A Different Kind of Gift for Christmas

Christmas is my most favorite time of the year! The holiday, the weather, the traditions, all of it! 

I’m probably one of the few, but I always get excited to see the Christmas decorations out in the stores! 

Christmas just give me the warm fuzzies!

I grew up with probably a more modern traditional sense of Christmas.  We had a couple gifts to open on Christmas Eve, and then we’d wake up at the crack of dawn to open more gifts than we could probably count.  We had the special, super sweet breakfast followed by hours of playing and seeing family and opening even more gifts and ending the day with a huge, almost Thanksgiving-like feast! 

As I got older it wasn’t even a question what Christmas would be like when I had my own family.

It wasn’t until about a year before I met my husband, one of my coworkers and great friend said they were going to start doing trips at Christmas as part of their kids’ gifts.  They still got a few gifts, and then the trip was their big gift. 

I thought that was such a cool idea but didn’t really think it would be for me. I’m not sure if I thought we wouldn’t be able to afford it or if I was just stuck on what I’ve always known Christmas to be.

Fast forward a few years now, I’ve met my husband and we had our first child, four days before Christmas too! We weren’t really sure if he would have made his grand entrance before Christmas or not so we obviously didn’t really buy anything gift wise for him. And really, as cliche as it sounds, he was the best Christmas gift ever!

The year he turned one, though, was crazy gift central! We bought three gifts for his birthday, which is just something my husband and I had decided earlier on for birthdays, and then everything we didn’t buy him for his birthday, we bought for Christmas. And then…relatives also bought gifts for his birthday AND for Christmas! 

Friends, it was chaos! There were so many toys we didn’t even know what to do with them all! We swore after that, that we needed to keep our Christmas spending capped.  

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The following year, I was pregnant with our second son and we knew we needed to make some decisions about how we would handle Christmas gifts and what that looked like for our family.  We came to the decision that we would do one or two gifts from us and then of course Santa would bring gifts too!

Oh, that did not help that second year! We were still in the same chaos as the first year! And then we knew the next year we would have two kids to buy gifts for.  There’s no way we’d be able to keep up!

As the new year went on and we had our second son, we started thinking about the bazillion toys that were practically new still and were basically ignored or used as a step stool.  This was obviously not working.

My friend’s idea came to mind about going on a trip for Christmas! We decided to take the plunge and do a Christmas trip, but what about Santa? The kids still NEEDED gifts from Santa, didn’t they? Ok, so we did the trip from us and then “Santa” still brought them three gifts each!

But we still felt overwhelmed with gifts! We actually continued this for the next four years! I still can’t believe it, but it felt like the right decision at the time. We were spending WAY too much money on gifts and a trip and a birthday; money we really didn’t have.  And it still didn’t solve the problem of too many gifts and no appreciation for them.  

And what’s worse, our kids already knew the truth about Santa! This just kind of happened by the way, I’ll have to do another post on that one though! 😉 

So this is the year that we have said, it is not worth us continuing to spiral into debt to have so many gifts that my kids don’t know what they even got, have no appreciation for, and never get played with!

You know, when I ask my kids what their favorite gifts are, they never mention an actual material gift! They always, say it was a trip we took or an activity we did together!

That made this decision so much easier!  Their gift IS the Christmas trip! Yes we are still buying gifts for them to unwrap, but those have to do with the trip itself! And they will still get way more than enough from grandparents and aunts and uncles! 

But we are not going further into debt for it! Some years we can afford more for a trip and other years, like this year, we spend less. But we can budget and plan for it! 

I’m going to share with you what we are planning for this year and some of our favorites from past years.  However, if you personally know my family, please don’t mention this year’s in front of them, they don’t get to know until Christmas morning! Makes it so much fun! And they seriously try to guess every year for at least 6 months beforehand! The excitement from them is the best part!!!

This year, we have rented a cabin in a mountain community. This particular community has an area close by for some fun Christmas adventures and activities! So we will be buying passes for that, which is also a gift for them! We always try to find something in the area to “go and do”.

Their physical gifts this year, include some handmade blankets that they’ve actually been asking for and what better item to have in a cozy, snowy, winter cabin! 

A sled, of course, will be the clue to where we are going! And then we will buy two family games, we’re looking at A Ticket to Ride and Apples to Apples Junior. We haven’t played these yet but have heard great things about them!  And of course a puzzle, because we LOVE puzzles! 

All things for the cabin and spending time together as a family! The things I want my kids to remember, because I know they’re not going to remember the biggest toy craze that they just HAD to have! 

In years past we have done Disneyland, twice! We bought a package where we could dine with characters. And we either gave them stuffed characters or Disney clothes as the gift that told them where we were headed! 

We have done San Diego, twice as well! One year we did Legoland and Sea World! Their gift that year was a small set of Legos. And the other time we did San Diego, we bought passes for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and all the museums in Balboa Park! This was way more fun than I originally thought it would be! 

We have also done another cabin rental in a different mountain community! And that year we were gifted with a sleigh ride to a small farm area where they gave us hot chocolate and had horses, and the most beautiful scenery!

If you were to ask my almost 8 year old which trip was his favorite, he always says the cabin! Even with all the theme parks and places we’ve been, sitting in a cabin playing games and doing puzzles as a family and playing in the snow is his favorite!

I have also asked him what his favorite gift at Christmas is, and hands down, every single time is finding out what trip we are doing! It’s never been the hundreds of dollars we’ve spent on toys, including the ever favorite legos! 

I’ve been asked before why we would spend the money to do these trips while they are still so young? We started this right after my oldest turned three! I mean, it’s not like they’ll remember them anyway, right? Maybe, maybe not!

But first of all, we, as their parents will remember! We will remember their face seeing Mickey for the first time! We will remember their excitement seeing the gorillas playing! We will remember the laughter playing games by the fire! 

And secondly, we are setting up the foundation. This is just something we do. It’s our tradition. And they, hopefully, wont ever remember a time without this tradition! 

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