As ordinary life gets busier and busier, the benefits of taking a family vacation become more important for each member of the family as well as for the group as a whole. From the planning and travel to the experience and the memories, vacations promote a sense of connection, relaxation, adventure, excitement, spontaneity, and affection that lasts long after the return to the routine.
Parents remember the importance of vacations in their own lives and relationships. In a 2013 poll conducted by Harris Interactive for the U.S. Travel Association, nearly two-thirds of adults said family vacations form their earliest memories, even more than birthdays and school events. Two-thirds of the young people surveyed expect to have the same fond memories, and more than half said the experiences bring their family closer together. Bonus: when grandparents went along, more than three-fourths of the children reported enjoying quality time with the older generation.
Planning a vacation together, including research on destinations, provides a special opportunity for cooperative conversation, mutual responsibility, and shared expectations that boost the chances for a successful trip. Children and teenagers who feel included and respected, rather than told what to do, are less likely to complain if parts of the common plan aren’t as convenient or exciting as expected. Everyone is expected to exercise patience when the agreed-on road trip feels long.
Encountering new people, places, and experiences on a vacation is an important educational experience for children (adults too!). It expands their horizons, gives them new material for reflection and understanding, and even stimulates positive chemical reactions in the brain. Some recent neuroscience studies suggest that vacations can be an important way to develop the “play” and “seek” systems that release compounds associated with warm feelings and stress reduction.