What if I told you that you could avoid a ton of Christmas shopping yet still make every member of your family happy? What if I gave you an idea for a Christmas present that would provide a year’s worth of family fun? What if I showed you a way for your family to spend more time focusing on the meaning of Christmas day, rather than on the materialism? What if this idea would actually save you money on your entertainment budget over the course of the year ? (Or if you’re like me, and don’t really HAVE an entertainment budget, but spend money on it anyway – what if you could not spend as much?? Lol.)
Welcome back to A Christmas Survival Guide for Busy Moms! If you are just now tuning in you can catch up with us here HERE.
For many years (except last year, but more on that later) our family has purchased one gift for the entire family that makes up the bulk of our Christmas shopping. We still have a few gifts under the tree, but everyone knows that the “big gift” will be theirs to enjoy for the entire year, so no one feels slighted. It took us awhile to realize the potential of this Christmas present and act upon it, but once we did, we were hooked.
I know you’re wondering what this fantasmagorical gift is. Well, I won’t make you wait any longer. 🙂 Here’s what we do (cue drum roll): we buy season passes to the local amusement park.
We happen to live 20 minutes away from one of the coolest theme parks on the planet — Silver Dollar City. This park is set in the 1800’s, which is when local history has it that a man found a silver mine nearby and started minting his own dollars. The park is clean, family friendly, and both fun and interesting at the same time. It is fun because it has rides that are just as good as any Six Flags has to offer. It is interesting because spread throughout the park are craftsman engaged in actually doing skills that were common back in that time period. You can watch a blacksmith at work, a glassblower, a man shaping wood on a lathe powered by belts, a soapmaker, etc. And there are shows of all kinds – music, theater, comedy, you name it. There is also a cave right under the park that you can take a tour through. So yea, it’s definitely a neat place to go spend some time!
So our big family Christmas present is always to buy season passes for everyone for Silver Dollar City. And then we use them a couple times per month throughout the year. We have made so many fun memories at that park!! We all love the rides, and it has been so fun to try new ones as they are opened each year. We enjoy walking on the trails and stopping in the stores. We are thankful for the opportunities to go when the weather isn’t perfect – because that means the lines are much shorter. And if it DOES start to rain, we can go back home without feeling gypped. Because since we have season passes, we don’t have to stay ALL DAY to try to get the most out of our money. We can go for just an hour or two and then go back home, knowing we can easily come back to the park another day.
What makes this a great Christmas present?
1) It’s frugal. I know you may not think so at first, because I will freely admit that the upfront price can be a little daunting. But first of all, you are definitely saving over going to the park on individual days and paying full price. That is a no-brainer.
Secondly, though, these passes become your ticket to entertainment all year long. You don’t have to think of anything else to do, like, EVER. Just hop in the car and head to the park for a few hours of play. No new tickets to buy to another attraction, no planning a huge day trip to find a “new experience” – just the ease and simplicity of going where it’s familiar AND fun. And even when you consider the food, which at places like this is often exorbitant – when you have season passes, you can plan your trips to happen between mealtimes. Or it’s not as big a deal to run back to the car to eat, because you are not trying to squeeze every possible ride/show/store/event in before you leave the park. Or you can purchase a small snack, rather than a full meal, to tide you over until you do get home.
2) It’s frugal – part 2. Christmas shopping becomes a breeze — one purchase and most of it is done. (After all, you know that’s what I’m all about — making things easier! And especially when we’re talking about reducing holiday stress levels, lol.) So you are saving on gas and the hassle of all that running around.
Further, you probably won’t spend as much overall, because you will know you just spent a load of money on those passes, and you’ll be careful about the rest of your purchases for under the tree. Last Christmas was the first time in many years that we did NOT buy season passes, because we believed we did not have enough cash to pay for them. Guess what? We spent about the same amount (possibly more) on Christmas anyway. I don’t know about you, but for me shopping tends to take on a life of its own, as I see this thing for this person and that thing for that person, and oh look over here I bet so-and-so would love that… so yea. But when I know the money has already been spent on season passes, that doesn’t happen as much.
3) It’s a built-in way to make family memories. Wow, our family has had SO MUCH FUN doing this over the years. It’s basically part of our family identity now. The inside jokes that have arisen, the people we’ve met, the arguments we’ve had about which ride to go on next (lol) – all contribute to a host of great feelings in my heart and in all the kids’ hearts about our family. We don’t need a bunch of pictures from 500 different educational places whose significance we can’t even remember; we’ve got images branded in our minds of a place we know intimately and the people we have spent time with there. And of course, we have pictures, too; don’t get me wrong. But my point here is when you go back to the same place over and over, there is family tradition and story that gets built over time. You don’t get that as much by traipsing hither and yon to different places all the time.
You know what happened because we didn’t buy passes last Christmas? We really missed going to the park! When we decided not to make the big purchase, we told ourselves we would go for just one day in the summer and pay regular price. But wow, when you think about actually laying out over half of what the season passes would have cost for just ONE DAY of fun — we never could justify it. So for us, no season passes means no park at all. How dreary is that?? So, lesson learned there, and this Christmas we are once again purchasing those season passes!! 🙂
But what if you don’t have a theme park near you? I’m betting there are other options that would accomplish the same type of thing for your family. All sorts of attractions offer season passes. What about a museum? Or a waterpark? Or the community pool? Or the local ski slopes? Or even season tickets for an athletic team that competes nearby? There are many possibilities here for a wonderful “big” Christmas present for the whole family that is frugal and fun and would provide that history over time that makes for great memories and family unity.
Since we started this tradition in our family, we’ve mentioned it to several other families who have also gone ahead and tried it for themselves. They have all mentioned how much fun it turned out to be.
At the very least, do some research on the cost of season passes for attractions in your area. If I may be a little cheesy here, I think you will find purchasing them to be a Christmas present that keeps on giving, all year round. (I know that sounds like a Hallmark card, but it’s true! 🙂 )