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Experiences Not Stuff: How to Give the Gift of Travel (when gifting an entire trip isn’t in your budget)

Beach Family with Santa Hats

Tired of So Much Stuff?

Before you start calling me Grinch, trust me, Christmas shopping has been My Thing for as long as I can remember, going all the way back to elementary school Holiday Fairs (what did happen to all those #1 DAD keychains, Dad?). And truly, there is nothing like waking up on Christmas morning to a glistening pile of presents under the tree from Santa. Honestly, it wouldn’t feel like Christmas without stuffed stockings and shiny wrapping paper to tear open. 

Palm Tree with Stockings

But, little kids can actually get overwhelmed with too many presents, and parents definitely get overwhelmed by mountains of new stuff all over the house during Christmas Vacation. So here’s my suggestion: let Santa leave the presents under the tree as usual, and have your family’s gifts to each other be focused on Experiences, Not Stuff. 

Christmas Market Lights

Of course, there are tons of ways to gift experiences, but if you’re here, you probably believe, like we at Love of the Magic Vacations do, that the BEST experiences come from traveling! But, not everyone can afford to just give an entire vacation to another family member, so if you’re wondering how to give the Gift of Travel without shattering your budget, perfect! You’re in the right place, because the following lists are all about “Travel Add-Ons” that make amazing Holiday Gifts!

Christmas Train through Mountains

Travel Add-On Gift Ideas for Any Vacation

Almost everyone has a vacation on the horizon, whether it’s already booked, or still just an idea in the works. No matter what stage of the planning process someone is in for their trip, these gift ideas will surely enhance their vacation experience. And of course, your favorite Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor can help you, especially if your family members or friends have already booked with us!

VV Room with Sofa

  1. Room or Cabin Upgrade

All hotels and cruise ships have a hierarchy of room choices, from parking lot views to Penthouse Suites, and from interior cabins to Captain’s Suites. Most people book, or plan to book, only what they can afford, so to be surprised with a higher level room will definitely be appreciated! And if a balcony room or cabin is available, that’s something almost everyone gets excited about (just be sure to consider small children and their safety when considering this option).

Christmas Backpacking

  1. Day Trip or Excursion

It’s one thing to just get to an awesome vacation destination, and it’s another thing to experience all that place has to offer by exploring and touring the area. Maybe it’s a day trip from Paris to Versailles, or from London to Stratford-Upon-Avon, or maybe it’s a Wine-Tasting Excursion during a Cruise through Greece, or a helicopter tour of a glacier from an Alaskan Cruise. Day Trips and Excursions give us the opportunity to see a place we wouldn’t necessarily stay at for a whole vacation, but that could also wind up being the highlight of the whole trip.

Christmas Street at night

  1. Dinner Reservations 

Ironically, we Disney-loving folk somehow tend to forget about making dinner reservations when we don’t have a dining window to keep track of! And, because finding fantastic restaurants in any given location takes a decent amount of research, and may also require reservations even further out than 60 days, a great gift is having someone do all that work for you, and treat you to the experience! Bonus points if you can find a Michelin Star Restaurant, and score a reservation, as a gift!

DCL Crudite

  1. Welcome Treats to the Room or Cabin

Walking into a room or cabin with a special treat set up as a Welcome is always a solid choice for a gift! Often Welcome treats are bottles of wine or champagne, or desserts and snacks of some kind, which provide a lovely night-cap or comfort-snack after a day on-the-go exploring. 

Helicopter Tour

  1. Private Tour

While some Day Trips or Excursions are fine to take with a group, some experiences really benefit from an upgrade to a Private Tour. Maybe it’s a private sunset boat ride, making it extra romantic, or maybe it’s a Private Tour of somewhere that’s usually super-crowded, like the Louvre, where your Private Guide can whisk you to the front of every line. When it comes to Private Tours, definitely choose the place where it will make the most difference in the experience over a regular tour. 

TA Photo Shoot

  1. Professional Photography Session

One of the best parts of travel is immersing yourself in the culture of whatever place you go, and often, one of the key pieces of culture is art, and of course, the artists who create it. If you’ve been following along with my blogs for a while, you know that one of my priorities wherever I go is to document our time with photos, especially great ones, done by professionals, if possible. With the soaring popularity of family photo shoots over the last decade (that don’t at all resemble those awkward family photos taken in department stores in the 80s), photographers all over the world are available to take incredible photos of your family during some of the most memorable moments of your lives: your Family Vacations. 

Gifting your loved ones a professional photo shoot while on their Vacation will not only make for fun memories on their trip, but it will also give them something to remember the experience with forever. As always, your Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor can help you with this no matter where your loved ones are traveling!Mickey and Walt

Travel Add-On Gift Ideas for a Disney Vacation

While most of the ideas above can be applied to a Disney Vacation, there are also some Disney-specific Add-On Gift ideas that would make your recipient’s vacation even more Magical! And once again, of course, your favorite Love of the Magic Travel Advisor would be happy to help you add these gifts to a Disney package, especially if those you’re buying for have already booked with us!


