Experience gifts are a great way to waste less while still giving generous, thoughtful holiday gifts. I’d argue that they’re even better than material gifts.
This list is part of Important Media’s More Love, Less Stuff holiday event. We’re sharing fun ways to redefine holiday traditions to be less about material things and more about gratitude, compassion, and love.
Think of experience gifts as the gift of fun! Instead of giving your recipients more stuff that they have to store and maintain, you give them an hour, and afternoon, or a day of fun. A good experience gift can be just as thoughtful as a material gift. We’ve got 10 options below, so you can choose the experience that’s just right for your recipient.
1. Massage Gift Certificates
This is at the top of the list because – let’s be honest – it’s the best gift ever. Even if you don’t live in the same town, you can still give a massage card to your recipient. Check Yelp reviews and find a good local spa, then call them up! I haven’t met a good spa that doesn’t offer gift cards. Get your giftee a card that would cover a 30-, 60-, or super decadent 90-minute massage plus tip.
2. Movie Tickets
This is the perfect gift for film buffs. You can do movie tickets on their own or combine them with a restaurant gift card (see below!) for a whole evening of experience gift goodness. The movie-dinner combo experience gift is extra awesome, because you can give it to a couple. Cover two gifts with one idea!
3. Restaurant Gift Card
Treat your foodie friend to a restaurant meal on you. You can make this extra thoughtful with a little bit of sleuthing. One option is finding out your friend’s favorite place to eat and getting a gift card that covers an appetizer, main dish, and dessert. If you want to go out on a limb, get them a gift card to a new-to-them place that you know they’d like. They can try something new without fretting about their bank account.
4. Theater Tickets
How this one works really depends on where your recipient lives. Some friends got my husband and I tickets to Cirque de Soleil one year, because it plays a long run every winter here in Atlanta. See what’s playing where your giftee lives, and treat her to a night out!
5. Museum Membership
This experience gift idea works well for recipients of almost any age. If you’re getting something for a family with young kids, membership to a local children’s museum is a win for everyone. No, really. A gift that’s a rainy day activity for my toddler is a gift to me as well. For grownups, choose a local art or natural history museum or membership to the local botanical garden.
Has your best friend been wanting to learn how to make jewelry or try her hand at Indian cooking? Maybe your sister is planning a trip to France but doesn’t speak a word of French. Look for local classes that offer gift certificates, so your recipient can choose and schedule whatever class she likes.
7. Adventure Gifts
Depending on where your recipient lives, there are all kinds of fun adventure gifts that you can come up with. Hot air balloon rides, sky diving, biplane lessons, or zip lining all make good gifts for your adventurous friends and family.
8. Hotel Stay
You can go big chain or small B&B with this experience gift, depending on what your recipient has planned in the new year. If you want to give her flexibility, choosing a large hotel chain is your best bet. You’re basically helping her take a vacation. Another fun option is getting her a night or two at a local or nearby bed and breakfast, so she can take a weekend staycation at the drop of a hat.
9. Coffee Shop Gift Card
Is your favorite person a coffee- or tea-drinker? Treat her to some fancy drinks that she wouldn’t normally spring for at her favorite local coffee shop.
10. A Shopping Trip
I think that gift cards to stores get a really bad reputation as a generic gift. They don’t have to be! Get your foodie a gift card to Penzie’s for example, so she can treat herself to tiny bottles of fancy spices. Does she have a favorite brand of organic clothing or make-up? Get her a gift card for that company, so that she can stock up! Let her shop for exactly what she wants, on you.
photos via Shutterstock
Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for any products mentioned in this article. That was me fantasy shopping, not plugging.