Fun

Go, Now, Go!

Skip school, take off, have fun. (Don’t tell your parents.)

Illustration by Leanna

I feel like I am always giving you guys a road map for how to do the exact opposite of what your parents tell you to do. Today is no different, but I really, REALLY want to stress the importance of safety in everything I am about to say, because I basically want to give you some tips for how to skip school properly and have an amazing time on a limited budget, but I also want you to stay safe and alive and all that stuff, so you can do all of the incredible things I know you are going to do during your time on earth.

There is definitely a right and wrong way to do what I’m about to tell you about. If you do it the right way, you’ll have so much fun, epic stories to talk about when you’re old and gray, and good souvenirs; and your parents will never know you were absent from school. I spent most of my senior year of high school on a couch watching Jerry Springer with my friend Jayne, eating ice cream for breakfast at diners across the state, or roaming around NYC looking for awesome shoes, and my family was none the wiser. However: if you do it the wrong way, you’ll probably be in trouble, you’ll definitely be grounded, and you might be kidnapped or something. If you can’t navigate your way out of a paper bag, definitely don’t try any of this! Also, if you’re failing school and/or have terrible grades you should probably put this off until you get steady.

I started traveling by myself when I was 13. I wasn’t hopping on planes or hitchhiking across the country—I was just taking the bus to the mall. I grew up in New York, but the best mall was in New Jersey. At the time, a 45-minute bus ride to a mall in another state felt like a journey of 1000 miles, due largely to the fact that I was finally able to travel alone. It is pretty common for parents to freak out about kids who want to go places by themselves, but mine trusted me to give it a shot. They probably didn’t know I would soon take advantage of their trust and generosity by using my new public-transportation skills to start skipping school, but I sort of couldn’t resist—it was like giving a convicted car thief a job as a valet. I had two after-school jobs in high school, which I used to pay for my car and all of my music and clothes, so I didn’t need to rely on the parentals for any sort of cash. Having your own money makes it MUCH easier to skip, but I’m going to give you some tips to help you out on a small budget.

Tip #1: Transportation

I’m going to assume you already know how to navigate your school’s attendance system and dodge your parents (or at least enough not to get a phone call home about your absence), so the first part of planning to get out of town is actually getting out of town. This sounds like a no-brainer, but if you’re planning to skip school all day, you’ll want to decrease your chances of being spotted by your soccer coach or your actual family members. Also, as with all journeys, literal or philosophical, you have to figure out where you want to go, and how much it will cost to get there. The tips I’m about to give you on how to spend money will not include your travel costs, so it’s important to figure those out first. How are you getting where you want to go—train, bus, older sibling giving you a ride and exchanging gas money for not ratting you out? You need to know exactly how much your transportation is going to cost. If you’re taking a train or bus, can you pay once you’re on board, or do you have to buy a ticket at the station? Find out, because this can be a time-saving measure. (You can usually find this information online, or by calling customer service. If you share a family computer, do this at school or a friend’s house, or at least be sure to erase your browsing history.) When you get your tickets, be sure to buy round-trip fare so that you don’t have to scurry around looking for a ticket machine or waiting in a line five miles long when it’s time to come home. Also, buying round-trip is usually a little bit cheaper. Hang on to your tickets—they’re generally nonrefundable, so if you lose them you have to pay the full fare all over again. Put them safely on an inside pocket of your bag as soon as you get them.

Be sure you know the bus/train/road route; this can be helpful when you get on a bus/train going the wrong way (ahem) or for planning on when you should start gathering your things and getting ready to go home. If your destination is the last stop, you’ll be fine—the conductor will usually make an announcement saying “last stop” pretty loudly. But if you’re getting off anywhere in between (as most of you will be), stay alert.

