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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. I agree 100%
    Where can I find the study you read? It would be interesting to share that with my readers. I have a blog about family travel.

  2. 100% agree. I remember my family vacations as a child and they are some of the best memories. I am making them with my family now!

  3. Yes! Totally agree with you and thanks for the reminder. Sometimes daily life – school, work, homework, etc. – gets in the way of what is really important. Today I am going to play outside with my boys.

  4. I agree. Toys are totally overrated, and they just mess up the house! I do think, though, that we need to make sure we are not thinking we have to go on some crazy, exotic, expensive vacation to give our kids experiences, especially for those who truly can’t afford it. When I was young, my parents rarely took us on fancy vacations, but we did a lot of day trips on Saturdays and holidays to places around where we lived. I LOVED it! Those memories are priceless to me, and now I try to do the same for my kids, just taking them to places for a day or even half a day just exploring our area. So people should not stress if they truly don’t have the money to go on expensive trips! Just do fun stuff with your kids, and they will create those same memories.

  5. Hi Becky, I’m a Mimi now to 6 beautiful grandbabies. We travel as a big family to the beach. Talk of the things we did, and when is it ” beach time” again, make for wonderful conversation. The beach began when my children were very young and they continue to visit the same beach with their families, even though what used to be a 3 1/2 hour drive when we lived in NC now is a 13 hour drive from NY. When the beach calls…

  6. AMEN! THIS… it’s why I founded my site. To inspire, encourage and equip families to build memories, not collect memorabilia! YES!

  7. Hi Becky,
    thank you for the above text. It reminds us what the most important things in our family life are. Spending time together, bonding, sharing emotions, listening to each other, laughing during common activities on sunny days. Toys are important as they may help children to develop certain skills, but even the most expensive ones will not provide children with all they really need i.e. love, our attention and time spent together.
    I remember my holidays. We used to spend them with my parents and sister at the seaside every year, swimming, making sand castles, playing board games, hide and seek in the forest, climbing trees, cycling, sailing, watching the beautiful nature and farm animals, admiring the wonderful sunsets together far away from the high pace and noise of the city. Now, being a mum, I go to the beach again and again with my family to let them feel well and happy together as I used to. Of course, nowadays, as the world is changing there are more and more entertainments and distractions on the way, but still, it is all about spending wonderful time together with no rush, being able to strengthen our relationships and feeling that magic moments with the most important people to us.
    Many thanks & take care 🙂

  8. 1000% agree! I’ve only recently learned that kids need far fewer ‘things’ than I ever imagined but they need an incredible amount of our time. I’m thrilled to make the stuff for time trade and relish in our weeks at the beach and in Disney World. They are precious moments that we treasure as a busy growing family.

  9. Thanks for the reminder and showing that my priorities are on track. The number of toys that explode through our house this time of year is ridiculous. That’s why I keep asking my family to quit buying all of this ‘Stuff’. But really all the kids want is the adventure with Mom and Dad.

  10. I like that you said it doesn’t matter where you are going as long as you make it a fun, memorable experience. I’ve been wanting to plan a family vacation but it’s the first time I’ve ever had to do something like this. I’d love to get in contact with a family vacation travel agency to find the right place and plan for a vacation.