Want Priceless Memories? Gift Experiences, Not Things…

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More Gift Ideas

I’m diving into why I think vacation and experience gifts will benefit your entire family!

two people sitting on cliff rock in mountains

Ever consider experience gift ideas for the holidays? Change your traditions with a vacation or experience gifts that the entire family will love!

family wearing matching black and white christmas jammies

Life can feel pretty materialistic sometimes. I know there are countless times when I’m thinking of what to buy my kids for the holidays and ask myself, “Will this REALLY add value to their life?” 🤔

In most cases, the answer is no. With the holiday season approaching, and with them getting older and much harder to please, this is something I think about often.

However, studies show there are gifts that have proven to leave a lasting impression on us and that is…experience gifts! 🙌🏻

Studies show that experience gifts can foster stronger relationships than material items and that they evoke a stronger emotional response than any material item. 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.”. Another study even shared how 78% of millennials would rather spend money on experiences. 👏🏻

family standing at disney
Photo from Lina’s Disney vacation.

In 2016, Psychology Professor Thomas Gilovich from Cornell University made four studies on the subject over decades and came to the conclusion that happiness is derived from experiences, not things. Thinking about this made me realize the most awesome moments in my life come from experiences and memories, not material objects!

family together in front of sunset

Making memories together as a family really is priceless. We still talk about our past trips and laugh about all the funny things that happened that I know we’ll never forget.

Realizing how quickly life is flying by sure makes me feel blessed and grateful to have gone on so many memorable adventures with my family.

Here are some other benefits to giving experience gifts over things:

  • You’ll experience more happiness. The happiness from a material item will fade over time, but the happiness you receive from experiences will last a lifetime.
  • Relationships will be strengthened. You’ll not only find a deeper connection with yourself, but you’ll strengthen bonds with others.
  • They’re more unique and special. All experience gift ideas are unique to everyone and will feel customized to the individual and their interests making these types of gifts more meaningful than ever
  • Experience gifts are everlasting. Material items typically don’t last forever, especially things like toys, and at some point, they’ll become donated. Memories are something everyone will cherish forever.
two kids on vacation in Africa

I hope my kids will carry the tradition of making memories with their own kids someday. ❤️

We were placed on this earth to have relationships with (and love) PEOPLE… not THINGS.

With the holiday season approaching, giving experience gift ideas on Christmas is such a meaningful idea. Plus, it gives everyone something to look forward to post-holidays! So many of our team members can attest to this.

disney family vacation
Photo from Liza’s Disney World family vacation.

While a new television or cell phone might seem like a more lasting value at the time, an experience gift like a Disney vacation or even a weekend road trip will provide more long-lasting memories, and in the end more happiness. 🥰

Plus, your kids will remember that vacation for years and may even share it with their kids and grandchildren. I mean who doesn’t remember grandma’s stories of that “one time when we went…”? 😆

Here’s what my Hip sidekick, Sara, shared about her experience gifts from Christmas and birthdays:

Family vacation experiences over objects
Photo from Sara’s Virginia family vacation.

“I always encourage my kiddos to ask for these types of gifts and as they get older, they’re realizing they enjoy these ‘gifts’ so much more than a plastic toy.

Last Christmas, they asked for a membership renewal to our pool for one of their 4 Gift Rule gifts and we went multiple times a week throughout the whole summer. We made so many memories together as a family that you truly can’t put a price on it.”

two people hugging in front of huge waterfall

We don’t stop at the holidays either. For birthdays, I always give my kiddos a choice on a bigger ask (a toy, etc.), a small party with friends, or a getaway trip (within reason).

I was thrilled the year my middle son asked for a trip to Virginia. Just staying in a hotel for two nights made them feel so special and they loved the simplest things like getting to swim in the hotel pool, visiting places they have never been to, and eating at new restaurants.

