so much to learn outside of the classroom. I too traveled a lot as a child – more so than all my friends. To this day I am so thankful to all I learned for those experiences.

  10. My kids went to Pearl Harbor and experienced the memorial. You can’t get the same feeling of looking at those rows and rows of names on a wall through a picture that you can by actually seeing and touching it.

  11. So, we actually just lived this. We took our 4th and 5th graders out of school for 8 school days (tacked onto their 5 day mid-winter break) to travel to England, Scotland, Wales & Ireland.

    The 4th grade teacher was very supportive and even connected my son with her sister, an intern at the Scottish Parliament. She asked that my son journal and put together a Powerpoint (which he LOVES doing). It’s currently 32 slides and counting.

    The 5th grade teaching team (3 teachers) were completely annoyed and two gave my son worksheets to complete on the trip. One teacher did not have time to talk before the trip, and upon his return gave five reading/writing worksheets to “catch up.” Not one teacher was interested in him creating or sharing anything from the trip.

    I am comfortable our experiences with culture , history, art, language, transportation, navigation, policy, politics, and family time were more valuable than the 8 days of classroom time they missed. And, this experience solidified our decision to homeschool starting next year. So much more I could say.

  12. I agree with everyone else — limited amounts of skipping school for family travel is beneficial — socially, emotionally, and educationally. There are some trips that have relatively less educational value (e.g., sending your child to a week long, first-person shooter video game contest in another city.) There are some school events that are important to not miss by choice (e.g. CogAT – the test often used to inform student placement decisions for “gifted & talented” instruction. So with a little thought about what you do, where you go, and when, pulling kids out of school to travel is a good choice. When parents take time to think about the total well being of their children, they know the right decision isn’t always “following the rules”.

  13. I loved reading this. As a mom to a Kindergartener, I have been thinking about it and know if the opportunity was there I’d do it. I think that there are so many experiences our kids can benefit from and grow through, and you’ve covered much of that here. Thanks for this take and your insight, friend! I’ll be bookmarking this for future reference for when the time does come!

  14. I am an expat and my daughters attend an international school that believes that travel is an integral part of education, as I noted in this post http://www.motravels.com/2012/04/travels-without-mom.html?m=1. Combine that with the fact that my husband get ample vacation time, which we happily use, and I don’t feel the need to take my children out of school to travel. However, if this were not the case, I don’t think I’d hesitate to take them out occasionally to enhance their educational and life experience.


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