Science Explains Why Family Vacations Can Have A Lasting, Positive Impact On Children

It's the gift that keeps on giving.

The old adage "the family who plays together, stays together" is more than just a clever and common phrase. It's a proven scientific fact. Setting aside special time to make memories with loved ones has an overwhelmingly positive impact that lasts well into adulthood, according to research from the Family Holiday Association. In 2015, the organization found that the "happiest memory" of 49 percent of people surveyed was on a family vacation. 

These kinds of trips can act as "happiness anchors." Besides nearly half of respondents dubbing a family vacation their happiest memory, a quarter also stated that they used such memories to get through difficult times. "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," John McDonald, director of the Family Holiday Association, told The Huffington Post.

Traveling with children exposes them to new places and cultures, which can also benefit their brain development. "An enriched environment offers new experiences that are strong in combined social, physical, cognitive, and sensory interaction," child psychotherapist Dr. Margot Sunderland told Parents

According to her, these kinds of experiences turn on "the genetic expression of key brain fertilizers in the frontal lobes," which then improve "executive functions" such as stress regulation, concentration, and learning ability, and are "associated with higher IQ in children." She advises parents: "So, spend time exploring together in a new space, and you're making your child smarter."

Additionally, giving children the gift of unique, unforgettable experiences, rather than a material item, forges stronger bonds between people, as shown by the University of Toronto's recent research, published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2016. Giving your family the gift that keeps on giving — a family vacation that sparks memorable moments sure to last a lifetime.

Cover image: Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

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