Northwest Montana

photo: Wendy Altschuler

Cramming all that must-have gear into suitcases and spending 12 hours trapped in a tin can with antsy kids doesn’t exactly sound like a day in paradise. But research shows you should buck up, as those family vacations could be giving your kids the gift of a lifetime. Read on to find out how going on vacation can affect your child’s health and happiness.

According to research conducted by the Family Holiday Association, nearly half of those surveyed said their happiest memory was on vacation with family. A quarter of respondents also said that they rely on those happy memories as a boost when times are tough.

Vacations can also play a part in brain development, explains child psychotherapist and Director of Education and Training at the Center For Child Mental Health, Margot Sunderland. Spending time playing on the beach isn’t just for fun in the sun, it’s also for “attachment play” which is important to bonding.

Spending time connecting not only raises self-esteem says Sunderland, it also advances development in two brain systems known as Play and Seeking. These systems are exercised whenever you spend time playing or exploring with your child. Family vacations activate these systems, triggering well-being neurochemicals like dopamine and oxytocin, which reduce stress and create a feeling of happiness. They can also cause brain growth and maturity in the frontal lobe, which controls things like social intelligence and goal-directed behavior.

No matter how much of a hassle it seems to travel with kids, these amazing benefits and the lifelong memories far outweigh any downsides.

Do you love to travel with your family? Tell us where your favorite vacation spot is in the comments below!