Also, stay awake. If you’re sleepy and just can’t help it, set an alarm on your phone or watch to wake you up at least 20 minutes before you’re supposed to arrive; you’ll need time to get yourself together and get your bearings, and no one wants to get off of a bus with drool crusted on their face. Be sure to wrap the handles of your bag around your wrist/arm and tuck your bag under your arm, cradle it in your lap, or use it as a pillow so it doesn’t get stolen. Don’t leave pockets open if you’re facing the aisle—anyone can reach over and grab a phone from your hoodie if it’s dangling over the rail. Actually, don’t put anything in your pockets while you’re on the bus/train unless they are the pockets of your jeans and you’ll be sitting on them. Before you get off the bus/train, transfer that stuff to your front pockets and/or your bag.

For the return trip home, you should know where the bus/train is leaving from. I would ultimately panic at the end of every skipped day when it came time to find my gate at the Port Authority; it was never in the same spot, and it was always on the third or fourth level of the building, making it harder to get to in a pinch. Save yourself the terror of watching the last bus/train pull away from you by planning which bus/train you want to be on (look at the schedule in advance), and asking what gate it will be departing from at the information desk when you arrive. You probably still want to plan on getting to the station a little bit before your train leaves just in case they change the track or gate anyway.

Tip #2: What to Bring

If your whole deal is skipping when you’re supposed to be at school, you’ll probably have to use your school bag—nothing sends up alarms quicker than your changing your routine and leaving the house with a duffel bag in place of a knapsack. If you can successfully switch bags without anyone’s noticing or commenting on it, be sure to bring one that’s comfortable enough to wear all day, and not too big. You don’t want a lot of pockets and zippers on it; you’ll probably be digging around in it all day and want to stay loose. Have a dedicated interior pocket for your phone and wallet (pickpocket prevention), and enough room on the inside for anything you want to purchase or bring with you.

Food can get expensive, and you’ll probably want to save your limited funds for other stuff, so bring snacks. It’s a good way to keep yourself fueled while you save your money for records and clothes. Pack a sandwich, fill snack baggies with cookies and crackers, put some granola bars in your bag—you’re looking for things that will keep you full but will also travel well and not get smooshed in the bottom of your bag. If anyone gets suspicious, just tell them you’re packing a lunch for tomorrow…which you are. And bring a refillable water bottle—no need to pay $2 or $3 a pop to stay hydrated.

Important: bring a map of the place you’re going! You can print these out from various sites on the internet, or, if you have a smartphone, use a number of different apps. Sometimes you can grab maps for free at train stations and bus-terminal information booths. Things to mark on your map before you go: museums and libraries (see tip #3), the bus/train station address, police stations (see tip #4), and anything cool you definitely want to see. This helps you figure out how far apart things are, and prioritize your day.

Check the weather. It’s always nice to go to the city on a sunny day, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. See if you’ll need to bring an umbrella, warm gloves, an extra scarf, etc. Also, wear comfortable shoes. If you’re running for a bus (see above) or walking around all day, you will want to be cozy. This is probably not the day to break in your new cute heels.

Tip #3: How to Spend Your Money

For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to use a budget of $25, since most of us can eventually get there by saving allowance, budgeting from our jobs, or praying we get birthday money.

If you’re going to a big city, you have the option to either walk or use the subway system. While you can usually buy a daily rail pass of some sort, you’ll have more fun if you walk. It keeps you above ground, out of the confusion of which train to hop on, and opens up the opportunity to find more spontaneous fun stuff to do. Since you’re not going to be in the city for too long, I suggest walking around. It keeps you closer to the bus/train station, too, so it’s easier to get back. Save the subways for when you’re in a larger group, or for when you have more familiarity with the city. Use your map, and avoid shady-looking alleys and desolate spaces.

Cost: $0 (daily rail pass approx. $7, optional)

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52 Comments

  • rosiesayrelax July 30th, 2012 3:08 PM

    My school is literally in the middle of nowhere. On one side there’s a field of cows, and the other a motorway. Skipping lessons isn’t really an option, but it would make for great daydreams!!

