Go On Vacation Instead Of Buying Presents


I’m all about experiences over things.  I would much rather spend my money on an activity or experience than something that’s going to sit around and collect dust.  This time of year, I love seeing gift lists of experiences instead of things.  So, what happens when you take that idea one step further?  My family and I had wanted to go on a trip together for a long time, but it never seemed to happen.  Then last year, we had a radical idea.  What if we took the money we would normally spend on Christmas presents and put that towards a big family trip?!  So, that’s exactly what we did. 

How Did It Work

My daughter, who was 3 at the time, is the only kid so she still had presents as usual (no one would listen to me if I told them not to buy presents for the only kid in the family!!)  But for all of the adults (there were 10 of us, from 18 to 60+), we only did stocking stuffers.  Then all of the money we would have spent on buying big gifts for each other was put towards the vacation.  I have to admit, it was a little weird at first to not have anything to open on Christmas morning.  But, it ended up being great!  I was able to focus on watching my daughter open her presents, and in the end, being with family is really what it’s all about anyways.

Go On Vacation Instead of Buying Presents | Experiences instead of Things | Christmas Gift Ideas |JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa
Getting to spend vacation time with those most important to you is the best gift of all!

Make It Happen

I would recommend putting one person in charge of the logistics and then organize a vacation planning meeting (we had several – what a great excuse to get together!)  It was a lot of fun to brainstorm ideas and pick a location.  In the end, we chose to spend 6 nights at the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa in Cancun, Mexico.  This resort was absolutely beautiful, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone!  There are huge meandering pools, great food, amazing service and it’s right on the beach. 

Go On Vacation Instead of Buying Presents | Experiences instead of Things | Christmas Gift Ideas |JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa
Pool at the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa

Where Should You Go?

We knew we wanted a beach destination, so Mexico was an easy choice.  Cancun is relatively easy to get to from Columbus and English is widely spoken, so it’s great for first-timers or anyone not totally comfortable going to an exotic location.  There isn’t a time difference from Columbus, which makes traveling with little ones a bit easier.  There are lots of Caribbean islands that are also pretty easy to get to that offer great beaches and kid-friendly resorts. (Check out Iberostar Punta Cana for a very budget friendly all-inclusive option.)

If you are looking for something a little closer to home, try Florida for a beach destination.  If beaches aren’t your thing, check out a city like Chicago, New York or Nashville.  Need something closer to home?  Take a drive to Cincinnati or Hocking Hills.  Or go all out and cross the pond to Europe!  The destination actually isn’t important.  The important thing is getting the opportunity to go on a family trip to spend time with those who are most important in your life.

The Memories

Not only was our trip wonderful, but the memories we made will last a lifetime.  That time spent together – the laughs, the meals, the fun –  that’s so much better than any gift I could have unwrapped under the tree.  It’s a great lesson for kids too.  It shows them firsthand that Christmas isn’t about getting presents, but rather spending time with the people you love. 



Go On Vacation Instead of Buying Presents | Experiences instead of Things | Christmas Gift Ideas | Holiday Tips | JW Marriott Cancun Resort



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Katie is a travel obsessed stay at home mom. She grew up in Central Ohio, but moved to New York City after high school to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology to pursue her dream of being a fashion designer. Thankfully, dreams can change. After working in the fashion industry she realized it wasn't what she was looking for. So, she moved back to Columbus to be near family. While in New York, Katie met and married her husband, Jason. Katie is now mom to 4 year old Ellie. She and her husband love to travel... a lot. Her love of travel combined with her desire to stop her brain from turning to mommy mush inspired her to start her blog, www.zenlifeandtravel.com. This platform lets her share her own travels as well as tips about her hobby, "travel hacking", aka how to use points and miles to travel for (almost) free! While traveling, Katie and her husband love to explore cities by foot which is great since she has a mild obsession with her daily number of Fitbit steps! She also recently got her open water scuba diving certification so destinations near water are high on her list of travel musts! Katie loves palm trees, yoga, fat cats and is a sucker for anything lined in leopard print. She believes that leggings are pants and purple is the best color. Her ultimate goal is to live a simple, happy life...and to travel as much as possible! In addition to her blog, you can find Katie on Instagram (@zenlifeandtravel) and (@zencolumbus) Twitter (@zen_life_travel) and Pinterest (@zenlifetravel).