30 Gift Experiences to Buy for Your Loved Ones Instead of Things

30 Gift Experiences to Buy for Your Loved Ones Instead of Things

Whether you’ve got a loved one’s birthday coming up or are preparing for the approaching Christmas season you may be wondering how to give a thoughtful gift this year. Our planet is currently drowning in a sea of stuff and many people only a shocking percentage of new and gently used goods get tossed into landfills each year. One of the best ways to give a planet-friendly gift is to give a gift experience instead of giving someone more stuff.

It doesn’t seem as though the increase of stuff on the planet is making people much happier. In fact, scientists have found that happiness comes more from experiences than it does from things. This is something that I believe travelers like myself find to be very true. For example, I’m much more likely to go a few months without spending any money on clothes, so that I can afford a road trip to a city I’ve never visited. So, if you want to cut back on waste this season, but also give an amazing gift, here are 30 gift experiences you can buy your loved ones instead of buying them things.

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Something for Everyone Gift Experiences: Tickets!

Museum Tickets

Gift Experiences: Museum Tickets
Photo from my trip to the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City.

I have tons of good memories of wandering through interesting and entertaining museums. One of my favorite museums is the National Anthropology Museum here in Mexico City. I think I’ve been about five times and I still haven’t seen all that there is to see there. I also love finding quirky, small and less-well-known museums to visit too.

If your loved one likes museums as much as I do, then buying them some museum tickets could make a great gift experience for them! It would also make a great gift if you got them more than one museum ticket so that you or whoever they want to take with them can go together!

Escape Room Tickets

Escape Rooms are getting a lot of hype these days. I haven’t actually been to one yet but would love to go some time. I’ve only heard great things about Escape Rooms. If you’re not familiar with what an Escape Room is, they’re pretty self-explanatory. Basically you enter into a building and the staff working there will lock you and your friends or family members into a room. You then have to find clues throughout the room to figure out how to escape. Some Escape Rooms actually have a series of rooms, so when you get out of one, you have to figure out how to get out of the next one too. There are also Escape Rooms that have themes in each room and you can pick which room you want to try to escape out of. Buying tickets to an escape room will give you and your loved one a great adventure together!

Sports Tickets

Although I’m not a huge sports fan, I definitely know people who are. My husband Arturo, for example, loves soccer. It’s my dream to one day be able to snag tickets for him to see one of his favorite teams play. You can be absolutely certain that getting tickets to a sports game for someone will be an extra special gift. It’s the kind of gift that will surprise them quite a lot and get them really excited to see their favorite team play!

Ski Hill Tickets

Skiing in Chile | Gift Experiences: Ski Hill Tickets
Photo of me skiing in Chile.

This is the kind of gift that I would personally go nuts over! Skiing can be quite pricey so if you know someone who loves to ski, a one day pass is a wonderful gift for them. You could also join them on the slopes as well! If getting a full-day pass for downhill skiing is out of your price range, you could also get cross country skiing tickets instead. Cross country skiing is a different style of skiing than downhill and often ends up being a bit cheaper. Check out your local ski hill website to find a good deal. Sometimes ski hills will offer discounts at certain times of the year so keep an eye out for those too.

Community Theatre Tickets

Community Theatres offer great gift experiences! They put on so many kinds of shows that there’s often something for everyone to enjoy. Personally I love seeing musicals as well as dance shows. You can also see plays, comedies, and concerts at community theatres. Getting tickets for a friend or family member to a specific show they want to see is super thoughtful. However, if you don’t know what kind of show they would be interested in, you may be able to get them a gift card to your local community theatre as well.

Concert Tickets

I actually haven’t been to too many concerts in my life but every time I go to one I always say to myself, ‘I need to do this more often’. Concert tickets are a great experience to give to a friend or family member. You can check online to see if your loved one’s favorite band will be touring near your city and then accompany them to the concert! Some of the best concerts I’ve ever been to include seeing the Arctic Monkeys in Chile and seeing Natalia Lafourcade in Mexico.

