How often do you look back at old photos and think to yourself, “buying that top was such an amazing experience!”
I don’t imagine anyone would.
Instead, I’m sure you remember when you had your first date with your partner, the holiday you took with your family where you laughed until you cried, or when your child was so proud of something they built themselves.
You get the idea. The type of memorable moments that’ll put a smile on your face every time you think about them.
We rarely remember things that we’ve bought because we like them or must have it. Unless these items have some significant meaning, we tend to forget about them soon after purchase. Or in this case, after they’ve been gifted to us.
I know that there are many Christmas, birthday and other special occasions in my life where I would have received a physical gift that I wanted so badly, to soon realise it wasn’t worth all the excitement I had built around it.
Even worse, feel bad that money and time were invested into something that I no longer wanted.
Do you forget memories of experiences that you’ve had?
Creating memorable experiences that’ll allow you to live life to the fullest is what life is about. So many people regret not experiencing more in life. Not many people regret not buying more.
When you move away from buying more things as gifts, you start to create opportunities for memories that will only bring you and the people you care about closer together. We have a podcast on this very topic!
Gifting experiences is where it’s at.
Experiences in many ways are priceless, as they help shape who we are as individuals and give us broader perspectives in life.
Dust collectors don’t do that. Especially the ones from our distant Aunt Agnus. Thanks, Aunt Agnus, but I could have gone without that Christmas sweater and a scented candle!
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When the holidays come around
When you see Christmas and other festivities roll around, and you are dealt with the task of buying presents, what is your go-to plan? Do you sit down and write a list?
Or maybe wait for the influx of product ads to hit your email, letterbox, windscreen wiper, and shopping malls.
They’ll share their holiday bargains, specials and exclusives so that you can plan out your shopping trip, that let’s face it, you would rather never have to do! Everyone wants to sell you something.
Do we ever pause to consider what we’re doing to our environment? Maybe it’s time we implemented some minimalist principles.
The amount of unwanted gifts that we gift and receive every year is crazy!
Why buying experiences is better than physical gifts
I hope by now, I have helped you understand some of the logical reasons why choosing to buy experiences over things is much more sustainable and enjoyable. Not only that, it lasts a lifetime!
Buying experiences is better than physical gifts for many reasons; here are a few:
- Material possessions do not bring someone more happiness in the long run. Experiences create a memory that will last.
- The excitement that can be built around an experience is greater than the hype that can come from a physical gift. This also prolongs the excitement around what you plan to do—from before, during and after.
- It creates a much deeper bond with people that are involved in the activity, particularly for children.
- It’s something different from the norm. We have engrained this need for physical possessions around holidays, that gifting an experience can be something refreshing.
There are many names for this concept of buying experiences. The other ways that you can call it is unstuff gifts, non-toy gifts (for kids), experience gifts, and activity gifts.
To also help you get started, here are some websites that will give you pre-planned experiences to purchase:
Now let’s get into the list that will help you create gifts for your family and friends with much more appreciation than the novelty of physical gifts that wears off soon after purchase.
Before we get into it, I just wanted to let you know I’ve broken this up into two categories only, mainly because some would have a lot of overlap if I narrowed down the categories for you.
It’s also worth mentioning that these gifts range from free to quite pricey, so it does cater for everyone.
Full disclaimer: They’re not all technically “experiences” some are more services and perishable gifts that create an experience.
So, let’s get started!
Experience gifts for kids and families
Here are some great ideas to gift to kids and families.
- Donate to an animal sanctuary or sponsor an animal. This is a very thoughtful gift. When you wrap the gift with the details of the sanctuary and the animal, include some photos and dates when they can go and visit the sanctuary. This will help them build a bond with the place and the animals. You can, at this point, also discuss how the donation will help the sanctuary and the animals. E.g. food and shelter for them, a vet if they are unwell or for general check-ups etc.
- Gift a yearly membership to a museum. This is a great way to get the whole family involved to learn about the history and see all the exhibitions that are running throughout the year.
- Gift a yearly membership to a science and technology centre. We have a local one called Questacon, and we have taken our nephew there a couple of times to learn about spiders and dinosaurs. They generally have different exhibits and shows every few months—the perfect thing to do on a rainy day.
- Buy a voucher for a fun indoor activity. There are many great and fun things to do indoors, and a gift like this can come particularly handy when you want to get out of the house and its bad weather outdoors (like the suggestion made above). Places like indoor rock climbing, a trampoline centre, indoor skydiving, a games centre, an arcade or an escape room. The fun options here are endless!