    Rosie Say Relax

    • Zoe with two dots July 31st, 2012 3:17 AM

      Same! My school is at the top of a hill in the country, 2 kilometres from the nearest town, with sheep and open paddocks around it.
      But yeah, it’s so nice to daydream…

  • clairee July 30th, 2012 3:13 PM

    Love it. Wish I was brave enough when I was younger to skip school more often. The thrill of the freedom is so much more exciting when you’re in grade school. I didn’t skip until high school, and by the I already had a car and where I live doesn’t have super exciting cities to be in. It was still exciting, but I can imagine how much more exciting it would be to be in a city and go by public transportation.

    http://modalityblog.wordpress.com/

  • Abby July 30th, 2012 3:21 PM

    Damn… I really wish I lived in the kind of place where I could do that… I’m out of high school now, but even if I had skipped, I couldn’t have done it as epically as this!! In my town, you need a car to get ANYWHERE (everything is too far apart to walk) and there isn’t public transportation until you get to DC, which is over 50 miles away… the only time I ever skipped was when I pretended to be sick and went out to lunch and Target with my older sister who was in college. It was lame.

  • ViolentDreams July 30th, 2012 3:23 PM

    always schemed about this in high school……bigest regret is not doing it

  • caro nation July 30th, 2012 3:36 PM

    Why are you assuming I know the minutiae of my school’s attendance system? Just how DO you slip away unnoticed? Call in sick?

    • Kathryn July 30th, 2012 4:26 PM

      that’s the only thing that I can think of! but then I have the problem of living in a small town, so I can’t do as much exploring… wahh

    • maddzwx July 30th, 2012 4:54 PM

      I suppose that’s what she’s thinking of. At my school, they still call home if you call in sick in the morning!

  • Susann July 30th, 2012 3:41 PM

    Okay, this was amazing! I wish I’d done that when I was still in school!

    Fashion in Pepperland

  • RockHatesMiriam July 30th, 2012 3:48 PM

    I wish I could do this, especially as London is only a 30min train ride away… But my school has a uniform and my dad is a teacher there! Slipping away unnoticed would be impossible.

    But a tip that my friend told me is to avoid malls, more specifically mall security, because they’re likely to call you out for not being at school or even worse call your parents/school!

    http://www.pompandceremony.blogspot.com

  • decemberbaby July 30th, 2012 4:01 PM

    AAAH I LOVE THE TITLE. And this is awesome. Except I attend school from home, so… haha. Many of your tips will still come in handy, though, eventually :)

  • anindieeducation July 30th, 2012 4:21 PM

    Okay so this wasn’t really skipping proper, but a few weeks ago I was supposed to be an ambassador and guide prospective lower sixth students around. I did the Tuesday and it was THE MOST boring day I have ever had. So, on the second day I checked it with my family, headed to the train station and caught a half an hour journey to a nearby city. I wondered around the whole day, reading in Waterstones (UK version of Border’s but cosier), reading Clash magazine over a panini lunch and browsing Urban Outfitters for an hour or so. The most exciting part was discovering a vintage shop in the grottier end of town which was set in a teeny arcade and had a team of hipsters who opened the shop for me when I arrived. Past the musty 40′s throwbacks and tulle skirts I wondered upstairs to the Levi’s lounge and spent an hour with the store to myself playing dress up in tie-dye tees, leather shorts, cute and naff sweaters and generally having the time of my life. Day well spent.

    http://www.anindieeducation.blogspot.co.uk

    • anindieeducation July 30th, 2012 4:22 PM

      Just to add, I’m at college in the UK where there is no legal obligation to attend lessons despite what the lecturers would have you think…

  • littleSaana July 30th, 2012 4:56 PM

    I wish I could do this, but there is this thing called Wilma in Finland – witch is sort of like a crime register for students, and through that parents and teachers communicate. So, it’s hard – no IMPOSSIBLE for me to skip school without my parents knowing it because they’ll get an email if I do so.

    Ah how I wish I could live somewhere else. I’m so tired of this country and these people even without the school system.

