Why Christmas presents should be all about time together, not more stuff

In our house we’re trying to do our best to reduce the amount of single-use plastic we use. It’s something I think everyone is becoming more and more aware of. In general I’m trying to reduce the amount of “stuff” we have as well. With three kids that isn’t always easy though. There are steps we’re taking to make a positive change, but Christmas is a terrible time for this. My house is full of “stuff”, and all five of use are guilty of curating more and more “stuff” all the time. Alllllllllll the stuff. Do we really need any more “stuff” in our house??? No, but nothing says it’s the festive season like a tree with tons of presents underneath it. Or does is? I think a Christmas gift should be about spending time together and experiences, not just spending money. This post contains some affiliate links. These are marked with a * – see note at the end for all the details but there is no additional cost to you.

This Christmas we’re planning on doing things differently. Yes, there will still be presents under the tree, but less of them. Most of these presents will be about spending time together as a family, or activities and experiences rather than things. This year we are all about giving vouchers and experiences for Christmas, not more stuff. An added bonus is that we can make Christmas last for a full year as well!! For the physical gifts we’re going to try and stick to the “something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read” philosophy.

This idea was reinforced last year by our boys. Their main present was tickets to the Harry Potter studios in Watford (you can read my review here). We recorded their reaction to opening the tickets and it’s still one of my favourite family videos to watch. They were so excited to be going and it didn’t matter they didn’t have something to play with on the day. Three months later, when we actually went on the tour, they got that level of excitement all over again!

Cheap Christmas Experience Gift Ideas

I still want to keep within the Free Time with the Kids ethos of cheap, great value and discounted family days in this post though. I’ve put together list of experience gift ideas for you to buy that I think you’ll love, but that are also budget friendly! At the very least they’re significantly cheaper than normal. Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means I earn a small commission if you purchase using the link, but there is no additional cost to you. The commission goes towards the running costs of this website.

Some of these Christmas gift experiences are only available for a short period of time, so I’ll be regularly updating this post. Keeping checking back to see what the latest deals and offers are. All prices and discounts are correct at the time of publication, but may be subject to change. Please double check the final price before making any purchases.

Discounted Family Days OUt

My first recommendation has to be to buy a Kids Pass*. You can get a trial for just £1, and it’s just £7.50 per month or £39.99 per year after that. Quite a few of my followers have signed up and they’ve saved loads of money. You can get some huge discounts on some big family days out and activities. It’s a great way to get some cheap, but very impressive looking Christmas presents!!

You can also now get tastecard gift membership. There’s an offer for 6 months for £19.99* or you can go for the full year. Don’t forget, tastecard now isn’t just about discounts on meals, you can also get lots of discounts on family days out.

Cheap Experience Christmas Gift Ideas

Just one of the things you can get a discount on using your Kids Pass is 15% off ice skating at both the Hampton Court Palace* and Tower of London Ice Rinks*. It’s an early bird offer though so you’ll have to be quick.

You can get tickets to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo* for just £21.30 each, on a huge range of dates, including during school holidays. Or you could go for an annual membership*. There are various packages available but you only need to visit two or three times over the course of the year to start saving. When we had membership we went about 6 times! Gift memberships are also available at a reduced price.

You can get a 2 hour Birds of Prey* centre experience in Bedfordshire for two people for just £29 at the moment. That’s a HUGE discount. Don’t tell anyone but this is one of the things we’ve brought the boys! If that’s a bit too far then there’s a similar experience in Sandford-on-Thames* for £24 for two people.

Locally there’s also the chance to practice archery for one, two or four people and save up to 50%. That’s an hour’s archery for four people for £59! Click here to see all the details* Again, this is something that we’ve booked ourselves this year.

Visit the incredible Kew Gardens in London with the family for £48 through buyagift.* We’ve been twice now and it’s fantastic (click here for the full review). If you do visit, make sure you also go to the new Children’s garden; it’s incredible.

At the moment you can save a MASSIVE 40% on tickets to Portsmouth’s Historic Naval Dockyard*. And the tickets are valid for a full year so you can visit time and time again. We’ve already been to the Mary Rose and loved it, the Naval Dockyard is next on our list!

If yo’re brave enough (I’m not!) then you can save 12% on Up at the O2.* You know, where you get to climb onto the roof of the O2!!!

Not sure which deal to get? Don’t forget, most of the gift schemes will let people exchange their gifts if they want to. Otherwise you could try something like this; a family days out choice voucher*? We received an experiences day as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago and used it to go on a free day out during our holiday! Perfect.

Vouchers in general are a really good idea. We often ask for cinema vouchers or vouchers for family meals. I also ask for things like Spotify vouchers or Netflix/Amazon/Now TV. Yes, they’re less glamorous than big presents, but I’ll be spending the money on those things away. This way I’m getting a gift I’m absolutely going to use. If you want to add something else to the gift, how about including a personalised gift or a photo? I’ve put together collage photos before which have always gone down really well.

Cheap Annual Memberships – Christmas Presents that last all year

In our area there are some fantastic, and cheap, annual memberships that mean your Christmas gift becomes an experience that lasts all year! Tickets to the Milton Keynes Museum, Blenheim Palace (Oxfordshire) and Bletchley Park (Buckinghamshire) all allow unlimited revisits for 12 months. If you buy a Full Story Ticket for Shakespeare’s Stratford then you can visit all five properties for a full year rather than paying nearly as much to visit just one place once!

I will always bang on about how awesome National Trust and English Heritage memberships are. Depending on your location one might be more or less beneficial to you. It’s also worth considering where you go on holiday. We’re often in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset; there are loads of free days out down there if you’re a member of either scheme. Some of the most popular places to visit in the UK are NT or EH properties. National Trust and English Heritage memberships give you access to a huge variety of days out, all across the country for just one, affordable, fee.

There are some annual memberships that also give you a local’s discount. Ones that I know of include Bletchley Park and the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre both offer discounts if you live locally.

How about getting away from it all?

Instead of having Christmas at home this year why not go away? Or you could book a short break and give that as a present. Personally I’ve always quite liked the idea of going away for Christmas. Lots of places are open at Christmas, or maybe you could book into your own little cottage* and huddle up in front of an open fire on Christmas Eve?

There are so many different Christmas gift experiences out there there’s something for everyone! If you don’t just want to give someone an email for Christmas there are lots of different ways you can dress it up. For example, our Harry Potter tickets were wrapped up in a new pair of Harry Potter PJs each. They dropped the tickets themselves on the floor and nearly didn’t spot them! Doh.

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Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with our three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch contact@freetimewiththekids.com or get in touch via Facebook

I sometimes use affiliate links if there is something that I genuinely think will be of interest and that I think is relevant to the post. I will always indiciate if a link is an affiliate link. I do earn a small commission for these, and that goes towards the running costs of the site. Any discounts mentioned may only be available for a short time so please double check prices before booking.