Recently, we polled our friends and readers to ask if they’ve ever given an experience, trip or other gift that wasn’t just another thing. You get what I am talking about right? The months and months of shopping for just the right present to be unwrapped only to be forgotten about at the bottom of a toy box or the back of a closet with in a matter of time.
Experiences to do as a family or a group tend to mean so much more and create lasting memories. There are certainly creative ways to give these gifts, and of course there will still be unwrapping on the big day, but your house won’t be overrun with things that don’t see the light of day.
All of the suggestions below are ideas and experiences that readers and friends have done for their own families with smashing success.
Things to unwrap:
Even if you give the gift of experience, there can still be lovely presents to unwrap on the big day
Gear for the trip:
I don’t know about the kids in your family, but the camps that they want to attend seem to get more and more expensive each year. So why not give the gift of their camp being paid for?
This is always a fun one and frankly pretty self explanatory. Even if your kids don’t love the same music that you do, it would be fun to indulge them and make memories together even if you have to hide your eye rolls at their choice in music.
One of my readers said that she purchased passes for her children to go indoor skydiving and they loved doing it!
This is a tricky one, it will involve coordinating with the parents ahead of time (if you are not the parents/guardians of the child receiving the lessons.) I had a reader share that she purchased gymnastics lessons for her grandchild and paid for them 3 months in advance.
This is where the tricky part comes in, there will need to be a conversation around what happens after the prepaid time period ends and the child still likes it. Will the person gifting continue? Are the parents ok with taking over the responsibility in cost? Or does the child need to know upfront that this is a limited time experience?
Tickets to see a sports team:
Both of my kiddos are huge sports fans. One year Santa brought tickets to my youngest for a football bowl game and we made a day of it.
My other son is a huge fan of a team that isn’t near us, so often I check to see if they are playing anyone that is within driving distance.
Tickets to places to visit while on vacation:
This suggestion is a smart one, for several reasons, first and foremost, it gives a tangible ‘thing’ to unwrap but additionally if you have a lot of the activities planned in advance, you’ll also be pay for that portion of the trip prior to going so it’s one less thing to budget for.
The luggage that we have is piecemeal and frankly, my youngest still uses a suitcase better suited for a toddler. So luggage for the family, packed with what everyone will need for the trip would be a fun way to reveal the adventure!
Places to Visit:
Below you’ll find ideas that our readers have shared as places that they’ve taken their families in lieu of giving gifts. Of course we had to share our experiences in those places as well!
Great Wolf Lodge:
Great Wolf Lodge is a family favorite and has so much to offer to kids of all ages. We’ve even written a full guide to Great Wolf Lodge.
Several Spring Breaks ago, we surprised our kids with a trip to Great Wolf Lodge. They had no idea that it was in the works!
We’ve detailed out what can be done in Chicago with kids, specifically while on Spring Break but it doesn’t matter what time of year you visit!
If you visit around Christmas time there is so much to do! The German Christmas festival called The Christkindlmarket, ice skating and more!
Chicago Beach, did you even know that Chicago had a beach? Well it does! The North Avenue Beach is one of Chicago’s most popular beaches. It offers spacious sands, awesome beachfront bars, and it is very close to other top attractions!
When we think of classic Christmas, New York City tops that list. We’ve created a New York City Christmas Bucket list. Think ice skating in Rockefeller Plaza and all the gorgeous window displays and so much more!
Frankly it is all just the tip of fun that you can have while in town. See a Broadway show, visit the Statue of Liberty, go to the Central Park Zoo and so much more!
We’ve spent some time in St. Louis and loved our time there. There is so much fun to be had in St. Louis and some of it even for free!
Gatlinburg/ Pigeon Forge
The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee are so iconic and many people each year flock to the mountains year round to take in the beauty and all of the different activities.
If you want to stay in a cabin in the Smoky Mountains, instead of staying in a hotel, here’s what you need to know about booking a cabin in the Smoky Mountains.
Thinking about going to Dollywood while you are in that area? We’ve written a guide to Dollywood as well.
As you may or may not realize, there is so much to see and do in Washington DC!
From the iconic Cherry Blossom festival that happens in peak blooming season, to just seeing all of the monuments that hold so much history with them and everything in between!
We haven’t been fortunate enough to visit Mackinac Island, yet, we have plans to change that! One friend shared that she and her family visited The Grand Hotel which is exactly as it sounds, grand and lovely!
It is important to note that The Grand Hotel is a seasonal property and their season begins in early May.
The fact that there are no cars on the island has been a notable tidbit that cause conversation among tourists. We also hear that no visit to Mackinac Island is complete with out the famous fudge!
Several of our readers mentioned that they go on cruises for their experience gifts. There are so many different types of cruises with a ton of different destinations and lengths. We’ve been fortunate enough to explore the Harmony of the Seas.
Haven’t ever cruised before? Here’s what we think you need to know before you go on your first cruise.
Places to go near home:
My kids ask to go bowling often and it is something that we have fun in the moment when we do it, but it just doesn’t come up in our every day list of activities. So to be given a gift certificate to go bowling they would love it!
Arcade Gift Certificate:
My kids love a local chain near us called Malibu Jacks, and one year a family friend gave them a very generous gift card to play all of the games that their heart desires. In addition a lot of the arcade type places also have mini golf and go karts as well so it isn’t just video games.
If you don’t have a Malibu Jacks near you, we also love Dave and Buster’s.
Is it just me or does a night at the movies cost about a million dollars now? So movie tickets or a gift certificate to go to the movies is such a nice gift and a great way to spend time together as a family.
So many different users mentioned that they give or receive season passes each year. Either to a local amusement park, to the zoo, or a museum that you and your family love.
Our family used a zoo membership every year and it was such a great gift, because if we only wanted to go and see the giraffes it was fine, the membership was paid for and we weren’t obligated to feel like we had to get our money’s worth.
No matter what you choose to give this year, hopefully these ideas helped make the daunting task of gift giving just a bit easier!