Monday, January 14, 2008

Why Family Vacations Are Important

Spencer in Hawaii 1998Andrew and I are working on plans for a family vacation in March, we're taking the kids to Florida because Lillian wants princesses, David wants alligators, Spencer wants water parks, Grace wants roller coasters and Andrew and I want sun. Florida fits the bill.

If I think back to my favorite memories from childhood they're always connected to family vacations: beaches, camp grounds, fishing holes, theme parks, it really doesn't matter where we went if we were together we were having fun and those are the times that stand out.

I've met people who, for whatever reason, don't believe in taking vacations but I'm here to tell you they're crucial for a happy, close family and here's why:

1. Vacations make you healthy. While goals, hard work and ambition are important without periods of rest and relaxation we are less capable of appreciating the benefits of all our work. We're not machines and we need a break now and then to be most productive.

2. Vacations promote humor and play. This may be obvious but when we're relaxed we tend to joke and play more. Families need a bit of goofiness and laughter, it's like the grease that keeps the wheels turning. Dignity and formality have their place but when we can sit back years later and laugh about how funny it was when Luke ate all the sand at the beach or when Danny sat on the ski lift with Phil Meyer it binds us together with the shared experiences.

3. Vacations deepen relationships. If I didn't have family vacations how else would I ever know that Mom detests scary rides or that Andrew lives for roller coasters? How would I know that Andrew wants to someday plan a canoe trip where we portage our canoes through the river systems of Alaska? I'd never know that my father can burp the "Stars and Stripes Forever." I know exactly what my children are like when they come home from school, I know what Andrew is like when he's getting ready to leave for work but vacations add another layer to our relationships and if we didn't play together I'd miss critical parts of their personalities.

Now, having said all this here's a few tips for planning a vacation:

* Vacations don't need to be expensive. My family did a lot of camping and I remember my Dad coming home from work Friday evening and all of us piling into the wood-paneled station wagon to head to the Kenai for an overnighter or maybe just to be together until 1 or 2 am when it finally got too dark to fish. There are lots of websites that specialize in ways to cut costs for vacations but however inexpensive you go it should be something you plan for in your budget--it's really more important than a new car, bigger home, fancier clothes or more lessons for the kids because it's something that will promote family unity and love. Cars don't do that and won't mean a thing when your child is grown--there are studies that show that experiences, not possessions, have a much greater influence on happiness anyway.

* Vacations shouldn't be thick with expectations. If you plan a trip with a checklist of things that must happen to make it successful you're doomed to be disappointed. While vacations can bring out the best there is a natural amount of stress and trauma and if you hang your hopes on creating the perfect experience you'll fail. Be flexible, be realistic and be relaxed. Don't demand things from family members, don't require that they like certain activities and be prepared to change things around if they're not working. Most of the best parts of vacations are the happy coincidences.

* Family vacations shouldn't be individual experiences. Andrew and I took a cruise a year ago--just the two of us--and we loved it. We've thought about taking the kids on a cruise, but I have a natural aversion to taking my children because of one thing: family cruises run the risk of being nothing more than expensive daycare. The big selling point of the Disney cruises, for example, is that there are activities for each family member so everyone can do what they like. What kind of a family vacation is that? You end up spending the trip in separate activities, without any increased time together, without doing anything that you might not like. There is inherent value in just being together and a cruise, with it's multiplicity of activities, negates that unless you're very wary.

When we sat down to plan our Florida trip we held a family council where we researched what was available, made a list of everything we wanted to do, then each person got to vote for two things they wanted to do--that was our activity list and we went from there. Lillian may not have Kennedy Space Center at the top of her list but it's good for her to see something that she may not have thought she'd like and while Spencer may not have been dreaming about Sleeping Beauty's castle it's good for him to participate in something that's important to his sister.

* Vacations shouldn't be confused with obligations. Because Alaska is so far away from the Lower 48 and many people who live here have family Outside, when they go to take a family vacation they feel the need to spend their time and money visiting relatives. This is a fine thing to do of course but it means that family vacations get eaten up with family obligations. Take, for example, going to a wedding. This doesn't give much together time, there are usually stressful situations and expectations placed on children that don't make it fun at all. If you haven't seen Uncle Lucius and Aunt Portia (how do you like my made up relatives?) for years then you'll feel obligated to spend time reconnecting with them rather than reconnecting with the people you live with and see every day--though they are the people who are your first priority in life. If you need time to reconnect with extended family do it, that's great, but it's not really a family vacation and shouldn't be confused with one.

