Your Kids Don’t Need A Lavish Family Vacation To Have A Happy Summer


Recently I was at an event with other parents and everyone was chit chatting about their summer vacations. Their summer adventures sounded amazing, exotic and, basically, like a vacation Pinterest board in the making.

You kids don't need a lavish family vacation to have a good summer

Their family vacation plans

“Oh we’re going to Korea for two weeks to visit family and then the kids are going to sleep away camp in California…”

“An Alaskan cruise and then a road trip across the country…”

“Blah, blah blah…,” said another. I had started tuning it out.

But then they looked at me.

“Where are you going this summer?” they asked very nicely.

Our family vacation plans

“Um we might go to Michigan for a few days,” I replied.

They blinked. They were expecting something better. Frankly, I was too. This had not turned into the summer I was imagining back in January.

In January I was dreaming of a family vacation on a beach in Maine, the beach in South Carolina, the beach somewhere…anywhere. Now it’s June and reality has set in that a super-cool, memorable vacation will not be happening this year.

You kids don't need a lavish family vacation to have a good summer

As I was lying in bed the other night I was feeling guilty about this and sad for the kids, which made me feel even guiltier. Then I remembered that my kids are 4 (almost 5) and 1 (almost 2)-years-old. I also remembered that when I was growing up super-cool, summer vacations were not the norm. We almost never went on them and my parents had to scrape together their very last dimes to take us anywhere.

Nowadays though, it seems like the family vacation has become another area of life where parents are upping the ante. With all the extreme ways to parent in this day and age, add lavish summer vacations to the list of things people expect you to do – another area of life to plan through a Pinterest board, another chance to one-up each other and another area of life that becomes insanely costly because of that one-upping.

I decided I’m saying no. Sorry. All the other people win and I don’t care.

My kids don’t need fancy family vacations to have the summer of their short lives. They think a super-cool day includes a trip to the zoo and ice cream. They are also perfectly happy spending the day splashing in the water table on the porch or running through the free sprinkler-like splash pads scattered throughout the Chicago suburbs. (You gotta love a good splash pad.)

You kids don't need a lavish family vacation to have a good summer

I’m all for giving my kids experiences, but I just don’t think I have to drag them across the country right now, or each summer, to do it. Not only that but I don’t think I should do it.

I believe they can learn and experience plenty of things right in their own backyard, public library and friend’s living room. I believe those things can be just as fun, if not more fun (especially due to the unneeded stress about packing and prepping for a big vacation) than a lavish vacation.

Am I sad that I couldn’t spend a week at the beach? Absolutely. Do I know that they would have a blast splashing in surf? Definitely. But is it something that we need right now? No.

We need to make it through paying all the hospital bills that have come from major ups and downs with my son. We need to continue to save again after stretching our bank account to keep our daughter in her preschool for four months after I stopped working (which is what paid for her school). Our family needs to wait and see what happens with my husband’s job now that his company is selling off his department to another company. The car needs new tires. Oh and we’re still waiting to find out if those growths on my thyroid are going to turn into bigger problems that need to be taken out. There’s so many more things we need this year than a super-cool vacation.

You kids don't need a lavish family vacation to have a good summer

This summer we just need to survive and I shouldn’t feel guilty about that. My kids will certainly survive and they won’t miss a scary airplane ride or insanely-long road trip.

My kids will be healthy, carefree and spend most of their days trying to get as wet as possible. They’ll read, they’ll draw, hunt bugs and imagine they’re animals in the jungle.

While we’re not going on a super-cool, summer vacation, my kids will still have an amazing and memorable summer right here at home. And the best part is, because I’m not working I’ll be here doing it all with them. After all, it’s not really about where you go. It’s about who you’re with that makes the summer special.

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  1. Great post! In this world of keeping up with every family in the world and constant images of what everyone else is doing it is difficult to be okay with just being where we are at. We love to travel but we also love to spend the day in the backyard. I honestly think the only thing the kids really remember is the togetherness. Enjoy your summer with your babes!! Especially those splash pads!!

