Expenses, Stresses, and Busyness Aside… Family Vacations REALLY do matter!
By Hailey Eisen
Sunnies & sandals by the Sea! Via Shutterstock
In my life before children, I was a fairly avid traveler and I spent much of my non-traveling time dreaming about where I’d visit next. Since having kids, my love of travel has not waned, but my financial means certainly have. Dance classes and diapers have eaten into my already small travel budget. But, I have insisted that travel not be something we give up. Because of my commitment to getting away—and sharing my love of travel with my kids—over the past six years we’ve managed to make some incredible memories on family vacations.
While we’ve never flown with the kids much farther than Florida, we’ve found many local destinations and road-trip accessible adventures that were equally as exciting. It’s not how far you go, or how exotic the destination, but that you actually take the time to plan the trip and spend uninterrupted time together as a family that matters. Staycations can be fun, but the magic really happens when you get away from home.
The Power of Temporal Landmarks
If you have kids, you’ve probably experienced the strange phenomenon of time racing by, one moment blurring into the next. My eldest is 6 and I can hardly remember what she was doing when she was 3—now the age of her little sister. Other than first words, first steps, and that first explosive poop diaper that caught you totally off-guard, what else do you remember in great detail about each year of your little ones’ lives?
I remember the vacations!
The time my 6 month old ‘played’ in the sand on a beach in Ogunquit, Maine. The time my almost-two-year old came face to face with Mickey Mouse for the first time at the Chef Mickey Restaurant at Disney World. The time we visited the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Vermont and left ice cream-stained and happy. Or the time I walked through Epcot Center with a beer in one hand, pushing a stroller with the other (mommies need vacations too!).
If I close my eyes I can actually picture these moments—what they felt like and how happy I felt during them. This is the power of temporal landmarks—those landmark events that help us form and retain memories and keep track of time in an orderly way. According to The Guardian’s columnist Oliver Burkeman, “The more landmarks [you create in your life] the less risk of suddenly realizing you’ve no idea where last year went.”
While I can’t recall most of what we did last summer, I do remember every aspect of the weeklong vacation we spent at a Muskoka family resort. I can recall the joyful expressions on my kids’ faces as they splashed in the lake, fed crumbs to baby ducklings, and made s’mores by the campfire. I also remember how good it felt to sneak away to a waterside yoga class, while my husband took the kids to the pool.
The more time we set aside for family vacations, the easier it is to remember the years as they race by.
A Vacation from Stress
The other great value you’ll find in family vacations is a break from stress. Even if you’re feeling anxious right up to the moment you leave (leaving a desk full of work behind is tough, packing for a family vacation is even tougher!) forcing yourself to do so is really important.
Vacations physically take you away from the environments that contribute to stress, giving your mind and body and chance to relax. According to an article in Psychology Today entitled, The importance of vacations to our physical and mental health: “Vacations have the potential to break into the stress cycle. We emerge from a successful vacation feeling ready to take on the world again. We gain perspective on our problems, get to relax with our families and friends, and get a break from our usual routines.”
It’s in the moments, when you’ve put down your phone and turned your attention to your kids, that real memories are made. And trust me, your kids will notice. You’ll find they start to relax on vacation too—and the tantrums and arguments that we’re all blessed with at home, will transform into shared laughter and inside jokes.
The best thing to come out of family vacations are the photos and videos you record along the way. I have tens-of-thousands of digital photos stored on my computer, taken only within the past 6 years. I have no idea how to begin organizing them all. But I do take the time to make photo books of all our vacations.
These are the photos that capture us in our happiest and most relaxed moments. They’re the moments we really want to remember. Taking the time to organize photos, and make them accessible to your kids, helps keep the memories of family vacations alive, once you’re back to the busyness of daily life. It makes the money spent on trips seem even more worthwhile because the joy doesn’t only happen when you’re away, but every time you recall the fun you had together.
Quick Tips for Fun Family Travel:
- If flights are too expensive, find somewhere nearby you can drive to (then pack your patience and lots of games, activities, and music to keep your kids entertained)
- Take the time to plan in advance and use online resources to find family friendly destinations, attractions, and restaurants along the way
- Include your kids in the planning; half the fun of the trip is the anticipation leading up to it
- Leave time for spontaneity—the best memories are formed when you act on a whim and do something unexpected
- Take lots of photos!
- Give your kids an old camera and let them capture memories of their own