Gifting experiences instead of just things: experience gifts and experience gift ideas to build memories and focus on quality time instead of just more stuff.
Seven years ago as a newlywed I looked around our house that needed a lot of work and a lot of money to update, and I thought, “This is just a starter home, this is just stuff, this isn’t going to last.” I made the call right then and there to not be practical and to give something more fun. Experience gifts definitely are our jam, and this was the year it all started. Thus the “Year of Dates” gift was born, and it was such a hit I’ve given Jacob at least a couple dates for Christmas every year.
I firmly believe that memories and experiences are what make us happy and deepen our relationships, and that’s why I’ve always gifted dates and experience gifts and try to gift dates as wedding presents, birthday presents, and holiday presents too! And now that I’m a mom, I’m realizing the quality time and experiences I’m giving my little man are just as important as the experience gifts I’ve given my big man too.
As we’ve been watching the stuff just pile up from our toddler and the toy bins completely fill, we’ve been talking a lot about scrapping a lot of the stuff and just giving experiences. I’ve had this post in my heart for years, and I’ve been working on it for months, and the time is finally here that I’m going to hit publish on what I have, and keep adding to this list!
Experience Gift Ideas
- Dates! I know, the low hanging fruit here, but it belongs at the top of my list! I had a coworker ask once what we were all giving our husbands one year before Christmas and when I told her I always plan some really cool, really pricey dates she lit right up and said her husband would so appreciate that! We’re still Instagram friends and I love that she posts a lot of fun dates that she and her husband give each other, it’s a tradition! Trust me, it’s a home run to buy that thing a little out of the normal budget, and I’ll forever be grateful for the romantic places we’ve been and memories made that were some of the best gifts my husband has given.
- A getaway weekend. I read in a marriage article when we were newlyweds you should do a couple’s getaway quarterly. We were paying off my graduate loans, fixing up the house, and money wasn’t exactly just flowing. We joked that this article gave us permission to just spend and plan more vacations! Quarterly trips aren’t always in line, but our anniversary falls a few months after the holidays, and it’s been an easy thing to combine the two and plan a trip. Unwrapping printed reservations is surprisingly romantic! Plan a weekend, pay for the stay, give them a quality time experience you’ll both remember.
Experience Christmas Gifts
- A family Disneyland/Disneyworld Trip. I’d say we’re mediocre Disney fans, but we love rides and experiences and our toddler loves Lightening McQueen so we went after the summer rush and have remarked up and down that we’re now definitely Disney fans! It was one of the most amazing couple days of our life, and watching our toddler experience magic all around him was something I’ll treasure forever. We keep kicking around the idea of one small gift and a Disney trip. It’s more affordable than you may think, it was about 2/3rd of the cost when we booked through Getaway Today. They are legit, they do a fantastic job, they are one of the few places you can get deals for Disneyland, Disneyworld, Universal Studios, and Disney Cruises. We were so happy with our package and how much they spoiled us with souvenirs and customer service. I also love you can lay away your trip and put as little as $125 down to book it and lock in this year’s prices. So if you want to spend the Christmas budget now and add a little more in a few months when you go, that’s totally an option!
Travel Experience Gifts
- A family trip. Maybe not Disney, but another vacation is always a good idea. Whenever we look at the budget and think we can’t swing one, and then take a step back on what we spend at Christmas and holidays, we realize that the budget really is there if we choose this experience! I love that there are deals to be found galore: Groupon shares vacation package deals frequently, Viatour has helped us find amazing things we all love to do, we have used and loved TripAdvisor several times, Travel Zoo we have to thank for helping us find the most amazingly cheap airfare to Italy and making our dream babymoon a reality, Getaway Today also does vacation packages. Take a look, you’ll be surprised that there are so many things to do at so many price points, and that big family vacation may be the best memory you build the entire year!
Best Experience Gifts
- An Annual Museum Pass. We’re the proud owners of one of our local children’s museum and a few visits in it paid for itself! My toddler loves learning and exploring, I love using someone else’s air condition in the hot summer months when we don’t get to spend time outside in Arizona, and it makes so many days feel like a fun adventure instead of just the excitement of a new toy for a few weeks. Check out Groupon for deals, there’s almost always an annual pass for a good percent off, but you can also watch for an anniversary, Black Friday, and summer promotions to snag one of these.
- Annual fun center passes. Everyone has a place with games and rides in some form or another, and pretty much all of these places offer a pass for younger children and families. Give your kid (or significant other) a lot of fun days with a family
- A family day trip or local experience. Sometimes it’s hard to look at those things that may cost more than you normally spend and decide to splurge, but this is one time it’s perfect to book horseback riding adventures, or a day at the zoo, or a LanternFest, or just a local adventure that will be a fun experience for the whole family. You know best what happens in your area, but once again, Groupon has led us to some new things we wouldn’t have found otherwise.
Gift Experiences for Couples
- Movie tickets. I know I’m listing a lot of high-ticket items above, but purchasing movie tickets is something that creates a great mini-experience and gives a date or family outing to look forward to. I love finding deals on ticket packages around the holidays and gifting these to siblings and nieces and nephews. It’s an easy stocking stuffer, bridal shower, or birthday present too.
- Theater tickets. I’ll never forget the day my husband gifted me Hamilton tickets, I’ll never forget going to see this play I was so excited about, and the pictures and memory and experience was one of the greatest things he’s ever given! This can be anything from a local play to an expensive touring engagement to a Disney on Ice for your kids.
- Restaurant gift cards. Find a sentimental place, or get something to try something new. These are romantic and fun, and an awesome experience!
- Concert tickets. Favorite band you know they’ll love to see live? Snag tickets for the coming year and give that experience as a gift. I promise it’s a win the moment of, and something fun to look forward to even if it’s months away.
- Sporting Event Tickets. It’s hard to beat great seats to see your favorite team! I’ll never forget the Christmas Jacob gifted NBA tickets to see our local team play my former hometown team, it as a win-win and one of my favorite dates of all time!
Experience Gifts They’ll Love
- Lessons. Give the musical instrument they’ve always wanted to learn to play or brush up on, mentoring with a professional photographer, or getting a coach of any kind is always a great way to let someone experience learning something new throughout the year.
- Classes. Do you have a group fitness junkie on your hands? Would your kids love music and play classes? Find a group activity they can enjoy and attend with the bill or membership already covered.
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