Quick Family Getaway? Read This First

Considering a quick family getaway? Easier said than done, compared to life before kids. Read these tips so you've got your bases covered before you commit.

Taking your kids on a trip is a fabulous opportunity, if you can swing it. They learn new things. They get to try different foods, experience different cultures, gain exposure to new languages, and experience new ways of life. All of these benefits will stretch their minds and their world-views in ways that are priceless. But if you’re contemplating a quick family getaway during the school year, there are a few things you need to factor in before you snag those super-amazing last-minute bargain-basement-price plane tickets.

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I have to admit, I am NOT a spontaneous getaway person. My husband’s life as a classroom teacher just is not conducive to that sort of thing. But whether you plan your family vacations eons in advance, or do things on the fly, these tips will serve you well either way.

This is a collaboration post. However, please know I stand behind everything written here, and only include links to products/services/resources I’m willing to recommend personally.

Read This Before Booking a Quick Family Getaway:

1. Time Off School

I vaguely recall starting kindergarten and then (less than a month later!) flying cross-country for several weeks, to visit cousins I hadn’t seen in ages.

Those days are all but gone, if our school district is any indicator:

  • Travel is only allowed for “educational” trips;
  • Excused absences for travel require advance permission from the building principal;
  • The district only allows ten absences per year; any absences after that require a doctor’s note;
  • And of course, absences cannot conflict with any standardized testing, including our annual statewide assessments.

This is a catch-22 for many families. Resorts and airlines always seem to know when school breaks are, and they jack up the prices accordingly. You may think you’re beating the laws of supply and demand by snagging a trip outside the standard vacation windows, but the consequences may not be worth it. In some places, such absences are illegal, and the family will rack up fines for doing this!

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So if you’re considering pulling your kids out of school for a last-minute trip, you need to make sure your ducks are in a row. At the very least, educate yourself on your district’s policies, including how much advance notice they require for excused-absence paperwork. Also remember that your kids’ teachers will send along a pile of work to cover what they’re missing, and they’ll expect all work to be completed when your child returns.

Finally, if your child is already struggling in school (or even if they’re an “average” student), think twice about taking them away during the school year. Teachers are less likely to be willing participants in this if your child will be missing a big test. Even a week of missed classroom time could mean that your kids will fall behind, and struggle to catch up when they return.

2. Legal Documents

Considering an international getaway? You’ll also need to line up your legal documents, especially if you and Other Legal Parent are no longer together. As child custody attorney Betsy A. Fischer points out, your child’s other parent has legal rights regarding where they can and cannot go, so you’ll need that parent’s blessing to take your child abroad.

This is true even if you and Other Parent are still happily married. Although I’ve never had to show this letter, I’ve always taken a Letter of Permission along when leaving the country with the girls, so there are no questions.

To DIY this: Type a letter stating that Parent A of Such-and-Such Address gives Parent B permission to travel with Child(ren) Name(s) to Such-and-Such Place on Such-and-Such Dates. Then Parent A brings several copies of the letter to a notary, signs them there, and gets them notarized. (We usually do this at our local AAA office, where it only costs a few bucks and you don’t need an appointment.)

And don’t forget about passports! Even infants need one to travel internationally. U.S. citizens can apply for a passport at many post office locations; some require an appointment, though, so check ahead. (You can generally get passport photos there, too, but you’ll find it cheaper to get them done elsewhere; the best prices I’ve found are at Costco.) And you’ll need to have both parents AND the child present when you go to get your child’s passport.

Also, keep in mind that passports often take months to process or renew, and it’s hard to travel with a passport that’s nearing expiration. So if you’re even considering a quick family getaway overseas, make sure everyone’s passport is up-to-date first.

3. Vaccinations

It’s also a good idea to make sure everyone’s vaccinations are up to date before you travel – even if you’re not leaving the country. With recent upsurges in once-rare diseases like measles in Europe late last year, and in the Pacific Northwest in early 2019, not getting your vaccinations updated before you go equals needlessly putting your family at risk.

And besides being on top of your child’s regular vaccinations, you and they may need special vaccinations for travel to different climates. This is why it’s important to keep your own doctor and your child’s pediatrician in the loop on any potential travel plans. They will know best what extra vaccines you or your child may need, and can help get you vaccinated far enough before your trip for the vaccines to be effective.

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Bottom line, check recommended vaccinations for any destination before you commit. If vaccinations are required and the flights are before the recommended waiting period ends, you might be better off skipping the trip, or planning one further out on the calendar. Safety comes first, and you don’t want your children to become sick.

