Why this family traded holiday gifts for travel and never looked back

Dec 15, 2020

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Travel has always played a role in how our family bonded and took time to get to know each other. It has allowed us to get out of our comfort zones and spend uninterrupted time together outside of work and everyday responsibilities. This is especially true during the holiday season. The holidays are a time of year when it’s especially important for families to reflect on what we mean to each other. And, we can do that — in part — by enjoying meals together or exploring new experiences as a unit.

That’s why on our son’s first Christmas, we took a last-minute risk to hop on a cruise to Mexico with our 9-month-old. It sparked a family tradition that we cherish. That year, we traded gifts for holiday travel and never looked back. Here’s why.

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Holiday travel takes the pressure off hosting

We’ve all been there. Hosting for the holiday season puts all the pressure on one person to pull off the perfect event. No matter how many people help with the family get-togethers, hosting for the holidays can be a difficult and stressful experience.

Traveling for the holidays, especially on a cruise getaway or an all-inclusive vacation, takes the pressure away from anyone hosting and allows us to actually spend valuable time together. No one is cooking or cleaning or fixing the broken garbage disposal (because something always breaks when you’ve got guests) or running out to the store for those last-minute gifts. Instead, we are enjoying, talking and creating memories as a family with no imminent tasks on anyone’s shoulders.

We want our son to value experiences over things

Photo courtesy of Sierra Redmond

We live in a material world, that’s true. However, as a part of the parenting principles that we wanted to instill in our son at an early age, we wanted him to know that “things” aren’t everything. Travel is truly the best way to introduce the value of experiences over things.

Travel has allowed our toddler to live a life rich in culture, to be brave and try new things, to be thankful for the experiences he has had and have empathy for others that cross his path. These values are why we choose to travel with him in the first place and the holidays are a great time to reaffirm that message.

Holiday travel may actually save you money

The holiday season is a mad dash but it doesn’t have to cost you your savings or sanity. The costs spent on gifts for each other easily equals what you could spend on a family vacation. In many cases, the trip cost is significantly less — especially if you’re leveraging miles and points. (If you do want to buy traditional gifts this year but are tight on cash, learn how to use your points and miles to give gifts with $0 out-of-pocket cost.)

Related: TPG’s beginner’s guide to points, miles, airlines and credit cards

Prepare for a holiday trip by signing up for a credit card with an amazing welcome bonus and then you can use those points or miles for your vacation. Take stock in any free hotel night certificates you have and tally your points to see how far they can take you.

Travel this holiday season probably looks much different in your household but it is not too late to adopt this tradition in your family for next year.

Here are some of the best ways to start a travel tradition during the holiday season…. even during a pandemic.

Try a staycation

Staycations are excellent ways to explore the city that you live in and a form of sustainable travel because you can support local businesses. Grab a night at a hotel, resort or vacation rental near your home and spend a weekend with your family.

Many hotel chains have launched their own “work-from-hotel” packages, which could be good money-saving opportunities for a staycation since they include some really nice perks. For example, Hyatt’s Work From Hyatt packages include things like free laundry service, pool cabanas, rounds of golf, kids’ programs and more — depending on the property.

Related: ‘Workcations’ are this year’s biggest travel trend — here’s where you can try it for yourself

Try camping or national/state park getaways

National and state parks are great low-cost options to get out in nature to explore and remain socially distant from others. With limited international travel options, 2021 is trending to be the year of outdoor recreation and it’s not too early to get a head start on that experience with your family.

Related: The best national parks to visit during winter

Support local tourism businesses

You don’t have to travel to have an experience. Booking local attractions can give you a new perspective on your city and help you support local small businesses. Consider booking a food, historical or photo tour. If you live near the water, look for harbor or river cruises, dolphin- and whale-watching expeditions, and more.

Gift future experiences

Want to be ready to kick off new travel experiences once the world opens up? Consider gifting an experience this year instead of a material item. A cooking or dance class, sporting event, spa treatment or future cruise could be amazing options for gifts and will give your recipient something fun to look forward to.

Featured image courtesy of Sierra Redmond

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