Summer has finally arrived and the much-anticipated family beach trip begins today. It’s approximately 8:00 am because if we’re not at the beach shortly after noon, well…that’s not going to go well. One sibling won’t get out of bed and the other has waited until this morning to pack a week’s worth of clothing in an old grocery bag.

Mom is getting ready and Dad is pacing in the driveway trying to figure out the perfect way to arrange each of the 10+ bags and suitcases in the back of the car. Tension is building as the 8:15 am departure time approaches and half of the family has not been seen since they went to bed the night before.

Twenty minutes later we are miraculously in the car and thankful that dad will not be frantically running us through security at the airport because we only have a short, easy, speeding-ticket-filled, “how much longer,” “slow down, honey” drive to the beach.

By definition, a vacation is “a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel.” However, in reality, it seems that vacations often lose the ability to give parents or children the time they need to relax in a world full of cell phones, busy schedules, and unique family dynamics.

Research shows that vacation provides many mental, emotional, and physical benefits to individuals. Vacation time increases productivity and decreases burnout when returning to work. Vacations increase energy levels, improve mood, decrease stress, and improve overall life satisfaction upon returning to work.

Vacations provide an opportunity to rest and recuperate, particularly from chronic stress, which can negatively impact an individual’s health and well-being. Research also suggests that when individuals come back from time off, they feel healthier and have fewer physical complaints. With this in mind, it seems that we should all be begging for more vacation time.

However, a study in 2014 found that working adults in the United States only took 51% of the vacation days they were allotted. Some might find this crazy, whereas others understand the stress and heavy workloads they are leaving behind at the office. In 2014, 61% of American workers reported working while on vacation.

For some, a cell phone or laptop can mean that the stress and workload aren’t left behind, but brought with them… in that case, is a vacation really a vacation? It is important for a vacation not just to be time spent outside of the office, but time away from work as well.

Growing up, vacation time was strictly vacation for my family and rarely was there work being done. Granted, email and cell phones were not nearly as prominent as they are today.

Sometimes, however, there is other “work”, such as ensuring that family members are getting along, lathering sunscreen on the kids, trips to the grocery store, deciding where to eat dinner, or what matching outfits the kids are going to wear that night.  Even though a vacation is meant for fun, relaxation, and quality family time, we often focus on the check list rather than making memories.

My fondest memories growing up are from family vacations – going on new adventures, funny stories and experiences, pictures that will be treasured for a lifetime, and stepping away from daily routines. I’ll always remember the pure bliss of body surfing and boogie boarding at the beach.

Vacations truly are the best times if we allow ourselves to step back, let go, and laugh when things don’t go perfectly. I would encourage you to think of ways to ensure that this summer’s vacation is truly a time of decreased stress, more quality time with family and friends, and FUN. Happy summer!