  2. I am lucky enough to live in one of the best parts of the country and there is SO much to do right here. We do go to Disney every year, but the rest is here at home.

  3. I agree, it doesn’t matter where you go. It’s all going to be the same for the kids. What makes it memorable are the things that you’re going to be doing together as a family.

  4. I totally agree! We haven’t been able to do a lavish vacation in years, but I always try to plan a few fun things close to home to do with my son. They’re just as memorable!

  5. So true! Kids don’t care how much money you spend, it’s all about memories and they can have fun in a cardboard box!! Just gotta be creative!

  6. You have made so many great points here. Life is all about balancing priorities and the decisions you make now will obviously have a bearing on your future. I think you are right to pay no attention to what others think you should do with your vacation time to measure up to them. They are simply not important in the bigger scheme of things and your kids won’t miss out – they have you and the fun you will create for them regardless of where you happen to be.

  7. Honestly, I think so much of this stems from parents being SO busy all the time that they try to ‘make up’ for it by splurging on fancy vacations. Just being with your kids is enough. We never had fancy summer vacations growing up and I still look back on summers past with fondness.

  8. big or small doesn’t matter. I have always found what matters is the quality of time being spent with the kids. I would rather camp in the yard and have a blast than have some expensive vacation where we don’t really enjoy it b/c we stress over the money spent.

  9. So true, especially it being about who you are with, not where you are going. We aren’t doing a lavish vacation either and I sometimes feel guilty about it, thanks for this reminder!

  10. I so agree, i remember the best vacations i had when i was little were the most chill and relaxed ones. it wasn’t anything lavish or extravagant.

  11. My most memorable summer was the summer when my mom decided that my sister and I could walk to the pool. We went every day we could. We loved the walk to and from as much as the water itself!

  12. This is so true! Summer can always be fun wherever you are and it depends upon your decisions. Dear parents, there are lots of options on how we can make summer vacation more memorable!

  13. Yes!!!! I agree with this whole-heartedly! We’re not taking a vacation this summer and I’m not sorry one bit. There’s so many great ways to enjoy life right where we are (I hope you heard that to the tune of Moana).

  14. It is so sad that parents sometimes have to take these vacations on credit and they wonder why they can’t ever be free of debt. I always say to my kids that we have to live within our means and the lavish vacations for now are something we cant’ do. What a great post this is.

  15. People can go to vacation wherever they want. I took my kids to Mexico because to me the beaches and sand are better than florida or California. It wasn’t lavish. It was fun. We even take road trips to Kansas City yearly for family fun. People should go where they want and where they can afford. Just remember to have fun and create memories.

  16. We’ve never been on a lavish vacation! My kids love staycations or anything we do thats just a bit different than the norm. They are happy even just heading to the zoo for a zoo day.

  17. Don’t get me wrong, I love treating my kids with a trip to Disney and Universal but I agree about the vacations not having to be expensive! It’s all about the experience, for sure!

  18. I feel the same way, Mama. It seems the “competition” in motherhood and parenting has made its way into traveling with your kids. Disneyland was the highlight of my childhood travelings. The rest of my memories were of swimming with friends, ice cream, and malls. It was great. No Costa Rica trips, no Asia excursions would have made it better. Plus, it expensive. I’m happy with staycations! Although I do wish to travel but not for my kids, lol. Although, they can come ?

  19. Children don’t remember how much you spent. They remember that you were all together having a wonderful time. This is a great reminder that we shouldn’t be stressing about planning these big trips and instead be thinking about what we all enjoy to do together most.

  20. You are so right in saying that kids don’t need a lavish vacation! When I was little, my parents didn’t take my anywhere until I was about 10 years old and we went to Yellowstone National Park. I hated every minute of it at the time because it wasn’t the beach or Disney like all my friends were going to. I love looking back at the pictures of that trip now, but I hate that I didn’t appreciate it for what it was then. So I figure with my daughter, I’d rather spend time enjoying what’s local to us because it’ll be a while before she’s old enough to appreciate going on vacations anyway.

