Making Memories on Vacation

When our teenage children were young my wife Kristen felt convicted about giving our kids lots of stuff for Christmas. To her, toys simply weren’t the point of Christmas.

Christmas is about Jesus, right? So if we make a big deal out of loading up the tree with toys it stops being about Jesus and starts being about toys.

Give Experiences, Not Things

As the years progressed this idea morphed as things do in a family. Along the way we shifted our thinking about Christmas and birthday gift giving from things to experiences.

We tend to help create ways for our kids to earn their own money to buy things. (Our middle child earned $800 in 6th grade to buy and build his own gaming PC, our high schoolers now pet sit to buy all the things they want.) And we tend to give experiences as gifts. (Excursions, day trips, weekends, and the occasional longer trip.)*

Making Memories Together

As I reflect on our 17 years of parenting I have a hard time remembering all of the day-to-day stuff. The millions of lunches made, drives to school, homework help, soccer practices… it all blends together.

But the memories I hold dear, the photos in my brain, mostly come from our shared experiences. These vivid snapshots of our family will last a lifetime.

  • Playing in rivers at Yosemite, squinting at the walls of El Capitan to see climbers.
  • Watching my 12 year old catch a fish half his weight.
  • Seeing Jackson play in the snow for the first time.
  • Hiking to an alpine lake.
  • The wonder of riding the ferries in Seattle.
  • Being overtaken by the smells of a Mexico City bakery.
  • Driving across Costa Rica just to see monkeys on a beach.

If life were a Polaroid camera these are layers of snapshots laying on the table.

Ah, San Diego

We’ve lived in San Diego for 10 years now. (Crazy, right) And I think we’re still tourists. I still regularly go somewhere and think, “I didn’t know this was here!

While it’s a place known for big attractions it’s also a place of small wondrous corners.

Yes, the zoo is great.

But so is Barrio Logan.

Yes, Sea World is great.

But if you go to the tide pools at Cabrillo at just the right time, it’s way better.

Helping Families Make Memories in San Diego

This Spring, Kristen pitched the idea of starting her own business to help families visiting San Diego make memories that’ll last a lifetime.

She calls it McLandia and the scope of the idea is all of these things.

  • Helping families discover unique parts of San Diego, stuff that’s off the beaten path. We know people want to visit the main attractions. But we hope to help families visit really cool parts of our community, too. Each month she’s sending out a Beyond the Zoo Guide for free, sign-up here.
  • Helping families create memories with unique experiences. One of the things she’s been learning is that it’s just too hard for a family to pull off some of the cooler things you can do in San Diego. So she’s working on some turn-key experiences you can book directly on her website, like the perfect beach bonfire night on the bay.

*I want to be clear that this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Please see the phrase  “tend to” as sometimes we give gifts.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

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