School holiday price hikes

Just how much more does it cost to go on holidays during the school break?

School holiday blues

School holidays. Kids love them, parents (sometimes secretly) dread them, and everyone with school-aged children suddenly needs to get out of town in the same two- to six-week period. Trouble is, all those families simultaneously seeking greener pastures and bluer skies can lead to a peak period price hike for desirable holiday spots.

So it's unsurprising that some families may be tempted to pull their kids out of school during term time to avoid the holiday rush. What does anyone learn in the last week of school anyway, you may ask. But taking that particular route is no longer an easy option when it comes to kids attending public schools in NSW, since earlier this year the government issued an edict ruling that family vacations will now count as an absence if taken outside of official school holiday periods.

Price breakdown

Say you're a family of four with two kids, one in primary and the other in high school. Just how much more will you cough up to go on trips during school holidays, and do the increased costs justify a dodgy attendance record? When CHOICE ran the sums, we found that the school holiday tax is alive and well, and the full extent of it may shock you.


There's no getting around it: saying aloha to Honolulu in the April school holidays is going to cost you significantly more than in the first week back from school. Flying with Qantas and staying in the same type of room at the Fairmont Kea Lani resort in Maui, you'd be looking at a mark-up of 25%.

Flights (Qantas) Accommodation (The Fairmont Kea Lani) Total
April holidays 11/4-18/4 $6333.76 $5979.88 $12,313.64
First week of term 18/4-25/4 $4365.76 $5474.96 $9840.72
Total mark-up 25%


Heading to Fiji for a break from the winter blues is a similar story. What a difference a week makes: take the same flights on Fiji Airways, and the same type of room at the Sheraton Denarau Villas, but prepare to spend 22% more for flights and accommodation during the school holidays than just a week later.

Flights (Fiji Airways) Accommodation (Sheraton Denarau Villas) Total
July holidays 4/7-11/7 $5247.66 $7458.34 $12,706
First week of term 11/7-18/7 $3710.66 $6711.88 $10,422.54
Total mark-up 22%


Bali is one of the most popular overseas holiday destinations for Australians, and a week there can be just what the doctor ordered in the December/January holiday period. But if you leave in the last week of the school term, it'll cost you an incredible 42% less than if you wait until 2 January (we didn't look at the public-holiday period because we didn't think it would be a like-for-like comparison).

Flights (Virgin Australia) Accommodation (Bali Dynasty Resort) Total
Summer holidays 2/1-9/1 $5805.36 $2594.06 $8399.42
Last week of term 12/12-19/12 $3697.36 $2216.01 $5913.37
Total mark-up 42%

Gold Coast

And the difference is even more stark when you look at one of Australia's favourite local getaway spots. Head to the Gold Coast for a theme park bonanza in the last week of the summer school term, and you'll pay 64% less for flights and accommodation than in the first week of the new year!

Flights (Jetstar) Accommodation (Turtle Beach Resort) Total
Summer holidays 2/1-9/1 $1192.00 $2303 $3495
Last week of term 12/12-19/12 $832.00 $1295 $2127
Total mark-up 64%


Luckily, some destinations can still be had for less of a mark-up at school holiday time (though a mark-up nonetheless). Flying to Melbourne on Qantas and staying at the Melbourne Big4 Holiday Park, you'd be spending 12% more during the September state-sanctioned vacation period.

Flights (Qantas) Accommodation
(Melbourne Big4)
September holidays
$1443.04 $2683.04
Last week of term
$1016 $1386.83 $2402.83
Total mark-up 12%

So should you pull your kids out of school for a holiday?

Research indicates that absences from school can have a profound impact on a child's education. And it's not just getting behind on their school work that could be an issue for your kids. Jocelyn Brewer, a psychologist who works mainly in schools and is a former school teacher, says children can also be disadvantaged in other ways.

"Depending on their developmental level, it may impact aspects of their social integration and participation in group learning projects and sporting events or teams. A child might be away when assignments are due, not be present for semi or grand finals of sporting competitions (or be away when teams are picked) and therefore lack a sense of inclusion."

If you absolutely must take your kids out of school for a holiday, there are things you can do to limit the impact on their learning.

Top tips for vacationing during term time

  • Give the school plenty of warning and ensure your dates don't coincide with important school activities or exams.
  • Minimise time off.
  • Set aside active learning time each day while on holiday, incorporating traditional curriculum activities. Some options suggested by Brewer include creating informal learning activities based on the places you are going and things you do, such as studying the local history, keeping a weather diary and making graphs out of the temperatures, keeping a travel journal, learning new words or local languages, drawing scenes from the day, writing lists of questions about the things you discover, accessing local museums, libraries and organisations.
  • Talk to your child's teacher about the plan and find out how it might fit into the curriculum or topic areas.
  • If going overseas for an extended period of time, consider enrolment in a local school.

State of affairs: what are the rules about family holidays during term time?

The states and territories have different rules when it comes to taking your kids out of school during term time for a holiday. NSW is the only state to explicitly prohibit this. Most other states and territories specify the need to give the school notice about the impending holiday and get permission for the absence. In Queensland, for example, an absence of over 10 days will require a special exemption. Make sure you check with your school before booking any travel arrangements.

How we calculated

CHOICE compared the prices of one week of accommodation, including the same days of the week, and return flights (using the same airline and wherever possible the same flight) originating in Sydney, Australia, using the prices listed on the official websites of airlines and hotels.