Adventurous Gift Experiences: Tours

City Bus Tours

Bus Tour in Morelia, Michoacán | Visit Michoacán
Photo from a bus tour I went on in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico.

Bus tours are a great way to see a new city or even to learn a bit more about your own city. This can be a great gift for someone who wants to explore a nearby city or learn more about their own. City bus tours are often very informative and sometimes make stops at different interesting places so you can get photos and experience new things. Get your loved one a bus tour and go with them, or get them a few tickets to take someone else! You can find bus tours from all over the world by searching here.

Street Art Tours

Gift Experiences | Street Art Tours
Enjoying street art in New York City.

If you have a friend who loves art then getting them tickets to a street art tour is a wonderful gift. Street art has quickly gained lots of popularity in the last couple of years and is spreading rapidly to more and more cities around the globe. I love looking for street art and have even written a couple of blog posts on where to find street art in New York, Penticton (Canada) and Mexico City. You can find tickets to street art tours all over the world by searching here.

Brewery Tours

If your loved one is a beer lover, then a brewery tour can make a wonderful gift experience. A typical brewery tour will show you how the local beer is made and will likely have a tasting as well. Some brewery tours even take you to multiple breweries. My husband really loves beer and I’ve taken him on a few brewery tours that we have both enjoyed together.  You can find brewery tours from around the world by searching here.

Wine Tours

Gift Experiences | Wine Tours | Mission Hill
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery in Kelowna, BC, Canada.

I honestly haven’t met too many people who don’t like wine. I used to work at a winery in Kelowna, Canada (which is a beautiful place to visit by the way) and I loved it so much. Wine just brings people together really well. It’s a common Christmas gift in my family to give each other nice bottles of wine, but how cool would it be to give someone a wine tour? This is an experience that is super fun because you get to go from one winery to the next with your loved ones, tasting incredible wines and getting tipsy. There are often really lovely restaurants or bistros at wineries so you know the food pairings will be amazing as well. You can find wine tours from all over the world by searching here.

Food Tours

Pink Tacos | Gift Experiences | Vegan Restaurants in Mexico City
Pink vegan tacos from La Pitahaya Vegana in Mexico City

Who doesn’t love eating? Food tours are a super fun way to learn more about a city and it’s culture, even if it’s your hometown. Plus it’s sure to be delicious and satisfying. These truly are the perfect gift experiences. You can even find specialized food tours for every type of foodie. For example, there are food tours geared just towards tacos in Mexico, or vegan and vegetarian tours around the world too. You can find different kinds of food tours all over the world by searching here.

Wildlife Tours

Wildlife Tours | Gift Experiences
Monarch Butterfly Information from a tour in Mexico.

Wildlife tours can also make amazing gifts, especially if there’s an opportunity for your loved one to see their favorite animal. If you’re thinking about giving a wildlife tour to someone, make sure it is ethical first. You can read this article to learn about ethical versus unethical types of wildlife encounters. One wildlife tour that I’ve been on and loved was to see the Monarch Butterfly Migration in Mexico. It was a truly wonderful experience to see the monarchs hibernating up close. Other wildlife tours include safaris, or visiting animal rehabilitation centers. You can find different wildlife tours from around the globe by searching here.

Boat Tours

Sail Boat in Valle De Bravo Mexico
Sail boat in Valle de Bravo, Mexico.

If you’ve got a friend who loves the sun, sea, and sand then a boat tour is a super fun gift you can get for them. Boat tours are perfect for people of all ages and who have different hobbies. You can book a whitewater rafting tour for your adventurous cousin, a party boat tour for your party-loving friend or a kayaking tour for your outdoorsy aunt. There are lots of options when it comes to boat tours. You can find various boating tours from kayaking to speed boating from around the world by searching here.

