Miss Lori wants you to give the gift of experience this holiday season

I was researching information for a blogpost about happiness and a quote struck me, “Focus on the experience, not the stuff.” It got me thinking about gifts for the holidays. There are so many gift guides out there dedicated to stuff, for our kids in particular. And many of those items will be practically outdated within a few short months of gifting. What if instead of more stuff we were to give gifts of experience? Not too long ago I responded to a friends’ query looking for suggestions for a birthday present for her 16 year old son. I suggested that she buy him a plane ticket to go and visit a friend or a relative out of state, empowering him with a trip of his very own on his own. I got the idea because when I was 16, the Summer between my Junior and Senior year of college, I took my show earnings from performing at the old Melody Top Theatre in Milwaukee, and bought myself a ticket to go out West and spend a week with my brother in San Francisco and then a week with an older cousin, who I didn’t actually know all that well, in Los Angeles. It was a life changing trip traveling by plane on my own out West and then behind the wheel of my cousins Porche in the hills of Los Angeles. However, it turned out to be even more important than just a maturing travel experience. It turned out to be the only adult-like alone time I would ever have with my brother, as he died in his sleep that following year. I point that out because life has many twists and turns. Ultimately it’s not the ipad or the smart phone that we will remember most, it is the events that we use those items to document that will stand the test of time. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.



Don’t want to send your child off on their own? Maybe you could team up with another family or relative and send a pair of your kids off on a journey together. Or use a trip for your kids to get closer to their grandparents. Let them explore the World together by train perhaps, or even a bus.



Does your child have a good friend out of town that they rarely get to see? Why not surprise them with a visit. Arrange for that friends to come and spend an extended weekend or full week with your child. But make sure you build in some time for them outside of your home. Make it special.



Gas prices have gone down since this Summer. Why not take advantage of the dip by hoping in the car and hitting the road less traveled. We did that a few years ago after Thanksgiving. The kids and I, along with their grandmother and cousin headed deeper into Wisconsin to spend a coule of nights at The Abbey. A few years later we made another road trip to Ohio and the Castaway Bay Resort and Waterpark. Or you can piggy back a getaway for your child onto a work event you have out of town. Or give both of you a gift and drop your child off at an out of town friend or relatives then you go on visit one of your own. Sure it takes some extra planning to handle all of the moving parts but experiences this valuable are worth the effort, and so are you and your child.



Can’t leave the city? Doesn’t mean you can’t stay in a hotel. Consider a staycation. Everyone loves the amenities of a hotel, swimming pool, weight room, big screen tv. And many hotels offer special packages tied to events or attractions in the city for a special price. My daughter and I enjoyed just such a getaway at Embassy Suites in downtown Chicago with their American Girl Package. It is a memory that still brings a smile to both of our faces. The change of scenery can be just what the doctor ordered to ignite your relationship with your child.



Traveling a little too pricey for your budget? Then take a look at Groupon or Living Social for tickets to action packed facilities and events like Glow in the Dark Golf, Trapeze Training, Trampoline centers like Sky High Sports, Nascar Racing, Go Karts, Paint Ball, Tandem Sky Diving or art experiences like Make-a-Messterpiece and more. Something big that normally would be reserved for a birthday party. Don’t forget concerts or big sporting events. Check out Ticketmaster and make some long range plans. (I know I’m on the lookout for tickets to a Wanted concert for my youngest and Lollapalooza tix for my eldest.) Even a gift card for movie tickets can make a lasting impression. Just make sure you put enough on the card so that they can travel in a pack. It’s about collective experiences. Social is high on the priority list for young people, so give them the means to be just that, social.


So think outside of the box this holiday season and craft a gift of experience that will enrich the life of someone you love, not just fill time.




These posts are:

Level 1: Some or all of the products or services mentioned were provided to Miss Lori free of charge.

Level 13: The product or service mentioned was bought and paid for with Miss Lori’s own hard earned money that she doesn’t have a lot of, and thus doesn’t like to part with, so it must have been important.

Miss Lori can be found at

 MissLori.TVWearetherealdeal.comYoungChicagonistaTheChicagoMoms.com and now on BABBLE.com with her new blog SMILING On With Miss Lori.

You can also see her Activating to Be Great at

 Miss Lori’s CAMPUS on YoutubeFacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramTOUT and LinkedIn.


Before you an send your child off on an out of town adventure on their own you will need to know the unaccompanied minor policies for various modes of transportation.


Children 13, 14 and 15 years old may travel unaccompanied in accordance with the Amtrak Unaccompanied Minor Policy, which includes the following conditions, (Children age 12 and under may not travel unaccompanied. They must travel with another person who is at least 18 years old):

