Two years ago I had an epiphany. It came to me after the toyfest that is Christmas, and just before the toyfest that is three kids’ birthdays within 18 days of each other six weeks after Christmas.
I had usually solved this problem by drip-feeding what was on their ‘What I Want from Santa’. But this time, I’d decided, would be different. This time, instead of yet another box of lego, I was going to give the kids an experience. A day out doing something they loved.
Two years on and this has become a ‘thing’ for us and our extended family and friends, which means we’ve been receiving some experiences as gifts as well. Sometimes it’s as simple as sneaking a day off work, making a packed lunch and going for a walk in the bush. Other times it’s something more extravagant – like whisking the whole family off to the Hawkes Bay for a fun-packed weekend that ticks several birthdays off the list. But each time, each experience, it’s been about spending time and having fun with the people we love.
So giving the gift of an experience works for us – and here’s why:
- It’s about making time to spend with each other, doing something we’ll all enjoy, or something we would never have dreamed of doing otherwise – creating memories to share and stories to tell.
- It’s fun. At least it is for me as I have a passion for planning and organising anything that means I can be anywhere other than at work. But seriously, when planning an experience gift, it really is the thought that counts. You can let your imagination go wild! Which brings me the next, very important point.
- Experiences don’t have to cost a fortune. Sure, some experiences can be expensive, but unlike stuff, spending more doesn’t always equal having more fun. Think quality of time rather than quantity of dollars.
- They’re the perfect last minute gift. Come up with an idea, create a voucher, pop it in an envelope and you’re done! You can work out the details – like dates and times – later.
- In most cases, it’s better for the planet. No toys that break the next day or unwanted items to ship off to the charity shop, or worse still, the landfill. And no having to remember which vase to bring out or platter to serve on next time they come to visit.
- You can turn it into a family tradition. With three kids birthdays so close together, we use it as an excuse to plan a short, 100%-focused-on-what-the-kids-want-to-do, family holiday each year.
- I’m training my kids to spend time with me. Sure, right now they’re moody, eye-rolling, door-slamming tweenagers that I’d rather not be around. But as they grow up, leave home and create their own busy lives I’ll be glad that twice a year (their birthday and mine) they’ll make the time to do something special with me.
- We’ve enjoyed the experiences we’ve received, and they’ve often been things we wouldn’t have got around to organising for ourselves. Like a behind the scenes experience with some amazing animals and their keepers at Hamilton zoo, or spending an evening fishing for Snapper on the Hauraki Gulf.
- It’s forces us to take time out of our busy, work-life-unbalanced schedules to have some fun and spend time with the people that matter the most.
Giving experiences as gifts is something that’s here to stay for my family. I knew it would be when I asked my kids what they wanted for Christmas and they couldn’t come up with one toy – not a single one – that they really wanted. Just lots of ideas for new experiences.
Check out these reviews of experiences I’ve given as gifts to see if they inspire you!
A day out at: Whoa! Studios (Auckland)
A sleepover at: Auckland Zoo
A weekend on: Tiritiri Matangi
A weekend in: Rotovegas
A night out at: Social Cooking
A day out at: Snowplanet
A day out at: The Royal Albatross Centre
A day in: the What Now Studio Audience
A day out at: Wet N Wild Pop Up Waterslide Park