Give Your Family the Gift of Travel

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The Gift of Travel is Always on My List

What do you want this year? For me, it’s the same thing I want every year, the gift of travel. Take me to the beach. Sail me away on a cruise ship. Book me a bungalow in the jungle; it doesn’t matter. My purpose is to travel, learn, and grow. Although, lazily sipping a Miami Vice with salt in my hair on a tropical coastal shore sounds pretty good, too.

Would you appreciate the gift of travel?

I know what I want. However, it’s hard to know what to get others that will spark the kind of utter joy I feel when someone gives me the gift of adventure. I want to “Wow” them. Surprised smiles, gasps of awe, astonished, wide eyes; these are the reactions I wish to evoke. Pure happiness. That’s what I want my family to have for the holidays. When I fall short, as I feel I often do, my heart kind of hurts a little. As a result, this makes my holiday gift-giving a painfully ungratifying task. Yet, each year, I take it on.

Is Travel on Their List?

It’s not that my family is ever expecting extravagance. They don’t. Their lists are modest, practical even. My daughter types up a very detailed letter to Santa in Google docs and emails it to me. Her list always includes a lovely, incredibly humble note explaining why she feels she belongs on the nice list. Then, she neatly organizes the items she would like. Her list generally includes less than 15 gifts along with the cost of each treasure, and as a bonus, she adds a link to each seller’s website so I can easily click to make the purchase.

Confession: When I was a kid, my letters to Santa looked a lot like Alexis’. Except, I couldn’t create them in Google docs.

If I’m lucky, my son might shoot me a vague text listing a few things he’s had his eye on. He never really wants anything, so extracting his joy is always my biggest challenge. My husband adds what he “needs this year” to our Amazon cart and waits for me to press the “Order Now” button. Saving money brings him joy. And, so,  this is how it goes. A far cry from the peek-inside-their-dreams for which I’d hoped.

The Gift of Travel Would Definitely Be a Fun Surprise.

Without question, these clues are helpful. For the most part, I tend to stick to the lists adding a fun surprise or two. I’m not a fan of frivolous “fluff.” For years I chose what I thought would be smile-inducing stocking stuffers and tchotchkes. Inevitably, these lackluster trinkets disappointed. (Usually, me more than the receiver.) So I stopped buying them.

Consequently, I’ve always wished I could be more intuitive. When it comes to giving to my family, I want to be able to peek into their dreams and deliver a small sliver of that. To accomplish this, I had to do something different. Finally, a few years ago, I did. And it paid off.

We Finally Gave the Gift of Travel.

Instead of purchasing a bunch of stuff destined to collect dust or clutter up the house, we decided to give the gift of travel. Our plan was simple, book a trip, then place a few beautifully wrapped, fun, vacation-related necessities under the tree. It turned out to be one of the best years ever.

Giving the gift of travel is easy.

First off, it was easy to shop for everyone since I had both a theme and a purpose. Moreover, I wasn’t buying much; the trip was the present. Stockings overflowed with useful travel gear like wireless chargers, sturdy toiletry containers, and of course, books for reading on the flight and while lying beachside. New suitcases,  a few boxes of summery clothes, and other tropical weather accessories were wrapped and spread out under the tree.

Making Space Beneath the Tree

Shimmery silver and blue paper clung tightly to a few sparse-looking gifts that Christmas morning. This vision of mostly empty space was the hardest part for me. I enjoy seeing piles of joyfully mysterious boxes stacked and staggering along the base of our decked out Douglas Fur.

I missed the big piles.

Since I had three siblings and parents who had a knack for going overboard, there was always an obscene, borderline offensive, mountain of gifts piled beneath our holiday evergreen when I was a child. Abundant present piles are my ghosts of Christmas past, which haunt me still. It sticks with me like sap on fingers, this wondrous vision under the tree.

Will you miss the big piles?

And how fantastic is the aftermath? Once unwrapped, the wrinkled mess of gleaming paper sprawled across the room, spilled wildly across the threshold, and crept out onto the kitchen floor. So, yes, a sense of loss was felt the year we skimped on senseless and opted for the intangible gift of travel. The good news is the feeling was fleeting.

Preparing for Travel

Everyone was delighted at the prospect of jetting off to a foreign land. We had chosen an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. (You can read more about that trip here.) Endlessly we perused the hotel’s website memorizing every decadent amenity, daydreaming about all we’d do. Hours were spent admiring the images of soft, crimson sunsets and clear turquoise-green waves, which faded seamlessly into the deep Crayola blue ocean. The anticipation alone was fantastic. In giving this gift of travel, achieved was my goal of delivering pure happiness.

Preparing for the trip was part of the fun.

In the months leading up to the trip, we talked, dreamed, and simply enjoyed looking forward to this family journey on which we were about to embark. Even taking the kids for their passport photos and applications was exciting. They were confused to see that our first stop was at Walgreens. “You get your picture here?” they puzzled. After, we laughed as we walked into City Hall past a man who had offered my son and me a “deal” on a quickie Vegas wedding at a nearby chapel. This beautiful gift had already done so much more than I had anticipated. And we hadn’t even left yet.

I Intended to Give the Gift of Travel Every Year.

It was my intention from that time forward to give the gift of travel every year. I would do a few things differently each time to keep it interesting. For example, I could set a departure date for December 26th. What a fantastic surprise would that be? Adding to the gift by having each of us chose an excursion would be another option. Wrapping up the brochures in boxes of various sizes to fill up the bottom of that tree would bring smiles all around.

Another year, we could plan for a few shorter trips letting each person chose a destination and a means of transportation. Would we drive to Yosemite National Park? Perhaps we’d board a cruise ship and see the California coast. Maybe season tickets to one of the many nearby theme parks could serve as the travel gift that keeps on giving.

There are Many Ways to Give the Gift of Travel.

On a smaller scale, scheduling a local tourist activity would do the trick. Last year, each stocking held an envelope with a scavenger hunt ticket. This adventure brought us to unique places in Downtown Las Vegas we had never been or thought we’d ever go. For us, this quality family time was spent bringing us closer and strengthening our bonds while learning new things about our city.

With travel, the possibilities are endless.

When giving the gift of travel, you’re genuinely giving so much more than any store-bought novelty could ever offer. You’re giving a tremendously powerful experience and creating unlimited opportunities for growth on so many levels. The possibilities are endless, and the memories made are priceless.

7 thoughts on “Give Your Family the Gift of Travel”

  1. Great article! My family is the same, and the best present I ever gave was a hotel stay in Paris for my mom who’d always wanted to go! And now they’ve been back several times since! I love all your creative ideas for how to frame the gift of travel!

    • That’s an awesome gift. Don’t you love that you helped to inspire all the fantastic experiences she’s had through those travels? There’s nothing like the feeling of giving such a meaningful, life-changing gift.


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