  21. It’s so true! If you were to ask my daughter what her favorite things to do during the summer are, playground and pool win. We can go to Disney everyday and she would still say park and pool. We try too
    Hard as parents sometimes

  22. Kids at that age are so simple. Everything is interesting and exciting because they are still learning. As long as you spend quality time with them and they are engaged, they will have a good time. No need to feel guilty about that. In the end, they will remember all the great times they spent with their parents.

  23. You know, the kids won’t remember not being going on the vacation but they will remember how you took care of them. Sometimes you just need to slow down and enjoy the little moments, especially when finances are tight.

  24. There can be so much pressure when it comes to summer. However, it doesn’t have to be filled with fancy and elaborate vacations or places! We have never gone on vacation for summer. Sure, we would like to! But, we are a family of six. We went on our first vacation this winter. It costs a lot to pull everything off! We have made so many fun and great memories, just doing every day things! Finding new parks to play at, going to the library, zoo, or other free activities we can find. Summer is not a competition. Summer is meant to have fun.

  25. My kids would have a blast playing in a cardboard box. As long as they have good snacks and company they are fine! I agree!

  26. I never even thought about it that people are trying to compare vacations. We are going on a big trip this summer, but that isn’t the norm for us. We go to Florida every summer for two weeks, but we have a timeshare there and visit with my parents, so it isn’t really like a lavish vacation for us. You do what you need to do and don’t worry about everyone else!

  27. As a kid who didn’t whose parents didn’t take a vacation until she was 14 when they could afford to bus us down to Disneyland, I don’t think having big planned summers are important. I think finding local things to do is totally fine and those things can be free. Kids don’t need to travel and do things. They just need to be loved and enjoy their time.

  28. We only go on vacation once a year and it’s always on a budget. The only time it was a bit expensive was when we visited my home country last year. It was a much needed vacation though because we haven’t visited them in 7 years.

  29. Great post! We live in Arizona and my husband is a first grade teacher. Naturally, teachers get asked A LOT what fancy vacations they’ll be taking during their summer breaks. The irony is that teachers don’t receive a salary that affords them any fancy vacations. And I can totally relate with the pressure to give our daughter those experiences!
    On another note, my in-laws happily travel to Michigan every summer!

  30. Michigan is a great vacation destination. So much to do and see (I live in Michigan myself). Totally get where you’re coming from with this post. When it comes to having young kids, I never really understood (and I still don’t) why some parents choose to take them on lavish vacations. Just doesn’t really make sense to me, but to each their own!

    Katie |

  31. Ahhh this is such a great post! It is so very true, you don’t need to have a lavish vacation to have fun and experience things. We will be having a summer around the house and the odd trip to Grandmas nothing spectacular but my kids will have fun and they will survive without going to the beach for a week or to camp or this and that.

  32. This is so true. We do a lot of things as a family, from camping to hikes to just hanging out, and those are what the kids remember. It’s funny when we travel, too – they sometimes just go to the playground and aren’t interested in the other things, and it goes to show that those are the things they really enjoy.

  33. This is so important! Every year we visit the same small beach town in California around the same time in the summer. We’ve talked often about how familiarity isn’t exciting and maybe we should change things up. My mind was fully changed hearing an adult friend talk about how excited she was to go on her annual summer vacation with her family. Her entire life she had been visiting the same beach and it was something she loved very much and always looked forward to. Familiarity isn’t boring, it’s a tradition our children will hopefully grow up loving.

  34. I absolutely love taking our kids on a trip to travel somewhere. There is nothing like it and they learn so much from observing how others live and their cultures. However, I agree, you don’t have to go somewhere far away to make it a memorable and fun summer. Sometimes a summer staycation is just what is needed, plus it helps kids enjoy where they live.

  35. Thank you for sharing this reminder that we don’t need too much to be happy! Not only kids, actually all of us haha… I didn’t have crazy vacations when I was younger but I have amazing memories of the time with my family 🙂

  36. I agree with you when it comes to this. In the age of social media though it’s so hard because we are always comparing ourselves/. And the kids are as well. It’s sad but true. But you can have fun even in something where you don’t go anywhere. An adventure can be had every day.


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