Why My Family Chooses Experiences Over Parties for Birthdays

This mom doesn't throw her kids birthday parties. And they love it.

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Every year, my kids, completely of their own volition, request a family trip to a local indoor waterpark as opposed to a birthday party. I'm more than happy to oblige. I've thrown elaborate, over-the-top parties with petting zoos, pinatas and trains to ride, but I'll take a family trip any day.

Photo by: Jennifer Perkins

Jennifer Perkins

I've weighed the pluses and minuses of an experience as opposed to a party, and the experience wins every time. It can cost less money, there are no extra kids to feed, no messes to clean up and no thank-you notes to write. Plus, you know, family bonding is a bonus.

Photo by: Jennifer Perkins

Jennifer Perkins

An "experience" doesn't have to break the bank. My kids have birthdays that are very close, so we get a double bang for our buck. My motto is: Create memories, not a flash-in-the-pan party. Here's my family's logic:


Photo by: Jennifer Perkins

Jennifer Perkins

Once you pay for the entire kindergarten class to go to a bounce house, buy them pizza and fill goodie bags, you could have paid for a small trip or experience gift. My kids love the water park, but yours might like a night camping. Cost-wise, they come out about the same. Simply remind them that this "experience" also counts as their gift.


Photo by: Jennifer Perkins

Jennifer Perkins

If you play your cards right, you don't have to scrub your baseboards before the party, and there's not a single bit of cupcake icing to scrub off your sofa afterward. Nothing says "Happy Birthday" like an angry parent furiously cleaning the house for guests. Let that stress go when you have an experience birthday instead.

Time Together

Photo by: Jennifer Perkins

Jennifer Perkins

Ask them to try an experience one year just to see if they're up for a change. That experience could be a night out at a hotel, going to an amusement park or riding the local vintage steam train. The point is that the experience is something special that your family wouldn't normally do. Think — staycation with the family.

Guest Lists

Jennifer Perkins
Jennifer Perkins

Photo By: Jennifer Perkins

Photo By: Jennifer Perkins

Forget feeling obligated to invite the entire class, plus the kids from your mommy group from 10 years ago. There are no hurt feelings about not being on the guest list from anyone because THERE IS NO GUEST LIST. Bonus: You don't have to stand around for two hours making awkward small talk with other kids' parents.


If your child is old enough to get the concept of deferred birthdays, remember that these events don't have to be on the exact day the child was born. If their favorite performer will be in concert the month before, let that be the party. If your family has always wanted to go see your local sports team play live, grab tickets for this summer. 

You don't have to dip into anyone's college fund, but do make this experience just as amazing and memorable as a party would have been. Quiz your kids about their thoughts on this idea long before the birthday comes. Start tossing around ideas and looking online for deals and options. For instance, I bought my children's "experience" during a Black Friday sale.

Photo by: Jennifer Perkins

Jennifer Perkins

Once you've made a plan, stick to it. When their birthday approaches, they might start getting hesitant about their choice or start picking out gifts they want. Remind them that this year, you're doing something a little different. You don't want to let their actual birthday pass without any fanfare at all (bake some homemade cupcakes!). Simply make it clear that the big celebration will be on another day.

This is our third year in a row with an experience birthday (my nephews join us for their birthdays, too), and my kids have never looked back. No one ever laments not having a party. The only thing I ever hear is how they can't wait to do it again next year.

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