So! Got all that? Good, because I can't wait until we leave for Florida--it's going to be wonderful and every dollar and minute will be worth it. There will be pictures, oh yes. There will be pictures.

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42 comments:

Tamara said...

I agree! Family vacations a so important. I remember so many of the vacations I took with my family when I was a growing up. We just returned from a trip to Florida a few weeks ago. It was planned to see my husbands family but I also wanted to have a vacation as well. We have not had a family vacation in a long time and really needed one. So, we took two weeks. One week was spend having fun in Disney World and the other with his family. It was perfect. We had time together as a family to make memories and time to see extended family. Plus, we got a lot of Florida sunshine to tide us over for the rest of the long Alaska winter. :) Hopefully we will not wait as long for the next family trip.

Erica Douglas said...

Great reminder, we've been focused on moving from an apartment to a house recently spending all our cash, energy and time to meet that goal. I think it's time to add an account for holidays to our budget :)

Robin said...

I love this post. Family vacations are VERY important to us, for all of the reasons you mentioned. As a family with ALL of our relatives living a 12 hour international plane trip away, we too face the problem of trying to balance our need to see and reconnect with family with our need for a vacation. One of the ways we've found to do this is to take joint vacations - we go away together, usually meeting up somewhere in the middle. That way, we're ALL on vacation, no one is bogged down with obligations and we're all free - timewise and emotionally - to just relax and have fun. If you rent a large villa somewhere fun (preferably with a pool), this can even be a fairly cost-effective way to take a vacation.

Lori said...

I love the vacation vs. obligation sentence. Last year we went back to my husband's home town to introduce our new daughter to his extended family. It wasn't a relaxing vacation. It was a duty trip. This year I hope we can get out and start our own family vacation memories.

deborah said...

You are so right. This year, we WILL go to our condo we will we will we will. we haven't been in two years and the kids keep asking if we sold it....ugh. but, this year, I will be healthy enough to travel, and if not, I'm going anyway!!! We deserve our family vacation. My husband deserves, my kids deserve it, oh heck - I deserve it.

You enjoy yourselves. In the big magic kingdom.

Edi said...

I agree! We love to take family vacations - and it's great for many reasons.

One thing I could add - things don't have to go as planned, even the "bad" things that happen now, will be the interesting/funny things you talk about later.

My almost 2 yr old (at the time) getting out of the hotel and into the elevator without us knowing she had left the room..until we realized she was gone and then frantically went searching...

Even my memories from childhood out at the lake...I KNOW there were times us girls HATED it (our friends were all back home and there was NO TV) - but I just have buckets of warm, happy memories of it all now. And I want my kids to have those kind of memories too.

My family lives 18 hrs away - we drive it and spend about a week away in total. This is NOT - I repeat NOT considered a family vacation. We do do some fun things there - but it is not an overall fun/exciting/new place for us to be. Especially when the kids were younger it was WORK going out there and taking care of them and trying to fulfill the visiting obligations.

Jacki said...

Ah yes, family vacations. My parents always took us on yearly vacations and the one I will always remember is the cross-country trip we took. We were moving from Hawaii to Florida, so they made a two-week trip out of it. Waited for our car in LA for a couple of days, then drive from California to Ohio, then down to Florida. It was so much fun.

And now that I have my own family, we love planning our vacations.

But yes, I know people that brag about never taking a vacation and I am thinking: "You are stupid."

jennwa said...

That is all great advise. My kids love our vacation, no matter what it is. They get just as excited whether they go camping or go to the beach.
I personally do not like mixing family obligations with family vacations, but that is just because of our family.

gretchen from lifenut.com/blog said...

Some of my happiest childhood memories involve our vacations. I completely agree with you!

I was never into camping and was kind of a brat when my parents announced mountain trips (I was ten and wanted Paris even from that age), but some of my favorite memories are from....camping. Eating burned hot dogs off a stick, peeing in the woods, etc. Good times. Really.

Now my mind is spinning on all the places I want to take the kiddos this spring and summer.

Melissa Markham said...

Great post! The Kennedy Space Center is awesome:) Have a wonderful time!

oh amanda said...

What a perfect post! I think vacations are mandatory for forming strong families. I want my kids to have FUN with us. I never understood people who brought their friends on vacation. Vacations are for forming bonds with your family!

MommyTime said...

I couldn't agree more. We alternate a bigger trip every few years with very budget-conscious things like borrowing a cabin from a dear friend for a week. That way we take a trip somewhere every summer...and we have enough time between the bigger trips to rack up some frequent flier miles to help with the airfare.

