Want Priceless Memories? Gift Experiences, Not Things…

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I’m diving into why I feel vacation & experience gifts over objects will benefit your entire family!

collin family vacation in peru

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.

There is something that has actually been proven to leave a lasting impression on us: Experience gifts!

Science says that experiential and vacation 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.”

Ocoee river rafting experiences over objects

Photo from Brandi’s Ocoee River Rafting 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.

two kids laughing outside with one soaking wet

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

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.

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…”? 😆

Family vacation experiences over objects

Photo from Sara’s Virginia family vacation.

With the holiday season approaching, giving an experience gift on Christmas is so special because then everyone can count down to the day and makes something to look forward to post-holidays! So many of our team members can attest to this.

My Hip Sidekick, Sara, had a super smart idea she’s doing with her kids!

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

My kids decided to ask their grandma for a pool membership renewal next summer as opposed to tons of gifts. THEY LOVED going to our new pool this year, but it was super pricey…however, for an entire summer full of fun, it’s totally worth it and is a great gift idea.” – Sara

National park river

Photo from Lina’s National Parks family vacation.

There are definitely 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, such as how to pitch a tent — they’ll likely come back really thankful for that soft warm bed! 😂

Or just head to the beach this summer and build the biggest sandcastle together – bigger than you’d ever imagined. Because happiness is derived from experiences, not inanimate objects.

Hip Tip: If you want to book travel on the cheap, check out how my sister, Bryn, saves BIG by using Costco Travel!

hawaii tubing

Photo from Lina’s Hawaii family vacation.

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

“I started an experience fund for my family from cash back apps like Ibotta, Checkout 51, & Mobi. I refrain from all the great deals (toys) unless there’s a birthday coming up. I want my kids to have 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.” – Kristy

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

I just got back from a trip to Glenwood Springs, CO. I conquered my fear of heights and made memories that will last a lifetime while I was there. I don’t regret giving up things for memories. 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 is different. I have given them a dozen cookies, batches of ice cream, pies, etc… They get to pick the kind/flavor, and I will teach them/help them make it. 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 this fall.

Join The Discussion

Comments 28

  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!

  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!!

    • 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

  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.

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