(Last Updated on September 10, 2021)
One of the best things about homeschooling is the ability to schedule your life without being tied to a school calendar. So, in that sense, ANYTIME can be the “perfect time” for your homeschooling family’s vacation, depending on your needs and goals.
But, I’ve found there’s a vacation sweet spot that has worked out best for us and that time is…
…late summer. AKA “Shoulder Season”. That is, after the peak summer season ends but before the weather switches gears.
We just got back from an awesome road trip through South Dakota. It reminded me of all the reasons this homeschooling mama loves scheduling our family trips in the last week of August or first week of September. Here’s why…
Late Summer Vacations are Awesome for Homeschooling Families!
Rates drop once public schools open. The exact timing of shoulder season varies by location, but you’ll start to see lower prices for hotels, cabin rentals, and sight-seeing activities after mid-August.
We saved $10/night at our cabin in the Black Hills just by timing the trip well. August 20th is just as beautiful as August 19th… so why not save some money where you can!
It’s Less Crowded
This is probably my favorite reason for taking trips when we do.
Crowds stress me out. I can’t find my kids, our vertically challenged family can’t see what we’re there to see, we waste our time in never-ending lines, and everybody is just crabbier.
On our recent trip, we stopped at Wind Cave (I highly recommend their cave tours if you’re ever in the area) where advance reservations aren’t allowed and tours sell out quickly every morning. There were other tourists there, for sure, but not nearly as many as during peak season. We had our pick of tours and times – no lines and no disappointment due to sold out tours. Afterward, we didn’t have to fight anyone over a picnic table – we had plenty of space to enjoy a peaceful lunch outside their visitor’s center.
The Weather is Still Great & Places Aren’t Closed Yet
This is location dependent but, generally speaking, we’ve had perfect weather for the trips we take at the tail end of August.
The sweltering days of July and early August have passed but it’s still warm enough to enjoy the water. The oceans and lakes have had all summer to warm up. And other outdoor activities – like hiking, camping, mini-golf, biking, and boating – are more fun when it’s in the 70’s-80’s instead of in the blazing hot 90’s.
But even though the weather is more comfortable, the tourism season isn’t over yet, so all the sights, tours, and activities are still open. Many don’t close for the season until Labor Day or later, so the last week of August or first week of September lets you experience peak season fun without the peak season extreme temperatures.
The Kids Don’t Have to Miss School
Some non-homeschooling families still take advantage of this ideal vacation time, but it’s at the expense of school and perfect attendance awards. The kids have homework to catch up on when they return and they often don’t like missing out on those first, critical weeks when all the important socialization decisions get sorted out… like who gets to sit at the ‘cool kid’ lunch table.
Speaking for my own family, those of us prone to anxiety feel so much better knowing that we can go on a trip and not be “behind” as soon as we get back. My tween, especially, didn’t feel like he was missing out on anything since our local co-op, band, and other activities don’t start until mid-September.
(Shhhh!!) The Vacation can BE School
I’ve written before about how kids are always learning – even on vacation. Travel is an amazing way to experience God’s creation, the manmade wonders of our world, and other cultures (even if it’s just the culture of a neighboring state).
Teachers often try to start lessons with a “hook” to intrigue their students (more about that in this post). Starting the school year off with an amazing, inspirational trip, especially if it’s somehow aligned with things you’ll be learning that year, is like one ginormous hook that can awaken curiosities and inspire your family.
I have no problem considering a portion of our vacation as an extended field trip (but see my Bonus Tips at the end of this post). What better way to kick off a year of studying American History than with a trip to Mt. Rushmore and the City of Presidents walking tour in Rapid City, SD? How about a hike through the desolate Badlands terrain for gym class? And with no TV in our cabin or campsite, and over 28 hours of road trip time, my kids had oodles of time to enjoy and discuss amazing books.
So much learning is happening all the time!
A Vacation Makes a Good Transition
I suppose some people might have a harder time jumping into school right after a vacation, but for us, especially this year, our vacation was a perfect transition.
Over the summer, we’d gotten into all kinds of bad habits. We’d all been sleeping in longer and longer and longer. The “I’m bored” whining was worse than usual since a lot of our typical summer activities were cancelled or less fun due to COVID. We were in a rut.
But after eight days of vacation, all those bad habits and sloppy summer routines were distant memories. A late summer vacation gave us a fresh start for our school year.
Bonus Tips for Late Summer Vacation Success
Overall, the late summer timeframe has been great for our vacations. But there are some tricks you can use to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible:
- No matter when we schedule our vacation, I can always expect a day or two of post-vacation blues as we get back into the daily grind, especially if changes of time zone were involved. Give yourself and your kids a day or two to unpack and unwind before jumping immediately into a full load of school and activities. Ease back into things.
- I mentioned using the vacation as a break from summer ruts and bad habits. This works best if you have some ideas of new habits and routines you can jump into once you’re back. For example, before we left, I brainstormed some new ideas for our morning time routine so I was armed and ready when we got back!
- Some states are more strict than others about counting hours/days of school and documenting schoolwork. If you do plan on “counting” some or all of your vacation as official school days, make sure you cover your bases with documentation that might be needed.
- To make the most of a trip, give your kids access to books, maps or other information about the places you’ll be traveling. I’m not saying load them down with boring school work! But simple things – like giving them their own state map to track your journey – goes a long way to increase the educational value of the trip.
No matter when you end up taking your next family vacation, I wish you safe travels and happy homeschooling!
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