For my partner’s 40th birthday, I surprised him with a trip to one of his favorite cities. We spent nearly a week hiking and building a stronger bond through the quality time we got to enjoy together.

These are all memories we still talk about and I wouldn’t trade them for any material item in the world.” – Sara

inside of RVShare camper
Photo from Lina’s RV Share family vacation.

There are smart ways to do vacation gifts on a budget!

Put aside money towards an “experience trip” where you can help others and give your family a perspective on the world.

Take them camping and teach them useful life skills or head to the beach this summer and build the biggest sandcastle together. It really can be all about the simple things and not going on extravagant expeditions.

lina and family at airbnb
Photo from Lina’s family staycation.

Don’t just take it from us. Here’s some feedback from Hip readers who’ve given vacation gifts over objects:

“I started an experience gift ideas fund for my family by using cash back apps like Ibotta, Checkout 51, & Mobi. I refrain from all the great deals (toys) unless there’s a birthday coming up. My kids deserve experiences, not just a bunch of stuff. In the end, all they care about is how much time you spent with them when growing up anyways.” – Kristy

“I live by this philosophy. Before I started doing this, I was going broke trying to buy things that didn’t matter and I wanted to keep up and have the latest, greatest everything. One day, I realized the money I was wasting could go towards living a fulfilling life and making memories.

I just got back from a trip to Glenwood Springs, CO where I conquered my fear of heights and made memories that will last a lifetime. Giving up things for memories is something I definitely do not regret. I can look back at the pictures of my memories, while the things will be long gone and donated.” – Cara

“For my nieces and nephews, at Christmas, I make them a ‘gift certificate’. Each year it’s different. I have given them a dozen cookies, batches of ice cream, pies, etc. They get to pick the kind/flavor, I will teach them/help them make it, and they get to redeem it when they want it with a 24hr notice – I supply the ingredients.

I love it because I get to spend one on one time with them teaching them a fun skill and they love it because they get to come up with and create something that is just for them. It’s a fun and money-saving idea that gives them something they will always remember.” – Teah

brothers and sister about to get on helicopter

The family bonding we’ve experienced while on vacation truly is priceless. ❤️

Need some vacation ideas? Here’s how you can plan a memorable family RV trip.

Join The Discussion

Comments 46

  1. Kay

    I gift Triple A every year. I do the plus membership because you just never know when you might lock your keys in your car.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      So smart! Love this idea!

      • Sophia

        Can you guys please help me with a best way to book a trip to disney, any tips, travel agencies or any advice to have a better experience, thank you in advance 🐭

        • Claudette (Hip Sidekick)

          Hey Sophia!! You can find some ways to save on Disney tickets here. Hope that’s helpful!!💗

          • Sophia

            Thank you

            • Claudette (Hip Sidekick)

              You’re most welcome!!🥰

          • Sophia

            Thank you so much

        • becca

          Sophia – you can also google Facebook groups -there are great boards where people share their planning ideas. Hope that helps.

  2. Lisa

    Such an amazing teaching moment. We figured this out several decades ago. We are done with “stuff, things, gizmos, and gadgets.” Have told our now adult kids ever since they were in their teenage years, please, please, please, do not give us “stuff.” We’d rather have the “gift” of experiences, a phone call, the gift of their time. We just got back from a family vacation (paid for because we don’t give “stuff” to one another), and it was the most amazing hit. So many people have said that it was the trip of a lifetime. Thank you for sharing your family’s journey’s, Collin, stressing the importance of experiences.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      I sure appreciate the comment and couldn’t agree with you more – priceless memories are the absolute BEST! ❤️

  3. Materof6

    I LOVE this! For the past few years, we gift our 7 (soon to be 8) kids with a “gift of time”. For our ballet gal, it may be tickets to a special performance in a big city, for our outdoorsy kid, a “survival weekend” with a bushcrafting group at a nearby National Park. Even though they get some things, it’s rewarding to see our heart shine through that “people matter more than things.” I super appreciate how Hip2Save has posted this as well as “paying forward” and “giving back” posts as we approach the holidays. You model that too with your giveaways! Thank you!!!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      I love that you do “gift of time” gifts! I bet your kids look forward to those gifts the most. Thanks for taking the time to comment. ❤️🤗

  4. krystina

    What National Park is in Lina’s photo?

