Experience gifts are way more awesome than things. Yay or nay?!
I strongly believe this and especially so if you’re shopping for your spouse, parents, or basically any working adult. Adults have disposable income and generally buy themselves anything that they truly want, almost immediately (as anyone with an Amazon Prime account knows all too well). What you should instead do is gift experiences.
As we approach the gift-giving holiday season, I want you to remember this as it’s key to an amazing and memorable gift!
Now, you might argue, ‘ok, so you’re saying my best friend can buy whatever she wants, but that should also mean that she can also buy whatever experiences she wants too, right?’ To which I would respond that theoretically, this is true, but in reality, is false.
You see, things last for a long time and accumulating in your home. Have enough friends over the years gifting you all this stuff and your home will start looking like a hoarder house! On the other hand, experience gifts are short-lived and accumulate in memories forever. They take up no physical space but provide the same amount of joy! I’m a stickler for keeping my physical space minimalistic because I love seeing open space. This is another reason why I always suggest renting everything that you can.
Be the awesome gifter this holiday season and start thinking of experience gifts your friends and family will love! I’ve shared some of my favorite gift experience ideas by category. Obviously, the ideas within each section are not restricted to just that section, but it’s simply a way to organize the ideas on a broader, more general level.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase or sign up for a program, I may earn a commission. This is at no additional cost to you.
Experience Gifts for Couples
Gift experiences for couples are awesome because you can show your spouse how much you care about them. It’s a nice way to spent deliberate quality time with them. We live together so see each other more than anyone else, but living together is definitely not the same as having each other’s complete attention. Try some of these experience gift ideas:
- Favorite home-cooked meal by candlelight – perhaps this vanilla latte one fits the mood
- Couples massage
- Take a class together around one of his/her interests (i.e. photography, cooking, rock-climbing, etc.), even if it’s not your favorite topic! (or a digital subscription to a MasterClass)!
- Netflix and chill (if you don’t have Netflix, you can sign up for a free 1-month trial. If you’ve used up your free trial, you can also try 1 month free Amazon Video Channels that includes HBO!)
- Fondue night at home (you’ll need a fondue set, a tea light, some chocolate to melt, and some cut-up fruit to dip into)
- Weekend getaway to a mountain B&B
- Wake up early and watch the sunrise (outdoors!)
Experience Gifts for Kids
The best experience gifts for kids revolve around giving them more freedom to really do whatever they want. Many kids these days grow up with a lot of restrictions. No dessert before dinner! Maximum of 1 hour of TV per day! Eat your veggies! Which is totally fine – that’s how we teach kids good habits and raise them to be healthy and strong. However, every once in a while, give them a sense of autonomy and let them do whatever they want! It’ll be a great experience for you and your kids.
- Go out for dessert and let them choose 2 items from the menu!
- All-you-can-watch day (tip: get this 30-day free trial of Amazon FreeTime, which gives you access to unlimited kid-friendly movies, shows, books, apps, and games)
- Make them their favorite homecooked meal
- Visit a museum based on their interest
- For enthusiasts of science and art, check out this subscription box that provides fun and learning every month.
- A day pass to a trampoline park
- Teach your child a new skill (i.e., throw a baseball, cook mac & cheese, do the chicken dance)
- Make some easy crafts together like this elegant pine cone centerpiece idea from Eco Going Life
- One-on-one date between parent and child
Experience Gift Ideas for College Students / Teenagers (for Parents)
Unfortunately, teenagers and college students are still in the life phase where they don’t really want to hang out with their parents. Just wait 5 years, they’ll be back!
- Offer to pay for their Spring Break trip with their friends
- Subscription to Amazon Prime
- Send a care box with their favorite childhood goodies
- A school-affiliated study abroad program
Experience Gifts for Parents
- Dinner and a movie
- Spa day with your mom
- Fishing trip with your dad
- Recreate a memory from childhood (i.e., picnic at your favorite park)
- Work together on a 1,000 piece puzzle. Disassemble and gift away (or trade for a new one) once you’ve completed it
- Weekend trip to explore a new city together
Experience Gift Ideas for Your Friends
- A care package with some of your favorite snacks and some homemade cookies
- Find a recipe to cook together (i.e., DIY body scrub, or learn to make ginger beer or brew beer)
- Tickets to stand-up comedy or concerts or sporting events
- Escape rooms or obstacle rooms like Boda Borg
- Skydiving and other adventure activities
- A subscription to Le Tote or Rent the Runway
For a limited time:
Get 40% Off your first 2 months of Le Tote with code FORTY
- Visit an amusement park like Disney World or Six Flags
- Paint Night event
- Wine tasting tour
Experience Gift Ideas for Grandparents
- Lunch and a stroll through the park
- Photo of you and them in a nice frame
- Scrapbooking based on old photos and mementos
- Family movie night
- Homecooked meal
Experience Gift Ideas for Your Dog
- Take a walk and follow your dog wherever he/she goes. No pulling home until your dog leads you home!
- Visit Shake Shack for a Pooch-ini®
- Go to a pet store for a new toy or dog chew
- Spend all day at the doggie park, or go on your dog’s favorite hike
- Doggie at-home spa day: brush your dog and massage her paws. No shower (unless he/she enjoys them)!
- Tasting plate of human food (bite of beef patty, a cube of cheese, chicken breast, dollop of peanut butter, a spoonful of yogurt). Triple check that any food you give is dog-friendly!
The Best Experience Gifts in the World
The best experience gifts are the ones that you can experience something with someone else.
Any mother can book a mani/pedi session on her own, but the joy is experiencing the day with her daughter. Your grandpa might appreciate the $150 gift card you get him to go to dinner ‘on you’, but it’s nothing compared to being able to have even a simple meal at home with you.
Every year since going off to college, I have always asked my parents what they wanted for their birthdays or holidays. They always reply that they have everything that they need, but it would be nice for me to visit.
When you gift experiences, both the giver and receiver will receive the gift of quality time well spent. This experience gift will help develop a stronger relationship. Remember that it’s not about how much money you spend on a gift or how unique or impressive the gift is. Often the greatest gift is just being there to spend quality time with each other.
And that’s the greatest gift in the world.
P.s. If you MUST get a present, try these environmentally conscious gift ideas (curated by Eco Anouk). Alternatively, if don’t want to get anything big for presents but you’ve still decided to fill a stocking for everyone, here are some great eco-friendly stocking stuffers for babies (curated by Little Sprouts Learning) and manly stocking stuffers (curated by Everchange Productions) – two categories of humans for whom I always have a hard time finding items!