Grand Travel and Your Bucket List

We all have a bucket list of places to see before we die. In fact, there is a book with a similar title in the travel section of bookstores. If your bucket list includes plans to take your grandchildren, do it sooner rather than later, especially if you’re taking them out of school for the trip.

When my grandsons were four and six, I took them on a trip to Italy. Their parents came too and we all worried at the time about taking them out of school, junior kindergarten and grade one at the time. My sister, a retired teacher, advised taking them. “They’ll learn more on the trip than what they miss in five days of school,” she said. They don’t remember much about the trip, unfortunately, but for me, it was a wonderful memory. And perhaps, subconsciously, they learned something.

After that trip, every time I travelled, my oldest grandson asked if he could “hide in my suitcase” and come along.  In retrospect, I wish I had taken him, because now, at fourteen, he barely acknowledges my existence and certainly wouldn’t be seen in public with me, let alone entertain the prospect of travelling with someone so ‘old.’

We have, unfortunately, a small window of opportunity to take our grandchildren on a vacation that fits in with family schedules and school attendance. And, there are compelling reasons to take them out of school for a trip. Generally, in the off season, which is code for when school is in, rates are cheaper, deals are more appealing and crowds are fewer in the usual tourist haunts. And there’s a benefit too of being away from the din of electronic games and television for both grandparents and kids.

There are other advantages to taking children out of school for a trip, especially if there’s a chance for enrichment. Seeing snow in the Rockies, or viewing The Grand Canyon, the Roman Forum or the Eiffel Tower in 3D is a geography or history lesson itself. With funding cuts in the education system, field trips that take kids on larger-than-life excursions like the ones above are tucked into the past.

Certainly, there are mixed reviews regarding the wisdom of taking children out of school for a vacation. Teachers are the best experts in sanctioning the trip. The child’s usual performance in school is an issue. A conscientious student will catch up; a slack student may have problems. The grade level is another issue. Students in secondary school, while they are the ones who may actually learn from an enrichment trip, have heavier workloads than children in the lower grades of an elementary school. For older grandchildren in secondary school, the decision to take the trip is theirs. They know best how missing school may impact their success. If the child is involved in athletic teams, coaches should be informed of the plans as well.

It’s important that the child’s parents give the teacher advance notice of the planned trip and arrange for any homework that should be completed during the trip so the child doesn’t fall behind. Often the time of year is critical in the education system and finding out whether there are important tests your grandchild will miss is critical to planning the trip around an appropriate time.

There should be, if necessary, time allotted on the vacation for doing homework. Perhaps math problems can be solved on the plane or spelling tests given before heading out for a day of sightseeing.

When possible, plan the trip over a time period that coincides with a holiday such as Easter or a professional development day so that fewer ‘school days’ are missed.

The child may benefit even more, besides enjoying the company of a grandparent, from a trip that has some educational value, especially if the destination is a place the child is currently learning about in history or geography.

To sweeten the deal, buy a souvenir gift for your grandchild to bring home to her teacher.

-Bonnie Baker Cowan