Are you planning a vacation during summer break? Knowing when your kids will be out of school is essential for summer vacation planning.
However, determining when summer break will be and how long it will last can be tricky.
Summer break for school-aged children in the US is generally about 10 weeks long, on average. When summer vacation begins and ends varies based on region, state, and even district. The dates can also change from one year to the next.
The good news is that some basic guidelines can give you a general idea of what to expect, as well as resources that will give you exact dates for your area.
The General Timeframe for Summer Break in America
If you are planning a vacation, it’s important to know that most students will be out of school in June and July. If you need to plan far in advance, plan your trip during this timeframe.
Summer break typically lasts between 8-12 weeks, with the average summer break lasting for 70 days.
Most schools will close in late May or early June. Kids usually return to school in late August or early September.
Read more >> How Long is Summer Break in College?
Why Summer Break Varies From Place to Place
You are likely wondering why summer break can vary so much from one area to another. There are a few reasons for this.
The first and most obvious reason why summer break is not standardized is because individual school districts determine the school calendar.
State laws also dictate start times and the number of days a child must attend school, so it varies throughout the union.
Another reason is that schools are required to operate for a certain number of days. In most states, this is 180 days, but it varies from 160 to 185 days, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The academic year generally has a few days built in for unexpected shutdowns due to weather and other issues.
However, sometimes there are too many days when the school doors are closed. In these situations, the school year is extended to meet the number of days required.
The school may also choose to start school earlier, rather than delaying summer break, to make up for these missed days.
How many of these “extra” days are included in the academic calendar varies as well. Interestingly, many schools do this by adding extra time to the school day.
The length of the school day is determined by the state.
So, if a state requires 6 hours of instruction each day, a school may choose a schedule that includes 6 1/2 hours of daily learning time. This provides an extra half hour each day, which eventually adds up to those extra days.
Summer break by region
Let’s take a look at the typical summer break schedule for different regions.
In the northeast, school will usually end in early June and begin in early September. These schools typically begin the week after Labor Day.
In the western states, summer vacation often begins in May, and students will return in August.
Southern states typically follow this schedule as well, with school ending in mid to late May, and beginning sometime in August.
Why Do We Have Summer Break?
Have you ever asked yourself why schools shut down for summer in the first place? Many people believe that our current school schedule is based on the agrarian calendar. But this isn’t the case.
The History of American school calendars
In rural areas, school schedules were based on when farms were busiest.
However, this didn’t mean kids were off during the summer. They were needed during the spring, when planting was done, and in the fall when crops were harvested.
Urban schools were typically open throughout the year, including during the summer, with short breaks throughout the year. New York schools, for example, were open 248 days a year.
However, school attendance wasn’t mandatory when the nation began.
The first law about compulsory education, or mandatory school attendance, was passed in the District of Columbia in 1864. Vermont was the first state to pass a law about school attendance in 1869.
Alaska was the last state to pass a law that required students to attend school in 1929.
Standardized school calendars were generally adopted, along with compulsory education laws, in the early 1900s. This meant that urban and rural schools within the same district or state would have the same schedule.
The Origin of Summer Break
If students once attended school during the summer months, why and when did summer break become a thing?
One reason is that upper-class and, eventually, middle-class families wanted to beat the heat. This was long before modern air conditioning, so schools and homes were sweltering during the summer months.
This was particularly a problem for cities. The steel and asphalt of cities mean they are 1-7 degrees hotter than the surrounding rural areas. Families who could afford to often went to cooler locales to spend the summer.
Some families chose to head north to beat the heat, while others would simply flee to the countryside, which offered at least comparatively lower temperatures.
With many families leaving their residences for the summer, schools had little reason to remain open during these months, so summer vacation was born.
Year Round Schools
About 4% of schools in the U.S. have a year-round schedule instead of a traditional schedule with summers off. Of course, if your school has a year-round schedule, your summer vacation schedule will be a bit different.
Like traditional school schedules, year-round school schedules vary from place to place. However, most will have a lot of similarities.
For year-round schools, the summer break for students is usually 4 to 5 weeks long. These schools typically attend school for 180 days, like most schools with a traditional school schedule.
The most common schedule for these schools has 45 days of school instruction and then 15 days off. This allows the cycle to repeat four times throughout the year.
It’s important to note that not all year-round schools follow this schedule. Some have 60 to 90 days of instruction, with longer breaks between.
What the 45/15 Schedule Looks Like
Time off is provided for standard holidays, like Thanksgiving, like traditional schools.
However, instead of two to three months off in the summer, students receive a break of around two weeks four times throughout the year.
The 45/15 schedule typically looks like this. Forty-five days of instruction, and then 15 days off for fall break.
Then 30 days of learning and three days off for Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, there are another 15 days of instruction and then 15 days off for winter break, which includes Christmas and New Year.
Then, there’s another 45 days of learning and 15 days off for spring break.
The last session of the year is also 45 days. Then, summer break lasts for 30 days.
Where to Go on Summer Vacation
Many families decide to go on a summer vacation. School is out, and most workers have a lighter workload during this time, allowing parents to schedule a much-needed vacation.
Let’s take a look at the top summer vacation destinations for families.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park offers a very enjoyable yet educational experience. 97% of the park is undeveloped and teeming with wildlife.
You can choose to camp within the park or stay at a lodge. These options mean that you will spend your time enjoying the park rather than traveling to your hotel room.
Temperatures in the park are in the 70s, even in the heat of summer. This can be a welcome break from soaring temperatures at home.
You can experience bison, Old Faithful geyser, and Mammoth Hot Springs at the park. Just beware of the bears!
