Go, Now, Go!

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

You should try to eat breakfast at home, of course—going out to eat costs money and eats up time, so this next bit of information is optional. If you have food with you and eat breakfast at home, your food costs for the day could be $0. If you absolutely want the experience of eating somewhere in the city, go to a place that serves breakfast all day. Breakfast is THE BEST for one million reasons, but mostly because it is cheap and people love to serve it in huge portions and WAFFLES. Figure out where you and your friends want to eat; I’m a fan of wandering around and just happening upon something, but you can also use your smartphones and maps, if you have them. Your best bet is an omelet; it usually costs between $7-$9 and, unless it’s a restaurant run by the devil, comes with potatoes and toast. FILL UP ON THIS STUFF. Seriously, stuff your face; even with walking around, you’ll probably feel full until your next meal. If you’re a vegan or strict vegetarian, try to get a breakfast with beans (protein) and some sort of bread; modified huevos rancheros is usually a good pick for a hot meal full of flavor and veggies.

You can also find on-the-go places for food if you’re hungry or just want to sit down for a minute later in the day. Pizza is always awesome and cheap, and food trucks are popping up all over the place now with cheaper, delicious food options. Whatever you do, don’t sit down to lunch at a restaurant—since lunch is often the busiest time for a restaurant, they can charge a ton of money for smaller portions. Don’t be afraid to ask how much things cost, or ask to see a menu. Stay away from prix fixe meals, or restaurants that try to sell you on a lunch special. Keep your eyes peeled, and try not to exceed your $10 budget.

Cost: $0- $10 (with tip)

By now you probably have to use the bathroom, or maybe you’re thirsty. Bust out your map and look for the nearest museum or library, as these are the absolute best places for water fountains and peeing. (There’s an app I love called Sit or Squat that rates public restrooms.) If you’re using the library, ask for the kids’ bathroom—there’s usually no lines and, because kids tend to be filthy, they’re cleaned more often. If it’s a library that requires a card for entrance, ask for a visitor’s pass. Also ask a librarian to let you see the archival books or special collections—they’re generally pretty rad and full of stuff you’d never get to see otherwise. Most of the time a librarian will accompany you, but sometimes they let you sit in a room by yourself. Where else are you going to be able to handle a first-edition Harper Lee, or see the original schematics for the Empire State Building?

Cost: $0

Museums are awesome all around—you can hang out there all day without anyone’s giving you the stink-eye, and you’re bound to see something amazing. While we appreciate your wild side, this is usually not the place to act out. Don’t touch any paintings or sculptures, scream down hallways, or knock anything over if you plan on staying there for a while. Sometimes there are special exhibits that you have to pay for, but most of the stuff is free. Museums are climate controlled and low maintenance, so hang out in one as much as you can! Most museums give tours by using those personal listening devices now, but if you see a group tour, casually join in by just walking with them. It’s rare for someone to call you out, and even if they do, the most they can do is ask you not to creep on them. Feign ignorance and say you thought it was part of the cost of admission if they get in your face about it.

Most museums have student prices, free days or admission by donation. Do some homework before you go and find the ones that let you go in with a donation. For your purposes, donation = FREE. If you’re shy or nervous about the prospect of getting in without paying, say something like, “One, please, with no donation today.” Just be really nice about it—it’s unlikely that anyone is going to think less of you or think you’re a cheapskate if you take advantage of this awesome policy. If it works with your budget, you can pay a dollar or as little as you want (plan on saving some dough to pay more next time if you feel guilty). But don’t feel guilty! They wouldn’t have the policy if they didn’t want people to use it. Plus, some family of eight in line behind you will probably pay full price to get in.

Museums are also a great place to fill up water bottles or use the bathroom; it’s a safe bet that no one has used the fountain as a urinal or the bathroom seat as a petri dish.