Hiking Tours

Gift Experiences | Hike Tours
Hiking in Valle de Bravo, Mexico.

I absolutely love hiking! The views always make a difficult trek worthwhile. If you have athletic or outdoorsy friends or family, a hiking tour is a perfect gift! What’s the difference between getting a hiking tour to just going on a hike by yourself? Having a guide on a hike often means you will likely learn a lot more about the natural landscape around you. Some guides will also teach you about the culture and history of a place too. Another reason for booking a hiking tour is that some tours take you to places you might not have known about otherwise. You can find hiking tours from around the world by searching here.

Cycling Tours

If you know someone who is outdoorsy, adventurous or who just loves biking, then a cycling tour is a great option too. Cycling tours happen in all kinds of areas of the world. You can do a cycling and food tour in an urban area, or bike through a gorgeous mountain range. Whatever you choose, this is perfect for your athletic and adventurous loved ones. You can find cycling tours from around the world by searching here. 

Spa Packages

One of the Best Hotels in Valle de Bravo: El Santuario Resort and Spa
Photo from my stay at El Santuario Resort and Spa in Valle de Bravo, Mexico.

Spa Packages are amazing gift experiences to give! They’re perfect for people with demanding jobs or simply for people who love feeling pampered. Spa packages can include anything from thermal baths to manicures and pedicures to massages. Either way, this kind of gift is extremely thoughtful and will leave the recipient feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. You can find spa trips and packages from around the world by searching here.

Gift Experiences to Learn From: Classes

Yoga Classes

Yoga Classes | Gift Experiences
Doing some yoga while camping in Hope, BC, Canada.

Yoga is an amazing exercise that helps strengthen the body and heal the mind. This is the perfect gift for people who have stressful jobs, athletes, or anyone who wants to try yoga. There are also different kinds of yoga studios to choose from. Some offer many different kinds of classes while others will offer hot yoga as well. Search for some yoga studios in your city and find out what kind of class passes they offer. Many yoga studios have monthly membership fees but some also have an option to buy gift cards or class punch passes for a certain amount of classes. This kind of experience can be done together or simply given to a friend so they can enjoy it themselves.

Dance Classes

I grew up dancing and I miss it so much! It can be hard to find the time to go to a dance class as an adult but whenever I make the time for it I always have so much fun. There are tons of different dance studios opening up now where you don’t have to sign up to be in a strict dance class for a full year. You can sign up and take dance classes whenever you feel like it, kind of like at a yoga studio. These kinds of dance studios are often geared towards adults and offer classes like barre, ballet, jazz, and hip hop. These are the perfect gift experiences for friends who love to dance, or for a friend who grew up dancing and really misses it. It’s also a great gift for someone who has been wanting to learn how to dance but hasn’t gotten around to it yet. Search online for dance studios in your area and find one that offers classes that your loved one would be interested in.

Pottery Classes

If you have friends or family who are artsy then pottery classes are a perfect fit! They’re super fun and you get to learn about a new way of creating something special. Plus you also get to go home with your creation! Get a couple of tickets to a pottery class and go with your friend to make something special together. You can find pottery classes from all over the world by searching here.

Language Classes

Gift Experiences | Language Classes | Thai Language on Road Sign
Beautiful sign spotted in Thailand.

I love learning languages! In fact, I minored in Spanish at university and learned French throughout high school. I am also an online English as a Second Language Teacher. As you can see I love language learning quite a lot! I’m always looking for ways that I can improve my French and Spanish abilities and going to language classes in my spare time helps a ton! If you know someone who is trying to learn another language, then there is nothing better than getting the help of a professional. You can find language classes by searching for language schools near you. If you want to buy your friend some Spanish classes, then you can also read this post I wrote about an incredible Mexican company that offers online Spanish classes!

Music Classes

Do you know someone who has been meaning to learn how to play an instrument? Or maybe you know someone who already plays an instrument but wants to improve their abilities? Music classes are such thoughtful gift experiences! You can search online for music schools and teachers near you to make your music-loving friends super happy!

