Instead Of Throwing A Birthday Party, Take A Birthday Adventure

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
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OK, be honest here. Do you actually enjoy throwing a birthday party for your kid? I know that the look on their face when they blow out their birthday candles is priceless. And what kid doesn’t love frolicking around for a few hours with their friends, gorging on cake, and opening oodles of presents?

But is all the hassle and stress really worth it? I know that for me, every single damn birthday party I’ve thrown for my kids – whether homegrown or at an outside venue – has been so incredibly stressful. Making the arrangements, waiting for the RSVPs, buying all the crap – and then that tense night before when you cross your fingers and toes that one of your kids doesn’t spike a fever and that more than one kid remembers to show up to the party.

And let’s not forget that however you do it, birthday parties always cost an arm and a leg. The few times I’ve done the party at home, I’m always surprised that it still ends up costing me a couple hundred bucks. And the times that I pay to have it at a place? I think I’m going to get a bargain, and the bill ends up being so high it makes me dizzy. Ughhhhh.

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The thing is, I always say to myself that I’m doing all this for my kid. And don’t get me wrong: I would do anything for my kids, especially on their birthdays. But the truth is that most of the time, I wonder if all the hoopla is worth it, even for my kids.

They’re always nervous and edgy the night before. There is always some crying the day of. And although they usually have a bit of fun playing and celebrating with their friends, it can be overwhelming when 15-20 of their friends are there are once, and they are all hyped up on sugar and screaming their heads off. Sometimes my kids seem genuinely relieved when the party is over and everyone can finally breathe again.

For years, I have considered doing some kind of alternative to a birthday party for my kids, but I haven’t had the nerve or an idea that seems solid and saleable enough. This year, however, I think I may just have to go for it. We are moving this summer, and my six-year-old’s birthday is at the very beginning of school. He’s going to be in that awkward place of not knowing the new kids at his school that well, and starting to fall out of touch with his old friends. I’ve been worrying for a few months about how we can throw a party for him that won’t stress us all and yet still be celebratory and fun for him.

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This morning, though, I had a lightbulb moment when I came across an article written by author and mom Tiffany Pitts. Pitts proposes an amazing birthday party alternative that might totally work for me this year. Instead of giving your kid a birthday party, Pitts suggest, take them on a trip.

Totally genius idea, right?

“Get rid of the birthday party and do an overnight adventure instead,” writes Pitts. And this trip doesn’t have to be elaborate, like a trip to Disney. Just pick a location, close to home if that works, book a night at a hotel, and let your kids live it up.

I mean, does any kid not love hotels? Mine absolutely live for them. This summer, we spent two nights at a hotel just an hour away from us, and my kids went bananas. They spent 2 hours jumping on the bed, and another hour flipping through the channels on the TV like they’d never watched TV in their life before. And the pool? Holy crap, my kids basically lived in the hotel pool for two days. They were in paradise.

The thing is that kids may think they need a birthday party with all the familiar trappings – and that may be the way it makes sense to go for most years. But most kids would do anything to spend a night or two away. For young kids, going anywhere away from home feels like an adventure. And whether they realize it or not, most kids end up valuing experiences over things.

Think about it. While you probably remember a few of the presents you got for holidays and birthdays as a kid, what you probably remember most are the meaningful experiences you had, right? Those get etched into our memories most deeply and profoundly.

In terms of this birthday trip, if you want to make it more exciting for your kids, you can pick a place that has an amusement park or another fun attraction. But in my experience, just staying at a hotel, preferably one with a pool, is special and luxurious enough.

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As far as costs, I totally get that traveling and staying at hotels can be costly. But like I said, even throwing a homegrown birthday party can end up costing several hundred dollars. You might find that just taking a day trip to fun destination is within your birthday celebration budget. And an afternoon at the beach or a really cool park in a different town could be adventure enough.

As for how to convince your kid that this plan is where it’s at? Well, I haven’t tried to convince my kid as of yet. But I think that framing it as an adventure, and allowing your kid to help make decisions about the trip (within reason, of course) could be a major draw.

And of course, they can still celebrate with cake and maybe a gift or two as well. I think I’ll probably propose the idea of a small family get together (just cake and presents) before we go, and then a night away as the “kid-party” substitute.

I’ll let you know how it goes, but I have a feeling that it’s going to be the best birthday celebration ever – with much less stress than usual, and a whole lot of meaningful memories.

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