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I read a study that was pretty powerful, and it supported what I already suspected— “vacations are better than gifts.”   Experiences are better than toys.   The question of why you should spend more money on family vacations became quite clear: it benefits the entire family for years.

Children love to spend time with their parents – both one on one time and family time.  Time spent with our children pays off tenfold, and more studies prove it every day.   

Update: This post was originally published several years ago, but it still holds true today. It has been updated. 🙂

A family running on the beach while flying a kite.

There is a reason that our kids long for the beach like I do… and it’s not because we love the beach.  It is because we love our time together.   We love going biking together, early in the morning.  We love building sand forts or walking on the beach. 

It’s not the activity as much as it is the company. 

The kids want to take a walk down to the lighthouse, “just the two of us” because these things create memories and build the unbreakable bonds that only come from spending time together.

Why you should spend money on family vacations

Be present in the moment.  

It doesn’t matter WHAT you are doing or WHERE you are going.  It matters that you are TOGETHER. 

My husband grew up camping with his family. He loved everything about it: playing cards with his family, cooking over a campfire, exploring the area…   
My family, on the other hand spent time at the beach.  I love everything about it: riding bikes, looking out onto the water, walking on the beach, finding shells…

It doesn’t matter where you are going as long as you make it a fun, memorable experience.  You can do that by being involved with your kids. Finding fun things to do together.  Exploring new areas.  Having conversations that matter. Finding ways to create memories because these memories will last a lifetime.  Even if they don’t actually remember what they did, they will remember the feeling that they had when they were with you, when they were at that spot, when they were on vacation with family.   

“It’s about talking nonsense with your parents.”

“Family holidays are valued by children, both in the moment and for long afterward in their memory,” psychologist and best-selling author Oliver James explained to The Telegraph. 

“It’s all about talking nonsense with your parents, sharing an ice cream and moments of time in which your interests are genuinely taken into account. So if you’re going to spend money on something, it’s pretty clear which option makes more sense.”

If that wasn’t evidence enough, there is also proof that traveling with your kids can also be beneficial to their brain development.

“An enriched environment offers new experiences that are strong in combined social, physical, cognitive, and sensory interaction. Think: family together in the pool, walking together through the forest, touching long tall grasses waving in the wind, toasting marshmallows on campfire, hanging out together under warm sun, feeling sand between the toes,” says child psychotherapist Dr. Margot Sunderland.

Children, like adults, find travel to be more fulfilling. 

“Research, of course, repeatedly indicates that, despite the fact that we go on buying more stuff, adults really regard experiences like travel as far more fulfilling. Children, says James, are no different. It’s just that they value different aspects of that travel.” 

“Dad or Mum, building sandcastles, playing badminton on the beach, jumping over waves. It seems like fun, but it’s also “attachment play”, and it’s vital for bonding. Attachment play also enhances self-esteem, sending a child the psychological message: “You have my full attention. I delight in you. I delight in being with you.”

You know, the toys that we give them are exciting and fun… the video games keep them busy.  New movies will occupy their time, your child will never remember their favorite day of TV.


Happiness fades with things… yet lasts with experiences.

A 20-year study, conducted a psychology professor at Cornell University, found that it is better to spend money on experiences than things. The study found that the happiness that things provide us quickly fades. 

Experiences, on the other hand, leave a lasting impression of on us: Happiness.  

Experiences become a part of our identity. We are not our possessions, but we are the accumulation of everything we’ve seen, the things we’ve done, and the places we’ve been. Buying an Apple Watch isn’t going to change who you are; taking a break from work to hike the Appalachian Trail from start to finish most certainly will.” – Forbes

Experiences give us memories, relationships, and happiness that lasts far more than toys, possessions, and things. 

Start Now–> Grab our adorable, fun, printable cards & activities for one-on-one time with your child.

Join our One-on-One Time Challenge

I’ll send you our one-on-one time calendar to print, along with enrolling you in our free challenge.
During this one-week challenge, I will send you one “daily challenge” email each day. The goal is to build a bond between you and your child.
Build a home that your children want to come home to.   Click here to get started. 

A calendar with a text on top of it.

5 signs your child needs more one on one time

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. Agree x 1000!! Vacation is one thing we always make a priority, even if we aren’t going far or on a very extravagant vacation, we make it a point to go. Every year! Great post!

  2. This is great! We just planned our 2nd beach vacation with our 4 year old triplets. The last time we were at the beach they were just 2.5 and didn’t really enjoy it. I’m hoping they do this year. They are super excited!

  3. Hi Becky,
    Great article! I’m going to take the one week challenge! Thank you so much!

    Lisa K.

  4. I so much agree with you, Becky. Vacations are especially important for families of children with special needs.

  5. Loved your article and it is so true! I was a single mom for most of my daughter’s life and our summer vacation to the beach was always a priority. I could not always afford it and many times let other things go to do it, but I never regretted it. My daughter would always remember our time together, and that was a lot more important than everything being paid on time. She would not remember that.
    My daughter is now forty and we still take our beach vacation together every year. It is something I look forward to and enjoy more than anything. A whole week just the two of us! She still talks about all the past vacations we shared and the times we made wonderful memories!

  6. Great post! And I love the ideas on the calendar. Watching home movies together is one of my favorites!

  7. This post provides an opportunity to re-define toys. Most of the activities described in the post include toys, by my definition. Bikes, badminton racquets, the kite in the picture, tools to build sandcastles, camping equipment, cards.

    I think the important message is to engage with your family, whether it’s on vacation or not. Use the toys and games you have ready access to everyday so you don’t have to wait for a vacation, that at best happens monthly.

  8. Couldn’t agree more, we have already gone to Disney for Christmas instead of buying more toys. Toys that seem to have lost all their parts after a week or two anyways. I urge other families to try this.

  9. Great article ! Totally agree . Family time and memories is the most important thing to cherish !!

  10. Love, love, love! There’s something about family vacationing that makes us more attentive parents as well. When we’re at home and I’ve got my to-do list running, I don’t play like I do when I’m unplugged and adventuring with my kids. We’ve always given special child-chosen outings as gifts rather than toys and we’ll keep doing it!

  11. I love this and agree wholeheartedly! Things get lost, broken, and forgotten. But the memories we make when we explore together can last a lifetime!

  12. We asked our kids who are 19,15 and 10 what their favorite gift from Christmas 2013 is and neither could remember a single gift. This year we took them on a family vacation to south-east Asia and they didn’t receive any presents under the tree. The children asked my wife and I where are we going next year?

  13. This is so true! Our kids will “never remember their favourite day of TV”. We love travelling with our daughter and love making fun and exciting memories with her. Even at such a young age, she can still recall the adventures we’ve had.