We do not have the luxury of traveling during the shoulder season when everything is priced well because we have kids in high school who cannot miss school to travel. (Prior to 9th grade we pulled our kids a couple times a year to extend a trip or go when the deals are best). What we do have is the ability to take our school schedule and find ways to find ways to save on our travels.
Summer Vacation: Our kids are out before Memorial Day, and if we leave the day they end finals we can get to Europe for less than $500/ticket. Granted nobody really needs to take their big vacation on day one of summer vacation but for those savings we do. The other bonus of this is that European schools are still in session so hotels are cheaper and the crowds are small. If we are gone 3 plus weeks we are still back in time for the 4th of July and can often do a smaller trip again in August before school starts to maximize the summer vacation. Also, take advantage of beach vacations in summer. If you don’t live near one, it’s still a great trip whether you need the nice weather or not.
Fall Break: This is the one we love the best because the entire country is not out when we are. Disney, Cruises and beach vacations are amazing during our week off in October. If you can work out any days off in October it will be well worth it. We now have a high school sport conflict so we can no longer take advantage of a full week trip. Instead, we do a long weekend to a location that only takes a few days (Chicago, Seattle, Minnesota).
Thanksgiving: This is a hard one but we have made it work by shifting our days and having the kids miss one day. Leave on the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving (avoiding the high-priced and crazy crush of Wednesday as a travel day) and come back the Monday or Tuesday after the holiday. We spent a lovely long weekend in San Fran a couple years ago and paid $101 for airfare. We had our turkey dinner the weekend before so no one missed out. Bonus is that the city was desolate because so many of the locals had left!
Christmas Break: Our kids are pretty adamant that they want to be home on Christmas Eve and Day (and for the Dec 25 birthday we have). Depending on the school calendar you can often get 5-7 days of vacation in before the 24th. We scored amazing prices in Mexico last year because that week was one of their low travel periods. We were home in time to celebrate the holidays and had time for a driving trip the week after. This year our break falls exactly opposite of this so we are still working out what is good for the first week in January.
Martin Luther and President’s Weekends: We avoid these like the plague. We happen to have another Friday or Monday off these months and use those for a quick long weekend getaway. We found Disney Cruises to be priced really well on these off weekends in Jan/Feb.
Spring Break: Basically you are going to get gouged and face huge crowds if you want to do a tropical trip for spring break. Sometimes we do just that (especially when we lived in MN and thought we were going to die of cold weather by that time of the year). You can opt for a less tropical places like Texas or Arizona where you are not guaranteed pool weather and need to have back up plans but could luck out and have great swimming weather. Or, scrap the whole warm weather trip, bring coats and enjoy a place like NYC, Seattle or Boston. You definitely will have options galore for deals. Europe is another great spring break getaway because it is usually cheap to get there. (You may face big European crowds if your break falls around Easter though.) Lastly, there is always a ski week if you can handle a bit more winter during your spring break. Conditions can very year to year and you really won't know until you are there but you will face less ski crowds because the locals will usually have stopped skiing for the year.
Side Notes: Caren is a teacher so she has the luxury of many days off to travel with the kids. When she worked in the corporate world she worked from home so could get some hours in wherever we were. Per works in corporate USA and has always banked vacation time to take a 2-3 week vacation every other year. He's always found a way to balance work with his extended absence to stay connected with the office. If we have a big trip planned we usually do a few other long weekends, or work things around days off to maximize his days. Worst case scenario, he will work while on a trip by getting up early to get a few hours in and then finishing his work day in the early evening.
Up Next: Playing the point game with credit cards, maximizing hotel deals and points and finding cheap airfare.