Gifting Memorable Moments: Ideas for Giving the Gift of Vacation
With the holidays closing in (my hometown has looked a bit like Christmas since late September), I know I’m starting to contemplate my Christmas list. Vacations can be a great option – whether siblings getting together to get something for the parents, parents getting something for their graduating teenager, or even grandparents looking at taking everyone on a family gathering.
What makes travel such an awesome and unique gift is that in a world inundated with stuff, travel creates long lasting memories that teach us more about ourselves, connect us deeper with the people we travel with and those moments stay with us for the rest of our lives.
So here are some ideas to help you on your quest to provide your loved ones with meaningful moments.
River Cruises River Cruises are a great option to consider for a few reasons.
First, there are a number of options to suit any kind of budget or traveler, from the no frills included, to the luxury boats that sometimes include airfare. And while many imagine seniors being the demographic to enjoy the river cruises the most, more and more are being designed with families and young adults in mind, blowing open the cruising doors. U by Uniworld is one example of a great option for Millennials complete with silent discos, “Paint Nights” and wine tastings.
Second, the ships are boutique, no matter who you sail with. These ships run smaller than either All Inclusive Resorts or Ocean Cruises, so they provide a unique sense of luxury. Despite smaller sizes, the amenities and offerings can feel tailored and usable. Sometimes at large resorts or on the bigger ships there’s so much to do but you don’t know where to start, so you feel like you do or see very little. But on a river vessel, you’ll get to know your ship.
Third, there are several itinerary options. Many think of River Cruises as in Europe only (and they are popular itineraries), but you can find cruises in the Amazon, Egypt and Asia too!
Many folks LOVE ocean cruising. And there are some amazing benefits to this mode of travel. Like River Cruising, you get to unpack in one room but enjoy multiple ports of call. Go to sleep in one city and wake up in another. Get to see a piece of multiple countries (on a multi-country itinerary) or dig in deep on a single destination cruise (like Hawaii or Alaska).
Unlike River Cruises though, with a decent amount of time at sea, you get to explore the ship, which is basically a floating resort. Entertainment options, dining, shopping, Casinos, Go Karts, Water Slides, Fireworks…there are amazing experiences to be had on board. Plus, you get free time to leave the boat and explore your ports of call.
There’s something for everyone, and cruises do make great large family options.
I remember my first trip to Disneyland when I was in Grade 7. My grandparents had bought the trip as a Christmas Present for my parents and I to go. It’s a good thing Facebook didn’t exist or I would have to live with a very embarrassing reaction video up on the internet.
But one memory I have was standing in a store and my dad trying on a goofy hat. If you know Disney, you know the hat I’m talking about. The brim is long like Goofy’s snout and has two teeth at the end, and there are long floppy ears off the sides. We didn't end up buying on, but I do have this memory despite it being such a fleeting moment.
Fast forward to my second trip – I had graduated university and my Mom surprised me with a trip down to California, back to Disneyland for her and I (my dad at this point was too sick to travel). I remember my Mom heading off to find a bathroom and as I stood waiting, the parade came by. It was a Brother Bear theme with “Welcome to our Family Time” playing and I looked around, and caught sight of this burly man who looked like he was probably pretty gruff to be around on a regular basis, bobbing along to the music with his kids, wearing one of those Goofy hats and I thought “only at Disney”. It really does tap an adult into the kid inside us, and is a ton of fun, no matter one’s age.
Disney also has more than just the theme parks, including Aulani in Hawaii and Adventures by Disney, with itineraries that take you all over the world. And Disney’s customer service and guest satisfaction numbers are second to pretty much nobody, so you know the experience is going to be Magical.
Festivals/Special Events/Cultural Observances
Is your gift recipient really into theatre? Maybe they love music. Consider pairing the trip with tickets to a special event like Glastonbury or Edinburgh Fringe. Perhaps there’s an annual snowboarding competition they’d like to see. Maybe they’ve always wanted to go see the Seoul Lantern Festival. The European Christmas Markets are always very popular.
Does your traveler have a unique interest? Maybe they love skiing and you’d like to send them to visit a Ski Resort. Perhaps they are really into haunted locations so you send them to London with tickets to the Tower of London and a Jack the Ripper Tour. Perhaps they have a love for yoga and wellness and would enjoy a yoga retreat in India. Maybe they love playing Rugby so you send them to see the Rugby Championships in Europe. Often our bucket list items are connected to our special interests.
One of my favourite things about traveling has to do with digging into a locations culture and traditions. One way to do this is by visiting a place during a time of observance. From Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico, Koningsdag in the Netherlands or Songkran (basically a huge water fight) in Thailand, there are some super cool cultural festivals and observances around the world.
If your family has strong ties to a particular heritage, consider sending your gift recipient during a time of local celebration for a cultural or religious festival.
All inclusives range in size, style, shape, price, and destination. While most are in the Caribbean, there are a handful of options in Europe too. This form of travel is really good for the gift recipient who wants to get away, but doesn’t want to get too enveloped by the destination. All inclusive’s tend to be the least culturally connected option, so if you want to experience the culture of your destination, you really have to seek out options, like excursions, to have that experience.
The great thing is that you can send someone and know that they won’t have very many out of pocket expenses to worry about. Food, drinks, transportation, flights – it’s all in the price. Even excursions you can add on at the time of booking, meaning they just have to worry about a little bit of spending money for souvenirs or on site extras, like the spa, which can be paid by credit card.
It’s a great option for family groups as well, since the right resort can typically cater to everyone’s interests and styles, plus some have family rooms, including some with multiple bedrooms.
There are some AMAZING options out there for guided tours. There are tours designed for solo travelers, young adults, seniors, families and they come in a huge range of duration, destination, travel styles. Some you can add on to pre-existing trips and some are excellent on their own.
Your Travel Professional (hey, that’s me!) will be able to narrow down the options out there. Some are small, luxury yacht tours, some are larger, coach style. Some give you access to remote places – such as guaranteed passes to trek Machu Picchu or perhaps getting into visit the Vatican Museum before it opens to the public. Some companies even have guided tours dedicated to families! Your kids can go off and learn about the Gladiators and make their own pizza, while you get to take in a sample wine tasting after a Gondola ride. Guided Tours are an awesome option because many of them come with hidden gem opportunities. One company for example will take you to a local’s home for dinner!
If your purchasing a gift for a young, first time traveler heading out on their own, or your parents, celebrating retirement, guided tours are great, no headache, full itinerary, easy traveling options.
Creating space and time for people to engage in memorable moments is without a doubt, in my opinion, the greatest gifts we can give. From my experiences, traveling has been one of the most engaging activities I've done that has connected me to myself and my family and has grown me into a global citizen. And that friends, is priceless.