- Membership to the botanical gardens or national park passes. Perfect for those that love the outdoors and exploring nature. This gift can also be accompanied by a picnic basket filled with goodies.
- A full day away somewhere fun. This is the type of gift we have the most experience gifting. Depending on where you live, you can create a memorable day trip that’s just outside your city. To give you some ideas, you can gift a day at the beach with some French fries and ice cream as treats. Sailing on a boat and seeing dolphins in the wild. Building a snowman or tobogganing in the snow nearby your city, or going exploring in the woods. Remember to pack some snacks, drinks and a fun song playlist for the car ride!
- Movie night for the whole family. This can be done at home or the movie theatre. Depending on your budget, you can prepare the movie that the whole family will watch at home and include a snacks goodie bag to go with it. Or gift a movie pass for the whole family to enjoy with a voucher for some candy bar treats.
- Organise a scavenger hunt. I know that as a kid, I would have loved this! It can be organised for the whole family or for the kids to do with their friends. You can get some great ideas here and don’t forget to include a scavenger hunt map as part of the gift!
- Gift a veggie garden starter kit. A gift that the whole family can enjoy. With the seeds that have been included as part of the gift, you can plan out what kind of pretty veggie patch you would like to create in your backyard: a fun and wonderful way for kids to learn how to grow their food.
- Plan a camping trip. If you or whoever you’re gifting this trip is the type of family that loves the great outdoors, then an organised weekend camping trip could be the best gift ever! You can even include a pack for them to take along on their trip with snacks, and activities to do when they’re there. If the budget doesn’t permit, you can always organise one right in their/your backyard. It would still be loads of fun for everyone with the convenience of the home bathroom and kitchen.
- Buy a pass to an amusement or theme park. I honestly don’t know which kid wouldn’t LOVE this experience! I’m sure the parents would also enjoy the rides. These include places like water parks, Disneyland, Universal, Legoland etc. A memory to remember for life.
- Book a day at the bowling alley. I have done this a few times with my family even as adults, and it’s so much fun. Even if everyone can’t participate or isn’t any good at bowling, I can guarantee that you’ll still have a blast. Don’t forget your socks!
- Gift a pass to mini-golf. A day dedicated to hitting a hole-in-one can be a really fun day for the whole family to spend time together. There’d be different challenges for you all to help each other out. If you have a competitive streak, this could get quite interesting!
- Plan a day at the ice skating rink. A wonderful day of laugh and wabbles as you make your way through a music-filled ice skating rink. Paired perfectly with some hot cocoa and homemade vegan muffins, it’s sure to make for a great day out.
- Organise a family game night. As a kid, these are some of my fondest memories! Most families will have some kind of games for the whole family to play. You can choose from board games, card games, leggo, dominoes, twister, and puzzles. The list could go on and on!
- Book in a family photo shoot. This one is particularly close to my heart. Being a professional photographer, I’ve offered this as a gift to Michael’s side of the family many times. If you can afford to book in a professional, that’s awesome. If you’re a hobbyist photographer, why not offer a shoot to help perfect your skills as well as capture some beautiful photos? It’s a win, win situation.
- Give the gift of giving back to the community. There’s no better feeling than giving back to the community. Here are some ideas—plant trees around your neighbourhood, plant bee-friendly flowers and bushes, volunteer at the local soup kitchen, offer to walk dogs at the animal shelter, meet some new friends at your local nursing home, make a meal for a family in need, put together a care package for the homeless. You get the idea.
- Book the kids in for summer camp. This could give the parents a much-needed break as well as a very memorable few days away for the kids — the perfect present for both parties.
- Create a coupon book. This could be the ideal way to put a few smaller activities and experiences into one gift. You can create a little coupon booklet that gives them vouchers to use when they like. Some ideas of what to include are a lunch date with you, a trip to the local swimming pool, ice-cream on the weekend, movie night at home, baking afternoon, playing their favourite game with them. Some of the other activities in this list could be part of this coupon booklet.
- Book a day trip sightseeing by train. Sightseeing by train could be a great and exciting activity for you to organise for the family. If you’re lucky to live near a beautiful trail that trains often go on, then this is a perfect opportunity to go exploring more of your local area and beyond.
- Gift art classes. Most kids love to draw and paint. Giving them classes to share their talents with others and learn more is a great way for them to grow as an artist.
- Plan a DIY mural project. This gift is best organised by the parents as they know best if they’d be happy to give a full wall for a family project where the kids can draw/paint on the wall. It can be a great memory to create that everyone will see every day and enjoy.
