What is the best way to present a gift of a family vacation?
December 2, 2013 11:48 AM   Subscribe

My mother in law is retiring this month and my husband and I want to take the whole family to Cancun for a week to celebrate. How can I present this gift effectively and beautifully?

MIL's last day of work ever will be December 23, which is the same day that we arrive to visit for Christmas. We'll get in too late to do much celebrating that night, so the current idea is to get up early and make a special breakfast/brunch with champagne/mimosas. We'd give her the package at breakfast and choose a week to go as a family (5 of us total). I like this idea because it gives MIL a little celebration that is just for her and separate from Christmas AND she'll get to show off/make her sisters jealous all day on Christmas, which she'll love.

I'm trying to figure out a fun way to present the gift. A card saying that we're paying for a trip seems lame and not very sweet. I was thinking about glossy photos of the beach and details/photos of activities we could do (Mayan ruins, snorkeling, cenotes, etc). The thing is that I want it to be obvious what the gift is without us having to explain too much. We'll be paying for basically everything except small incidentals like, "I got up early and bought myself a muffin," type things. So flights, accommodations, family activities, most meals, drinks, etc. will be on us. Any ideas?

I've never done a family trip like this before, so any tips on maintaining my sanity would also be welcome.
posted by tealcake to Grab Bag (11 answers total)
A nice invitation card? "You're invited to be our guest..." should make it pretty clear that you're paying, especially if you're the kind of family where it's uncomfortable to state that kind of thing outright.
posted by chaiminda at 11:56 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

What about a guidebook? Inside the front cover is a card explaining all.

It would be super cool if it were a postcard from the Mayan Riviera, but it doesn't have to be. If I couldn't have that, I'd pick a blank card from the stationery store that had some kind of beachy/travely/Mexican design.
posted by Sara C. at 11:57 AM on December 2, 2013

How can I present this gift effectively and beautifully?

A book about Cancun (coffee-table would work well) with a note inside the front cover saying "You'll see it for yourself!" and some details on the vacation.

I've never done a family trip like this before, so any tips on maintaining my sanity would also be welcome.

Don't overschedule. Allow everyone downtime every single day. If people want to go off and do things during downtime, that's fine, but don't let anyone pressure anyone else into squeezing in one more thing. Adhere to the 5-2-1 rule (5 hours of sleep, 2 meals, 1 shower every day).
posted by Etrigan at 11:58 AM on December 2, 2013

This isn't really in the same ballpark, but my mom sent a email as our Christmas present a few weeks ago:


Congratulations, [name]! Mom's Travel Agency has selected you and your husband to receive a Florida Christmas vacation.

This fabulous package includes waterfront accommodations during your stay, all food and beverage, the use of a car, PLUS dinner at the restaurant of your choice (in the company of Mom HERSELF!) You will also receive $500 toward the purchase of your airline tickets.

All you need to do to claim this amazing prize is copy Mom on your confirmed travel itinerary and the $500 voucher (in the form of a cashier's check) will be immediately sent to you.

Act now to ensure the greatest selection for your flight to Florida!!!
posted by Flamingo at 11:59 AM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

I'd make a traditional Mexican breakfast as part of the announcement.

Party City has Fiesta Decorations, you can have those shipped to where you're staying.

Grupo Bimbo/Pan Bimbo is sort of the Wonder Bread for Mexican Pastries, you can order them from Amazon and have them waiting for consumption on the 24th as well. (The Conchas are pretty good, so are the vanilla cakes (Twinkies!)

If there's a Mexican bakery in the area, you might want to see if they'll do a delivery.

Then perhaps a Guide Book. Call the resort where you'll be staying and see if the gift shop has a book that they sell. Buy that and wrap it as her gift.

This sounds like a total hoot! Have fun!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:59 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd print off a fun looking map of the area and then circle where you'd be going and write a big happy message like "HAPPY CHRISTMAS! WE'LL SEE YOU THERE IN 2014! LOVE YOU!". Roll it up all pretty and tie it with a festive ribbon or something.

Or, I would just tell her over breakfast how YOU are planning to go on a trip and tell her all the awesome things you plan to do while there. Lay it on REALLY THICK to the point of being a total braggy braggerson and annoying. Maybe show her some pamphlets and guide books of the area. When she makes some polite "Oh that sounds lovely, dear!" comment you could all "Oh, I'm glad you think so because we're taking you with us. 100% on us! You're going to start your retirement IN STYLE!" And then let her keep the pamphlets and guide books.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:04 PM on December 2, 2013

Oh, and when you're going on about all the fun things you're going to do on "your" trip, make sure they are things you know she'd really enjoy. Make sure you sell it as a Christmas Present you ar giving yourself. (ie. "Husband and I decided to go on this trip as our mutual gift to each other! isn't that great?!") The goal is to be really obnoxious about it so that when she is told that it is her trip too she has the huge shift from thinking you're being an annoying insensitive jerkface to now thinking you're the most wonderful person ever. The bigger the emotional shift, the better. Trust me.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:10 PM on December 2, 2013

What about a collection of things she'll need in Cancun, like sunscreen, a sun hat, pepto bismol and whatever else you can think of? After she opens it and is all puzzled, you and your husband can then tell her what the real gift is.
posted by Maisie at 1:33 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think it would be cute to get a jar of sand- or a nice bottle of sand with a 'message' attached. Do this in nice script then tell the rest of the details in person.

Wow, they are so lucky, what a great gift!
posted by bquarters at 1:57 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Once my sister and I got my mom tickets to the Preakness horse race, and since the tickets didn't come in in time for me to put them in a card or anything, I bought one of those crazy womens' hats, you know, the kind they wear at horse races! from a thrift shop and wrapped it. Then when my mom opened it, we explained that the real present was the tickets.

My parents like to make my sister and I solve a word puzzle that they have created, the solution of which is our gift.

I like the sand idea!
posted by chainsofreedom at 2:21 PM on December 2, 2013

Thank you for all of the ideas! I can't believe I didn't think of a themed breakfast. Chilaquiles! I'm going to make/buy and embellish an invitation card and package it with a guidebook. I'll decorate the dining room for breakfast and leave the package on her plate to open. Perfect!
posted by tealcake at 11:51 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

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