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Gifting Memories: A Case For Vacations Over Presents

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Presence over presents.

Life can feel pretty materialistic. There are times when it’s best to step away from the online checkout and ask yourself, “Will this REALLY add value to my life?” I’m going to take a wild guess and assume in most cases the answer is no.

There is something that has actually been proven to leave a lasting impression on us: Vacations! Yup, science says that experiential gifts evoke a stronger emotional response than, say, the latest buzzy gadget. According to researcher Cindy Chan, “the fear and awe of a safari adventure, the excitement of a rock concert or the calmness of a spa… is more intensely emotional than a material possession.” Pretty cool, amiright?!

Hip Tip: Traveling on a budget? Check out these 5 ways to save on your next trip!

Photo from Collin’s Peru family vacation

What’s awesome is that this theory applies to really any family experience, whether you choose a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, an annual family trip, or even a staycation, complete with a visit to a local attraction. No matter the location, the time spent together as a family without the chaos of school, work, extracurriculars (and housework) creates the BEST atmosphere for bonding.

Making memories together as a family is priceless. ❤ We still talk about our past trips and laugh about all the funny things that happened. Life is flying by, which makes me feel blessed to have gone on so many memorable adventures with my family.

– Collin

You may be thinking, “Yeah, try telling this to my kids who want the latest and greatest tech to show to their friends.” I completely understand that this idea may not work for all families.

But if you’ve reached the point where young ones are starting to ask for cash rather than items (and if you’re not there yet, trust me, that day is coming), or if they just don’t seem as gracious about gifts as they used to be, it might be a signal to switch up the holiday routine.

Photo from Bryn’s and Collin’s Hawaii family vacation

You could also be thinking, “Well, what are we going to do on Christmas morning without gifts?” Take note of Collin’s sister, Bryn, who’ll make you wish you were a kid in her household with her fun vacation gifting idea!

This past Christmas, we gifted our 3 kids a family vacation to Hawaii for Spring Break! To make it extra fun, I created a scavenger hunt on Xmas morning with tropical themed clues like sunscreen, bathing suits, pineapple candles, etc. The kids had a blast solving the scavenger hunt and then really looked forward to the trip for 3 months – it was fun counting down the days. The trip itself was awesome – we created so many memories and really connected as a family!

– Bryn

How fun is that?! It’s the best of both (vacationing and gifting) worlds! Plus, prolonged excitement for that length of time generally doesn’t come from any material gift.

Hip Tip: Check out how Bryn saved $169 on her vacation rental car using this 5-minute hack!

Need even more reason to ditch the presents? Jeffrey Galak, a Carnegie Mellon professor who studies consumer behavior, explains that “people are starting to realize that items really aren’t that important anymore.” This is especially apparent in the current minimalist movement (we’re looking at you, KonMari organizing and Swedish death cleaning).

lina family vacation to hawaii hip2save

Photo from Lina’s family vacation to Hawaii

As I think through my own experience from holidays past, I can’t even remember what I received for Christmas when I was younger, or if I really even valued those gifts. I CAN tell you all about the family vacations I went on and how grateful I am for those memories. We’ve recently decided as a family to plan a trip to one of our childhood vacation spots and relive all the nostalgia, this time as adults – we’re even more excited now than we were as kids!

It’s so true that the memory of things fade, but the stories of family travel adventures and experiences get better with time – and in the end they are priceless. I also love how experiences form your passions and purpose! I was fortunate to travel a lot as a kid with my dad, and I feel it had a positive effect on my life and perspective. 🌎

– Lina

As for me, if I could choose between moments or things as a gift from my loved ones, it would be moments every time!


Would you consider travel over giving gifts?


Written by Emily for Hip2Save. Emily lives in Buffalo, NY where she spends her time drinking lots of coffee, scouring the internet for deals, and tackling DIY projects. She’s a big believer in self-care and living the fullest life possible, all while saving money of course.

Join The Discussion

Comments 81

  1. Whitney-Leung

    Even if it is a simple outing, it’s a very happy thing to be with your family.

  2. Lisa

    There are some really fun ideas here! We have a large family, and don’t spend much on Christmas. Many gifts are shared, such as outdoor toys and educational things that I truly feel they need. This won’t work for Christmas… BUT… We did do something fun recently that I want to repeat from time to time. We had ” Surprise Day” for our 15 year old’s birthday. There were 3 stops, and each was a surprise: A movie, Go-Karts, and a special burger joint. He even got the surprise of going out of town. 🙂 I think we’ll repeat this occasionally for birthdays. It can be super simple, or more expensive. 🙂

  3. chrissybozz

    My kids really want to go back to Disney this summer…I wanted to do something different (they’ve been there 4x in their lives)…but they both really enjoy it. A friend told me ,”Take them if you can…they won’t be asking to go forever. My son stopped wanting to go when he was in his teens.” Now, I know I’LL never stop asking to go 😉 but I see her point.

  4. thesilverlegacy

    After my first international trip for my 50th birthday, I purchased passports for my five children. I’ve decide gifting travel experiences will be my legacy. 💖

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