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According to surveys, Americans didn’t take half of the vacation days that they were allocated at work in 2017. That’s an estimated $66.4 billion in lost benefits—or to put it another way: “Employees donated an average of $604 to their employer.” But the real costs may be borne by families. Because vacations improve families’ lives by reducing stress, improving family functioning and more.

Studies have shown that vacations increase family bonding and improve communication. Vacation travel increases children’s sense of well-being and reduces stress in parents and children. Time away in nature has particular benefits: It boosts cognitive functions such as the ability to concentrate.

Interestingly, parents and kids don’t look for the same things in an ideal vacation. Parents want to relax. Kids want three things:


  1. fun engaging activities;
  2. a balance of novelty and security—having new experiences and learning new skills in a safe environment; and
  3. connection—presence of their immediate family.


Vacationing kids want time with their parents, but then to go off by themselves for a short adventure. They want to be free from responsibilities of the day-to-day.

This may seem like a tall order, but family camp programs may be a great way to fill this bill: Consider a camp like the Catskills’ Frost Valley YMCA Camp.

With its 5,500 wooded acreage and a schedule filled with activities to choose from, Frost Valley programs are at once fun and educational, with sessions for the family and tailored to kids’ ages. There are opportunities to learn skills, with classes in outdoor survival training (from map and compass reading to building a fire and a shelter), gardening, nutrition and cooking, candlemaking, pottery and upcycled arts and crafts. Families can make all-natural lip balm and soap from ingredients grown in the camp’s own greenhouse. Then spend the evening at a talent show or an astronomy class under a starry sky.

And cold temperatures are no reason the fun should stop – that’s when Frost Valley really shines! In the winter, there’s cross-country skiing, ice skating, broomball on a pond and ice fishing on a lake. Kids will spend Presidents’ Day holiday enjoying indoor archery and rock climbing, and hikes to a majestic Frozen waterfall or hunting for Sasquatch! Kids may or may not find Bigfoot, but they’ll definitely get to explore the forest and learn about plants and wildlife along the way.

Meanwhile, for older kids and parents to unwind, Frost Valley offers stretch and meditation sessions, woodworking and art projects, trivia and game nights, soap and tea making and, of course, evening campfires.

When offerings such as Frost Valley’s give families everything they want— adventure, new experiences, independence and time to share it—it’s not surprising to hear that, in a study of family camps, 85% of parents reported that camp vacations had reinforced their family relationships. Really, at this point, the only surprising finding is that some parents still skip vacation days, when they could be with their kids at sleepaway camp. But we think that will start to change, in this New Year!  Learn more: www.frostvalley.org/weekends



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