Hershey, Pennsylvania may not be the first travel destination that comes to mind, but it’s certainly worth considering. Hershey Park is a popular amusement park with roller coasters and fun for all ages.
If you love chocolate, and who doesn’t, you’ll have to stop by Hershey’s Chocolate World. You can learn how chocolate is made, sample a variety of chocolate goodies, and create your own candy bar.
Wildlife lovers will enjoy Hershey Garden. You can see beautiful flowers and hang out with about 500 butterflies.
Gatlinburg, TN is nestled in the Smoky Mountains. Gatlinburg is a charming tourist town. You’ll find small souvenir shops, clothing stores, bars, and restaurants, as well as a large mall.
Ripley’s Aquarium is a popular attraction. It features an underwater tunnel that allows you to see sharks, sea turtles, and other sea life up close. You can also touch manta rays.
You should also visit Skylift Park. You can stroll across the SkyBridge, hike the SkyTrail, or ride the SkyLift chairs.
Of course, no trip to Gatlinburg is complete without spending some time in the Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s the most visited national park in America for good reason. You can hike, view historic homes, and fish.
Miramar Beach, FL
Are you considering a Florida beach vacation but want to avoid the crowds? Miramar Beach is the answer. It’s located in the Florida panhandle near Panama City Beach.
In fact, you can think of Miramar as Panama’s better-behaved and relaxed cousin. It also offers nostalgia, with charming coastal neighborhoods and beach houses.
However, you won’t need to go without modern amenities.
The town features one of the largest shopping malls in the nation, and plenty of budget and luxury hotels. Enjoy the beach by making sandcastles, relaxing on the sand, or going for a swim.
You can also go parasailing, take a boat tour, or fish on a charter boat.
If you have older children, check out the Baytowne Adventure Zone. You can ride the zipline, take the rope obstacle course, and climb the rock wall.
The Bahamas are another beautiful beach destination. It’s exotic and offers plenty of activities. Many families stay at a large resort, like Atlantis. These resorts offer everything you need to enjoy your vacation in one place.
If you enjoy history, the Bahamas offer many colonial and native ruins to explore. Nature lovers should check out Lucayan National Park. You’ll find Gold Rock Beach, which served as a location for two Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
There’s a 40-acre mangrove forest and two caves that are part of a huge underwater limestone cave system.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is one of the most well-known attractions in America. Most visitors choose to see the South Rim.
This area features The Grand Canyon Village, where you’ll find accommodations, shopping, and the Railway Depot. You’ll also find family-friendly hiking trails. You can go rafting or rent a jeep for adventure as well.
If you are adventurous, avoid the crowds and visit the North Rim. This area is much quieter. If you want an introspective experience with plenty of exercise, this is the area for you. You’ll find tough hiking trails and camping in this part of the canyon, as well as mule tours.
For an unforgettable view, take a helicopter ride above the canyon.
If you are planning a trip during summer vacation, you’ll want to plan your getaway when your children are out for summer break.
It’s best to plan your trip and book airfare and accommodation at least six months in advance. This allows you to get the best deals.
It’s also unlikely that you will need to stress about being able to find an available flight or hotel, because most travelers don’t think this far ahead.
If you are planning a last-minute trip, you don’t have to cancel your plans. Just be prepared for it to cost a bit more. You may also need to spend some time searching to find available flights and rooms, but it can certainly be done.
Most schools will have the school calendar for the next school year before they close for summer vacation. You can find it on their website, or contact your local school. This allows you plenty of time to plan.
Just remember, the start or end dates may change by a few days if the school needs to make up days due to closures.
A Positive Perspective for an Enjoyable Summer
It’s easy to view summer vacation as something that just happens to us.
You may spend a lot of time thinking about some aspects, like who will watch the kids while you work, or how you’ll survive an entire summer at home with your kids.
Children are certainly excited about summer vacation, but as a parent, you may be less than enthusiastic. However, changing your viewpoint can give you some gratitude.
On school days, kids spend most of their waking hours at school. Factor in getting to and from school and homework; there’s not a lot of time to connect with them.
Summer offers a valuable opportunity to spend time with our kids. You can create lasting memories, whether you choose to vacation abroad or staycation at home.
Sure, there will be days when you will mutter to yourself, “I’ll be so glad when this is over.” However, on the first day of school, there’s always a twinge of sadness, knowing they will be away during the day.
Keep Them Busy, Sometimes
During summer break, it’s important to strike a balance between giving your kiddo something to do and overscheduling them. Kids, like adults, need downtime.
However, if you don’t offer any structured activities, you’ll feel crazy before the end of June.
The activities you choose will depend on your preferences and lifestyle, as well as your child’s age. However, some activities are a hit with nearly every family.
Consider activities that make the most out of the heat, like swimming or visiting a water park. These are iconic summer activities. You can relax by the pool while your kids burn off all that extra energy.
You can also host a cookout, complete with a water balloon fight. If you have young children, a sprinkler can provide a surprising amount of entertainment. Older children often enjoy waterslides.
These activities are inexpensive and are easy to set up in your yard. All you need is a garden hose.
Consider summer enrichment classes to reduce the “summer slide” and give your child’s brain some stimulation.
If you don’t have in-person classes near you, Outschool is a great resource for virtual courses. They offer academic classes and enrichment classes like art.
You may want to enroll them in a sport or a class like dance or karate during the summer.
Summer camp can also be great for both of you. It gives you a short break from them being home and provides unique experiences for them.
They can make new friends and engage in activities that may not be available to them normally, like archery or canoeing.
Day camps typically begin when a child is 4 to 6 years old. Sleepaway camps usually start at 7 or 8.
However, older children can also go to day camp. This is a great option if you or your child aren’t comfortable with them being away for a week.
1. National Center for Education Statistics (link)