Fionn Davenport : Travel Outside of School Holidays – Yes or No?

Keeping kids calm while travelling

What’s the deal with taking kids out of school to go on holidays?

With the cost of travel soaring during school holidays, the prospect of taking your children out of school to take advantage of cheaper holiday deals can be an appealing option for many Irish families. Yet, while the cost advantage of a cheaper holiday is a no-brainer for many, the decision to take your kids out of school before the end of term is not without its consequences.

Cost savings

It’s hard to argue against cost savings, which can be significant when it comes to booking a holiday, even for a single-child family. Prices for flights, accommodation and even holiday activities can be substantially lower outside of peak times, which inevitably coincide with school holidays. This price difference can make holidays more accessible for families on a tighter budget, allowing for experiences that might not otherwise be feasible.

ITAA CEO Clare Dunne, who is also the founder and owner of The Travel Broker, says travel agents are acutely aware of the dilemma many parents face when trying to book a family holiday.

“Sometimes where the price difference is considerable, (and it can be, particularly for primary school holidays),” she says, “parents are faced with the choice of a holiday in term time or no holiday at all.”

Avoid the crowds!

Another advantage of off-peak travel is fewer tourists and generally less crowded destinations. This can lead to a more enjoyable and relaxed holiday experience, with shorter queues for attractions – anyone who has experienced Orlando’s theme parks during peak holiday season will recognise the inherent value of not spending hours in line for a two-minute ride!

Smaller crowds also means more availability in accommodations and a better opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture without the overwhelming presence of other tourists (I’m looking at you, Venice, Dubrovnik and pretty much every pretty beach along the Mediterranean basin!).

It’s educational

Should parents feel guilty about your kids missing out on school, they can console themselves that travel itself can be incredibly educational for children. It can offer them a chance to learn about new cultures, languages and histories in a way that cannot be replicated in a classroom setting.

Clare Dunne agrees. “[T]ravel, by its very nature, is hugely educational and while a child may miss out on some academic learning which can be caught up with, they gain a wider social and environmental experience which greatly enhances their overall education.”


The demographic landscape of Irish schools has become increasingly diverse, and trips to visit family in their country of origin, particularly around important cultural festivals, don’t necessarily overlap with the Irish holiday calendar. This means striking a fine balance between nurturing their children’s academic needs with maintaining a connection to their family traditions, language and customs.

Academic Impact

Needless to say, missing school for a holiday can impact a child’s education, particularly if they miss significant amounts of school or if the absence coincides with key markers like exams or the completion of school projects.

“Parents,” says Ms Dunne, “in my own experience both as a parent and a travel agent, do not take children out in exam years. In other years, if faced with the above choice, some do try to lessen the impact by talking to the teacher in advance and making arrangements for the child to catch up with missed lessons.”

What does the law say?

Under the terms of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, if a child is absent without a valid reason for 20 days or more during the academic year, the school is legally obligated to report the absence to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. Failure to comply can result in a fine for the parents.

However, unlike other countries including the UK, a spirit of reasonable tolerance exists when dealing with school absences due to holidays, especially if the school has been informed of the reason for the absence.

Working with parents

Although primary responsibility for taking a child out of school for a holiday lies with the parents, travel agents will usually work with them to ensure that any holiday is booked with appropriate consideration for all factors, including informing the school of any potential absence.

They might also recommend a booking with a flexible cancellation policy or travel insurance that covers cancellation for unavoidable reasons, should any issues arise with taking children out of school during term.


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