- Plan a day at a local festival or carnival. You’ll find that normally around the holiday seasons there will be festivals and carnivals popping up. Check out your local community notice board or a local blog that updates on local events. Purchase the tickets in advance or write up a note as a gift to say that you’ll spend a fun day out together!
- Buy a pass to the observatory/planetarium. This experience gift is ideal for those that love learning about planets, stars and our universe. You can even see if you can buy a star (name a star after them) as part of the gift!
- Gift animal-free circus tickets. An event like the circus can be a very exciting gift for kids and adults. Please be sure only to support circuses that are completely animal-free.
- Book a weekend away in a castle! Sounds crazy, but if you’re lucky enough to live within a few hours drive of a castle that’s also a hotel, this would be the gift of a lifetime!
- Offer to babysit. What young parent doesn’t crave for half a day to do something fun? Maybe it’s your sister or your best friend, offering to babysit their toddler for the day goes a long way.
Experience gifts for everyone
- Buy a massage session. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, old, young, healthy or unhealthy, just about anyone could benefit from a nourishing massage. Make sure you pick your therapist wisely, so you ensure the best possible experience.
- Bake a cake. This is an oldie but a goodie. Roll up your sleeves, jump on Pinterest for inspiration and bake the best cake that you can. Deliver it to your friend or family member on their birthday, and I’m sure they will appreciate your effort.
- Sporting event. Does your friend love sports? Why not take them to a local game? Seeing games live creates unique experiences that will be remembered for years to come.
- Organise laser tag. Laser tag was always fun as a child. What about as an adult? Still fun? Grab a group of friends and battle each other on the field. Share bragging rights then grab a meal after.
- BYO food party. A minimalist gift doesn’t just have to come from you. Why don’t you get your closest mutual friends involved and host a BYO food party? This is a great way to surprise your friend with a variety of food and good company.
- Purchase an astrology reading. Gifting an astrology reading is something a little different and perhaps unexpected. Even if your friend or family member does not know much about astrology, they would at least be intrigued. I mean, who doesn’t want to know more about themselves?
- Give 5 hours of your time to help them with anything they want. What better way to show that you care than dedicating 5 hours of your undivided attention to help them with whatever they need. That may be helping them with a project or helping them finish a big task around the house. Make sure you package this gift professionally, so they know you mean business! Offer some dates and get them to lock in time as soon as possible.
- Buy tickets to a performance. This gift doesn’t have to be too costly. You can get tickets to a music or dance performance — even things like stand-up comedy or a drama.
- Write a thoughtful letter or poem. A beautiful letter or poem expressing your love and appreciation for the other person is a thoughtful gift.
- Create a slideshow. A little cliche, but still effective. Put together a slideshow of images that bring up past moments you’ve experienced together. You can do this in Keynote, PowerPoint, Google Slides, Google Photos and Apple Photos have features to create gallery slide shows.
- Send a video message. Simply record yourself on video on either your phone or computer, with once again, a thoughtful message or something funny that you both share. Take it a step further and get other people to send through video messages and compile all of them into one video file.
- Organise outdoor activities with friends and family. When was the last time you played a tug of war or had a good old-fashioned water fight? Grab a crew of important people (or fun strangers) in your life and get everyone outside to engage in outdoor activities.
- Take a dance class together. No matter your skill level, dancing is a ton of fun. Why not get out of your comfort zone and take a class together? Exercise and have a blast, it’s a win, win situation!
- Buy them an online course. Do you know what your friend is interested in learning? Buying them a course on how to take better photos with their iPhone, or how to become a yoga teacher are gestures they would appreciate. Platforms such as Lynda and Udemy are great for short courses.
- Deliver delicious homemade food in bulk. Who doesn’t love an enormous pot of food to eat over a few days? Whether it’s a curry, stew, soup or a pasta dish, obscene amounts of comfort food always puts a smile on peoples faces. It’s also easy to prepare. This gift would be perfect for newborn parents.
- Premium movie tickets. Grab two premium tickets to a movie premiere. The main thing here is to pick up your friend/family so they can have a couple of drinks out and fully experience the premium service.
- Get a gift card for Audible. How many people love the idea of reading books but just don’t have the time to pick up a book? This is where Audible is great, they can still experience the books they like, but in an audio format! This would make a perfect gift for someone that travels/commutes a lot.
- Book a floristry course/workshop. If they love flowers and design, why not book them into a floristry workshop. They can put together the perfect bouquet to admire in their home.
- Gift an art class. This gift would be ideal for someone that is into art. You can pick anything from pottery, drawing, glass blowing, and painting to jewellery making, sewing, knitting, and learning a musical instrument. The ideas are endless!