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for asking Krystina! I just checked on this with Lina! Here is what she let me know! – “Glacier National Park – Hike to Avalanche Lake – highly recommend!”

      • krystina

        Thanks Amber!

        • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

          You bet!

  5. Rebekkah

    We have started gifting family memberships to local zoos and attractions for family members. This allows the “gift” to be used year round and locally.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      Love this idea!!

      • Terri

        A bonus gift (with I’m guessing many zoos since the Kansas City membership is such) is a zoo membership includes not just free entry into your member zoo, but free or reduced admission to a plethora of other zoos across the nation. Check out you local zoo’s website for membership details.

        • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

          Thanks for mentioning that, Terri! I love the KC Zoo! 🤗❤️

    • Hipgrandma

      We started doing this with our grandkids a few years ago because they had too many toys. So far we have gifted a hotel with water park weekend, state parks pass and campsite fees, YMCA classes. This year will be some time at Y summer camp. They get toys and things from other family members so this works for us (and them) I think

      • becca

        Those are awesome gifts from a grandparent!!! My husband and I now have a 21 and 19 year old and we say someday when we are grandparents those are definitely the type of gifts we will be giving.

  6. mb228c

    Collin holy crap how did your kids get so big I remember piper being so little when I started following you so were mine now mine are 12 and 10 thanks girl love all the hard work

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      Right??? Where does the time go… seriously!! 😥

      And thank you so much for being such a loyal follower through all of the years. ❤️

  7. L A B

    I wholeheartedly agree with this. Years ago, when I was is middle school, our house was burglarized over Christmas and what I remember most is how our family came together. I don’t remember thinking about what was lost but what was gained, a greater perspective. Things come and go but having the love and security of your family is what truly matters. My family gifted me experiences and it was as I got older that I learned that not everyone had that experience growing up. I also think it positively impacted my ability to relate to some many different people as I grew up because if nothing else, it is always a point of discussion to talk about the time I went to…. I love this post, great food for thought!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      I love, love, love your comment, especially this part –
      “Things come and go but having the love and security of your family is what truly matters.”

      This is so very true! ❤️

  8. Heather

    Amen! Supply chain issues? What supply chain issues? There are no supply chain issues when we gift experiences! This year we are gifting a vacation again and it never disappoints our3 kiddos!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      LOL!! 😆 Yes, to THIS! 🙌

  9. Tonya S

    Thank you for this wonderful post! I couldn’t agree more. Love equals spending time together. I felt impressed last May to take my 8 year old daughter up to visit my parents for a week. She missed school but got to surprise her grandparents that she was flying up. My parents knew I was coming but not her. The look on their faces was priceless and captured on video. My dad passed away in July so that was the last time Jessica got to see him. 🥰. No regrets

    • Amanda7141

      I am so glad you and your daughter got to go and experience that moment. I am sorry for your loss 💕

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      I’m SO very sorry for your loss. 💕 Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Super glad you were able to make that last trip.

  10. didi18

    Am I the only one shedding a tear here? Love the stories and idea that experiences spent together is much greater than a gadget or toy. ❤

  11. LG

    I was doing this pre-covid year! Broadway shows, concerts – making memories is what it’s all about! There are a lot of FUN experiences you could gift – zoo memberships, gym memberships (I need that one this year 🤣), water park season passes. Just make sure the person is interested before making such a splurge. I did tickets to Darcy Lyn this year for the family – I hope they enjoy it!!!