  1. Extra Park Day

With the recent increase in Park ticket prices, many people are opting for a “Resort Day (or few)” during their stay instead of pushing to maximize time at the parks. While some families truly relish that Resort Day break from the Parks, others are somewhat disappointed to not be able to head to the Parks as often as possible. If you think your family or friends fall into that latter category, adding an Extra Park Day to their tickets would be the perfect addition to make their Disney Vacation everything they hoped it would be!

Galaxy's Edge

  1. Park Ticket Upgrade

Another Park ticket option is to Upgrade the type of Park ticket your gift recipient has. For example, if they have Base Tickets, which allow entrance to only one Park per day, a Park Hopper ticket would allow them to “hop” from Park to Park throughout the day (beginning at 2pm). This is a great upgrade because it allows families to return to a favorite Park before heading home; also, if any fireworks shows were rained out or the kiddos fell asleep before the show started on the first try, you can head back to have another chance at catching the amazing fireworks shows offered in the Parks. Additionally, Park Hopper tickets can alleviate some of the stress of making dining reservations, since you’re not limited to one Park for dinner options, and you’re also not limited to one day for a certain restaurant you really want at one of the Parks. 

Tree of Life

Besides the Park Hopper, you can also upgrade your family or friends’ Park tickets to include a Water Park and Sports Option. With this type of ticket, they have the ability to experience one of Disney’s Water Parks, Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach (which just recently reopened after receiving an update), or one of the many Golf and Mini-Golf courses throughout Disney property. 

Furthermore, if you’d like to gift the highest tier of Park ticket available, that would be the Park Hopper Plus Ticket, which allows for all the benefits of the Park Hopper AND the Water Park and Sports Options, too. With this type of ticket, your gift recipients will have the most access and the most flexibility available to them throughout their Disney Vacation. 

Animal Kingdom Lodge

  1. Room or Resort Upgrade

Disney Resorts are categorized into three options: Deluxe, Moderate, and Value. While each level, and resort within that level, offers a unique Disney Vacation experience, there are distinctions between each that may make a difference to some people. For example, Value resorts don’t have a table-service dining option, but all Value resorts do have quick service dining. In addition, all Deluxe level resorts offer guests the opportunity to stay at the Parks After Hours on select nights (check the My Disney Experience App for specifics), giving them the opportunity for extra time in the Parks with less crowds because it’s only for Deluxe Guests. 

Disney Suite

There are a whole slew of differences between the Resort Levels (saving that for another blog!), but in the end, everyone would appreciate an upgrade in Resort Level to make their Disney Vacation that much more Magical. And the same thing goes for Room Upgrades. Rooms are usually tiered by bed type and view, and then there are also Villas and Suites to consider as upgrades as well. And again, your Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor will be able to check availability and help you gift an upgrade, especially if your loved ones booked their vacation with us!

Norway Epcot

  1. VIP Tour

VIP Tours are the Ultimate Park Experience, from getting behind-the-scenes access to being whisked to the front of every line, to the sheer knowledge of Disney your VIP Tour Guide will be able to share with you…and these things barely scratch the surface of what a VIP Tour experience is like. It’s basically being treated like Disney Royalty, and the day someone takes a VIP Tour may very well be the most Magical day they spend in the Parks in their entire life! Talk about Experiences Not Stuff, this Experience will be one of their most memorable and best EVER. And it’s also something your LOTMV Travel Advisor can help with!

Christmas Parade

  1. Special Event Ticket 

Special Events happen throughout the year at Disney. Most people think of the Special Events as the Holiday Parties, such as Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but there are also After Hours Parties too, that happen on select nights throughout the year, not just during the Holidays. These Special Events are a great way to experience the Parks in a new way, with unique treats, less crowds and lower wait times at favorite attractions. Whether your gift recipients have attended any of these Special Events, or have never experienced them, tickets to these events are a perfect addition to their Disney Vacation (and you know by now your favorite LOTMV TA can help you, right?).

Jamie and Jeremy Galaxy's Edge

  1. Capture Your Moment Photo Session

Much like in the above section where I recommended gifting a Professional Photography Session, for a Disney-specific Vacation, Disney actually offers a really great option for this. In addition to the Cast Members throughout the Parks who will take a family picture in popular locations for anyone who would like one, Disney also offers a service called Capture Your Moment. This service is available in all four Parks, and provides a Cast Member Photographer for a private 20 minute photo session in a selection of locations throughout the Parks. And the best part? It’s only $99, and if Memory Maker is already purchased, the photos are automatically added to the account. Personally, the Capture Your Moment photo sessions I’ve done with my family have given me some of the best images I have of all of us in the Parks, and I plan to book a session for every Disney Vacation I take! Plus, it’s a really affordable way to give a really great gift!

Happy Holidays with Palm Trees

Ready to Plan?

With a dozen Ideas for Travel Add-On Gifts, it’s clear that there are SO MANY ways to give the Gift of Travel besides giving an Entire Trip as a present, since that’s pretty outside the means of many people (though if that IS what you want to give, stay tuned for December’s Inspiring Itinerary for an Incredible Idea for the Ultimate Travel Gift). 

I would love to help you plan the Perfect Travel Add-On Gift to make your loved ones’ next adventure Extra Special, no matter where they’re going! Contact me today at so we can start planning together!

Gift of Travel




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