  • mayaautumn July 30th, 2012 4:57 PM

    well, i don’t think I’ve ever been encouraged to skip school… but this sounds so FUN! I’m glad I’m still in senior school:D

    http://cottonmixblog.blogspot.com

  • MissKnowItAll July 30th, 2012 5:02 PM

    I probably should have read soemthing like this before I tried to skip last year. I’m from New york so I just took the train to Manhattan and ended up not having enough money on my metrocard and I had to call my brother to come pick me up :(
    But once, I got tickets to SNl!

  • Pearl July 30th, 2012 5:03 PM

    I used to skip school once a month, since mine is in the city & I live in the ‘burbs. We had a requirement of minimum 75% attendance so If I wasn’t called out in class for poor attendance I would skip school the next day! My bestie & I would leave early in the morning, meet at a particular train station & basically be delinquents for a day. We would first hang out at Mc Donald’s & pack in on caffeine & the roam around little lanes & click pictures of pricey real estate & cats. People watching was our favourite thing to do. We also discovered a lot of cheap eateries & small boutiques which we never would’ve noticed otherwise. I carried this huge, roomy Zara bag to college so I could stuff empty bottles of 7up & little Vero Moda paper bags filled with trinkets I’d bought that day. Also, the tip about having breakfast at home is quite advisable since we’d be broke most times & we always blew our pocket money on street jewellery & clothes. The real problem is when my Mum discovered a new item of clothing in the wash & I had to come up with an appropriate lie haha. Thank you for this post Danielle! Definitely brought some memories back.
    http://www.pforpearl.blogspot.com

  • thestonefox July 30th, 2012 5:28 PM

    Ah this is amazing! Rory Gilmore could have totally used this guide the day she impulsively decided to skip school and take the bus from hartford to NYC to secretly visit Jess! My senior year of high school my best friend and I used to skip school on the (rare) sunny days to do photo shoots and work on her portfolio for college. The guidance counselor and music teacher were secret co conspirers who would occasionally write us notes excusing us for mysterious when scholarship deadlines approached. The best adventure I had skipping happened in the fifth grade when my best friend and our brothers got suspiciously pulled out of class one afternoon and then were given envelopes with fake hogwarts acceptance letters and tickets to the first movie’s advanced screening from my friend’s mom. Probably one of the best surprises ever!

    http://www.theestonefox.tumblr.com

  • wishfulwanderer July 30th, 2012 5:30 PM

    When I read the title out loud I unintentionally said it exactly the way it’s said in the MSCL theme song. I think you meant to make that reference? So great!

    Also, I would love to skip (duh), but my school’s relatively small (80 kids in my grade) and there’s no way I could sound like my mom on the phone. Thanks for the advice though, I’ll use it if I ever figure out how to get past my school’s attendance lady!

    • Sssophiabh July 31st, 2012 1:12 AM

      Ahhhh i did the same thing with the title!!!! Now the theme song’s in my head.

      • vanguardinspace August 3rd, 2012 4:21 PM

        I did this too! I just finished watching that show and am experiencing withdrawal reactions to the hole the lack of Angela Chase’s drama has left in my life.
        I always thought the theme song was sort of creepy

  • Blythe July 30th, 2012 5:36 PM

    So how DO you get out of school in the first place without your parents getting notified?

  • Devon Wolf Sings July 30th, 2012 6:51 PM

    I skipped most of my senior year of high school, but I generally just wound up…in the auditorium. I skipped school to be in a different place at school. xD Great times were had making out and dancing and frequently crying over some of the silly things you cry over your senior year instead of going to Economics or Web Design.

  • Maya Papaya July 30th, 2012 6:52 PM

    This article was great! Exactly what I’ve been wanting to know, now that school’s almost starting.

  • HolyMoly July 30th, 2012 6:55 PM

    I seriously regret not skipping school back in the day, I’ve skipped college a few times but there’s no thrill in it since nobody actually cares if you go or not. That said, next time I skip I’m going to make it EPIC to make up for lost time!

  • Julianne July 30th, 2012 7:12 PM

    This title is a reference to the intro of My So-Called Life, isn’t it? :D :D :D :D

    Reason #1,754,961 I love this website.