- Organise a cooking class in person or online. If your friend or special someone is a foodie, this would be the perfect gift for them. This can be classes like chocolate making, cake decorating, bread making, vegan cheese making, fermenting or learning how to cook a specific type of cuisine. If you’re on a bit of a budget, online is a cheaper option.
- Book in a local photo tour. This is the perfect way for them to learn more about their city and take some awesome photos at the same time. Organise a free photo tour through your local Apple store. They are run daily and are called Today at Apple sessions.
- Gift surfing lessons. This is often an activity that could be on someone’s bucket list, however, they never get around to organising it themselves. Perfect opportunity to make that happen for them!
- Organise a human hamster ball experience (aka zorbing). If the person you’re gifting an experience to loves adventure and trying something different, booking them in to do a day of fun by rolling downhills would be a blast! This is definitely on our list.
- Gift a booking for a cleaner. For those that have no time to clean their own homes or could use some help, a clean home could be the perfect gift. They may not consider paying for a cleaner themselves, but gifting them that service could be very welcome! Be careful who you gift this to though, could come across a bit rude if not careful?
- Create a tailored playlist. Making a tailored playlist could be a very touching gift and take your friend or loved one down memory lane. This shows the person how much you’ve paid attention to the music that means something to the both of you over the years you’ve known each other.
- Develop a new recipe or share one you love. If your friend Jess has been asking you how you make that amazing lasagna and you keep forgetting to tell her, she would greatly appreciate that recipe all neatly packaged and delivered. You can always group it with a little booklet with multiple recipes or as part of the gift, bake the lasagna as part of the present.
- Take them out for a meal. Sometimes taking someone out for a great meal and a conversation can be a wonderful way to express your care for that person. Book a place you know they’ll love or gift them a voucher for the cafe or restaurant if they will go there without you.
- Book in a guided tour. This can be done locally, interstate or overseas. So many options for tours to fit all budgets. Some ideas are food tours, cycling tours, brewery tours, cave exploring, nature reserves, gallery tours, historic tours and market tours.
- Purchase a photoshoot. Just like in the kids and family section, everyone would love to have some timeless images to treasure forever. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a few nice photos that they can even have for themselves.
- Book a weekend wine tasting. A weekend away tasting delicious wines from different vineyards could be the perfect gift for wine connoisseurs.
- Organise a workshop. You can commonly access workshops daily depending on where you live. Some ideas could be tea blending, skincare making, zero-waste alternatives, gardening, composting, and worm farming. A great place to start looking could be Eventbrite.
- Offer to get their clothes mended. Not an experience but being busy can often come with its little challenges for making time to do all the little things like fixing your favourite skirt or getting your favourite heels repaired. Offering to mend someone’s clothes can give their wardrobe some life back with the pieces they love. This prevents them from feeling like they may need to buy something new.
- Buy a yoga class pass. Does your best friend love going to yoga every week to her local studio? Perfect, buy her a class pass for 1,5 or 10 classes. She’d love it!
- Book a tiny house for a weekend away. Always wondered what it would be like to live in a tiny house or know someone that loves them and is a minimalist? Gifting a weekend away would be the perfect way to give it a try!
- Plan a visit to a nearby small town. There’s nothing sweeter than organising a day trip to a small town close by to explore the local antique stores, grab a bit to eat and stroll around and take in the history and uniqueness of the place.
- Organise to go food foraging. This is ideal for someone that loves local food and nature. You can go foraging for mushrooms (please do your research or take someone that knows the local safe to consume mushrooms with you), wild berry and fruit picking, chestnuts or even other nuts.
- Book to see the latest art exhibition. For those that love art and design, this could be a wonderful way to spend an afternoon learning and appreciating artworks. Most cities will have some international exhibitions that come every now and then.
- Visit a hot spring. If they’re lucky enough to live within a few hours drive of a hot spring, totally take advantage of that and organise for them to go and relax for a few hours. Who wouldn’t enjoy relaxing in a nice warm bath?
- Hire a personal stylist. If you know someone that would love the opportunity to the pick brains of a professional fashion stylist to help them maximise their wardrobe, this gift is pretty awesome! They can completely transform their wardrobe without buying anything new.
- Take them out for a drink. We can easily underestimate the value and gratitude that someone can have by going out for a drink and having a lovely catch up with someone that they care about. This could be in a quirky cafe or the latest bar, the company and the atmosphere are key here.
- Book a sailing trip. This is on the pricier side but can make for an amazing gift for the adventurer that loves the ocean. The perfect way to spend a sunny day out in the open sea and take in the fresh air.
