Family vacations can be a gift or a curse. In our last post, we shared how a trip with the kids can prove to be equally a gift and a hassle, especially if you’re not prepared and basing expectations on a previous double-income-no-kids lifestyle.
But, please don’t be discouraged. Family vacations are definitely worth the investment. We’re planning a family beach trip later this summer, and it’s already created a positive shift around the house.
Research shows that family vacations provide so many benefits for both you and your kids. Let’s break it down.
Productivity numbers. One of the main reasons people don’t take vacation time off is because they don’t want to fall behind in the workplace. However, research shows that taking some PTO actually boosts your efficiency, allowing you to refocus, attend, and enjoy your job.
The trickle-down effect of stress. A survey found that 75% of children reported their parents brought work home and 6 out of 7 said they brought work stress along with it. A 2014 study revealed that the more stress parents dealt with, the less supportive they were when dealing with their children’s emotions. Interestingly, that same survey found that 77% of children stated no feelings of stress when their parents made time for family. It also showed that although 19% of kids surveyed reported being in a good mood on an average day, that number increased to 60% when parents took time off to spend time with them. Bottom line: your kids are directly affected by the stress you’re under.
Quality over quantity. Family down time doesn’t always equate to family bonding time. Busy work and practice schedules can be a total energy suck and the idea of doing anything together as a family unit may sound like a chore. Vacations can break that mindset. Research shows that the quality of time spent with your kids is what matters, not the amount of time. Think of the times you have bonded with your family, during good or bad moments. Even if vacations are filled with ups, downs, and detours, the amount of meaning in those events encourage bonding and building memories with one another.
Memory maker. Speaking of memories, vacations can create many of them. A 2015 study found that 49% of their participants said their happiest memory was of a family vacation, a third of them claiming they could vividly recall their family trips while a quarter of them used these memories to bring temporary relief to stressful situations (referred to as happiness anchors). Vacations promote us to play with our kids and engage with them at their level. This form of interaction provides the strongest emotional bonds to create lasting memories.
Go with the flow. Vacations rarely go off without a hitch. These hiccups can teach your child to be more adaptable to unpredictable moments. Also, keeping schedules loose and light during vacay can promote rest and enjoyment for things that spark your child’s interest. You may have had plans to check out that historic lighthouse, but your kids would rather play in the water and search for seashells beach instead. You may have a delay at the airport, but your toddlers get to spend more time watching planes take off. Kids can teach us a lot about staying the bright side.
Traveling smarty-pants. Family trips can give opportunities for your kids to experience and learn new things firsthand instead of in the classroom. They can learn a new culture by being immersed in the food, language, and a different way of living instead of learning about it on TV. They may use their senses to truly witness many natural wonders they read about in books. This encourages curiosity and exploration, activating the executive functions (like attention and self-control) in the brain. The hands-on learning that family vacations provide is also associated with higher intelligence. Multiple studies show that children who travel have higher grades in math, reading, and general knowledge than those that don’t.
Getting to know yourself (and others). Studies show that traveling to different destinations can help your kid gain gratitude, empathy, and compassion for others, honing in on their social and interpersonal skills. Vacations can also help children develop a sense of self and boost their self-confidence, finding what they like/don’t like by trying new things and stepping out of their comfort zone with little to no pressure. Self-confidence is associated with self-efficacy (the belief in oneself to be successful when carrying out a particular task). Research found that people with a high sense of self-efficacy are more resilient during challenging situations and are more determined to find solutions.
What if vacation isn’t in the cards this time around?
Despite the perks that family trips provide, budgeting and schedules may not align. Consider the family staycation. This can be an affordable and flexible option when getaways aren’t feasible, and they are a wonderful way to support locally. But, YOU HAVE TO TREAT IT LIKE A VACATION. That means instilling the same ground rules you would have if you went out of town on holiday (no work, no chores, no tablets/cellphones if that’s your vibe). Plan an itinerary as though you were a tourist; perhaps staying at an AirBnB instead of your house (or camping out in the backyard). With this mindset, you and your kids can still enjoy the benefits of vacay.
Family vacations sound great in theory, but its actual success hinges on your perspective. If we come in with high expectations and show frustration when things don’t go our way, we model to our kids that family trips are just headaches and not worth the stress. Keep conversations open and honest with everyone involved, include your kids in the planning, and meet your family where they’re at.
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Two Years Ago: The Quick, Long List of Water Play Activities
14 Benefits of Taking Family Vacations and Why You Need Them (moneycrashers.com)
2015_Sept22_Research_The Work Martyr’s Chrildren, How Kids Are Harmed by America’s lost week.pdf (ustravel.org)
Family Holidays Are The Source Of Happy Memories, And The Benefits Don’t Stop After You Come Home | HuffPost UK Parents (huffingtonpost.co.uk)
Nelson, J. A., O’Brien, M., Blankson, A. N., Calkins, S. D., & Keane, S. P. (2009). Family stress and parental responses to children’s negative emotions: tests of the spillover, crossover, and compensatory hypotheses. Journal of family psychology : JFP : journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 23(5), 671–679. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015977