Back in 2015, the US Travel Association (USTA) launched Project: Time Off, to change the culture surrounding the use of personal time off. For the next three years, the USTA invested in groundbreaking research, publicizing the benefits of using vacation days, and started to move the needle in the right direction.
To continue the momentum the USTA started, the FTA is launching #TakeFamilyTime, an advocacy campaign focused on changing the mindset and behavior of parents who don’t use all their days.
The campaign makes its formal public debut in September, and the FTA is encouraging its members, including advisors, media members, suppliers and destinations, to use their social media influence and base of family clients to better understand why so many parents don’t use all of their paid time off. We want to discover where family vacations fit in to the prioritization of using those days.
Today, we feature Media Member Kirsten Maxwell, owner, writer and editor at Kids are a Trip, as she reflects on how her family prioritizes traveling together.
FTA: What are some of your favorite memories from your family vacations as a child, and how do you think that time in your life shaped your attitudes toward family vacations as an adult, AND most importantly, as a parent?
For several summers during my teen years, my grandparents rented a home in North Lake Tahoe. Everyone in the family would gather at their house, five of their children, and twelve grandchildren. It was something we looked forward to all year long. One of the most memorable summers was driving from Phoenix to Los Angeles and then up Highway 101, passing through Solvang and San Simeon and then across the state to Lake Tahoe. The drive itself was long, but my parents made sure there were plenty of adventures along the way, and that didn’t end once we arrived at our destination. We always had fun with our cousins, swimming in the lake, hiking, and even rafting on the river. Almost every dinner was back at the house and that was when the laughter started and didn’t end until late in the evening.
When I reflect on this part of my childhood, I realize how special it was to spend quality time with my family, without distractions, just good old-fashioned fun. I still try to incorporate that in our family travels, requiring our kids to leave the electronics at home when we travel overseas and putting limits on technology when we travel domestically. This allows us to focus on each other and really listen, because the time we spend together is priceless. As a parent, family time is a priority, and this definitely shapes our vacations and the destinations we choose.
FTA: How would you describe your household’s prioritization of family vacation time?
Family vacation time is a huge priority for us, but every vacation looks a little different and might not include all family members. Family travel is a lot easier when your children are younger because you don’t have to deal with school schedules. Now that we have two in high school, we have to get creative about when and where we travel. They just can’t miss school. So some vacations are me with one or two kids, or maybe all three. If we are lucky, my husband can come along. We just do the best with who is available, and hopefully everyone can join in the fun.
Currently we are planning our winter break vacation. The kids have three weeks and I feel pressure to find a trip that is an epic adventure, but fits in the budget as well. I am constantly searching for the best deals on flights and hotels because I really want to make this vacation happen for all of us. We are looking for a memorable vacation, so we have some destinations in mind. The motivation comes from knowing we only have two more summers with our oldest before he heads off to college. It’s important that we soak in every minute of our time with him.
FTA: Looking at your peers, where do you see yourself relative to their attitudes towards prioritizing family vacations?
This is a trick question because a lot of my peers are fellow travel writers, and we all prioritize family vacations. When talking about my local friends and family, I would definitely say vacations are important to all of us. We make the most of every minute we have with our kids and want to find destinations that are family friendly.
FTA: What are the top 2-3 issues you hear from your followers about their ability to prioritize family travel for their families?
Hands down it’s budget, followed by limited vacation time for one or both parents, then probably childcare at the destination. Those traveling with young children often have a hard time finding a resort that can accommodate or one where they would feel comfortable leaving their children with strangers.
FTA: If you were to offer the adults in a family ONE piece of your best advice for prioritizing family time off for traveling, what would that be?
I’m a former teacher and I realize the importance of being in school, but travel is an education. Kids can always learn outside the classroom. When your kids are young, travel as much as you can. Missing elementary school does not hold the same importance as missing high school, and teachers can be quite cooperative when given advance notice.
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