What are you giving your loved ones for Christmas (or birthday?) When gift-giving is on your to-do list are you overwhelmed? Especially when it comes to that person who has it all or is hard to buy for, experience gifts can be a huge problem solver.
Another challenge is actually going out and finding those unique or special gifts takes time. The biggest drawback of gift-giving is when you end up buying anything just to cross off a name on your list. This kind of gift is often re-gifted, donated, or tossed in the back of a closet. Sadly, it may even end up in the trash!
What if you could give the people on your list “waste-free” gifts?
Imagine this holiday season instead of last-minute shopping for dozens of Christmas gifts, you gave the people on your list gift experiences. Truthfully, the best gifts are the ones that are well thought out. So whatever you decide about gift-giving, make sure it comes from the heart.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a physical gift. A material gift is great if the recipient will value or use the item. What isn’t so great is buying any random item that you see just to be able to cross another name off your list.
The perfect gift is not necessarily the most expensive, so don’t feel like you have to break the bank to choose an experience gift. You can use your knowledge of the person to come up with more ideas than the ones I’m listing here. Once you get started the ideas will flow to you!
Whether you are shopping for Christmas, a birthday, anniversary, or “just because” you can count on experience gifts to be appreciated by the recipient. Something to look forward to, a gift that gives again later. Because part of the fun is looking forward to “doing something” in the future.
Have you ever been on a trip that you were especially excited about? You spend weeks or maybe even months, planning your itinerary, making lists of things you need to take, etc. The days and weeks leading up to the trip are filled with anticipation. That’s the beauty of an experience gift.
Most of us have plenty of “stuff” in our homes. There are still times when a material gift makes sense. For example, if your sister starts ballroom dancing lessons and you want to buy her a pair of dancing shoes. You simply want to avoid the kind of gift that ends up cluttering someone’s home.
But that’s not even the best part!
Not only do experience gifts help the recipient avoid unnecessary clutter, but they are also more environmentally friendly! Less stuff in the home, less stuff to end up in landfills.
Material vs Experience
The people on your gift list are usually those closest to you, although in larger extended families, or office gift exchange situations, that might not be the case.
In the colleague gift exchange scenario, who wouldn’t appreciate a gift certificate to a nearby eatery or coffee shop?
If the recipient is someone you know well you might know what they’ve been wanting to do. Why not start by crossing off some items on their bucket list? Years ago, I bought my daughter ballroom dancing lessons, and recently for my spouse.
Dog training for a friend who recently rescued a pup or Taekwondo lessons for your niece. Lessons and learning are always an excellent gift.
Gift Ideas that Don’t Require an Amazon Account
If you’re one of many who are cutting back on Amazon orders consider one of the suggestions on this list.
Your family member or loved one will appreciate that you aren’t cluttering up their home when you choose an experience gift instead of a physical item they may or may not need or want. In some cases you might host the gift, for example, taking your sister on a picnic or your little brother to a trampoline park.
Free or Almost Free Experience Gifts
- Nature Walks
- Trampoline parks
- Roller Skating or Ice Skating
- Forest Bathing
Inexpensive experience gifts
One of my favorite things to do is to take the gift recipient out to coffee. Sitting in a kitschy cafe or coffee shop chatting it up with my closest girlfriend or one of my daughters is my idea of a fun gift.
If you have an acquaintance whose birthday you need to acknowledge, take them out for ice cream! Now that is a gift that people of all ages enjoy! Even better if it’s a local ice cream shop from a nearby dairy.
A gift card or gift certificate to a special restaurant, coffee shop, juice bar, or arcade.
Your local stage theater will have performances that are fairly inexpensive; grab a couple of tickets as a great gift idea. That’s something my mom and her sisters enjoy.
Bowling is another inexpensive experience gift that many people enjoy. For my husband’s birthday one year, I took the whole family to a vintage bowling alley. The celebration included food and drinks and lots of fun. It was by far one of the best birthday parties I’ve ever planned. No plastic involved.
Best mid-price range experience gifts
So, what is a good experience gift? Here are some
- Cooking class
- Wine tasting events
- Martial Arts classes
- Tickets to a local escape room
- Spa Day experience
- Horseback riding lessons
- Hot air balloon ride (or lessons!)
- Photography Session
- Rock Climbing experience
- Sushi Making Classes
- Camping or visit to National Parks
- Golf Lessons
- Zip Line experience
While certainly there are many more ideas to add to this list, think of what you know about the person you will be buying for, what do they love? If they are very adventuresome, you have lots of experience gift ideas to choose from! However, even someone who isn’t into skydiving or rock climbing may enjoy a spa day or cooking lessons.
More expensive experience gifts
- An annual pass to local theme parks
- Weekend away
- VIP pass to their favorite concert
- Gift Card to an Airbnb
These are just some ideas to get you started thinking about how you can go a little more “waste-free” by putting thought into gift-giving.
Brainstorm Gift Experience Ideas with Me
I started writing this post at the beginning of 2020, well before the pandemic. Since then, I started working from home and life changed in many ways! Now here it is, the holiday season! I’m staring at my list, wondering what to gift my family members.
So, hopefully, you have your creative cap on now and are ready to do some last-minute, great experience gift brainstorming with me!
Here are some more I came up with, and I hope you’ll add your ideas to the comments for me.
For romantic relationships, consider a date night coupon book with a coupon for various experiences.
You could plan to catch a play or concert, not only for those who live in New York or LA, small towns typically have a theater or a concert hall. Get dressed up and go pick up your recipient and make a big to-do out of the event.
Another place you can look is Groupon, they might have deals on spas or a massage. Last year I gave my mom a facial from Wild Lavender, a holistic spa in Knoxville.
Consider tickets to a game if the recipient is a sports fan.
Private lessons at your kids’ Taekwondo School!
How can I give an experience instead of gifts?
Make a plan by brainstorming what the recipient loves to do. Do they have a bucket list? Have they recently mentioned something they’ve always wanted to learn or a place they’ve been wanting to go?
After you think about those questions you will start to get some ideas. Next, start searching for places nearby that may offer gift certificates or private lessons. Then start your research. Once you have a plan in place you can execute and prepare the gift.
Remember, the waste-free lifestyle is a continuous journey, not a destination. While it’s wonderful to do gifts that are experiences when you can, it’s certainly not always feasible. Don’t feel bad if you are buying physical gifts for some of the people on your list.
The truth is, experience gifts ARE more work than just grabbing something off the shelf at Target or placing an order on Amazon.
Do the best you can and keep up your zero waste efforts.