2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experiences

One of the most obvious and uncluttered gifts you can give is an experience gift. Unlike a tangible gift that takes up space and might go unused, an experience gift won’t clutter up someone’s home or office. Best of all, experiences usually make the gift recipient happier than a tangible gift and their satisfaction of the gift may even improve over time (see “Stuff won’t make you happy, experiences will“).

Experience gifts are things your gift recipient can do alone, but I think it’s nice when the gift is given with the expectation that you will enjoy the gift together. Time is precious, and spending it with someone you care about is almost always well received. Granted, with an ongoing experience gift (like an annual museum membership), you may not participate in the experience together every time — but going together at least once can be a nice addition to the gift.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are some ideas for experience gifts —

  • Memberships or annual passes: Zoos, arboretums, museums, theme parks, water parks and swimming pools, and national/state park admissions passes.
  • Tickets: Plays, movies, operas, the symphony, rock concerts, air shows, festivals, and sporting events.
  • Education: Sky diving lesson, cooking class, wine tasting, ski lesson, race car driving opportunity, and music or foreign language lessons.
  • Adventures: Foot the bill for a road trip, airline tickets, hot air balloon ride, afternoon of deep sea sport fishing, and participation fees for races you can run together.
  • Social Coupons: Coupons you make for redeemable experiences like slumber parties with your grandkids and/or nieces and nephews, once-a-month date night or happy hour (12 coupons in all) with significant other or friend, walks along the beach or local trails, trips to favorite ice cream shop, afternoon of kayaking together, or whatever you enjoy doing with your loved ones.

If you like the idea of someone opening a gift, you can put the tickets or coupons or even a clue about the experience gift in a box for your recipient to open. Having a small box to open also suggests to your gift recipient that you thought more about the gift you’re giving than just as an after thought as you were signing the card.

For more experience ideas, check out books like 101 Things To Do Before You Die by Richard Horne and 1,000 Places To See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. Books such as these offer many great ideas for things to do and places to visit.

The full 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

3 Comments for “2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experiences”

  1. posted by Dusty @ Wine Logic on

    I buy my brother and sister in law a gift card to the movie theater so they can go and get food and watch a movie and I watch the kids while they do it! I know they enjoy this every year.

  2. posted by Jeannette on

    A great gift for folks with limited budgets who like theater, concerts, etc. in NYC is membership in what they call “papering” clubs (Theatermaniagold.com). For $99 you get two free tix to a prime show, plus complimentery tix (plus small fee of $4.50) to a variety of music, dance and theater during the year. Some really good stuff to choose from.

    We are also fans of clubfreetime.com. For a mere $19.95 a year, you can get complimentery tix with small fee of $3 to $5 each to a variety of musical concerts (including Lincoln Center), off-broadway shows, and other events. The membership alone is less than the cost of even the cheapest tix.

    We have purchased these subs and then funded accounts with money to cover X number of events. Our friends, especially those with extremely limited budgets and seniors, are mad for these.

    I think you can find similar organizations in various cities with lots of events.

    These kinds of gifts keep the spirit alive for the whole year!

  3. posted by Jennifer on

    Experiences are what I aim to give for holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. Often, the outing or experience will be remembered long after any object I might have given would have been lost, broken, or forgotten. As an added plus, the recepient never has to dust or pack up the memory!

    I am starting this habit of valuing experiences and people over things with my two-year-old. Instead of piling her with birthday gifts (I did give her a few, of course!), I took her on a day trip to a pumpkin patch. We both had a blast!

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