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How to Hit the Books and the Road

Photograph by Twenty20

My entire world revolves around the school calendar, so I was elated when it finally (finally!) showed up in the mail.

My family loves to travel. Traveling (and writing about it) is my profession. So I need to know when I can take vacations, and which days are the best to pull my son out of school for an extended trip. I need all the early dismissal days and seasonal breaks so I can strategize ways to take advantage of a flight deal, one that may require my son to miss a day or two from school.

Even with the calendar in hand, I'm often baffled. For example, why do we have off on a Monday, but no early dismissal the Friday before? Only to have an early dismissal on a random Wednesday a week later. It can feel impossible to plan a trip with this kind of schedule, but it isn't. You just have to get wise to the system.

Here's the best way to squeeze travel into a structured school year:

RELATED: The Case For Ditching School to Travel

1. Weekend trips

Weekend trips are easy. Draw a 200-mile radius on any map and see where you can go within that circle. You will teach your child geometry and geography all at the same time. Leave immediately after school and arrive by dinner to enjoy a full weekend before you are home Sunday night. Make sure you pack the kids' homework, so they can get it done before Monday morning. The car ride is a great time to get it out of the way. You can check it before bedtime or on the car ride home.

2. Long weekend getaways

Look at the school calendar and talk to your child's teachers. Is a long holiday coming up? Chances are not much will happen on the Friday before, although always make sure a test isn't schedule by a cranky teacher who is mad her trip to Bonaire just got canceled. Pull the kids out for a half day or take the day off. This works especially well if you have younger children, since they won't miss as much. But remember: feel out the teacher first. Who knows, little Zach might come down with a "nasty cold" Thursday night so he has to miss school on Friday (or so your absentee note will say).

3. Winter and spring break

Now is the time to start thinking about winter and spring break travel. Where do you want to go? How long do you want to be there? Winter Break is normally over Christmas, a time that most families want to be with loved ones. If you see your family often, maybe skip celebrating Christmas with them this year and take advantage of off-season destinations like Europe, which can be cheaper in the winter since not as many people are travel there when it's cold. The Christmas markets of Vienna and skiing in Switzerland are a great reason to book a cheap flight.

Spring break is different for many families. It seems to bounce all over the place from year to year. While one county has spring break in March, another might not have it until April. Take advantage of these spread out breaks by booking a trip to a destination you have been dreaming of all year. Try to avoid the college party crowd destinations (Mexico, the Caribbean, Florida). Trips to Asia, South America, Africa and Europe will satisfy your need to escape from the daily grind.

Take it from me, an avid traveler: my kids haven't even started school for the year and I'm already planning a year's worth of travel up through next summer. With so few vacation days during the year, you are almost confined to a corporate level amount of vacation days. So study the school calendar. Get the dates in your phone for easy reference and start looking for your next adventure with the kids.

RELATED: Both Kids Are in School. Now What?

It's never too early to book. You may just score a better deal if you act fast whenever you come across cheap airfares. Book it and worry about pulling the kids out of school later.

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