I have seen a few articles about the increase in parents gifting experiences this year and while we never had a catchy phrase or a national news story on it, this is exactly what we have done in our household for years. Often, we are able to stop by Disney World to break up our long trek to visit family. When we don't spend hundreds on toys from a lengthy wish list, we can buy a couple park tickets instead. Or even if we don't go to a Walt Disney World park, we can enjoy Disney fun without the park via a perfectly themed resort and character-inspired dinner.
Experiences last longer than toys because they live on in precious family memories and favorite candid photographs of glowing, happy faces. Experiences teach our children about the world and the people in it. Experiences show our children that it feels good to be together, away from the house and the "stuff", simply enjoying together.
Gifting an experience does not have to be expensive. If Disney World isn't in your near future, plan a road trip weekend somewhere that isn't too far away. Or get a season pass to your nearest aquarium, zoo, or children's museum. If you have older children, take them to a seasonal live show like The Nutcracker (or anything in the genre they enjoy: concert, play, etc) and enjoy an upscale meal while letting them tell you all about their hopes and dreams. Maybe this year or the next, you can take an unforgettable family vacation. Travel is one experience that can bring out the wonder in children. They love to see new things!
The gift of travel and family time is so much better than plastic things. Let the extended family get that stuff; take your loves somewhere great instead. I promise, it will be worth it.