By Eileen Gunn
Kids love family traditions — from having the same breakfast every year on their birthday to hearing Uncle Mike’s silly impressions every Thanksgiving.
Traditions aren’t just for holidays, though. Family vacation traditions — when you return to one destination or even the same vacation home year after year — can become highly anticipated events.
While it’s exciting and fulfilling to discover new places, there’s value in consistency when it comes to your home away from home. Here are five reasons families love their vacation traditions — and why every family should consider starting their own.
- Bonding + Buffering Stress = Vacation Success
By providing an opportunity to return to familiar places, activities and foods, traditions provide comfort and security in a fast-paced world.
Dimitris Xygalatas, an anthropologist at the University of Connecticut, writes, “Research shows that traditions can provide various psychological benefits, helping us enjoy ourselves, connect with loved ones and take a respite from the daily grind.”
Moreover, kids whose parents create traditions are more likely to establish and uphold traditions for their kids, which creates even more continuity.
— Diamond Resorts™ (@diamondresorts) October 19, 2018
For example, Keryn Means, the editor of Twist, a travel and lifestyle magazine, says that her family has been returning to the same vacation community in New Hampshire for four generations. Her grandparents began taking her parents, and she now goes with both the older generation and her kids. “It’s nice to have that connection to another part of the world,” says Means.
- You Get to the “Vacation” Part of Your Trip Faster
The first day in a new place is rarely the best vacation day. Travelers have to figure out where things are in new lodgings and orient themselves in an unfamiliar town. Returning to the same place each year lets a family skip that orientation period and get to the fun, rest and relaxation right away.
For instance, Means’ New Hampshire vacation home is “the one place where we can quickly settle into our routine. The kids go off and explore their old haunts and we can unwind. We don’t have to figure out a new place,” she explains.
- There’s Comfort in Familiar Faces
Knowing you want to come back to a place year after year encourages families to get to know neighbors, shop owners and other members of the local community. That might mean returning to a restaurant with a favorite server or recognizing other families while lounging at the pool.
Lindsay Nieminen, author of the Carpe Diem Our Way blog, takes her family to the same vacation community every August. She explains why her family values this tradition: “It’s nice to connect with the same parents and [for] the kids to see old playmates. They’re always able to pick up where they left off the last summer.”
- You Can Really Live Like a Local
Returning annually gives you the opportunity to go beyond a destination’s made-for-tourism surface. You find the “local” restaurants and come to know which farmers market stalls have the best produce. You learn which coffee shop will let you linger with kids and which beach or ski slope is the least crowded.
These discoveries become part of your yearly customs: Dad relishes walking out to get coffee every morning, and the kids ask when they’ll go to their favorite ice cream shop. A couple family vacation tradition ideas include taking a walk around town each year when you first arrive, which lets you take inventory of what’s gone, what’s new and what’s still there. On your family’s last night, plan a farewell dinner at “your” place with the best view in town.
- Create Memories That Last a Lifetime
Family vacation traditions establish a fixed point: the same place at the same time each year. Parents and kids can use this marker to note change and growth. For example, everyone remembers the sleepless visit with a new baby, the year your son swam to the floating dock by himself or the year your teen daughter switched from skiing to snowboarding.
— Diamond Resorts™ (@diamondresorts) May 3, 2018
Taking a photo in the same place each year records the changes as kids grow up and families embrace new members. These memories and photographs become a condensed family history that elicits a special, priceless nostalgia.
Perhaps the best thing about fun family vacation traditions? Getting to spend dedicated time with the people you love.
“The memories you make with all the kids and family altogether — it really makes it worth it,” said Diamond Resorts member Sherry Gentile during a recent stay with her family in Virginia Beach. “Those last you forever, and your kids bring them back and remember the times you came and went on vacation with the rest of the family, and you really can’t pass that up.”
About the Contributor
Eileen P. Gunn is a veteran journalist, parent and traveler. She’s written for Fortune,The Wall Street Journaland U.S. News and World Report. She’s traveled on five continents (three with her daughter). And she founded the family travel website FamiliesGo! You can follow her on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/familiesgo.