I’ve abandoned a retail Christmas. To my friends and family who eagerly awaited my thoughtfully considered, yet poorly wrapped gifts, I apologize. You’ll still receive presents, when the spirit moves me, not when I’m instructed to by the conductors of our national season of selling.
Last year was my first try at firmly declaring, “No gifts for you.” To avoid staring at the empty real estate under the Christmas tree, we went on a family cruise. Was it weird to raft through cenote caves in the Yucatan on December 25th? Yes. But also entirely wonderful. (The story about nearly drowning on said rafting trip will wait for another day.) What’s special to me about the holiday season is spending time with my family, making memories instead of generating garbage. We had ample opportunities on the boat. After all, nothing says trapped quite like a cruise ship.
I think my adult children enjoyed the change of pace. We’d settled into a rut – I’ll call it Electronica Burnoutica:
“What do you want for Christmas?”
So I’d buy the latest, greatest tech thing on the market. What I learned is that my kids really appreciate a plane ticket and some meals that don’t involve ramen noodles.
Use the time you’d spend running from Target to Costco to Wal-Mart to research and plan your family giftcation. It does take some work; coordinating the calendars of young adults can be vexing, but once the tickets are purchased, my experience is that everyone works together to pull it off.
And, speaking of tickets, if the trip at the top of your list for Santa involves Europe in the summer, now’s definitely the time to pull the trigger on airfare. Google “booking cheap flights to Europe” and you’ll get a number of articles that recommend different strategies. What they all agree on is that the early worm gets the bargain; Cheap Air recommends 319 days to 7 months before departure as the optimum booking window. From that point on, fares will rise steadily.
I’ve set a $1000 benchmark for European flights. I won’t pay over that price to rent a seat for 14 hours roundtrip; I just can’t wrap my head around it. Under a grand? It’s the equivalent of scoring a 52” flat screen for $39. And no one gets trampled in the process.
So it’s November. My tickets to Paris for June are locked up – both Aerlingus and Icelandair had sub-$1000 fares that involved short layovers in Dublin and Reykjavik respectively. I’m looking forward to spending the winter months researching our lodging options, clipping articles about the charms of each arrondissement and booking our day trips to Normandy and Versailles. When you’re looking for the perfect gift, isn’t the goal to find one that keeps on giving? I’m already reaping the benefits of this one and we haven’t even left yet.