  • Nishat July 30th, 2012 7:20 PM

    I totally agree with your advice to not talk to anyone (especially depending on your age.) As nice as it is to not judge people by their appearance and be kind to people, you just never know – and if you just don’t talk to anyone you don’t have to ‘decide’ who looks friendly and who doesn’t. Make the adventure about yourself and carry a cell phone and change.

    Put money in different places, not just in your purse or wallet.

  • katieeleanor July 30th, 2012 7:20 PM

    i did this so much in my last two years (although not to such extremes) but skipping lessons to meet new friends and walk into town for shopping and exploring. In my old grammar school it was near-by impossible (hello distinctive brown uniform) – I would usually fake sick to my family, they’d ring school and as soon as they left I could sneak out!

  • NotReallyChristian July 30th, 2012 7:23 PM

    I have a secret boyfriend (of nearly 2 years) and this post reminds me of the advice I would give to someone attempting the same … maybe I should write that for Rookie :)

  • lylsoy July 30th, 2012 8:29 PM

    Another tip: This only works if you’re going solo and if you can act.
    Tell your parents your going to a friends place after school, to learn together.
    You get “ill” in the first or second lesson, and you’ll be sent home *Acting involved*. *my school never bothered notifying parents, or making me stay there, but if your school is different, don’t risk..*. So, you say you take a bus home, but really your taking a bus/train whatever to the next bigger city. When your parents call you in the afternoon, make sure you are in a quite place.. Tell them you’ve been studying with friend xy etc.
    Make sure you have a few books under your arm when you come home and look like someone who’s been learning ;*

    http://gossipgonzesse.blogspot.com.au/

  • DE July 30th, 2012 8:45 PM

    Articles like these are the reason I love Rookie. I go to public high school in DC so I know my way around the metro and always have money on my smart trip. My school is so relaxed kids tend to smoke in hallways so I can definitely get away with skipping. Thanks for the tips. You never let me down

  • azultardis July 30th, 2012 9:00 PM

    I skipped high school a few times,but I had a car and I was sure my mom was working all morning,and we used to go to a near lake,it’s about 30min away but we had to paid a quote :

  • Caden July 30th, 2012 11:21 PM

    What if something goes wrong? You’ve skipped school, your parents don’t know, and nobody will have any idea what’s happened. If you go missing then no one will know where or when to start looking.

  • Helenus July 31st, 2012 12:11 AM

    Senior year of high school my friends and I would take a bus to Toronto, and then do whatever the hell we wanted. Museums, concerts, free events, festivals, hookah bars, shopping for books and records and clothing. There’s so much shit you can do if you live near a big city.

    Great post, as always.

  • streaked lights July 31st, 2012 2:26 AM

    Don’t think I’ll be showing the site to my parents anytime soon, haha.
    The security at my high school was almost military level; NO CHANCE of escaping.

    http://www.anooshadraws.blogspot.com

  • ivoire July 31st, 2012 3:07 AM

    ah no i cant read this! i just cannot. i mean i feel bad for NOT DOING HOMEWORK GUYS.

  • MaggietheCat July 31st, 2012 1:34 PM

    When I was in high school we used to leave in the afternoon, or during lunch, and this is how we would get excused from class, with a pass to leave the grounds. I used to go home sick (or “sick” a lot), so I was on a first name basis with the nice lady in the office. When a student wanted to go home sick, you would be allowed behind the desk to call your parent from the school phone, because looking up a parent’s phone number is time consuming, and this was the olden days (2004/05) so student records weren’t digitized. So, instead of calling my dad, I’d call my friend Derek, get on with the whole, “oh, dad I’m so sick,” put him on the phone with Mary, and voila` you’re free to go. Sometimes my boyfriend would go in a few minutes later and pull the same routine, calling the same Fake Dad.

    Of course, sometimes we’d just leave during lunch and not come back until drama rehearsal after school. (nerds, obvs)

  • undertheweather July 31st, 2012 3:03 PM

    Echoing what Caden said, making all that effort to cover your tracks can get very dangerous. Let SOMEONE (even if it is just a friend who is staying in school) know the exact details of your location and route, and check in with them via text at previously agreed upon times.

