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Giving Family Experiences-Our New Christmas Tradition

What do you do when you don't have space for anything else in your home and the holiday season is approaching and you're already freaking out about all of the kids' triggers related to the holiday season?

Since our move in June, we are slowly working on making our house a home, painting and furnishing it room by room.  But until that process is finished we have piles of stuff everywhere.

All of the kids clothes AND our clothes are piled high in the master bedroom.  Rows and rows of shoes line the floor in the front entryway.  Stacks of books lean against the wall and floor in several rooms of the house.  Toys are in plastic bins in any place that there is a space.  Paperwork is collected in bags or left on the computer desk.

We do not need or want anymore stuff.  Just the thought of more toys, books, and other miscellaneous items makes me anxious.

So, we're doing something else this year for Christmas.  Instead of giving the children gifts this year, we're giving them family experiences.  It's our new Christmas tradition!
Giving Family Experiences-Our New Christmas Tradition
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Giving family experiences for Christmas will also help with managing anxieties, PSTD triggers, autism struggles, and behaviors related to Reactive Attachment Disorder.  It's amazing how the process of giving and receiving gifts affects a child's ability to function in different ways.  

If you're not familiar with our story or your family is struggling during the holiday season as well, be sure to check out our book, Holidays and PTSD: A Parent's Guide to Survival.

I am so excited about this alternative with so many fewer triggers for everyone!

Our Plans

Here's how we've worked it out.  Grandparents are giving specific experiences aka family passes to some of our favorite places.  We as parents will be giving the kids a vacation where we will use a majority of the passes.

We will also be spoiling the kids with the luxuries a vacation can bring such as eating at their favorite restaurants, staying in a hotel, participating in special activities we wouldn't normally do.

And just in case you're wondering if the kids are on board, or if we made this decision ourselves, we let the kids decide.  Yep! That's right! They chose vacation over presents.  I'm smiling from ear to ear just thinking about.

Goodbye holiday stress!

Hello fun and relaxation!

Now before you get all worried that my children will not receive any gifts for Christmas, know the agreement is that each person in the family will buy one small gift for everyone else, which will be opened on Christmas morning.

Each person will also receive their stocking filled with fun goodies which seems to be what was most important to each kiddo.

Our Christmas vacation will take place the first week in December when my husband is able to take time off and when it's least busy with kids and college students still in school.  This will hopefully make up for the fact that Daddy has to work every holiday until the end of the year.

How to Come Up with Family Experience Ideas

Though your family may not live where we do, we hope that these family experience gift ideas will provide inspiration for you. Consider the following questions when coming up with family experience ideas.


  • Where would your family go if you could pick a mini vacation destination?
  • Are there special places of interest close to doctors, specialists, and/or therapist offices?
  • What are your children interested in currently in regards to history and science?
  • What places have age appropriate activities where your children will feel comfortable?

Important Reminders!

When purchasing tickets and passes, it's important to remember the ages of the children.  Sunshine will be six years old in November.  Dinomite is turning eleven in January.

Be aware of varying prices for in state versus out of state residents.  At some places being a resident of the city or county can provide opportunities for huge discounts.

Consider a special experience within an experience.  Most places offer an initial price for entrance but also offer other unique opportunities that must be paid for.  There are so many ways to make an experience extra special!

Family Experience Gift Ideas

We have come up with five different types of family experiences that meet the needs of our own family and are realistic in regards to where we live. 


  • Historical Sites & Museums
  • Amusement Parks
  • Hotel Packages
  • Zoos & Safaris
  • Restaurant Gift Cards

If we still lived in the city, movie theater passes, a gift card to the bowling alley, concert or show tickets, and a few other items may have made our list.  Unfortunately those aren't really practical or possible here.

I'd love to hear about family gift experience ideas that you have!

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy the posts below.
Family Christmas Traditions Christmas Visual Schedule for Kids Preparing Children for Their First Fine Arts Experience Christmas Movies for Kids Free Christmas Shopping Planner for Kids Holidays and Birthdays
Our New Christmas Tradition-Giving Family Experiences

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