What Kids Want Out of Vacation

We're all guilty of making excuses for putting off a vacation.  As we grow older, the list of reasons not to take time off grows with us—being too busy, feeling like we can't step away from our daily routines, or thinking vacation is something that needs to break the bank. 

Remembering my family vacations as a kid, I’m even more appreciative now that my parents didn’t let those excuses get in the way of creating memories. What I remember isn’t extravagant: the coffee cake my grandpa would get for us every morning on the Jersey Shore; singing with my brother in the way back seat of my mom’s station wagon on our road trips (one of the few times we got along); or searching and searching for the perfect shell or shark tooth souvenir making the long drive from Connecticut to Florida worth it.

Fast forward to Christmas shopping this past year, I was stuck on what to give my 9 (going on 20) year-old niece and time was running out. I ended up getting her a toy airplane to open. Her actual gift: a summer trip to D.C. If the squeals and hugs were any indication, I was confident in my candidacy for Aunt of the Year. In planning her trip, I wanted to make sure it was unforgettable. To squeeze in everything that we possibly could. But then I remembered a crucial detail: for kids, the importance of vacation is more than just what you do.

Don’t just take my word for it. National Geographic Traveler asked kids ages 6-15 about spending time with family to discover that kids don’t care about fancy vacations, but they do value time away with their parents. While a couple of respondents were unsurprisingly embarrassed, overwhelmingly kids feel happy (81%), excited (50%), and special (42%) spending vacation with family.

The one thing that boys and girls agree on: 83 percent say vacation leads to their favorite family memories. If a long getaway isn’t on the books, don’t fret. More than half of kids (53%) point to daytrips for picnics, parks, or hikes, and time at home watching movies or playing outside as memory makers. One respondent captured this perfectly, “We play cards and board games weekly; this may not be a "vacation tradition," but it still bonds us together.”

Kids cherish this time because of the simple things. Vacation provides them time with the people who know them best (40% boys, 27% girls) and allow them to be themselves without being judged (28% boys, 39% girls). As we headed to the airport, my niece reinforced this for me, the best part of her trip was, “sitting around the table talking with Uncle Bill and you.”

Vacation is also a time where kids want their parents’ undivided attention. Nearly eight in 10 kids (78%) say it’s important for their parents to leave work behind while on vacation. Yet, more than one-third (35%) see their parents checking-in while taking time off. With that perspective, unplugging is no longer a debate.

Vacations present you with the opportunity to freeze a moment in time. Never stepping out of your daily routine or enjoying downtime can leave you feeling like life's a blur. Kids feel the same and relish the change of pace only a vacation can provide.

Even if you think you can’t afford, whether the time or money, to take vacation, when you consider the memories this time together forms, I would argue you can’t afford not to. I know my niece won’t forget her time in D.C. for years to come and that’s priceless.

September 12, 2016