It’s that time of year again. During the Christmas season everyone is racking their brains to think of the biggest and best gifts for the ones dearest to them.
I see this all the time in my business—that kind-hearted family member or significant other waltzing into the travel agency with dreams of grandeur. A six-bedroom villa at Disney to surprise all the grandchildren with a vacation or a Royal Suite on a cruise for your parents’ anniversary. It sounds so easy to do and your mind is almost drunk on the thought of seeing their face when they realize what you’ve done for them. Simply buy the trip, wrap up a box with the tickets, and wait anxiously to see your loved one rip it open excitedly with tears in their eyes.
It is true that the sentiment is beautiful—your family member is going to be so ecstatic and grateful. What a wonderful gift!
UNTIL your mom opens up that box and the thought really sinks in–she realizes she has no more time off work. Or that week is the busiest week of the year for her. Or her nephew’s graduation party is smack dab in the middle of the paragliding excursion you planned for them in Europe. And she can’t afford breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a foreign country for a week, when the upstairs bathroom is in desperate need of a re-model.
Giving someone a gift trip IS possible. It’s just not as easy as people think it’s going to be. Surprising someone with a trip isn’t really ideal. If you’re going to get them a gift vacation, you should try to make it more of a collaborative effort, and here’s why:
Once plane tickets are purchased, they CANNOT be changed. The airlines charge at least $200 per person to change any times, dates or names on the tickets PLUS the difference in the fare from what you originally purchased. You need to be 100% sure that your loved one is totally up for the trip during the time frame you arranged it for and the only way to really do that is by communicating with them, having them ask their boss if they’ll be able to get the time off, and making sure they’ll have a pet or babysitter during that time. There’s not a logical way to be sure of all this without giving away the surprise.
The other thing to bear in mind is that it’s not cheap—not for the giver nor the receiver. It’s one thing to buy someone a trip but it’s another to get them the trip they want. There’s a reason that person hasn’t done it themselves yet and it could be because they can’t afford it but it could also be because they can’t afford to do it right. Not to be a Debbie downer here but if they can’t afford it, chances are you can’t either.
If the only time your prospective trip recipient can go is during spring or winter break, you’re easily going to be paying double for the same thing you could get them for the off season and there’s nothing you can do about it—they can’t make it happen during that time and you can’t take the gamble that they’ll be able to get the time away on something that is non-refundable.
An all-inclusive vacation is a lot more to fork over than a sweater from Kohl’s, and being sure that it’s what they want is the key. Travel is truly an individualized experience. Everyone travels differently and everyone has a different vision of what their perfect trip is. I know from experience that you really need to know someone in order to put together what they’re going to consider the vacation of a lifetime—because for me that could mean something completely different than what it means to you.
Let me tell you that a trip to Alaska for two can cost $2000 or it can cost $11,000, depending on what you include in the experience. What good is buying someone a trip if they are going when the sun only shines for an hour a day and they’re not going to get to see all that the destination has to offer? Imagine purchasing a cruise for your parents, only to find out they can’t afford to add the helicopter glacier landing they’ve always dreamed about to the trip? Are you going to bite the bullet and pay for that too? Because there’s no point in going all the way, only for them to come back wishing they’d done this or that.
My point here is that you just really have to make sure that the receivers of the gift are at a point in their lives that they, too are ready to take the trip.
A gift trip can happen, but in order to make that persons dreams a reality, my personal opinion is that it shouldn’t really be a surprise gift. I think you will both find the process much smoother if it’s a joint planning effort, even if you are more than willing to fork over the cash.
The thought is admirable and sweet, let’s just try to make sure it’s realistic at the same time.
Your Resident Scrooge,
CAITLYN WITHOUT A COMPASS