This blog post was updated on December 2, 2021.

Winter vacations don’t have quite the same ring as summer vacations that conjure up images of beaches, swimming, and sunscreen. But there’s nothing like winter family vacations to really make the season bright. In fact, it can be argued that a winter vacation is even more important than a summer vacation for a family. After all, when gloomy weather hits, it hits hard — and there’s no better antidote to the freeze than the promise of an escape. Here’s why winter family vacations are way better for you and your kin than any summer trip.

It’s the Perfect Gift

Surprising family with winter vacation

It’s no secret that millennials value experiences over things. That’s why a winter family vacay is the perfect gift for any millennial or millennial family. If you feel like your family has enough “stuff,” consider a vacation instead. Again, it doesn’t have to be expensive. It could be a night or two away at a local cabin or hotel, booking cheap domestic flights to a local attraction, or even the promise of a trip later on in the year — giving ample time for feelings of happiness to bloom in anticipation.

The gift of travel looks different for every family (we wrote all about it here!). Some families are gifted a larger vacation to take later on in the year, some gift surprise trips to their children, and some couples give each other a trip in lieu of gifts. Regardless, the gift of experience — especially one that boosts family ties — is always the perfect present for anyone on your list.

It Gives Everyone a Mental Boost

family playing in the snow

While some suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which causes feelings of depression during the long, cold winter months, a more common feeling is what some psychologists refer to as “the winter slump.” Staying indoors, a decrease in physical activity, and the sun going down earlier than in the summer are all contributors. But traveling during the winter can actually help combat the slump — and give everyone in the family the mental boost they need.

But not all trips are created equal. An article in the Harvard Business Review found that taking time off work can, “make you happier, healthier, and more productive when you return, but only specific kinds of travel produce these results.” Travel stress (or trips that require extensive planning), locations that pose challenges, and people who cause stress can actually make you more unhappy.

All of these factors make winter vacay a must for families. Sure, you could plan a detailed winter vacation. But you don’t need to. You don’t necessarily need to jet off to the Bahamas or someplace warm. Instead, you could soak up the beauty of the mountains and snowy landscapes. This could be as easy as taking a long weekend to a cabin, a cozy rental space nearby, or a ski lodge. No matter how you decide to do it, the act of taking off from work and enjoying time together is one of the best ways to fight the winter blues.

Related: Here are 5 of the Best Winter Vacation Spots in the US for Every Frosty-Weather Fanatic!

You’ll Reconnect with Nature

Family connecting to nature in the win

One reason for the winter slump, psychologists muse, is that we’re more disconnected from nature during the colder months from spending time inside. And most agree that the problem has to do with the body’s lack of daylight. Alison Kerry, part of a mental health charity called Mind says, “With SAD, one theory is that light entering the eye causes changes in hormone levels in the body… It’s thought that SAD sufferers are affected by shorter daylight hours in the winter. They produce higher melatonin, causing lethargy and symptoms of depression.”

Getting the family outdoors can combat these feelings by forcing us to get more sunlight. A beach or tropical vacation can give you plenty of sunlight. But so can sledding, building a snowman, ice-skating, skiing, or just getting outdoors. Since snow reflects light coming from the daytime, it can serve as a sort of light therapy. Unless you’re in a big city, reconnecting with nature doesn’t have to be hard. Getting outside is almost always a positive — but something about getting the family outside together can really help you bond with each other and Mother Nature.

Even Planning a Vacation Creates Positive Feelings

Family planning a vacation

The New York Times analyzed an extensive study on happiness and travel from the Netherlands. They found that there was no relationship between the length of vacation and happiness. However, they did find a boost in happiness from planning and anticipating a vacation. Lead researcher Jeroen Nawjin said, “…you derive most of your happiness from anticipating the holiday trip. What you can do is try to increase that by taking more trips per year. If you have a two week holiday you can split it up and have two one week holidays.”

The planning is half, apparently, if not most of the fun. And it’s a great activity to do as a family. Find out what kind of vacation your family wants and needs and then explore flight deals together. Consider financial restrictions, length of time, and other factors together to come to a satisfactory destination. And then plan details that excite the whole family.

My parents did this by creating mini traditions that came along with our ski trips. My mom always hid small treats in the pockets of our coats, we went hot-tubbing every night in the lodge, and then made microwave popcorn in the room and watched a movie together. These small traditions and details were more important to me than the actual skiing.

You’ll Save Money

Saving money on winter vacation

If you’re able (and willing) to travel outside of the “holiday window” (i.e. Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s), you’ll save money on your family trip. Summer is peak travel time and airline and hotel prices often skyrocket. If you’re willing to avoid these dates and opt for a winter vacation instead, you could save some serious money — or do something more exciting than you would during the summer.

Winter travel is the new family vacay. Summers are full of fun, sun, and family time. But, carving out time in the winter when you’re busy with schedules, school, and work can be even more meaningful. So pack your bags and go somewhere this winter, even for just a night or two.

Have you had any amazing family winter vacations? We want to hear about them in the comments below!

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About The Author

Hey I'm Mandy. Writer, traveler, wife, mother, author, woman, over-sharer. I like to talk about the grit of travel, the beautiful, and the people that I meet. Oh yeah - and traveling with kids.