No pressure, parents, but if you want well-rounded kids, take them on vacation. Numerous experts confirm family vacations make children smarter and happier than their non-vacationing counterparts. Read on to learn why.
Family Vacations Make Children Happier And Smarter
While it may seem like torture at times, traveling with your kids can bring lots of benefits. For starters, you are all together in the same place, at the same time, and on the same wavelength. How rare is that in our crazy busy world?
Family vacations are happy times. You get to explore and experience new things together as a family. Try new foods, learn about history, languages and different cultures. It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out how all of those things provide long-lasting benefits both in terms of happiness and intelligence!
That said since scientists did go through all that trouble of proving what we parents already know, let’s give them their moment in the spotlight, shall we? Below are several studies that prove the benefits of traveling together. Go ahead and cite them whenever someone doubts your claim that family vacations make children smarter and happier!
Experts Confirm Family Vacations Make Children Smarter
Let’s start with the expert findings that inspired this post, shall we? According to a U.S. Department of Education study, kids who travel more scored higher on academic achievement tests. The same study noted that those academic improvements were higher for those kids who took vacations that were educational in nature.
Need more evidence? The Travel and Tourism Research Association at the University of Massachusetts underwent a massive project to look at all the current expert literature relating to the benefits of family travel. Call it a study of studies, if you will. Here are some highlights.
Family “leisure” time helps you bond with your kids
Participating in “leisure activities” with your kids enhances your overall relationship and strengthens your bond, according to this 2009 study. According to the researchers, “Family leisure provides opportunities for families to bond with each other, problem-solve, and strengthen their relationships.”
They go on to cite numerous other studies showing the benefits of leisure time, including better communication skills, problem-solving efficacy, and even better development of essential life skills. The interesting thing to note is that results were fairly consistent across all types of families from every walk of life. In other words, you can reap the benefits of leisure time even if you can’t afford to travel with your kids.
Traveling together teaches kids to share and communicate better
Where the last study focused on leisure time in general, a 2009 research dissertation written by Debbie S. Kruenegel-Farr, B.A., M.S.Ed narrowed the focus to family vacations. Among other benefits, Kruenegel-Farr discovered that kids who travel with their families learn to share, get along with others better, and communicate in a more positive way.
It makes sense if you think about it. Family trips bring us together in significantly different ways than our everyday lives do. Tighter quarters (in a hotel, tent, or even a cabin) give our kids more opportunities to learn to share, for one thing.
Also, as parents, we’re more focused on them than we may be with all of the distractions at home. When we’re home, we usually only see (or hear) the tail end of our kids’ arguments, so we’re in “deescalate” or “react” mode. Vacationing together gives us a birds-eye view of what leads up to a fight. That gives us an opportunity to step in before it escalates and help our kids better learn to communicate with each other and deescalate on their own in the future.
A new study shows that traveling makes you 7% happier
A 2021 study discovered that frequent travel makes people happier than their non-traveling counterparts. The study surveyed 500 people to find out why some travel more often than others. According to lead author Chun-chu Chen, “…participants in the survey who reported regularly traveling at least 75 miles away from home also reported being about 7% happier when asked about their overall well-being than those who reported traveling very rarely or not at all.”
Chen also said, “While things like work, family life and friends play a bigger role in overall reports of well-being, the accumulation of travel experiences does appear to have a small yet noticeable effect on self-reported life satisfaction. It really illustrates the importance of being able to get out of your routine and experience new things.”
Vacationing together lowers your family’s overall stress levels
Studies also cite travel as the main factor in lowering work and family-related stress and increasing overall family-life satisfaction and health. Some studies find that even the act of planning a vacation that you won’t take for months or years to come can give you the same stress relief as actually packing your bags and hitting the road.
Child psychotherapist Dr. Margot Sunderland also explains that family vacation memories act as anchors that comfort kids during challenging times. That’s why she’s such a huge proponent of giving experience gifts instead of toys to children.
We already know that experiences bring happiness in the moment, but let’s go back to our childhood. What do you remember? In my case, the happiest memories I have are from family vacations as a child. I remember feeling fulfilled. Those same happy memories are the ones that help me get through tough times.
As for intelligence, Sunderland goes on to explain that vacations act as “brain fertilizers,” which help boost overall IQ. So, you see, family vacations really do make kids both happier and smarter!
Travel experiences give children a lifetime of good memories.
Traveling as a family gives your kids a lifetime of good memories to draw on. If you think they won’t remember a trip you took when they were in elementary school, think again. My 7-year-old son remembers very specific details from our trips. For example, he was so happy to see the Statue of Liberty or cross the Golden Gate Bridge when we traveled to California. He asked me to take pictures so he could show them to his friends.
Even if they don’t remember all the details, the joy they feel in the moment lingers on well into their adulthood. On a recent trip to Florida’s Paradise Coast, my 4-year-old daughter got to help drive a boat! While she may not remember every last detail of that thrilling moment 10 years from now, she’ll always remember how it made her feel confident and excited.
As a parent, it makes me feel a great sense of achievement to see my kids enjoying their vacations and at the same time learning about the world. Family vacations make children smarter…and happier….and more curious about the world.
I truly believe traveling is the best education. Not the kind of education that is experienced in a classroom or through a textbook. Real-life education experience. Travel with your kids and give them a precious gift that will last a lifetime. So go ahead, indulge in that wanderlust! You’ll never regret it, I promise.
The world is filled with infinite experiences that will make your family happier and smarter.
As Sunderland explains, enriching experiences offer new opportunities for brain development. “Think: family together in the pool, walking together through the forest, touching long tall grasses waving in the wind, toasting marshmallows on a campfire, hanging out together under warm sun, feeling sand between the toes.”
Travel to different parts of the world and your kids will also learn about cultures, languages, and history. It will make them more intellectually curious and aware of their surroundings. Take a vacation to just relax and enjoy nature. All those travel experiences enrich kids’ brains. It also makes us happy as parents to see our children enjoying the experiences with us.
A few months ago, I heard a beautiful song at my son’s school. His Kindergarten class sang “The World Is A Rainbow.” The song is about getting along with different people, working together, and living in harmony. It made me think that the world really is a beautiful rainbow full of wonderful people and places to see.
So my recommendation is: travel often and don’t forget to take your kids with you. Traveling with your kids will make you a better person….more tolerable….more sensitive….more patience….more human.
What if you can’t afford to travel?
What if your finances just make family vacations impossible? I think a lot of people are in that situation right now all over the world. We moms have so much guilt already. I don’t want to add “can’t afford to take a vacation to make my kid smarter” to the list.
Here’s the thing- you don’t necessarily have to travel to take a family vacation. Home-cations are more popular than ever, especially with all of the travel restrictions over the last couple of years. One of my favorite ideas is to transform your home into a whole new destination. For example, if you can’t go to Paris, bring Paris to you! Spend a week trying new French recipes, going on virtual tours of the city, watching French films, and more.
The idea is to explore new cultures and places together, and just really cement your family bond. You can do that just as easily at home as you can in a faraway land if you get creative. There’s really only one rule: ACT like you’re on vacation. Unplug your phone, put your cell on “do not disturb,” lock the front door, and just be together in the moment.
So now you know: experts confirm family vacations make children smarter and happier. Next time you plan a family getaway remember you are giving your children more than just sunshine and ice cream. You are providing a lifetime of memories that they can carry with them throughout the toughest of times.
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