Is it acceptable to take your children out of school for a cheaper holiday?
Irish Independent writers disagree on whether parents should take their children out of school during term to save some money on their holiday.
I admit I have done it. I have taken my children out of school to go on holidays. Why? Because it was half the price. When my children were small and school wasn't an issue, we always went on holidays off-season. It was bliss. You didn't have to queue for three-and-half hours to check in your overstuffed, overweight bag. The plane was half empty and the food cart was never sold out of all edible goods.
When you arrived at your destination you had the swimming pools and beaches to yourself. No queuing in restaurants, no rushing to book sun chairs at 6am to beat the Germans to it. No overcrowded beaches with footballs landing on your head every five minutes. No waiting in line at the buffet watching the other guests hoovering up all the food before you could get to it.
A new survey by AA Travel Insurance claims that one third of parents admit to taking their children out of school to avoid paying peak holiday prices. I'm not surprised. Cost is a huge issue. Going on holidays in early June is half the price of going in July. Flights, ferries, hotels, rental houses – everything is sky high in peak season.
Seventy seven per cent of people polled said they would like to see airlines and holiday operators forced to put a cap on raising prices during school holidays. Studies have shown that travel prices are inflated by up to 200pc when schools close.
It's a valid and excellent idea, I'm all for it. Why should harried parents be forced to pay exorbitant prices during school holidays? Trying to keep children occupied for two, and in some cases three, months during the summer is a joke – not to mention very costly.
Why should airlines and hotels be allowed hike up their prices during these busy times? Restaurants don't suddenly charge you twice as much for a pizza, playgrounds don't decide to charge an entrance fee during the holidays. Cinemas don't double their ticket prices, so why should other businesses who depend on holidaymakers be allowed rip us off?
In the UK, parents can now be fined up to £60 (€73) per child for taking them on holidays during term time but this doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent. I doubt it would stop many people in Ireland either.
At these ridiculously puffed up prices, it's a wonder anyone goes anywhere during the school holidays. Travel firms and businesses should take heed: if they keep hiking up prices, people will eventually stop travelling and 'staycations' will continue to rise. People are no longer willing to be ripped off and these holiday firms may price themselves out of the market.
It's not ok to take the kids out of school in term time. So there. I've said it. That's a view that apparently annoys lots of parents who are happy to take their youngsters out of class during the academic year in a bid to avail of cheaper holidays.
Now that the country is returning to some kind of normality, the more fortunate among us are looking at taking more breaks. It's great to get away to somewhere nice where you can switch off and have fun.
It might be a little sunshine in the Canaries during the February mid-term, or even a trip to the Alps for a skiing holiday. It's a brilliant way to spend a week. All that exercise and fresh air.
There might even be a kids' club so mum and dad can get some valuable time together away from the endless demands of little Emma and Eoin.
We know the story. Mid-term arrives and there's not a hope of affording a trip, especially at the last minute. So many people say, to hell with it, we deserve a break. We'll take the kids out of school for a week in March and avail of that cheap deal in Lanzarote.
Sure what's the harm. In the great scheme of life, our young scholars won't miss a beat, they claim. And anyway, we'd never do it when they are preparing for Junior Cert or Leaving Cert, the parents say as they get ready to embark on that getaway.
Maybe they are right. But my gut feeling is that as a parent you are sending a message that school doesn't matter as much as you say it does the rest of the time when you are struggling to make them do their homework properly or study.
Nothing in life is absolute and maybe missing a week of school here and there isn't so bad. But I'm not sure – come Junior or Leaving Cert, the damage may be done.
Inevitably you are downgrading the importance of school and the value of education by saying it's OK to take foreign holidays in term time. Kids are smart and they pick up on that.
Now, let me say that this view is based on instinct. I have not consulted any academic studies to back up my case.
But the fact is education is incredibly important for youngsters. It's the passport for a successful and happy life.
The school holidays are plenty long as they are, so an illicit week in the Canaries just doesn't make sense to me.
I never thought this view would rankle with so many people who have taken the kids on a foreign trip during term time.
Maybe deep down, it's because they know it's not right.