Recently, a lifelong dream of mine came true when my whole family—children and their children—came together to visit my husband and me in Europe. It took months of planning and, before that, years of manifesting and working for a chance to have the time and financial freedom to wander Europe with what has become a big family herd of all ages. And though Europe is not necessarily the first place you pick to travel with young kids, my prayers were answered and we navigated through this historic and beautiful continent I now call home.
I believe in happy families, family time, and building relationships that matter most. That month of family time brought me so much joy! It was so worth the effort to create this dream come true!
As I have reflected on that month together, other memories have come rushing back to me. Overnight camping trips as a young, just-starting-out family. Trips to the beach when the kids were a little older and could spend hours with us soaking up the sun and building sand castles. Week-long road trips across the country to visit grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. And so many other family vacations we’ve taken together during the past thirty-something years. I can honestly say that each trip—whether short and simple or more elaborate—has been magical!
It doesn’t matter if your family vacation takes the form of a weekend camping trip to the mountains, a cross-country road trip to visit other family and friends, or an extravagant week abroad, those few days spent together are more likely to form your child’s best memories than any other time in their lives!
UK travel expert John McDonald calls them “happiness anchors” and says “reflecting on our happiest memories of joyful time spent together as a family can be extremely powerful in bringing relief and respite when faced with the darker times that life can bring. By using these memories as an anchor to take us back to more cheerful moments, we’re often able to approach problems with a fresh sense of perspective.”
Toronto researcher Cindy Chan says, “If you want to give [your children] something that will make them feel closer to you, give an experience.” Chan’s research found that giving experiences rather than material gifts to children provides longer-lasting and more affecting memories. I agree! In fact, I can’t think of a better gift than that of a family vacation.
The immediate benefits of vacationing together are amazing. Here are five I’ve seen in my own life:
• Mom, Dad, and kids come back from time away feeling refreshed and looking forward to their next chance to spend time together. In fact, research has shown that simply anticipating a family vacation elicits strong feelings of happiness and well-being.
• Children who spend quality time with family tend to worry less and act out less. This could be because spending long periods of dedicated time together allows parents to “observe and learn about [a] child’s strengths and weaknesses in order to better guide them,” says Dr. Gail Fernandez, associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at UC Irvine School of Medicine.
• Affection between family members typically increases during family vacations. One of the reasons for this is that vacations create time together where parents tend to reminisce about their own childhood experiences, which gives children a glimpse of what their parents are really like when the stress and worries of everyday life slip away for a time. This, in turn, creates a shared bond between parent and child as they connect memories-in-the-making with anecdotes of past memories.
• Knowledge acquired during this time together is retained longer and recalled more easily. One mom I know told me that her ten-year-old son still remembers and talks about everything he learned about Texas longhorns as the family drove through Texas on a cross-country road trip when her son was five. “I picked up a book of facts about all the states we would be driving through so we could talk about the things we saw as we traveled,” she says. “Years later, the kids still remember little details about nearly everything we saw.”
• Unstructured playtime—an important part of family vacations—makes for happier kids and happier parents. Christine Carter, PhD and author of Raising Happiness, says play is one of the ten most important factors in childhood happiness. Additionally, “child-led, unstructured play (with or without adults) promote[s] intellectual, physical, social, and emotional well-being.”
Essential Oil Tips
As you pack for your next family vacation, don’t forget to add a few essential oils to your travel first-aid kit. Here are four I recommend:
1. DigestZen by doTerra. Rubbing a drop of this digestive blend on a child’s stomach or even adding a drop or two to a few ounces of water can settle upset stomachs on the road, bloated stomachs from eating too much fast food, or nausea from long car rides.
2. Peppermint. I use peppermint oil to relieve tension head or neck tension and sore muscles. Rub a drop or two on your temples and the back of your neck to help head or neck tension melt away. Inhale some of the oil to perk you up on long drives or early mornings.
3. Lavender. This is the perfect oil to help lull kids (and adults) to sleep, especially if the sleeping quarters aren’t the most comfortable hotel beds, camping cots, or guest sofa sleepers. Put a few drops on a pillow, your child’s special blanket (we all have a child that can’t leave home without “blankie,” right?) or rub a drop or two on the forehead and bridge of the nose before bed. Lavender also works great for soothing bug bites, burns, and scratches that might occurs during a trip in the great outdoors.
4. Melaleuca. Like lavender, Melaleuca oil is great for burns, bites, and scratches. It also works well to sanitize hands and get rid of pesky germs at picnic tables, after hikes in the woods or rides at an amusement park, and before meals on the go. It can be rubbed directly on hands or mixed with a little water in a spray bottle and spritzed on hands, tables, and so on.
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