Sometimes the hardest part about the holidays is trying to decide what to buy for your friends and loved ones for Christmas.

Some people are easy to buy for and don’t require much thought. Others are much more complex, so it’s more difficult to think of just the right gift. I've also noticed the older my own children get, the more difficult gift-giving has become. At 16 and 14, Abbey and Jaiden are so close to young adulthood that I’ve all but run the gamut on new and exciting gift ideas.

So in an effort to be more creative, I decided to think outside of the box when considering just the right present for the coming years.

One idea I had — which I heard on a morning radio show — is a family vacation.

Rather than buying everyone a handful of useless gifts they will either lose or potentially get bored with, the radio mom said she and her husband decided to take everyone on an extensive trip at a later date. In order to make it happen, it required foregoing at least one year of traditional presents in exchange for making memories that would last a lifetime.

As difficult as this might have been when my children were younger, I've started to think now might be just the time to introduce such a tradition. Unlike when they were younger, my girls aren’t always interested in the year’s hottest gadgets and gizmos. That’s not to say they haven’t thought of a few high-ticket items they would enjoy, but they aren’t opposed to changing the game to keep life more interesting either.

In fact, I've opted for less traditional gifts — concert tickets as one example — the past several years, so my kids are used to only opening one big present instead of a handful of smaller presents. Although these gifts are only for one particular moment in time, the memories created will be with them forever. I’ve never heard them complain about this type of gift because they're always an unforgettable experience. In my experience, the end result has definitely been worth the effort. 

But when I brought up the idea of skipping a year or more worth of presents so we could take a big family vacation, neither of my girls were excited initially. In fact, they were skeptical at first about not receiving anything on Christmas day. But we talked about what a family vacation might entail — spending the holiday season with relatives in another part of the country or even a trip overseas.

Eventually, the more they thought about it, the more they liked the idea of a family vacation. Both of them realized the idea of a once-in-a-lifetime sort of trip would be much more interesting than simply opening a handful of gifts they might forget about in a few months.

While this isn’t an idea we can put into effect this year, it is definitely an idea I’d like to use in years to come. After all, a family vacation will have a better long-term impact on my daughters than any gift I can give them in the meantime.

Have you thought of any alternatives to traditional gift-giving? If so, what are they?

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Amanda Smith, a working mom of two children, writes weekly for momaha.com. Read more from Amanda »

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