Here’s What Happened When A Family Skipped Gifts And Took A Christmas Trip Instead

Do you ever feel as though your holiday to-do list is insurmountable? Between all the baking, gift-wrapping, hosting and shopping, you barely even get to enjoy the holiday spirit, let alone spend time with your family. Instead, you are always writing lists and clipping coupons and rushing to the store at midnight for more rolls of wrapping paper.

Flickr | Stuart Caie

Such was the case for Elisabeth Egan, a writer and mother of three. After years of excessive holiday duties (she used to make her own Christmas cards by hand!), Egan decided she wanted a different type of Christmas. Instead of overloading her children with gifts, Egan and her husband planned a surprise holiday trip for their family. Not only did this lighten the Egans’ gifting load, Egan writes that she was finally able to relax in the lead-up time to Christmas—something she hadn’t done in years .

The experience brought Egan the joy, togetherness and holiday spirit that she had been looking for, and her children also loved the change of pace. While Egan and her husband did still buy their kids a couple small items as physical gifts, but she said no one seemed to notice or care about the reduced volume. It seems the idea that more isn’t always better does hold true.

If this is sounding too good to be true, don’t be so sure. In fact, recent research shows that experiences (such as trips, activities, etc.) are more memorable and make for better gifts than material goods. Whether it is a family trip or another gifted experience, research shows that these presents make people feel more bonded to the gift-giver than a tangible item ever could.

Studies also show that experiential gifts provide more enduring happiness than material gifts. In other words, a new pair of earrings or the latest toy might bring a smile for a short period of time, but when the gift is experience-based, it is much more meaningful.

So, even if you can’t get away for a family trip, try and include some experiential gifts under the tree this year. Maybe you could get your partner tickets to see their favorite rock band in a nearby city. Or you get scuba-diving lessons for your mother, who has always talked about wanting to try scuba-diving someday. Even better, make the experiential gift something you can enjoy together, whether it is horse-back riding lessons as a family or a vineyard tour for you and your partner.

Remember, life is about memories, not things! So spread some joy this holiday season with the gift of experiences.