  • Travel is permitted only on Amtrak trains. Travel is not permitted on Thruway motorcoach service, or on any other connecting services.
  • Both boarding and arrival stations must be staffed. (Please note that even certain staffed stations do not allow for unaccompanied minors.)
  • All travel must take place on the same day between 5:30 am and 9:05 pm. Overnight travel is not allowed.
  • No transfers of any kind are permitted.
  • All travel must be within the United States. Unaccompanied minors may not cross the US-Canadian border.
  • Both boarding and arrival stations must be staffed.
  • For each unaccompanied minor traveling alone, the adult (at least 18 years old) bringing the child to the departure station must complete and sign a release form. Both the adult and the minor must be at the boarding station at least 1 hour before the train’s departure time.
  • The child must be interviewed by station personnel to determine if the child is capable of traveling alone.
  • The child must wear an Amtrak issued wristband for the duration of travel.
  • The adult must remain at the station until the train has departed.
  • Upon arrival, an adult (at least 18 years old) must be present to pick up the child. The adult must display valid current identification meeting the Amtrak ID policies.
  • Children traveling alone are not entitled to a children’s discount; full adult fares are charged.
  • Tickets for unaccompanied children may not be purchased online.
  • The unaccompanied child may not have any life-threatening food allergies.
  • Because there are not at least two staffed stations along several routes, unaccompanied minors may not travel between any stations on the Downeaster (Boston, MA – Portland, ME), Heartland Flyer (Oklahoma City, OK – Fort Worth, TX) and Pere Marquette (Chicago, IL – Grand Rapids, MI).
  • Children 16 and over may travel without restriction.


Any passenger under the age of 8 must be accompanied by a passenger at least 15 years of age or older at all times. Passengers between the ages of 8 and 14 years of age inclusive, may travel unaccompanied at full adult fare if the following conditions are met in their entirety:

  • The passenger’s trip will begin and end on the same schedule (no transfers).
  • The passenger’s trip will be no longer than five (5) hours in duration.
  • The passenger’s trip (origin to destination) must take place during daylight hours only.
  • Both the origin and destination stations are full service agencies or company operated facilities.
  • The destination station will be open at the time the passenger is scheduled to arrive.
  • Parent, Guardian or Legal Custodian of the child must complete and sign the Unaccompanied Child Form authorizing the child to make the trip and return this to the Customer Service Supervisor on duty. This form specifically names the person authorizing the trip and the person meeting the child at the destination station and the telephone number(s) at which this person may be contacted. It also provides an emergency contact name and telephone number in the event it is needed.
  • In order for the child to be released at the destination, the person named on the Unaccompanied Child Form as the one meeting the child must have positive picture identification, such as a driver’s license or state issued identification card, and provide such to the agent at the destination station. Without such identification, the child will be released into the custody of Child Protective Services or to local law enforcement officials in the destination city.
  • A fee of $5 will be assessed for each child traveling unaccompanied.



  • Children ages five through 11 traveling without an accompanying Passenger age 12 or older must travel as an Unaccompanied Minor (UM) on Southwest Airlines.
  • For travel booked on or after April 23, 2010, Southwest Airlines will charge $50 each way ($100 roundtrip) in addition to the air fare per child for UMs to travel.
  • UMs may only travel on nonstop or direct (makes one or more stops but does not require a change of planes or flight number) flights.
  • Southwest will not transport UMs on flights that may be diverted or cancelled due to inclement weather or other operational abnormalities.



Children 5 to 11 years of age who are not accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or someone who is at least 18 years of age on the same aircraft are considered unaccompanied minors. Travel arrangements for young travelers can be booked at any of the following:

  • United allows unaccompanied minor travel only on United Airlines and United Express® flights.
  • Unaccompanied minors under 5 years of age are not accepted.
  • Unaccompanied minors ages 5 to 7 may only travel on nonstop flights.
  • Unaccompanied minors ages 8 to 11 may travel on any flight (nonstop or connecting) operated by United or United Express. However, travel will not be allowed on the last connecting flight of the day — unless the connecting flight is the only published service to that destination. Unaccompanied minors are not accepted on flights which require an overnight stay in order to make a connection.
  • Children ages 12 to 17 have the option to pay the fee and use the unaccompanied minor service or they may travel as adults with no unaccompanied minor service provided.



  • Children under 5 years of age may not travel alone under any circumstances. Another passenger at least 16 years of age must accompany them. AA reserves the right to request documented proof of age for the adolescent accompanying a child under the age of 12.
  • Children 5 through 7 years of age must travel with another passenger at least 16 years of age or they will be considered Unaccompanied Minors.
  • Unaccompanied Minors in this age range may only travel on flights not requiring a change of aircraft. They also cannot travel alone on certain American Connection® flights operated with aircraft not requiring a flight attendant.
  • Children 8 through 11 years of age must travel with another passenger at least 16 years of age or they will be considered Unaccompanied Minors.
  • American Airlines, American Eagle, and AmericanConnection do not accept unaccompanied children when their itinerary includes a connection to/from another airline, including codeshare and oneworld partners.
  • Unaccompanied Minors in this age range will not be accepted for co-terminal connecting itineraries (such as changing from New York LaGuardia to New York Kennedy) because an unaccompanied child under 12 years may not use ground transportation unescorted.
  • Please note that no reservation will be accepted for an unaccompanied minor traveling on an itinerary that includes the last on-line connection to any American Airlines, American Eagle or AmericanConnection destination.
  • Passengers 12 through 17 years of age are considered Young Adults. Use of the Unaccompanied Minor service is not required for young adults 12 through 17 but is available upon request (subject to the same charges and provisions).
  • Children who will be traveling alone will be required to use the Unaccompanied Minor service subject to a $100 charge each way. The charge will be assessed for each individual unaccompanied minor. Two or more unaccompanied children from the same family (immediate or extended), traveling on the same flights, will be assessed a single charge.

No matter how they travel make sure they have proper identification, like a state ID or a passport.



Be Sociable, Share!