Winter vacations don’t have quite the same ring as summer vacations that conjure 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 Gives Everyone a Mental Boost

 Why winter family vacations are a great idea: portrait of happy family blowing winter 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.

Which is why the winter vacay is so necessary. Sure, you could plan a detailed winter vacation. But you don’t need to. Winter travel, at least for me growing up, was the easiest kind. We didn’t jet off to the Bahamas or someplace warm. Instead, we soaked up the beauty of our own mountains and made several small trips throughout the winter. This could be as easy as taking a long weekend to a cabin, a cozy rental space nearby, or my personal favorite — a ski lodge. No matter how you decide to do it, the act of taking off work and enjoying time together is one of the best ways to fight the winter blues.

You’ll Reconnect with Nature

One reason for the winter slump, psychologists muse, is that we are 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 those 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. As a kid, we skied in the mountains of Utah nearly every weekend. I’ll never forget those cold days, eating oranges on the ski lift next to my dad, my three sisters and I all crowded around one cup of steaming hot chocolate. 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


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. Decide together what kind of vacation your family wants and needs. 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.

It’s the Perfect Gift

It’s no secret that millennials value experiences over things. Which is 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, a weekend trip 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 boost family ties — is always the perfect gift for anyone on your list.

You’ll Save Money


If you’re able (and willing) to travel outside of the “holiday window” (i.e. Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years), 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 and sun and family time. But carving out time in the winter, when you’re busy with schedules and school and work can be even more meaningful. So pack your bags and go somewhere this winter, even for just a night or two.

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About The Author

Mandy Voisin

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.