4. Temperature and Weather Conditions

Finally, it’s worth researching seasonal trends and weather conditions before you commit to a trip. If an itinerary is suspiciously cheap, it may be because the usual weather at your destination during your proposed trip is subpar.

I’ve had the good fortune to travel to Hawaii twice in my life. The first trip was in March, and we had a great time visiting different beaches and snorkeling. The second trip was in early December. We didn’t think anything of the fact that it was so easy to get reservations at this time of year. Until we got there, and found that the weather was a lot different. The surf was rough, we couldn’t swim at the same beaches as we had on our previous trip, and we could barely see any fish when we tried to snorkel because of the surf.

Make sure to double-check the anticipated temperature and weather conditions before you snag those suspiciously-cheap tickets. If it’s too hot for your little ones to be outside midday, or if you’re stuck indoors during monsoon season, what seemed like a fun getaway could quickly become a disaster.

QUICK TIP: Want to rain-proof your vacation? Or trying to figure out some ways to keep them entertained during long flights that don’t involve electronic devices? Then check out my girls’ favorite suggestions in this post, with ideas for all ages.

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The bottom line:

Yes, sometimes a quick family getaway can be a super idea, and you can get a really good deal. But don’t make a decision you’ll later regret or can’t follow through on, without considering and working through the considerations I noted above.

Have you done a last-minute family vacation? What were your biggest challenges? Would you ever consider a quick family getaway on short notice? Let us know in the comments!

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21 thoughts on “Quick Family Getaway? Read This First”

  1. People take their kids out of school all the time for family trips here, even though it’s generally frowned upon (and yet no one says anything).

    I’m not a spontaneous person. Plus, I don’t think my husband would be able to surprise me with a trip.

    If the beach house we had access to was still standing, (Hurricane Harvey destroyed it) we’d probably take more spontaneous trips to the beach, but until the house is back, we don’t have anywhere else to go.

    1. Bummer about the beach house – that is so sad. Interesting that your district seems to be more lax about this. Ours is VERY strict, and not just on paper.

  2. Idon’t know about your school district but it’s quite different across the pond. People routinely take their kids out for trips, and all sorts of other adventures and usually a note to the school suffices. But,yes the airlines know when to jack up those fares.

    1. I get the sense that so many aspects of schooling in the US are just SO messed up nowadays. My own mama keeps saying, “surely the district can’t be THAT strict, they know your kids will make up the work, it’s not like they aren’t excelling in all their classes right now anyway…” But the district will not make individual exceptions (nor should they, honestly!). And clearly they’ve had enough trouble with enough of the student body that they feel they need these strict rules in place on paper. I just know that with a nine-day trip coming up next month (that we could NOT get at any other time because of availability/affordability), we’ve been begging the girls not to get sick this year. So far they haven’t stayed home for a sick day, but still…it’s been stressful.

  3. This is a really informative post about things to consider! I actually plan my vacations and my kids are in school and didnt realize most of this. I need to pin this post!

  4. These are really useful things to think about if you’re thinking about a last minute getaway… unfortunately in the UK you can’t take children out of school during term-time any more – well, you can, but you will then be taken to court and fined… which means you have no choice but to suffer the ridiculous price hikes in the school holidays!

  5. Traveling with kids is really good for many reasons, but I’m not yet a father haha. Definitely going to consider once I become and share with my family 🙂

  6. I don’t have kids yet, but I will definitely share this with my brother. He is struggling really hard sometimes to get on the road with 2 kids.

  7. I agree with you. I am also not a spontaneous getaway person. I always want to plan carefully before traveling. but sometimes spontaneously is also good especially when getting a day off. getaways with children are not easy but time with children is more valuable than anything.

  8. Something about going AWAY that makes even brief breaks memorable. I always find the kiddos get super squirrel-ly these winter months between Xmas break and spring break, and a winter mini-trip is just the thing. Great list and article!

  9. Wow, those are some strict district rules! We just have to send in a note to be an “excused absence” and there’s a certain number that they can miss before it becomes a school issue. We just had a calendar vote for next year and they haven’t announced it yet, but one of the options has a week-long break every other month so I opted for that so we can take vacations without taking my son out of school.

  10. When I used to work 3 days a week as a floor nurse, those spontaneous getaway vacations were the best time ever. Now, I am working 5 days a week, I have to plan them. I still enjoy a little escape every now and then.

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