Another good thing to do is take advantage of conferences for work. My husband, for example, had one in Orlando, FL. His plane ticket and 3 nights of (nice!) hotel paid for by company. So for the price of two more tickets (cheap in June) and two nights in the hotel, we had a great 5-day family trip. The hotel gave us the conference rate for the extended days, and Husband took an extra day off work, so we could have a long weekend of family time. Even Disney can't break the bank if you're creative...

Lisa said...

I just booked our family vacation last night. We are cruising Alaska!!

We took our kids on a cruise over the new year holiday 2007. My kids absolutely loved it and there was no babysitting at all. I think it depends on the kids. We 4 stuck together the entire time. It was a blast and my kids are so excited to go again, they can hardly stand it. The activities are available, but just not necessary for us. :)

We did cool shore excursions together and then on the days at sea we played miniature golf, swam, played scrabble, watched the ice skating show (that's weird to think about on a cruise ship), ice skated, climbed the rock wall, checked out the helipad at the front of the ship, played shuffle board etc. I love cruising with them!!

My kids were 13 & 9 at the time.

Family vacations are the best!!

I love Florida, too! You will have a lot of fun--and stay very busy!! There is tons to do.

Lisa Milton said...

Thank you, thank you. For years, our trips have all been visiting family. I'm sure that's fine, but we need a family vacation, pronto.

I might forward this to my hubby.

Kacie said...

Here, here! Vacations are essential for my sanity.

You've outlined some excellent reasons, and I'm going to save them away for future reference.

Have a fabulous time in Florida!

Sounds like you're heading to the Orlando area. Superfun.

I'm sure you're already aware of these ideas, but check out deals you can get via a AAA membership (especially if you're considering Disney), maybe look into an Entertainment Book for the area, and shop around for your attraction tickets.

Laura said...

Thank you for putting my feelings about obligations not being vacations into words. We just spent Christmas with family and while it was enjoyable and relaxing, I spent very little time with my kids. We had discussed driving to AZ (a 24-hour drive--one way) this summer (to visit more family), but it will eat up most of my husband's vacation leave. hmmm... I'm sensing a change of plans in the air.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

When I was a kid we did Disney Land from a camping tent with PB&J's. We whined about buying the Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream bars but we had a blast!

I've often made the mistake of using vacation time as family visiting time and regretted it. Now we take vacation trips and family reunion trips and it makes both more enjoyable.

Have a great time in Florida.

Katherine said...

We visit the grandparents almost every summer and while its important to see them and have the kids know their grandparents, we realize that visiting them out in the middle of nowhere isn't a vacation for the kids. So, every year we find a fun vacation thing to do somewhere nearby or along the way - sometimes its only 1 extra day, sometimes almost a week. As the kids have gotten older, they get more input into what/where we go - thus our last trip included Niagara Falls and a science museum.

The picking important things helped us a LOT on our trip to Disney last year. We handed the kids the guide books and had them pick out their top 2 things to do (DH and I and my mom all did this too). We made sure those things got done, anything else was an extra.

chelle said...

I really enjoyed reading this. We have been working so hard to get settled that we have not had a lot of family vacations. I hope this year will be different. Camping is one of our favourites :)

homeschooljourney said...

A great post. I especially enjoyed the bit about not confusing family cisits with family vacations. I've seen this blur oohhh so many times. This should be read by the offended relatives too. ;)

DermDoc said...

Some of my best memories were going to Disney in Florida with my family as a kid.

Someday, one of your kids might leave this same comment on a blog ...

April ~ Living the Sweet Life said...

I just happened across your blog today. I love it. I have added you to my list of Sweet Blogs at www.sweetlifeinthevalley.com I have a lot of catching up to with your posts. I was scrolling through and can't wait to read more. In fact you sold me on reading Fountain Head. It is one of those book to hear about and I have never picked up to read.
Thanks,
April

An Ordinary Mom said...

We, too, had a wood paneled station wagon. We called it the Sherman Tank.

Growing up we had NO money, absolutely none. Consequently we didn't take family vacations, but we did always find time to do short day trips and create memories together. That is what it really is all about.

I am jealous of your sun trip in March :) !!

Heffalump said...

We had not done much in the way of a family vacation for a few years. It seemed like any time D had time off we were using it for some project or another, but this last August we just took a few days and went yurting around the Mt. St. Helens area. Its only a couple of hours from home, but it was wonderful family time, and we are looking forward to doing more things like that as a family in the future.
As much as projects are needed, I am certain that it was better for our family to spend some quality time together.

kawaii crafter said...

