10 November 2006

Buy the business trip present before you leave

I just got back from the Web 2.0 Conf...I mean, Summit in SF, where I witnessed the amazing blastoff propelling the Stikkit beta launch. WOW. More on that soon...right now, I'd like to share a decent hack I stumbled upon while on my way out of town.

Whenever I go on a trip and leave my kids behind with Daddy or Gramma or Bubbie (this happens occasionally), I like to bring home a little gift for each of them. More than once, the last few hours of my trip involved rifling through overpriced boutiques or airport stores looking for trinkets to stash. This time, I bought each of the kids a little something before I left. I got to pick something I knew they'd like, no scrambling necessary at the end of my trip, and I probably paid less than I would have last-minute, too.

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I have a warm fuzzy memory of my mom keeping a stock of He-Man guys in here closet for this very purpose. She would open her suitcase and throw one in before calling my brother to come see what she "brought back" from her trip.

To me this would feel like cheating - especially if you travel to an iconic place like SF. I think a perceptive child might be able to tell the difference between, say, a toy S.F. cable car and a trinket they've seen at the local grocery store.

stepan: My feeling -- it takes the pressure off. You can always pick up the cable car or the mini Eiffel Tower and hang onto your pre-purchased doodad for later. But this way, if you forget or run out of time or opportunity, you've got a backup.

I do the opposite. What I do is put a small present in my child's bag, so when she unpacks at her grandparents, she finds a note or something from me. She likes that a lot! Usually, it's a book or a notebook, something like that. Then, there's not a lot of pressure to bring something back. I often do--a magnet or a postcard-- but if I don't, it's no big deal. She's never complained about not getting something when I came back, but the one time I didn't put anything in her bag...

When I was little, my mom went away for a week with her girlfriends on a shopping trip. It was our first extended separation, and my mom did something brilliant: she wrapped individual presents and left instructions for us to open one each day. Most were small trinkets, and then there was one big gift for my sister and I to share. She put a lot of thought into it, and it really did ease the separation. We were excited to open our gifts each day she was gone and eager to see what she had picked out for us. We missed her, of course, but it gave us something to do if we were bored and reminded us each day that she cared enough to do all this for us. Some gifts were bought (a Barbie camper van) and some were made (a tape recording of Mom reading Robert Munsch's I Love You Forever).

I plan for gifts before I leave as well. When stocking up on groceries, I buy a little thank you or thinking of you or a special card and place it in my husband's closet or by his toothebrush to find once I have left--I usually fly out at ungodly morning hours. I leave my son a little wrapped gift by the refrigerator to find when he back from day care and ready for an evening snack. And while waiting at the airport before boarding, I buy little gifts or a book--a couple times, I shopped during a layover. What I loved most was coming home the last time to find a page filled with scribbles that my husband had my son deliver to me. It was apparently "a letter for Mommie."

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