  12. ME

    Lina, which national park is that in the photo? So beautiful!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi there! Lina did let me know that is the Glacier National Park. (Hike to Avalanche Lake)

  13. Melissa


    Travel Agent here. I love this article and I absolutely wholeheartedly agree that travel is a great way to bond, share memories, and change up your scenery.

    I just wanted to talk about the recommendation for Costco travel because I get SO many people that reach out to me for help and I’m unable to help them. If you’re planning a trip like Disney or something where you will likely need a daily itinerary please reach out to a travel agent. The big box stores do not specialize in these locations and are usually not able to help with booking additional experiences. A vacation is an investment and you should work with someone that will help you get the most for your money. Feel free to email us at info@everaftervacations.com.

  14. Hannah

    We’ve encouraged the grandparents to do this for our 4 boys each year and we love it! We live in Hawaii, so there are many cool tourist-type of outings that we locals don’t take the time to do. Our kids LOVE getting to do these things with grandma & grandpa and the memories they make are priceless.

  15. Holly

    Travel is educational! Bottom line.

    This year alone we took the kids (from RI) to Maine, South Carolina, Tennessee, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Montana, New York and Puerto Rico!

    We bought a smaller house and I bargain hunt because travel is so important to us. Its our responsibility to show our kids the world as much as we can. And I do our travel all on a budget! it’s possible!

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Holly! So very cool that you’ve been able to travel around with your kids to share the culture of different areas! I’m sure those will be life-long memories for them – and it sounds like many more to come! ❤️

    • Emily

      Hi fellow RI Hip2Save-er!!

  16. Heather

    Amen to that! I do this, but also gift things bc I have zero self control and it makes me feel warm to gift to others. I’m also a seamstress/sewing pattern designer (and a nurse 🤪) .. so I often make something to go with my gifts as well. I have 4 kids.. 2 toddlers and 2 teens. The teens get a weekend away to Florida to see Taylor Swift with mom so we can have that 1on1 time like we did before the toddlers were born. For the toddlers, a trip to Great Wolf Lodge.

    Each year I send them each a text requesting their gift of time: a family christmas photo where they act like they aren’t dying for 20 minutes 😂, family night, a one on one date, a coupon for their help with anything I want for 2 hours, etc. It’s genuinely what I want more than anything anyways. My “big” gift is a Christmas craft of some sort that I plan and give directions to my husband to do with them to give me on Christmas. This year it is doing a hand plaster kit of all their hands together. Last year it was a big canvas with handprints/Christmas painting they did.

    ALL of our kids’ birthdays are within a month of each other (I know…) so we normally gift a trip as a family for the birthday month, and then have small family party with each of them on their special day with a few select gifts, they get to plan anything they want to do the entire day (within reason), they choose dinner (whether cooked or going out) and we decorate for them. I love this tradition.

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Absolutely loving your ideas, Heather! Thank you so much for taking the time to share how you organize gifts for Christmas and birthdays! I bet your family (and you) are so appreciative of the experiences and the memories that are created! ❤️

  17. Danette

    So true. Memories are the best gifts. To this day we laugh and remember the “cabin” in Indiana and the many funny moments at the campsite when it was sooo hot! Going on almost 10 years now and the memories are still so vivid. The laughs will live on forever.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      How sweet! SO glad that you have those memories to always look back on, Danette! Thanks for taking the time to share your cherished vacation experience. ❤️🤗

  18. Diane

    These are all great ideas. For those families whose families have very tight budgets you can check with your local library. Our city library has 7 day passes to the local zoo, art museum, children’s museum. Some states have statewide free passes given out through local libraries or upon request.
    In larger cities there may be a large list of free tickets. When we visited our son in Denver he sent me a list of over a dozen to choose from so he could request the tickets.

  19. Christina

    I signed up for cirque de soliel on their site after my son & I went to a show & he loved it! When there was a deal in the area again on tickets I booked tickets for my son, sister, myself & 2 nephews to go see a show for the weekend after my son’s birthday in Jan.

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