Parents wanting to take their children on holiday overseas may have to fork out thousands more to travel during the school holidays.
The Herald today reported that more than 23,000 schoolchildren were taken out of class for holidays during each school term. The Ministry of Education revealed today's figures in light of an attendance report it released this month.
Using the Air New Zealand online flight booking system, the Herald found return fares for four popular holiday routes were significantly more expensive in the New Zealand school holidays than during the term.
The cost of return flights for a week-long trip from Auckland to Los Angeles for a family of four increased by 9 per cent in next year's the upcoming September/October school holidays.
The cheapest return seat-and-bag fare was $4727 a person during break. The same trip would cost only $4327 in term time the week before.
Flying Auckland to Queenstown return would cost an extra $100 a person over the same period.
Return fares for four people from Auckland to Coolangatta in the Gold Coast shot up by 83 per cent in the holidays (from $1560 to $2956).
For British-bound holidayers, the price difference between school holiday and term-time fares was much lower than on other routes. A family of four would pay marginally more to fly return to London in the holidays ($23,292) than during the term ($23,044).
Kelly Kilgour of Air New Zealand said in an email the airline's fare pricing took into account demand and capacity.
"Naturally, during busy periods, such as the school holidays, the cheapest fares are snapped up more quickly. So we do recommend our customers book early where they can to secure the lowest possible available fares."
A Flight Centre spokeswoman, Dana Duxfield, estimated similar figures to the above.
She said based on pricing at present, a single adult traveller would have to pay an extra $70 for a return airfare from Auckland to Queenstown in the holidays, compared with the week before.
Based on Flight Centre's data, Aucklanders travelling to Los Angeles would be stung with an additional $800 a person in the school holidays.
However, return trips to London were $30 cheaper in the school holiday period, because not as many families travelled to Britain for holidays compared with Los Angeles.
Flight Centre's general manager of product, Sean Berenson, said "there were a number of ways" for travellers to cut costs on school holiday travel.
"It pays to research your options, talk to a travel expert and most importantly book ahead, before the cheapest remaining economy fares and room types sell out."
Brent Thomas, commercial director at House of Travel, said the price of school-holiday travel "definitely depends where you are flying", with popular routes which had limited availability, such as Auckland to Fiji, tending to fluctuate the most.
"It is a case of supply and demand.
"They can be about 30 to 50 per cent more expensive [in the school holidays] if you book close to the time."
He told the Herald another factor which influenced pricing was how competitive a particular route was. More airlines flying to popular destinations meant fares had to be priced more competitively.
Fares to the Gold Coast had come down recently because low-cost carrier Air Asia X had begun flying there, he said.
Thomas recommended parents wanting to travel during the school holidays book trips overseas well in advance, before the cheapest seats were booked up.
"The other thing to take into account is not just the airfares, but the supply and cost of accommodation."
Kids learn while on holiday
An Auckland parent, Nicki Fussell, said she and her husband took their two boys out of school for nearly six weeks in July to visit family in England.
"We spent time with grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins and saw all of the boys' main relatives. This was especially important for our eldest to understand his family tree roots.
"Our boys sang in Maori to all our relatives."
She said that while on holiday 6-year-old Sam and 8-year-old Zac "did at least an hour's homework" a day.
"In addition my boys sent postcards, video messages and photographs to their class. We made sure our boys didn't miss out on important areas covered at school."
During their time in England the Remuera Primary School pupils visited at least three museums, including the London Science Museum, read tube maps and were taught about pounds sterling.
Fussell said the boys' school was "supportive and encouraging about the trip". However, she and her husband copped some negative criticism from British residents.
"We were approached by some adults and asked why our children weren't in school. Sometimes this was asked in a nice way and sometimes not so much."
Arthur Nanayakkara, a first-generation Singapore-born Sinhalese man who immigrated to New Zealand in 1996, said he and his wife took their son out of school for a month at the end of term 4 every second year.
The couple's son was born in New Zealand in 2004, a year after Nanayakkara's wife moved here.
The family visited relatives in Sri Lanka, where Nanayakkara's wife and mother are from "and had a holiday at the same time".
"Every time we went there we went somewhere my son hadn't been before."
On their most recent trip, in 2015, they spent time in the Sinharaja rain forest, a World Heritage site.
Nanayakkara said he requested permission from his son's principal and teacher early in the year before he booked flights for around the end of November.
"In all occasions, the schools have given their approval, assuring us that all the necessary assessments would have been completed by the time we leave for our holidays.
"They have also arranged for meetings with his form teachers, at our request, to discuss his end-of-year report prior to us leaving for our holidays."
However, with his son set to start secondary school next year, Nanayakkara said the timing of the family's 2017 holiday was "tentative".
"At this point in time we haven't crossed that bridge."
He said he would be "mindful" of his son's exams and would book flights for later dates.
Jo Knox contacted the Herald this afternoon from Bali, where she was holidaying with her husband and two sons, aged 8 and 10.
She said she and her husband took their kids out of school for holidays "every year".
"Our boys have a real understanding of world geography and have had memorable, real-life educational experiences."
Knox, who works as a part-time teacher, recalled one particular learning experience they had on a three-month trip to Europe.
"When we were visiting the Colosseum in Rome, the boys read that only 2 per cent of gladiators survived. This was their first encounter with percentages and we explained that it meant two for every 100 gladiators.
"They enjoyed working out how many gladiators would have survived if there were 200 gladiators, or 50 gladiators ... and found it hilarious working out that if there were only 25 gladiators then only half a gladiator would have survived - and which half would that have been?"
She said she believed the knowledge her kids acquired while on holiday added to rather than detracted from their learning at school.
"Absenteeism does affect education if it is on-going, if education isn't valued at home, and it can be an indicator that there are other problems at home that will ultimately affect a child's education.
"This shouldn't be confused with the quality family time and memorable experiences enjoyed from a vacation."
Grant Coffman and his wife, who live in Auckland, took their three children out of school on a two-week trip to Thailand earlier this month.
Coffman said they were in Hua Hin when the area was struck by a terrorist attack. "This provided a greater appreciation of NZ!"
His kids, aged 14, 10 and 6, "spent time interacting with locals, had lots of learning conversations, including the differences and similarities of life for kids in NZ and kids in Thailand".
The children were even able to pass on what they had learned to classmates back home: "During our stay one of my daughters skyped her class and provided them with a live view of what life was like where we were staying".
He said he believed the knowledge his children gained in Thailand "far surpassed the book learning they'd have had at school in those two weeks".
But added: "That said, our oldest child starts NCEA next year and we definitely wouldn't remove her from school [then]."
For Ellerslie resident Michael Fleming going on a family holiday in the school break was just not possible, because of his rotational work schedule with a "major oil company in Iraq".
He told the Herald he worked "month on, month off" and in the past two years he had taken his two daughters on holidays to Fiji and Disneyland with his wife during term time.
As well as getting better deals on flights and accommodation, he said taking holidays outside of official breaks meant popular destinations were less crowded.
Fleming described other highlights of "catching up with my father I've not seen in 16 years in the USA, and the girls meeting their grandfather for the first time" and "holidaying in Fiji to the winter in New Zealand".