The lost art of a “family holiday”

Early in our marriage, before kids were bumbling around like honey bees, I found myself reading some general living books from the 1950s era (and some recent ones too). Let’s face it, after we have kids, none of us really have time to read any of those instructional parenting books anymore, right?

I don’t remember any of their advice for raising children or building a healthy family. What I remember, though, was the habit of taking a family holiday every summer. It was like Baby’s family in the movie Dirty Dancing (now I am really dating myself…) The whole movie was based around her family spending the summer at a lake/lodge/camp in the midwest.

And this alone should tell you a little bit about myself… Books and books of “how to raise well adjusted children” and all I recall is people going on vacation!

I asked my mom about such resorts once. Yes, they did exist. And every summer, families would flock to their favorite lakeside resort for weeks of time spent relaxing, exploring, paddling, and swimming together.

It seems our current culture has lost the art of a family “holiday.” Instead of escaping together, we send our kids off to summer camp by themselves!

One of my favorite adventure writers, Brendan Leonard, says this: “Americans left 169 million paid vacation days on the table in 2014. The average American gets about 10 paid days off per year, plus six federal holidays, which is 16 days per year. Four out of 10 of us used zero of those days last year.” (Why Are You Not Using All Your Vacation Days?;

For ten years now Chris and I have wished in our hearts we could model something similar to the “family holidays” of old. For us it comes less from a need to “do nothing” for long amounts of time, and more from a desire to adventure and explore new places. To fully immerse ourselves in the environment of a new place and to do it together as a family.

Contrary to what you might believe, we haven’t always been successful in taking time away. In fact, this was our first EVER family vacation to Zion National Park… when our oldest daughter was five years old. That means for 6+ years we had never taken a vacation (other than visiting family during the holiday season)!

Hiking to Emerald Pool, Zion

One year later we decided to push it a little further, taking our first two week vacation, starting at Red Rocks Natural Reserve near Las Vegas and ending with seven nights of camping near Moab, UT.

Nevada outdoors

We learned something that trip – that two weeks was indeed better than one! Usually it takes your whole vacation to unwind from the stress of work and school. After week 1 we could finally relax and enjoy each other. Our kids were happier. Our family was more united.

Fast forward three years and now we were ready once again to push open the flaps of the box we had enclosed ourselves in. Our wanderlust radar was [still is] on high. The busyness of the last few years was pressing in. We needed a family holiday.

And this year we wanted it to be 4 weeks. Yes, FOUR weeks.

Mostly we want to capitalize on the stage of life we find ourselves in. Working from home and home schooling our kids allows a ton of flexibility, and should this end one day, I don’t want it to be said we didn’t take advantage of it! Now sure, it wasn’t four solid weeks of free time. There were work and school days scattered throughout every week. But we were in a new place, doing it together.

Mostly, I want to be fully immersed in a new landscape. To learn of its inhabitants, its trails, smells and sounds. To become, if even for a short time, a part of it, instead of apart from it.

We hoped to re-find the significant things amidst the beautiful beaches and deep pine forests… away from the normal social obligations that fill our time. And we succeeded.

To join our journey and see what we learned, follow along here and more indepth on Instagram: @alyssa_kidproject

Running free at sunset in Lake Tahoe


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5 comments on “The lost art of a “family holiday”
  1. Finally got around to reading this post as it’s been sitting in my inbox as unread….glad I didn’t delete it. I totally concur – 2 weeks should be minimum as it really takes that long to feel like you’ve rested… But not normally doable unfortunately. In the past year, I switched to a 20-hr a week job and Dave went part-time hourly at design firm he works for. It’s allowed us to do more long 4-day weekends and we just took our second full-week vacation this year (all have been either camping or staying with friends/family since two part time jobs don’t really bode well for fancy vacations…). Being able to take Lucy (age 4) on adventures and exploring new cultures (does Canada count as a new culture?) is likely teaching her lessons we won’t realize until she’s older.

    You guys should put Glacier on your adventure list and we’ll show you around!! 🙂

  2. It’s so hard to find the time and the funds, but so important! We have been subsisting on a steady diet of mini-vacations for years. We’re trying to save up enough to take a year OFF and sail full-time. I know it sounds nuts, but with the kids still young and our chronic wanderlust, we feel like a grand ADVENTURE will be the only cure for our itchy feet. Can’t wait to check out all your adventure entailed!

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