Family adventures aren’t just fun. They can also improve both your physical and mental well-being. But sometimes it can be hard to justify the cost of travel, especially in today’s economy. Think of a family vacation as an investment in your health. Not only will you create memories for yourself, your spouse and your kids, but you’ll benefit from getting outside your routine and seeing what else life has to offer.
If you’re looking for an excuse to pack the car and see the world, check out these nine vacation ideas. Each has the potential to improve your health.
#1) Escape the winter doldrums with a beach vacation.
People living in northern areas often experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s a real health condition that involves feeling down and depressed during the winter months.
Medical professionals use a mix of approaches to treat patients with SAD, including light therapy, talk therapy and antidepressant medications.
A beach vacation isn’t on that list, but it may not hurt! Escaping to a warmer climate could do wonders for your body and mind.
Before the trip, focus on the excitement of what’s to come. People with SAD are often advised to participate in fun activities, even when they don’t feel like it. For you, that might mean throwing yourself into vacation planning.
Once on your trip, shed your heavy layers and enjoy the feeling of warmth on your skin once again. Paired with regular SAD therapies, a week on the beach may help you power through to winter’s end.
#2) Elevate your heart rate with mountain hikes.
Not everyone likes to sit still on vacation. If you prefer to be on the go, channel your energy into fitness activities. Hiking is a prime example.
A hike could be an excellent workout for your cardiovascular system. When you hit the trails, it won’t take long to get your blood pumping. Aim for your heart rate to reach about 50% of your maximum heart rate.
State and national parks boast a vast selection of hiking trails with options for every experience level. Even in the mountains, you’ll find both smooth paths and rugged trails. No matter what you choose, there’s sure to be incredible scenery to enjoy.
#3) Engage your brain on historical tours.
Learning new things is good for your brain. It’s like a workout for your mind. Research suggests that being a lifelong learner may slow some of the natural brain changes that usually come with aging.
You’re sure to learn new things when you take historical tours. Back in your school days, you probably studied history from dry textbooks. Going to the places where history was made will bring the past to life in new ways. Exploring alongside a knowledgeable tour guide can be even more enlightening.
You might pick up new trivia, realize how various events connect or even rethink your long-held assumptions. Whatever the result, your brain will thank you.
#4) Give yourself a break on a cruise ship.
Life is busy. And juggling multiple balls in the air really wears a person down. The stress of it all can be hard on the body, too. Chronic stress can lead to upset stomachs, migraines and heartburn.
Sometimes, you just need to let go of all the worries of life and indulge in a week of R&R. Cruise ships are designed for such an experience.
Most modern cruise ships offer a wide variety of activities to suit every family’s tastes. On a ship, you can lounge by the pool or play interactive games. Plus, with dining included, you can enjoy family-pleasing meals without the work of cooking and kitchen cleanup.
Cruises often provide spaces just for kids and teens as well. That’s great for anyone whose ideal family vacation includes both togetherness and alone time. And for harried parents, an adults-only afternoon could make the cruise worth every penny.
#5) Build muscle on the ski slopes.
To give your muscles a workout, hit the slopes. Coasting down snow-covered hills will engage your whole body. Some of the primary muscles used for skiing are found in your core, your legs and your feet. At the end of a day on the slopes, you’re sure to feel how hard you’ve worked.
The health benefits of a ski vacation may even begin long before your trip. U.S. Ski & Snowboard recommends getting ready for the season with a variety of muscle-training exercises. They include squats, sidesteps, hip extensions and cable kicks. Stability bands and resistance bands can enhance the effects.
#6) Strengthen your bond on thrill rides.
Amusement parks are designed for making memories. They’re carefully crafted environments where families can find fun and adventure around every corner. From the food to the rides, every element contributes to the experience. So pick a theme and find a park to match.
Such a trip can be good for your family bond. Relationship and parenting experts say that shared experiences build strong families.
Long after returning home, you’ll still remember your family’s gasps of delight during the nighttime fireworks display. Your kids may tell again and again what it was like to hug a favorite character. Hilarious on-ride photos will remind you of the breathtaking thrill of a high-speed roller coaster. Such memories will become part of your family identity and the bond you share.
#7) Soak up the sun in a southern city.
Among its many benefits and functions, vitamin D helps us retain calcium, crucial for building bone. And while vitamin D is fairly common in food and supplements, time in the sun is the most effective way to get your daily dose of this essential nutrient. That’s because sunlight stimulates your skin to produce this vitamin.
If you’ve spent the winter months hunkered down at home, your time in the sun has probably suffered. But a trip to a warmer part of the country could turn things around.
Not a waves and sand person? Try an urban vacation destination instead. In a southern U.S. city, you could spend the week dining, shopping, strolling and exploring. All the while, you’ll soak up vitamin-boosting rays in a climate that’s typically more pleasant than other parts of the country this time of year.
#8) Connect with nature in a cozy cabin.
People need green spaces. Research shows that time in nature is good for both kids and adults. For children, the benefits include stronger brainpower and more self-control. Adults may experience lower stress levels and longer attention spans. Across all age groups, exposure to nature simply makes people happier.
If you’re ready for some nature therapy, take a cabin vacation. Every day, you’ll wake up with the natural world right outside your door.
Taking your family into the woods for a week doesn’t have to mean leaving all comforts behind. Cabins come in all shapes and styles. Many even feature modern conveniences. That includes furnaces to keep you toasty in the winter months.
#9) Expand your horizons with an international adventure.
The world is a big, diverse place. Vacations provide the opportunity to venture beyond your corner of the globe.
Traveling abroad sometimes brings culture shock. That may sound scary at first, but it can be a good thing. You’ll grow as a person as you experience how other people think and live. You may also learn to see the world from another point of view.
An international adventure is also an opportunity to try new things. Maybe you’ll sample an unusual food. You might zip-line through the jungle or observe a religious ceremony. Back home, you’ll recall how you bravely stepped out of your comfort zone. That might even embolden you to tackle new challenges — including future vacation adventures.