The Gift of Unexpected Experiences


Experience gifts have become a trend in the last few years. The basic idea is that instead of giving a physical gift (like a toy), you give something a little less tangible, but with more potential for memories (like a trip to the movies).

I’m a huge fan of experience gifts. Over the years my family has enjoyed trips to zoos, pools, hot springs, aquariums, restaurants, movies, roller rinks, bowling alleys, museums, and many other fun places.  We plan to do many more of these experience gifts. 

But recently something happened on one of our trips that made me rethink the definition of an “Experience Gift.”  

At the end of June, I took my kids on an overnight trip from Twin Falls to Idaho Falls. On our second day in Idaho Falls, I had a whole list of experiences I was hoping to do together. We’d visit the Idaho Falls Zoo, we’d have lunch at McDonald’s, we’d visit the Museum of Idaho, and before we drove home, we’d make sure to take a picture with the “Where the Red Fern Grows” statue in front of the Idaho Falls Library.  

Halfway through our day of planned experiences, we had an unexpected experience. I locked my keys in the car and I didn’t realize it until we came out of Mcdonald’s. I fumbled for my keys, searching through my purse until one of my daughters looked in the car and saw them dangling from the ignition. 

When my kids realized where the keys were I could see the panic on their faces. This was the first time I’d ever locked the keys in the car. We were far from home. Dad wasn’t nearby with his keys. They had no idea what we were going to do.  

I explained that we were going to call a Locksmith. Then I had to explain what a Locksmith was. We went back into McDonald’s and the kids watched me ask a lady behind the counter for a recommendation for who to call.  They listened to the things I said when I made the phone call.  When the locksmith arrived they watched me talk with him. After the car door was opened, they saw me pay him. 

We were back onto our planned itinerary with barely a 30-minute delay. But in the days since this event, I’ve realized this experience was a great life lesson for the kids. One of my goals as a parent is to teach my kids how to be competent adults one day. Knowing what to do when you lock your keys in the car is certainly a life skill my kids will need at some point in their adult lives.

I need to remember that sometimes unexpected experiences can turn out to be gifts too. 

And shout out to Mel’s Lock and Key ( for prompt and courteous service. 


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