Benefits of a Family Vacation

 Ah, summer is coming soon. Who doesn’t love summer? You have warm weather, long days, animals everywhere, and the kids are home from school. Family time is so important and because life is busy, summer is the best time to make some memories. Apparently, there is some important development that happens during the time we are making memories with our kids. In fact, there are a lot of great things that will help your child grow and develop that you can do this summer on your family vacation. I´ll tell you all about that and the things I did as a kid that impacted me so much. 

I grew up going to a place known as Warm Beach Camp. They have a Christian family camp every year and while I was growing up, there were probably twenty rooms in Cascadian Lodge that each had a few of my aunts, uncles or cousins, and grandparents. Warm beach was my favorite family vacation destination. It didn’t matter our age (unless we were in classes), everyone did things with everyone else. I looked forward to it every year. Rope course, climbing wall, class twice a day with kids my age, playing with all of my cousins, swimming, chasing each other around in the woods, the list goes on and on. I always left learning something and being so sad to leave. If you live in the Puget Sound area, take a look at their website, I encourage you to go to their family camp or Lights of Christmas event, but they have lots of stuff that they do throughout the year. I am not in any way getting paid to promote them, I just love the place so much. 

Just a few of the many cousins at Warm Beach Camp from 2007

Naturally, I decided to make sure my son got to grow up with the same experiences I did. He was 17 months old and got to meet family he had never met, run around like a crazy boy and play on everything he could find. He went in my mom´s car because my car´s back seat had been taken out temporarily. My mom took him out of the car and set him on the grass field outside of the lodge. He paused, looked around and bolted, screaming ¨YYAAAAAAAAAAY!!¨ The 5 days were great and just like when I was young, he developed so much! My wife and I couldn’t believe how much better he could communicate after only five days. It was so strange, he left almost a different kid that had a month´s worth of advancement. 

Pragyan Bezbaruah 

I had no idea that a summer vacation could make a kid smarter, but apparently it does. Clemson University did a study on ¨The Relationship of Family Summer Vacation Trips and Academic Achievement Among First Graders.¨ Clemson University analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education and found that children who take family vacations over the summer do better the next year in school compared to those who don´t travel.  The American Resort Development Association reports that there is a pretty significant difference in academic achievements at the beginning of the school year. The ARDA writes ¨´The data is clear – and gives hard-working parents another reason not to put off a summer vacation trip,´ said Dr. Bill Norman, Clemson University. ´Providing kids with the experience of travel broadens their horizons and opens up their minds to learning.´¨ 

Michigan State University reports that it is likely one or both of two reasons that children who go on vacation succeed the next year. They think that it is either meaningful learning theory or experiential theory.  Experiential learning theory is a way of learning by experiencing (doing). Meaningful learning theory involves using concepts that someone is currently learning interactively (experiential learning theory) and applying it to learned experiences so that future experiences will be successful.  

Photo by Ashley K Little

Even though it helps development, there is something way more important—memories. I imagine most of us can remember some trip that impacted us a lot over the summer. Maybe you came out of your shell for the first time. Maybe you had to do something that you didn’t think that you could and felt great about it. Often you get an injury that teaches you a valuable lesson. Or even better, your first real kiss. In my case, it was all of those.  

We also went to my grandparent´s vacation trailer in Tillamook, Oregon. I loved it there too and have a lot of great memories. I don’t know how my parents dealt with a 6+ hour drive with 3 boys fighting in the back. I just took my wife and 2-year-old 5 hours to the opposite side of Washington and I almost blew up. It´s crazy how much I hate noise now. But my parent´s suffered through it and I´m so thankful that I get to have those memories. My parents loved the small town so much that they even bought some rental properties and it got even better. They are beautiful and literally hundreds of feet away from the beach. Check them out at http://happycampbeachrentals.com/ because it is the best. I´m not getting paid for this plug either, but I have a strong bias due to the fact that it is my parents´ rental property. It is great for a family vacation.

The balcony view of my parents´ rental property

I am excited to be able to take my family there when we find a bit of free time. I can see my son making a terrible and awkward 2-year-old attempt at running on the beach. I want so badly to make sure he has the great memories of vacations that I had.  

I understand that money can be tight for many families. Oh TRUST ME, I understand! They don’t have to be grand adventures to make great memories. In fact, for the most part, kids just want to play. Camping can be the best place to play and there are some pretty cheap tents out there. As a kid, I was fortunate enough to go to a few places; but the ones that meant the most to me were ones where I could run around and climb. I didn´t quite realize it then, but the places where I didn’t have TV or video games were the best.  

I suggest that when you go somewhere, unplug anything with computing power and genuinely spend time with your kids. This Science Daily article is about a study that shows issues with using technology too much with your kids. This is by far not the only study that has been done on this issue. You should know that using digital devises during family time has some pretty significant consequences to your children.  

My brother feeding goats at the Blue Heron petting zoo in Tillamook, OR.

Here is the summary from Science Daily, ¨Parents who spend a lot of time on their phones or watching television during family activities such as meals, playtime, and bedtime could influence their long-term relationships with their children. This is according to researchers who say so called ‘technoference’ can lead children to show more frustration, hyperactivity, whining, sulking or tantrums.¨  

I have also read that it can make the children feel like they are less important than the device, and they aren´t that wrong. A priority is what you are choosing to do in that moment. If you are focusing on your phone, regardless of the reason, they will see it as more important than them. As I was growing up, it was ¨Children are spending too much time on their devices.¨ But now, it is absolutely ¨Parents are spending too much time on their devices.¨ 

Another tip: Don’t spend the whole trip looking through a camera. It is totally fine to snap pictures and movies to have for the future. But watching mommy or daddy trying to get the perfect Instagram pic so everyone else can see how great they are is not a great feeling to a child. If you are that parent, let me slam this into your head: your Instagram friends don’t care about your kids. If they do, a few bad pictures will make them just as happy. Plus, you will have the pictures, but not the experience. I listened to a podcast with a journalist who records war videos. He said that the reason he could run toward the gunfire was because things didn’t feel as real while he was looking through the camera. 

So please, consider making some memories this summer. It is so good for the family, especially your children. I know that I am so blessed to have parents that took me somewhere fun every summer. I have great memories flooding into my brain while I am writing this. I have been smiling about the first person I kissed, my grandfather who has been gone for almost 10 years, a few solid wipe-outs I had on my green Huffy bike and fires on the beach. I really hope that you can give those to your kids too.  

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