The 4:12 Disconnect – Tips for Covering School Holidays

managing school holidaysYep it’s really school holidays again…

Can the school holidays really be about to hit again? As much as I’d love 12 weeks off a year, it’s just not possible for most of us to take time off every school break, particularly on an annual leave entitlement. So where do the kids go? And what happens when plans fall over as happened to me recently.

Towards the end of the Christmas break, I got the call. Our son’s planned one week visit to Grandma and Grandad was off – they had fallen ill and just couldn’t do it. I had jam packed this first week back at work, even scheduling an overnight trip. When I finally got over the shock and disappointment (not much empathy in that call), I went into problem solving mode. My pride, and need to be self-sufficient, went out the window as I explored all options to successfully pull together a plan for the week.

I hope it doesn’t happen again but I have been exploring options in case. How well equipped are you? Do you have a disaster plan for when arrangements fall through as they sometimes do? Here’s a few tips you might find useful when wondering how to make it all work.

Reach out to your network – you might have family who can help but if you don’t you could consider contacting other school families that might be able to take your child for a play date/day. Offering to reciprocate is a great idea and it might even be something that you can share in future holidays. Get some ideas from your friends – they may come up with something you haven’t considered or you may be able to join forces.

Identify vacation programs – if your school doesn’t have one, there are reasonably priced public options such as the PCYC which often runs in local schools. This type of care is covered by the Child Care Rebate (CCR) which can make the cost more achievable.

Do you know any responsible teenagers? If you don’t know any you can approach, you could consider contacting the local high school or a childcare educator. Some students commence certificate courses in childcare while in school and may be interested in practical experience (and extra cash)! Interviewing and reference checking is always a good idea.

Nannies can be more affordable than we think they are. Sites such as Smart Au Pairs and Au Pair World can connect you with potential nannies, many of whom are international travellers asking for board and a minimal payment. The childcare benefit may be available for nannies who are registered carers.

Half-pay leave is an excellent condition offered by some companies which can allow staff to access more annual leave. Often it involves taking a reduced regular pay to continue to receive pay over the additional leave period. If your company doesn’t offer it, why not raise it when the employment agreement is up for negotiation or the company is looking for good ideas?

These are just a snapshot of ideas, there’ll be heaps more particularly if you think outside the box. It’s often a case of thinking about ‘how’ to get it to work rather than ‘whether’ it can work.


NB: If you’re thinking about returning to work or even making a career change, you can learn how to make your resume stand out by reading my free Return to Work Resume ebook at

Donna Thistlewaite

Director at Career Vitality
Donna is a mum, career coach, and lifelong learner. She has enjoyed a career spanning 30 years inspired by her passion for people. With a human resources background she transitioned into career consulting to help people revitalise their careers. Donna has a particular interest in supporting return to work and working parents and is an advocate for gender diversity and workplace flexibility.She has achieved a number of university qualifications and is a professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA).
Donna’s business, Career Vitality, supports women considering returning to work through CareerSmart Mums, a workshop currently running quarterly in North West Brisbane.