Cost: $0-$1

Now that you’ve saved so much money on food, water, and entertainment, you can go shopping! Buy something so that you have a souvenir. I still have a pair of shoes I got on one excursion; every time I wear them I think, Oh, I got these on that rad day I skipped class and saw Tim Roth and Anna Sui at John Fluevog! I’m generally not much of a materialist, but girl, get yourself something nice today—YOU’VE EARNED IT. What you buy is entirely up to you, but here are some tips for getting it home:

  • Decline any bags or boxes. Unless you purchased something ultra fragile, do NOT bring home a box or a bag, particularly if it has the store’s name on it. It’s the number-one way to get busted; surely your parents know there’s no record store in your town, or that the only one with that specific name is 80 miles away, right? Don’t leave a trail. I used to bring home bags and throw my merchandise under the porch so that my family couldn’t see what I bought; it worked until I found a raccoon making a nest out of my new shirt. Your best bet is to put what you can in your school bag, and leave no evidence.
  • Ask very nicely if the salespeople will cut off tags for you after you pay, or keep the box. If they refuse, just be sure to toss that stuff out during the day or in the train station before you get home. You can bring a pair of nail clippers with you to do the cutting, or small scissors, because they double as weapons. Don’t buy anything you can’t fit into your bag.

Cost: varies depends on what you buy.

If you’re going to a city where TV shows are taped, try to get in and see one! Tickets are free. Usually you have to book them way in advance, but sometimes people don’t show up and they need to fill seats. Most nighttime talk shows tape around 5 PM, sometimes earlier. Try to pick up tickets at the actual theater or place where the show is being taped; otherwise, it’s likely a scam.

I spent a lot of time watching Conan O’Brien tape Late Night and Jon Stewart tape The Daily Show instead of sitting in Earth Science, and I feel like my life is much better for it. Go see a talk-show taping! Or a late-night-show taping! Don’t stop to talk to anyone offering you tickets to a nondescript comedy show—it’s never anyone good, and they’re usually at night anyway.

Cost: $0

Tip #4: Staying Safe

Don’t talk to anybody. Seriously—you have no reason to talk to anyone on the street, and anyone approaching you will try to zero in on your niceness or naïveté. Most people are just wasting your time, but some of them are wackos of the highest degree, so just keep to yourself. You’ve marked out police stations on your map for a reason; if you’re feeling sketched out or unsafe, go to one right away.

If you’re in a public space in any city, particularly in a park, someone will eventually try to sell you drugs. If anyone approaches you, just look them square in the eyes and say, “NO.” Don’t try to come up with a story about how/why you don’t do drugs, don’t be nice about it—just tell them “NO,” loudly and with confidence. If they persist, move toward the biggest group of people you can see (who look normal and/or your age) and say, “NO I DON’T WANT ANY DRUGS.” There’s strength in numbers, and your menacer will probably back off. When you eventually leave, be sure to walk down a busy street or avenue.

Conversely, even if you do smoke or do drugs, you probably don’t want to accept anything from someone in a city park. You never know what’s in it, and it’s really not an ideal situation to try anything for the first time. Don’t take so much as a cigarette from anyone.

Tip #5: Getting Home

If you miss your bus or train, the first thing to do is see if your ticket can be used on the next one. Sometimes there are different rates for off-peak and peak traveling times (like rush hour, for example) so be sure you can get home on the next train without spending more money. Go to the information booth; if your ticket isn’t valid on the next bus/train home, it’s time to tell your sob story. You’re alone, you’re just a kid, you need to get home without your parents finding out and killing you for being in the city. No one with a heart is going to contribute to your being stranded. Ask for a supervisor if you have to, or just hop on the next bus/train—the few times this has happened to me, they’ve either let me pay the difference or just accepted my ticket with no complaints. You did legitimately pay for a ride home, so don’t feel badly about their weird, arbitrary time zones and pricing.

Plan to take a bus that gets you home at or close to the time you’d normally be home. If you’re late or just want to hang out a little longer, call your parents and tell them you’re staying after school (for extra homework help, detention, whatever) or going to a friend’s house. Coordinate your bus schedule and cover your bases! I once jumped onto a bus home only to find my grandfather in the front seat, on his way home from work. Thankfully, Grandpa was reading the newspaper and didn’t see me, but I had to hop off the bus one stop after ours so he wouldn’t see me, and then walk about three miles home. If your bus/train lets you off in the center of town, try to exit QUICKLY so that if anyone you know sees you, you can pretend you were coming out of a store or something. Don’t loiter; get off the bus/train, and head home.

Although I know high school feels like an eternity, a six- or seven-hour day in the city goes by pretty fast, especially when you factor in transportation. You really only have four or five hours to enjoy a place, so do as much as you can (within reason)! The less you pack in on this trip, the more reasons you have to skip into the city again. ♦


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  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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 ;*

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.