Do you struggle with what to get family members for their birthdays? Christmas? Can you remember what gifts you were given as a child? How about last year? I can’t either. Now, do you remember your family vacations when you were a child? These you probably remember a lot better! I don’t know about you, but in my house, my children never know what to ask for when it comes to birthdays and Christmas. Like most people, they have all the things they both need and want. Every birthday and Christmas they are spoiled rotten with things, that they are really excited about getting, but forget about within a week. Then they barely remember they have that thing a week later. When my parents or husband needs something, they go buy it for themselves, so they never need anything as gifts…it all becomes frustrating, especially to a person who loves giving gifts much more than receiving. What can be done about this? How about giving someone memories!! I was once told that the most precious gift I could give someone is my time, so that is exactly what we started giving our children. In a hustle bustle world with many distractions, I found that we were spending less meaningful time together and we needed to change that.
In our house, we have 3 birthdays within 5 days, so that time of year became almost as stressful as Christmas! When my youngest was 4, rather than give the children more things, the gift we gave them was a birthday extravaganza. Our budget was small, so we started with a local weekend trip, and it was fantastic!! We are blessed to live near Washington, D.C. a city that has tons to do, for relatively little cost. We stayed in a hotel downtown, went to the zoo, had a picnic and went to a baseball game. Six years later, my kids still ask for another birthday extravaganza, but I guarantee they cannot remember one thing they got that same year.
Over time, our budget has slowly grown, and we have continued to move away from giving things and focused more on experiences. Consistently, our go-to gift is travel. Why, you may ask? We find that we spend the most quality time together when we travel, really connecting and enjoying each others company. Plus it’s a chance for all of us to de-stress and learn about other cultures, history, animals, and geography.
Several Christmases ago we went for the big one, a Walt Disney World® vacation, and decided to do a surprise reveal. The kids didn’t even notice how we Mickey-themed everything that day until we had them figure out a word scramble telling them where they were going. Even then, it took time for it to actually sink in, but when it did, there was no stopping the excitement! The trip itself was even better as their grandparents got to share in the memories. Even if the children don’t remember all the details, all the adults certainly have many memories they treasure much more than anything material!
The next Christmas we had Mickey Mouse call and reveal that we were going on a Disney Cruise!! We thought our time and memories we made at Walt Disney World® were amazing, but the Disney Cruise was even more fabulous!! The best part about the cruise? No WiFi or cell phone service (we didn’t pay for either of these services, but they are available through your cell phone carrier and the cruise line). We had absolutely no outside distractions, ate every meal together, and did so many things as a family. What a wonderful gift! Plus our children met other kids from different parts of the country and the world. It is amazing to watch two children who don’t speak the same language play every day!
I know you all have a bucket list, so think of one of the places on that list that you would love to go. Now imagine giving someone you love the opportunity to have that experience, it will make your heart explode. My husband comes from a family of golfers, and for those of you that aren’t golfers, Scotland is the home of golf and is on the bucket list of almost every golfer I have ever met. I had the opportunity to surprise my golfer with the trip of a lifetime this past year – the gift of a golf trip to Scotland for my husband and father-in-law, and two of my two brothers-in-law. I’m fairly certain that none of them ever thought they would actually go on this trip, let alone getting to do it together…it’s the ultimate boys trip. There were lots of tears and a group hug, and I’m sure memories will be made to last a lifetime. This makes me think of another bit of advice I was given…that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer, and you will never regret spending money on.
Not all gifts of travel need to be large, expensive trips – it can be anything that provides the opportunity to just spend time with your favorite people. A night away as a surprise can provide joy to both the giver and the receiver. I can tell you that I have NEVER had buyers remorse when spending money on the opportunity to spend time with family. The gift of travel is the ultimate opportunity to give someone your time and some amazing memories!!
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