Cooking Classes

Cafebrería Vegan Tacos
Vegan Tacos with mushrooms and pineapple from Cafebrería in Mexico City.

Who doesn’t love eating? Cooking classes are a super fun gift experience for all kinds of people. Help your loved one learn how to cook a new kind of world cuisine, or help them learn how to make chocolate or something else from scratch! It’s the best kind of gift because you get to eat it afterward and you will go home with the knowledge of how to make new kinds of food at home! You can find cooking classes from all around the world by searching here!

DIY Gift Experiences

Plan a Northern Lights or Stargazing Night

Gift Experiences | View of the Moon | Stargazing in the Atacama Desert | San Pedro de Atacama Itinerary
Picture taken through a telescope from a stargazing tour I did in Chile.

This kind of gift is perfectly romantic for your significant other. Give them a handmade coupon that says something like ‘Redeemable for One Perfect Night of Stargazing’ or for watching the Northern Lights. Pick a date that works for the two of you and prepare for a romantic evening date. Fill up your car with blankets, hot chocolate, maybe a small telescope if you have one and some wine or champagne. Drive-up a large hill or mountain with little to no light pollution and cuddle up under the stars or Northern Lights!

Plan a Picnic

This is another kind of gift that you could make a homemade coupon for. Write something on it that says ‘Redeemable for One Perfect Picnic’. Then when your loved one has decided on a date for the picnic, come prepared. Bring a picnic basket filled with their favorite kinds of food and desserts along with some wine or their preferred beverage. Find a place near a lake or on a mountain or maybe in their favorite park and have a meal in nature together.

Surprise Trips

Walking through Fan Tan Alley | Things to do in Victoria BC
Fan Tan Alley, Victoria BC, Canada.

Speaking of surprise trips, these are my absolute favorite gifts to get for people (and to receive). A few years ago I planned a surprise trip to Jasper, Alberta for my husband and he absolutely loved it! Then this year, Arturo surprised me with a birthday trip to this beautiful resort in Valle de Bravo, Mexico. I’m actually already working on a surprise trip for him for Valentines’ Day but I think he figured out where I’m taking him already. You can read this article about how to plan a surprise trip for someone, and this article about a few different ways you can give someone a surprise trip with minimal planning!

Gift Experiences: Gift Cards

Restaurant Gift Cards

Gift Experiences | Guacamole at Forever Vegano | Vegan Restaurants in Mexico City
Amazing guacamole from Forever Vegano in Mexico City.

Restaurant gift cards are the perfect gift experiences for the foodies in your life. Treat them to a nice meal at a restaurant they haven’t been to yet, or maybe to their favorite restaurant! You can also accompany them to the restaurant and have a great meal together. This is a good way to not only eat amazing food but also to share in each others’ company.

Cafe Gift Cards

If there’s a new cafe in your city or you just have a friend who loves coffee then get them a gift card to a cafe! Go to the cafe with them and spend some quality time together too! Cafes are a great place for reconnecting with old friends, reading good books or just having a quiet meal.

Tattoo Shop Gift Cards

Now, this is a kind of gift experience that I would personally love a gift card for! If you have a friend who loves tattoos or has been thinking about getting one then a tattoo shop gift card is the perfect gift! Not only is getting a tattoo quite an experience, but they will remember the fact that you gifted it to them for the rest of their lives! I mean, it will be permanently on their body after all!

Air BnB Gift Cards

This is the perfect kind of gift for travel lovers! Good accommodation can sometimes be stressful to find for travelers, especially if they’re on a budget. This also makes a good gift for people who have been meaning to go on a trip for a while but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Not only will you be giving the gift of good accommodation, but you’re loved one will likely remember how you helped them on their trip for a very long time. It’s also a great way to surprise someone with a trip that the two of you can go on together!

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