The Unexpected Perks of Traveling with Your Family

Because those core memories aren't going to make themselves.

Family walking on beach
There's a lot to be said for a good old family vacation. | Pekic/E+/Getty Images
There's a lot to be said for a good old family vacation. | Pekic/E+/Getty Images
Welcome to Thrillist 50, your guide to fun and adventure in 2023. Think of it as your comprehensive roadmap for checking out exciting events and new attractions coming over the next 12 months, going on bucket-list trips, reconnecting with yourself and your community, expanding your mind, and of course, experiencing the flavors we're most excited about this year. There are so many reasons to live like there's no tomorrow. Start here.

In the wake of the pandemic, multigenerational travel has really taken off, with families who were separated for nearly two years taking the opportunity to reconnect while rediscovering the world. And while the idea of family reunions don’t always sound as glamorous (or fun) as that bucket list trip to see the Northern Lights in Alaska or stay in a Scottish castle in the Highlands, maybe you can convince mom and dad (or the grandparents) that now’s the time to gather the kids, grab a few cousins, and go big in a way that everyone can—and wants to—get on board with.

Before we go any further, let’s push past the idea that traveling with kids, parents, or extended family has to be stressful, or that any fun had will be forced. Not all trips can be winners, but a family vacation comes with more benefits than you might initially realize (priority boarding at the airport included.) Just be sure to pack some emergency snacks so no one gets too cranky.

Swing ride at fair
Permission to eat all the cotton candy you want. | Flickr/IQRemix

You can embrace kid-friendly activities and live in the moment 

There are some activities that are made for kids, be it traveling to an amusement park or participating in an activity or interactive exhibit at a science museum. Sure, you can do this with your partner or go alone, but you may get some side eye. If you’re bringing your nieces and nephews (or your own kids), you get to experience it without the judgey faces from other parents. Kids are also enviably better at practicing “mindfulness” than adults, as they don’t experience the same constant worrying, chatter, and stress that adults do. This is why they stay “present” in the moment and enjoy all the little details from these activities, like how brightly-colored the shells are they find on the beach, and can inspire adults to practice the same “mindfulness”—which is key to relaxing whether you’re on vacation or in a yoga studio.

You'll get VIP treatment everywhere you go

Most people assume that traveling (especially flying) with kids is a constant headache. But look a little closer and you’ll realize people are trying to help you every step along the way. Tell an airline you’re traveling with a small child, and you’ll get priority boarding at the airport. If you need a high chair at the restaurant, you’ll usually get bumped to a bigger table. Beyond that, kids often get insider access at attractions (be it a behind-the-scenes look at feeding fish at an aquarium or the chance to sit in the driver’s seat of a boat). Why? Because people can’t resist cute kids' faces, and love to inspire awe in them. Along the way, you’ll get to experience these things too—for the kids, of course.

You can split the cost of an amazing vacation home

When there’s a big family group traveling, it’s easier to split the cost of a large vacation rental rather than keep everyone cooped up in a series of hotel rooms. Rentals and Airbnbs are already typically cheaper than hotel rooms throughout much of the US, which means you’ll have all the comforts of home (including your mom’s cooking) at a fraction of the price. The downside to a rental means that you’ll be responsible for cleaning and doing some chores during your stay, but with several hands to help, there won’t be a scramble at the end of your trip to make sure the place is all cleaned up.

hiking with grandma
Give the grandparents a chance to bond with the kids while everyone does something else. | StefaNikolic/E+/Getty Images

Lots of activity partners mean fewer compromises

Romantic vacations are always going to have perks (Luxe spas! Fancy dinners! Wine tastings!). But when you go on vacation with just your partner, you’re often restricted to activities that only both of you enjoy, which means turning down certain opportunities that only one of you would like. When you go with a big family group, though, your younger cousin may be interested in hitting that yoga class with you, while grandma may want to tag along to that new art exhibit, so your significant other can hit up the driving range while everyone else is occupied. The larger the group, the more wins to spread around.

Vail, Colorado lunch on ski slope
Get everyone in the same place, at the same time. | Discover Vail

Everyone will get together and create some memories

No matter how strong your family traditions are, it’s usually difficult to get everyone together for holidays and birthdays, especially if your family is spread out across the country. That’s not the case with family vacations. Since things are normally planned well in advance, everyone will prioritize this time together a bit more than another Thanksgiving at your aunt’s house—and you’re way more likely to enjoy a whole week with your mom on the beach than just a few hours crammed on your old living room sofa with Uncle Al. Several studies point out that family vacations create some of the best memories for kids and parents alike, and, according to Parents magazine, can have “long-lasting impact on kids’ happiness.

A vacation is the best gift you can give your family

Speaking of holidays and birthdays, several experts point out that gifting experiences rather than stuff is better for not only kids, but adults, too. According to a study from the Journal of Consumer Research, experiential gifts are better at building stronger relationships than gifting material objects. Family vacations can also help kids build concentration skills, advance brain development, and could literally make them smarter, as spending time in an “enriched environment” (think one that is more stimulating, like a sunny park with lots of wildlife) has been proven to increase IQ. Also, you’ll use way less wrapping paper.

roasting marshmallows over fire pit
You might start off just hanging with the family, but you're sure to make friends everywhere you (and your kids) go. | Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach

You may even make some new friends

Kids have a tendency to make friends and find playmates everywhere they go. That’s especially true on vacation. At home, parents usually form friendships with other parents thanks to shared social experiences and convenience, and the same can happen on vacation. Even as their aunt or uncle, if the kids on the trip are making friends with another family, you’ll likely meet a few new faces, too.

A family trip will encourage you to slow down (and enjoy)

Do you ever come back from vacation more exhausted than when you left due to jet lag, late nights at cocktail bars, and days spent running from attraction to attraction? With kids and older family in tow, you’ll travel slower, and nights are more likely to be spent around a campfire, playing a board game, or watching a movie together than out at a bar. Children also have an earlier bedtime, so you’ll likely return from your trip truly well-rested—and counting down to the next one.

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Christie Rotondo is a contributor for Thrillist.