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Dear Santa, Skip the Toys: 3 Reasons Spending Money on Holiday Experiences is Better Than Toys

The holidays are right around the corner and it’s hard to believe it’s time to start thinking about Christmas lists, shopping sprees, and finding the “top toy” of the holiday season. As a mom, I LOVE the holiday season—the joy it brings my children, the time to spend with loved ones, the whole world being decorated, and all the yummy food! It’s truly a magical time of the year.

Yet, as a frugal mom, this magical time of the year also brings me much anxiety and stress. Although stores are seemingly having the “lowest prices of the season” sales, I can’t help but wonder, “Are they really?” Maybe it’s just me, but I feel stores just mark up prices to say they’re lowering them at Christmas time—all with the hopes to get people to buy more.

How many of us have fallen for the buy 3 get 3 free? Did you really need six of the same item? Not to mention, the race (and pressure) to find the year’s “top toy” or “hot item.” Anyone buy a Hatchimal last year? They were flying off the shelves as parents were scrambling to find them and spending way too much on EBay just to have one under the tree on Christmas morning.

In fact, I had friends who waited outside of Target at 6 a.m. for shipment trucks to be delivered, hoping they’d be the first to grab one off the shelf. And, guess what we all found out on Christmas morning after the egg hatched? A hatchimal is nothing more than a $70 stuffed animal!  

reasons spending money on holiday experiences is better than toys

My daughter literally played with the thing for less than 10 minutes and it’s been sitting at the bottom of her toy box ever since. It was in this moment when I realized Christmas needed to change for my family.

So, this past year, after my “AHA” Hatchimal moment, my eyes were opened to my children’s need to see and experience more of the world around them. Let’s be honest, they don’t need to open package after package on Christmas morning.

In fact, according to a study by Parent’s Magazine, the average family spends $271 per child, and 1-10 parents spends upwards of $500 per kid. Wow! Can you imagine all the wonderful experiences you could offer your children just by spending half as much on toys and expensive electronics that just end up cluttering your playroom?

I wholeheartedly believe that experiences over things will benefit our children so much more in the long run! With that, maybe you, too, are looking for a new way to bring joy to your kids this holiday season. Not to mention, make that magical time of year last much longer than an hour on Christmas morning? Well, you’re in luck. Here are a few easy suggestions to make the most of your family’s budget this Christmas for joyful giving all year long!

1. Weekend Trips

reasons spending money on holiday experiences is better than toys

One of my favorite things to do with my kids is take them on little weekend getaways. They love packing their suitcases and heading out for an adventure. And, we are very lucky to live in an area where the mountains are a 2-hour drive away and the beach a 1-hour drive away. That said, depending on the time of the year, we can easily access beautiful fall trees or a warm day at the beach.

As a busy family of four, however, we hardly have a weekend that’s free of commitments. But, when we find that golden weekend with no plans, we jump on it. My favorite way to save big on these weekend getaways? Booking last minute.

Many times, resorts will have the best deals within 30 days to the day before check in on travel as they’re trying to fill rooms up to the very last minute. Better yet, if you find yourself having to take off days from work because of that random teacher work day, take your trip in the middle of the week!

Resorts typically offer their best rates for travel Monday through Thursday. This is my favorite time to travel as attractions are significantly less crowded in the middle of the week and there’s no fighting for a quality spot at the indoor pool.

2. Day Trips

reasons spending money on holiday experiences is better than toys

What better way to surprise your kids on a random Saturday morning during the year than with a fun day trip! There are so many great options within a day’s drive (or less!) from your home base to experience for less than $100. So, fill up the car up with gas, pack a lunch, and head out for a day of adventure!

Our family’s favorite day trips have included a day of apple picking, pumpkin picking, strawberry picking (can you tell we love to pick our own food?!), and museum visits. Our kids are at an age where they are constantly asking questions. And, what better way to answer all those questions about how things grow or how things work than with a trip to a farm or a museum?

Farms that allow for picking of fruits and vegetables are generally inexpensive when you pick the items yourself. Plus, your kids will find this activity to be fun and you’ll love the educational experience it brings. And, chances are, there are several museums in your surrounding area that offer free admission days.

Tripbound Tip: Do you have a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card? Show it along with a picture ID for free general admission to participating museums on the first full weekend of every month. Better yet, if you have a fourth grader in your house, you can receive free admission to all the National Parks across America!

3. Theme Parks

reasons spending money on holiday experiences is better than toys

I know, I know. Theme parks don’t seem like the most frugal way to spend your money. You know, with the overpriced admission tickets, food, and parking. Many, however, offer discounted tickets throughout the season (except for Disney, of course). And, the best deals are usually during the park’s off seasons (ex. Probably anytime but the middle of summer!).

Some parks even offer discounted admission if you arrive later in the day. Or, even if you go in the middle of the week. Best of all, most tend to offer fun events throughout the seasons—especially during wintertime. Think Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas, Universal Studios’ Grinchmas, Disney World’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Hersheypark’s Christmas Candylane, Holiday Snow Days and Winter Nights at LEGOLAND, An Old Time Christmas In Silver Dollar City. And, that’s only naming a few.

This is truly a magical way to spend the holidays as it incorporates all of my favorite things about the season—the joy on my kids’ faces, the time spent with family, and the whole world being decorated. It’s no wonder it’s a must-have experience on my kids’ Christmas list every year (and mine, too!).

So, if you ever find yourself near a theme park during the holiday season, it’s probably money well spent when compared to that $70 Hatchimal!


Now, I’m not saying we should skip Christmas altogether. Remember the “Christmas With The Cranks” movie where they try to take a cruise and skip out on Christmas? Things did not turn out so well for them.

What I am suggesting, however, is cutting your holiday spending budget and freeing yourself up to enjoy more experiences year-round, which your kids will remember for years to come.

After all, how many people really remember what they got for Christmas year after year? Do you even remember? Well, want to know what I remember? Every family vacation I took as a kid and every fun experience and memory I made with my parents.

Vacations are money well spent. And, who knows? Maybe you’ll even have enough moola leftover to go on that couples-only vacation you’ve been dreaming about for so long. So, if you’re ready to book a family getaway ASAP, don’t hesitate to give your travel BFFs at Tripbound a call—1.888.816.5214.

And, we’d love to hear about your favorite holiday experience. Share it with us in the comments section below! With that, I’ll leave you with this short and sweet signoff—Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy Traveling—from your Frugal Travel Mama.

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