Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Gift-giving to RVers: Give experiences, not stuff

Today was the last day for my work-camping gig at a major resort in Arizona. You know the types of resorts that have more than 600 spaces for RVs and park model homes. My job was helping the activities director as the resort geared up for its busy season.

I mention this because it became very apparent to me that the director was not familiar with our full-timer/snowbird lifestyle. For example, there was a dog costume parade coming up for Halloween. She handed me a bag of doggie stuff to put into gift bags. There were enough toys and other stuff for ten dogs, but there were only two prize levels.

The director also had large frames in the bag to use for the winning certificates.

Living in a 31-foot Class C motorhome I can consider myself a minimalist. As I look around my room, I do not see a single wall that a frame would hang on, nor would I give up valuable space to do so for a “cutest doggy costume” certificate. This also conflicts with my value of not being wasteful with our earth’s resources, because I know it would end up somewhere other than on my wall.

When we moved into this lifestyle more than 20 years ago, we were in a 19-foot travel trailer. While not full-time for all those years, we did live in it for two years at a time. That is when I had a change in mindset. Everything I picked up I had to ask, “Will it fit in the trailer?” Trips to Costco were especially tricky. That large bag of tortilla chips doesn’t look as big in the store as they do on your counter. They are about two cubic feet, after all!

I had just enough space for a few dishes and cups that fit into a single cabinet. But that concept was not understood by most of my family members.

On one visit to see my parents in Florida, we headed for the beach. The street had the beach on one side and a row of tourist shops on the other. Mom loved to buy trinkets for the kids and on this trip, she had a basket full of coffee mugs – each with our names painted on them with shapes of dolphins and sea life.

I had to break her heart and say that it “would not fit in the trailer.”

After living in the RV for many years, she finally accepted that she could not really buy us “stuff.”  I set an example by giving them gifts of experiences each year. More than once, we put them on a train trip through the Rockies. The four of us spent four days on Lake Powell in a houseboat. And we moved them up to Alaska when we lived there and took them on many adventures, including taking Mom on a small plane ride around Mt. McKinley for Mother’s Day (she was 80).

But how do you break it to your family members that you just don’t have space for stuff, unless it is a high-quality replacement for something that needs replacing? It may seem rude to give people a gift list, but our lifestyle warrants it. Otherwise, we spend a few days moving it around the RV and eventually donating it.

To me, that stress is worse than just telling them not to buy me things.

I am always promoting experiences instead of stuff. Memories are more important to me than that mug with my name on it. Taking the grandkids on a weekend adventure means much more than a new video game. You get the idea.

So, what can you get a fellow full-timer or put on your Santa list? How about…

  • Certificate for RV wash service
  • Tickets to a dinner theater or show
  • Tickets to museums, botanical gardens, ballet, symphony or whatever they love
  • Wine tour
  • Sporting event
  • Cooking or art classes

You get the idea.

List some of your ideas below. What experiences have you given as gifts over the years and what did it mean to the recipient? What experiences have you been gifted that you’ve treasured?


Full-timer pleads, ‘PLEASE don’t buy me anything!




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Drew (@guest_151506)
2 years ago

I’m giving some donations as gifts. One of them gives rescue dogs to vets. There are others like the SPCA and still more from your local shelters who always need money to carry on their work.

Jon (@guest_149784)
2 years ago

We have always advised our family to buy us consumables – cheese, sausages, candies – that are fun, tasty, and go away naturally.

Drew (@guest_149721)
2 years ago

Give gift certificates for nights at their fav rv place.

Donald N Wright (@guest_149555)
2 years ago

Basically, a Backpacker on wheels. Ask, how far can I carry this stuff by hand while walking?

Sandi Sturm (@guest_149701)
2 years ago

Good one Donald.

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