  • yourenotfunny July 31st, 2012 10:07 PM

    i would love to play hooky, but I’m so chronically guilty i’m not sure if i’d ever work up the balls to do it! but maybe this will be the year…

  • Lucille August 1st, 2012 4:56 AM

    Yeah, I guess I should try it now.I’ve got nothing to lose..Ok, I have.School Lessons.But aaanyways.
    Love all of it!

    http://fashion-babel.blogspot.com

  • LeatherStuddedFae August 1st, 2012 8:14 AM

    =]] It’s summer right now but I’m still going around the city. My best friend and I are going to sneak out in the morning and travel around the city for the whole afternoon. Hopefully we don’t get caught. XD Our parents don’t want us lurking around far places. I’m going use this article as a reference in order to avoid that.

    I’m so excited!

    http://stylestuddedfairy.blogspot.com/

  • mymlen August 1st, 2012 2:06 PM

    I love that Rookie talks about skipping school in a relaxed-everything-is-gonna-be-ok kind of way.
    I often skip school myself, and it feels great to know that I’ve got fellows!

  • susanv93 August 1st, 2012 2:18 PM

    I have a suggestion for people who are unsure of how to sneak away without notifying their parents accidentally.

    My school “codes” kids out when they have field trips or standardized testing which means they are marked absent but they don’t call home since, well, the school knows where they are.

    However, sometimes teachers forget to code kids out so the administration will call home and all I had to say was, “We had a field trip and I think that’s why they counted me absent. I’ll talk to them tomorrow to get it fixed.”

    Additionally, sometimes substitutes who don’t know the system will accidentally mark kids absent so you just tell your parents, “I was in the bathroom when the sub took attendance so I think she marked me absent. I’ll talk to the office tomorrow.”

    Hopefully, if you are the sweet innocent type that parents would never expect to do stuff like that, they will believe you, no questions asked.

  • Antionette August 1st, 2012 4:11 PM

    I could never skip in high school because my father was teacher there. I always felt like I was missing out.

  • AdrienneRumer August 1st, 2012 4:35 PM

    Reading this makes me a bit gutted that I never skived when I was at school. (I’m 20 now, so that ship has definitely sailed) I think my adventurous streak just didn’t kick in until I was 18.

  • HollieLillian August 2nd, 2012 11:02 AM

    Skipping school seems like the epitome of freedom. I picture some sort of Ferris Bueller debacle but I would actually get caught whereas he doesn’t. I’m just too much of a wimp even though it would be possible, although I would probably get lost 62940 miles away or something so I think I should steer clear entirely, despite the romanticism of the idea.

    http://forthequainthearted.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Whatsername August 2nd, 2012 8:12 PM

    I skipped first period once. On a day I had gym. Just sat in the cafeteria.
    And still I got a phone call home wondering where I was and if I was absent or not and they told me this was a warning and if something like this happened again I’d get some form of punishment.
    First period gym, legit.

    Not skipping school aaaanytime soon this town is fucking insane

  • tove August 4th, 2012 8:50 AM

    I’m definitely going to do this, possibly next month.

  • emellie August 9th, 2012 9:51 PM

    I live pretty much in Central London so the city escape thing is a regular thing for me when I can’t face school. The amount of times I’ve ran out after registration and just hopped onto the tube. Those have been my best days by far.

  • sophiethewitch November 3rd, 2012 1:35 AM

    I was reading old articles and I found this. I loved it. But can you give some advice for how to avoid the school calling home? My school has a somewhat complex system for students missing school. Or if there are any other Rookies from Urban School reading this…?

  • Nikilodeon May 10th, 2013 1:53 AM

    I love how the title of this article is an allusion to the intro of My So-Called Life.

  • cybelesreverie June 2nd, 2013 5:47 PM

    I wish I could do this, but I’m a triplet and have two brothers who are in all of my classes. They would definitely tell on me.