This article was originally published on Dotting the Map. It has been reprinted here, with permission.
Among the top reasons Americans don't take family vacations (besides not having time off from work) is a lack of funds available.
But here's the thing. I've said it before and I will say it again - if you make something a priority, it will happen. If it's important to you, it will happen. If you stop making excuses, it will happen.
And you need a family vacation to happen. You cannot wait until the money magically appears or the time feels right. By that time, it's too late. The time is now. Memories are waiting to be made. Your family is waiting for a chance to bond, and life is waiting to be enjoyed.
Don't put it off. The most damaging thing you can do is say, "We'll go next year." The same reasons you are putting it off now will likely still exist in a year. And then you will keep putting it off, instead spending money on new furniture or working extra hours at your job to climb the ladder. The next thing you know, you'll be dropping your youngest child off at college and wondering where the time went. Choose to invest in your family now - not when it's convenient.
Once you've begun, repeat often. Don't make your family vacation a check mark on your to-do list and wipe your hands clean. The more often vacations are repeated, the better your family relationships and well-being will be. Siblings who barely give each other the time of day will soon be best friends.
Go somewhere remote and force teens to turn off their cell phones. Go abroad, giving your children a rich cultural experience (your kids won't be texting at all thanks to your ridiculously expensive, long distance data plan). The more often a family vacations together, the better the effects on the family. Utilize your family's interests and take trips that will draw your family closer together.
Yes, money and time constraints are real problems as to why people don't take vacations as a family. Be creative. Your vacation doesn't have to be an extravagant excursion to Hawaii. Gather the family, pick a destination and set up a coin jar to collect spare change. Do odd jobs together to earn money. Meanwhile, take weekend trips to local national parks, go camping, or enjoy a cheaper but still exciting trip across states.
Family vacations don't need to break the bank. I remember a certain Aruba trip that was paid for entirely with frequent flyer points. With a suitcase full of food, we enjoyed a few days on the beach, ate Cup Noodles in our hotel room and had the time of our lives. It was cheap but exotic, and we will forever remember that time together.
Learn, grow and create memories that help ensure a family bond for life. Making the time and sacrificing the money is an investment in your family relationships. Years from now, your family will still enjoy talking about your experiences. Very rarely does my family sit around and talk about all the times we sat at home and did nothing. My husband's family often brings up adventures from their past - the van breaking down, how funny it was when so-and-so got sunburned and then chased down by a seagull at the beach.
While it's not impossible to have a good bond with your family if you don't take vacations together, the vacation memories your family makes together will deeply strengthen your bond. Day-to-day life is busy - soccer games, dance class, music lessons and different schools all pull family members apart, but a week at the lake or in the mountains will pull your family together. Any sacrifices you make are worth the lifelong rewards.
If it's been a while since you gathered your family together and enjoyed some serious fun, I beg you to fix it - immediately!