Gift-giving is almost always challenging and rewarding in equal measure, but especially around the holidays. There’s an inherent pressure to find the perfect gift for your loved ones—one that will both show them how much we love them and how well we know them.
But there is one gift you can give your family that avoids questions like, “Will it fit?” or “Do they already have this?” Here’s our take on why travel is among the best family gifts you can give this holiday season:
Travel Emphasizes the Importance of Experiences Over Material Goods
Recent scientific studies have shown that experiences are more valuable than things when it comes to providing true, lasting happiness.
Cornell University psychology professor Dr. Thomas Glovich, who has been studying the relationship between money and happiness for more than two decades, suggests that buying things makes us happy in the short-term. Yet once we adapt to them, that joy wears off over time.
Experiences, on the other hand, become a part of the very fabric of who we are as human beings. One study conducted by his team found that even negative experiences can be vital to our happiness, with stressful or scary adventures becoming funny stories we can share or valuable character-building moments.
Travel Provides a Much-Needed Opportunity to Unplug
As someone who makes his living using the Internet and social media, I’m all too familiar with the need to be constantly plugged in. Computers, cell phones, and other digital devices take up more of our family’s time than I’d like to admit. So, this summer we took our first non-working getaway in years.
The opportunity to disconnect from devices, reconnect with each other, and recharge our connection with nature proved just what the doctor ordered. In fact, studies have shown that there are actual health benefits to unplugging from technology, including better sleep, improved interpersonal communication, and an overall improvement in quality of life.
Can you name another family gift that can bring your cherished loved ones closer together AND make them feel better, both physically and emotionally, in the process?
Travel Brings Families Closer Together
Active family travel has been growing exponentially over the last few decades, as more and more people see the benefits these sorts of adventures can have.
From the early stages of the planning process and the activities themselves to the sharing of photos and videos after you get back home, travel offers an opportunity for families to spend quality time together. This sort of bonding time is all too rare when we’re at home, where our busy schedules, differing hobbies, and attachment to our devices often leads to emotional distance.
Whether it was a wildlife safari in Africa, exploring Darwin’s paradise in the Galápagos Islands, or hiking and snorkeling in Costa Rica, every memorable trip our family has ever taken has brought us closer together. And even now, as my daughter approaches adulthood, we’re planning bigger, better, and bolder adventures in the years to come.
Travel Offers an Opportunity to Learn and Grow Together
For us, a great vacation isn’t just about getting away from it all and sitting on the beach with a fruity tropical drink. It’s about exploring new places, meeting new people, learning about local history and ecosystems, and immersing ourselves as deeply as possible in the local culture.
Travel is about making connections, both with each other and with the big, beautiful world we inhabit. Many of my favorite travel memories came from doing things we’d never done before, like learning ancient drumming traditions from the Garifuna people of Belize, and learning dance moves from the beautiful people of Polynesia.
Zegrahm’s expeditions often feature naturalists and other lecturers, who help provide guests with a greater understanding of the local ecosystem and what’s being done to protect and preserve it. These great lessons we learn about caring for the world we love to travel in, can be brought back home with us, too.
Travel Creates Memories that Last Forever
Fruits and sweets are consumed in a matter of days. A new iPhone or e-reader will soon be replaced by next year’s model. A favorite item of clothing might stay in style a few seasons at best, and perhaps linger in the back of the closet for a few years after that. But travel? It’s all about creating memories that last a lifetime.
My daughter is 16 years old now, but she still talks about the trip to the Bahamas we took the summer she turned six. She remembers the giant manta rays in the aquarium, and the incredible water slides at the resort where we stayed. She remembers being terrified while snorkeling with nurse sharks, and being thrilled to hold chocolate starfish twice the size of her head.
Travel ranks among the very best family gifts you can give because it’s a gift that keeps on giving. The photos and videos you take of the experiences you share get passed down like family heirlooms. The memories bring everyone who shares them closer together. And the best part is, they don’t need packages, boxes, or bags to ensure they’ll be treasured forever.
Bret Love is a journalist/editor with 24 years of print and online experience, whose clients have ranged from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and American Airlines to National Geographic and Yahoo Travel. Along with his wife, photographer/videographer Mary Gabbett, he is the co-founder of ecotourism/conservation website Green Global Travel and Green Travel Media.