Great article, I actually sat and read the whole thing.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I've actually visited your a blog several times. When I first started blogging I remember seeing you on the Martha Stewart message boards. You posted about the place mat purses.

regards
jessica

Funky Finds said...

Thank you for reading Funky Finds...your sweet comment made my day! I love your products in your Etsy shop, too. You are a funky find to be! :) Jessica

Healthy Moms said...

You are right that family vacations are important. I like to go on vacation with my family just to destress and spend more quality time with my family. We have gone to Florida as well. That is a great place for a family vacation. I like to sit on the beach and work on a tan and a good book. My husband likes to go fishing with my dad and brothers and the kids just like to play on the beach. I took the kids to Disney World once too. But that place can be too crazy and expensive!

luvmy4sons said...

Love vacations in Florida. You will have a great time! I so agree with your post!

Leslie said...

We haven't had a big family vacation since we became a family, but we're big on the short day trips. I guess that works best with a toddler and one on the way, anyway. Family vacations are definitely important. We rarely took them when I was a child and the few we did take were priceless. Great post!

Totallyscrappy said...

Boy, you said it about what I call a "relative vacation"! Going to visit relatives isn't really a vacation. Not that I don't enjoy myself, but it isn't a trip of relaxation and rest!
I hope your trip to Florida is wonderful!

(NIV) said...

What a wonderful post!! I agree with you 100%.

Have a grand time in Florida. Give Mickey and Minnie my best. :-)

God bless~ Pearl

Irene said...

I completely agree. We have been doing the BIG family vacation for quite a few years now.

We go on vacation with my sister and her crew and our parents. It is nice. We have been getting a big house at the beach and just relax and enjoy. The kids really love it. They will have so many wonderful memories of those times.

Amber said...

We take them every month. Of course, I work it locally and can score freebies in exchange for a write-up. It's a wonderful life.

:-)

Amber said...

LOVED this post...what a timely reminder. We're planning a trip "home" this summer. Hope we can do lunch.

On another note, I tried to use my birthday Borders gift card to buy "The Sea Hawk" and "Atlus Shrugged" this weekend. They were out of both. I'm seriously considering picketing. Seriously.

Roy Sencio said...

Family vacations are indeed very important, and are lots of fun... it just takes a good deal of searching for really great value cruise offers. Speaking of which, here are some cheap family cruises on sale, until the end of the month.

Jen at Semantically driven said...

I'm sure you'll enjoy your holiday. I too want to take my son away somewhere this year, probably up north which is for us, somewhere warmer. We'll see. I must start planning it now though.

rivster said...

I completely agree with you. However, we haven't had a couple trip in so long that we are starting to fantasize about a week in someplace as exciting as Barstow -- which is not known as a major vacation destination.

PC's 40th birthday trip is being postphoned til after I wean the little one. And then we are outta here!!

And a family trip this summer will round out our travel plans ;)

Mary@notbefore7 said...

GREAT list. Being TOGETHER is so important on vacation. We watch so many friends do the expensive daycare thing because they have preschoolers. It makes me sad for them. They are missing out on making great memories for strong family bonding!

Ter said...

My husband and I haven't had a vacation together, ever. With exception of a 4 day camping trip as our honeymoon, and a weekend vacation on our 1st anniversary before life got turned upside down.

For the most part, the reason for this is because we do not have the same time off. We don't even have the same weekends. Right now his weekends are Sunday/Monday and mine are the standard Sat/Sun. For a while his were Friday/Sat, and once it was even Monday and Wednesday with work on tuesday. ack.

But I sure would like to go on a vacation, even a mini vacation... someday...

chile vacations said...

Family vacations are the best way to show the bond between each other. I Love it personally..

Brian said...

I totally agree about family vacations and how fun/valuable they are. We usually take vacations similar to you either going camping or staying in resorts. One website that we found that is great for getting deals on lake resorts or for finding good camping sites is www.showmelakes.com

Elizabeth said...

I couldn't agree more.

My family is pretty huge. I have four siblings, 17 aunts and uncles and more than 60 first cousins. Thanks to my parents' willingness to drive anywhere and everywhere, we are the only family that knows at least one cousin from every aunt/uncle household. My brother and I may be the only ones who have met every single cousin. We've driven from Michigan to California, Georgia, Lousiana, Floriday, South Carolina, New York, Zacatecas, Coahuila, Jalisco and Colima. And my siblings and I get along better than any other family I know, because we learned to love each other and tolerate each other through the tough times (the three days crammed in a car) in order to experience the awesome times (three months with my grandparents in Mexico, and various other excursions).