2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experiences

Today begins our annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. Between now and November 26, we will share numerous articles on uncluttered giving that can be used this season. Most of these ideas also will apply to gift giving throughout the year, irrespective of the occasion.

Giving an experience gift ensures there’s nothing for the recipient to unclutter, and it’s a great kind of gift to give to someone who really doesn’t need or want any more stuff. I have a friend who said one of the best gifts she ever got was an annual membership to a local museum.

Last year, Erin provided suggestions for many types of experience gifts — and here are some more ideas. My examples will be U.S.-based, but similar items can probably be found in many other parts of the world.

City tours

Here are a few of the tours available in San Francisco; your area may well have equally interesting options.

  • Food-related tours: Gourmet Walks, San Francisco Food Tours, Foodie Adventures
  • Neighborhood-related tours: All About Chinatown, Chinatown Alleyway Tours
  • Architecture-related tours: San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour, Victorian Home Walk
  • Novelty vehicle tours: Fire Engine Tours — I know a little boy who would have loved this!
  • Golf

    If you’ve got a golfer on your gift list, you might choose a gift card good at over 4,000 golf courses nationwide.


    Here’s just one possibility: a zip line experience. You can find these in many places; two examples are Zipline New York and Zipline Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge, Georgia.

    Spa experiences: massages, facials, pedicures, etc.

    Treat someone to some pampering and relaxation! Almost any business offering these services will have a gift certificate available, and sometimes you can buy them online.

    Here are just a few examples: Massage LA (which serves Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon); Queen Jane Day Spa (which serves New York City); and Nirvana Holistic Spa (which serves Washington D.C. and Portland, Oregon).

    Consultations with specialists

    If you know the recipient would appreciate such a consultation, it could be a great gift. Give someone a consultation with an image consultant, a garden coach, etc.

    Combination gifts: books plus experiences

    This can work well for those who don’t want to give a purely intangible gift. Here are a few examples to get you thinking.

  • Give a gift certificate for a Segway tour, along with the book Reinventing the Wheel: A Story of Genius, Innovation, and Grand Ambition.
  • Give the book Pug Hill, where the protagonist is an art restorer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — along with a membership to that museum.
  • Give a child (or an adult) a membership to your local zoo, along with a related book. There are many choices, from the board book Touch and Feel Zoo to the intriguing-sounding The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes: And Other Surprising True Stories of Zoo Vets and their Patients.
  • Give the gift of a stock car ride along, and bundle it with the book The Physics of NASCAR: How to Make Steel + Gas + Rubber = Speed
  • Want more gift-giving ideas? Explore Unclutterer’s full 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

    7 Comments for “2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experiences”

    1. posted by Leslie on

      Massage Envy is a nationwide chain/franchise that offers gift certificates. For those who’ve been ill, consider a gift certificate to get their hair/nails/makeup done. Most cities have places that offer cooking classes for different ages (from tween and up). While these are “stuff”, also consider a sturdy hiking stick and a book of local hikes along with a commitment to hike with that person.

    2. posted by Stephanie on

      Great ideas! Thanks for sharing!

    3. posted by adora on

      I’ve come to appreciate “stuff” gifts more than experience gifts these days.

      My friends are terrible at getting what I like. I don’t enjoy spa and I have to tip – I’m losing time and money on their gifts that I don’t like! When I get a simple “stuff”, I can at least re-gift it to someone else.

      Well, if you are giving experience gift, you should find out whether the recipient enjoys that activity.

    4. posted by Marie on

      This is great! I think I’ve found a great Christmas gift for my husband. Thank you!

    5. posted by eccoyle on

      Love the idea of giving a book or small tangible gift along with an experience.

    6. posted by Emily on

      Adora makes a good point. My mother got my husband and I a gift certificate to a local comedy club – with a two drink minimum. Neither of us drink!

      Consider everything that comes with the experience and whether or not the recipient is willing/able to make up the difference.

    7. posted by JudiH on

      Anyone blessed with enough to share with others should consider a gift to charity in honor of the recipient. Our family has switched 100% away from any types of personal gifts — material or otherwise — to donations to good causes. These have included Free the Slaves, Heifer International, Save the Children, local school funds and many many more. All of this makes me happier than any material or experiential gift!

    Comments are closed.