Unclutterer’s 2017 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experience Gifts

Today begins our annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. Between now and November 27, 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.

Every year, experience gifts are some of our most popular suggestions as they don’t take up space, give the gift-recipient something he or she likely would never do for themselves, and can often be accompanied by something like a book or a post-experience photo album to keep the gift in mind forever.

There are some things to consider, however, before giving an experience gift.

Will your gift be used?

Our friends and family know that we love to travel and love to dine out, so we have often received experience gifts for nights in a hotel, or a romantic dinner out. Several times, however, the gift certificate has almost expired for two reasons:

  • A hotel means leaving the city, which requires organizing a weekend (or a weekday as some gift packs don’t accept weekend reservations – it’s a good idea to check).
  • Leaving the city means spending more money in travel costs and unless the destination is a “wow!” for the gift-receiver, that money spent may feel like an obligation.

Are the choices interesting?

Before you give an experience gift, check out the options of where it can be redeemed. A night in a hotel might sound good, but what if the practical options only include hotels that no one would actually want stay at?

If your experience gift is a membership to a museum or cultural venue, really consider how likely that membership is going to be used. I love museums, but not so much that I would visit the local one more than once or twice a year.

Is the experience something the recipient would actually do?

On another note, the experience gift should be something that the recipient would actually follow through on. Be careful with people who talk a lot. For example, I’ve always been curious about a tranquility tank session, but honestly, I doubt I will ever follow through on that.

Taking all of the above into consideration, here are some ideas that might just be the perfect uncluttered gift for those you love.

A day at the spa: a massage or beauty treatment is something that few people buy for themselves, but almost everyone loves.

A night out: most dinner and a movie (plus an offer of babysitting if the gift-receiver has children).

Adventure gifts: if you choose something like a hot air balloon ride or a skydiving trip, don’t forget to make sure that no one suffers from vertigo.

A course: an amateur chef might love a cooking course, someone who loves hugs might appreciate a massage course, or someone who loves taking pictures might get a lot out of a photography course. Again, however, make sure that the person enjoys taking courses, or it may be a gift that never gets redeemed.

Travel gifts: many of this type of experience gifts require getting to and from the location, but if the person is a dedicated traveller, it might be the perfect complement to an already planned trip.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

6 Comments for “Unclutterer’s 2017 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experience Gifts”

  1. posted by Dee on

    In theory, I love the idea of giving “experience” gifts instead of things. However, these sorts of gifts also tend to be a LOT more expensive than the types of “things” I would’ve given someone as a gift . . . So far, I tend to lean away from gifting “experiences” because of this, to be honest.

  2. posted by Dorothy on

    Dee, experience gifts aren’t necessarily expensive. They can eve be free!

    I lived in South Carolina for several years. There’s a BMW plant in the Greenville area known for its Just in Time processes and cutting-edge automation. One year for Father’s Day I gave my father-in-law a tour of the plant.

    I picked him and two of his friends up, drove them to the plant, took them on the fascinating tour ($12 per person fee), took them to lunch, then drove them home. If I’d packed a picnic lunch, or skipped lunch, or taken just Dad, it would have cost even less. I could have done the whole thing for $12 plus gas.

    Doing something with someone doesn’t have to cost much. Take a child to a museum or a ball game. Take a friend to a movie. Make a fancy tea party for your mom and your aunts.

  3. posted by laura ann on

    Between Thanksgiving and second week of Dec. I give food baskets I make up myself. Everyone who gets them likes them, not expensive and yet practical. Chocolates, various teas, olive oils, etc. None of this leaves clutter for adults.

  4. posted by Peggy on

    Thinking back over Christmases and birthdays past, I do not remember very many of the presents I received, but I do remember the activities (going to the movies on my birthday, riding in the back of a pickup to see Christmas lights). Almost every gift I’ve ever received has long since gone; the memories of things others have taken the time to do with me stay on.

  5. posted by SkiptheBS on

    Most unusual experience: a childhood trip to meet and interview a detective after being introduced to the Nancy Drew books. Caution: make sure s/he’s ethical. That one was a crook but oh, the stories!

    Anheuser-Busch does factory tours, some fire halls allow them, and our regional dairy encourages them with ice cream at the end. Planetariums on a starry night are another favorite.

    For the elder in your life, buy a lifetime pass to the national park system. They must accompany you to fill out ID paperwork.

  6. posted by Caroline on

    Be careful when you suggest a spa gift is something that everyone would like. I personally hate being waited on (makes me feel helpless) and am not one that enjoys salons/spas. If I received a spa gift, I’d react the same way that a non sports fan reacts when given tickets to a game.

    Bottom line— make sure that you know the recipient before you choose an experience gift.

Leave a Comment