- Pack a picnic. Gifting a picnic experience can be such a romantic and fun way to spend a few hours together. The options of where to go are endless! Pack some of their favourite treats, some drinks and enjoy some chill-out time.
- Gift language classes. For someone that would love to learn a new language or is planning on spending some time overseas, gifting a handful of language classes would be a wonderful and thoughtful gift. They’ll be able to mingle with the locals confidently.
- Book a helicopter ride. Expensive, yes, but this would be a gift of a lifetime! Looking at the city from above and taking in the breathtaking views would be a spectacular experience.
- Organise a sports car drive. If you have someone in your life that loves cars, racing and/or driving, this will make a great gift. Get that adrenalin pumping and giving them an opportunity to get up close and personal with cars they wouldn’t normally get an opportunity to see on the road.
- Plan a glamping getaway. This would be a wonderful gift for a couple or for your partner to go with you. If you love the idea of being in nature, but still don’t want to be faced with uncomfortable sleeping bags and bugs, glamping is the perfect alternative.
- Write and perform/record a song. If you’re naturally gifted in music and/or can sing, why not write a thoughtful song for the one you love? Something from the heart that will be a lasting memory and even bring a tear to their eye.
- Organise a kayaking adventure. Another great idea for those that love the outdoors and some adventure! Could get a little wild, so make sure that the person you’re gifting this experience to is up for it.
- Put together a hamper with locally grown and made foods. For someone that is into food and sustainability, you can make a great little hamper of goodies made using local produce. The best place to find the goodies is at local markets or farms that are open to the public.
- Gift a bunch of flowers. Not an experience, but still a perishable that can create all the wonderful fuzzy feelings inside of someone. You can never really go wrong with a beautiful bunch of flowers!
- Book scuba certification classes. Ideal gift for someone that loves snorkelling and wants to take things to the next level. A wonderful way to explore deep down under.
- Organise a skydiving experience. I would suggest you only book this in if you’ve heard the person say that they’d love to experience skydiving. It’s definitely for people that like a bit of a thrill!
- Buy a hot air ballooning experience. One of the best ways to see a place if from a hot air balloon. They are normally done just at the peak of sunrise, and the views would be spectacular — a great gift for anyone.
- Book a day at a spa. Perfect pampering gift to help your loved one unwind and fully relax. Need I say more?
- Gift a facial. Similar to the suggestion above but more affordable and shorter. Still a great gift to give someone a glowing look! It’s not normally something you buy for yourself but love as a present.
- Organise a holiday interstate or overseas. This can be an expensive gift but can be life-changing. There are so many different adventures to choose from. Tip: check with the person when they could get some time off work before you book the holiday. Alternatively, plan something without dates.
- Plan a staycation (book a local hotel). This is more of a budget-friendly alternative to the previous point, but can still be super fun and relaxing. Taking some time out without having to spend any time on the road can be a great way to recoup energy and get away from the daily chores and commitments.
- Plan a fun day of cooking together. If you love to be in the kitchen together and experiment with different new and exciting dishes, this could be a great day planned. Start the day off with shopping together and work your way through a three-course delicious home-cooked meal. This can easily be a full-day experience.
- Gift a pedicure or manicure. Do they love getting their nails done? Book them in for a wonderfully relaxing time in a nice salon or spa.
- Book a tour overseas. There are plenty of tours that you can book through websites like Trafalgar or Contiki tours. For example, you can book a trip from London to Berlin by train over 8 days or perhaps a Costa Rican eco-adventure over 10 days.
- Organise a bodywork session. Think acupuncture, reiki, kinesiology, Bowen, iridology, osteopathy, or chiropractic. For those that need a little bit of bodywork, this could seriously be an amazing gift.
- Book a personal chef. If you like the idea of eating at home and relaxing, a personal chef to cook whatever you want would be a great gift for anyone!
- Organise a locally grown produce delivery service. This is ideal for someone that loves to cook and values locally grown produce but doesn’t maybe have the time to get to the markets every week. Organising a home delivery service for a couple of weeks could be a great gift, particularly if someone is unwell and can’t leave the house or is super busy.
- Buy a private lesson. There are many different lessons that you can book—like the dance lessons we mentioned earlier, but there is also the options of DJing and voice lessons for those that want to try their hand at music.
- Book a catering package. This gift is perfect for new parents or for someone that is unwell at home. However, we’re sure that most people would appreciate a gift like this!
What other experience gifts would you add?
How did we do? What do you think of the gifts that we’ve shared with you?
Is there something that we’ve missed that you think we should add to the gifting experiences list? Share it with us in the comments below.