I know, I know. I put out a Holiday Gift Guide every year full of…STUFF. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting things for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or whatever beautiful holiday you and your family celebrate with presents. I’m pro-thing. But I’m even more pro-experience, and the trend of giving experiences instead of things is one I love and wish more of us embraced.
To help you percolate a few ideas for your holiday shopping or wish lists, I’ve created an Experience Gift Guide. In here, you’ll find experience gifts for kids, a variety of adventure gifts, some unique gifts for friends and a bunch of ideas for family experience gifts. I’m sure there are plenty of other awesome experiential gift ideas out there and I’d love if you shared your favourites in the comments.
Without further ado, here are 18 different experiential gift ideas — including something for that person who already has everything…
Activity & experience gifts for kids
1. Lessons: until you become a parent, you don’t quite realize how expensive all of those skating, skiing and swimming lessons are.
2. Sports registration fees: and it’s not just lessons, registration fees for activities like hockey and dance are sky high. Although this gift is ultimately for the kids, the parents will be the ones who really thank you.
3. Summer camp: from local one-day camps to week-long sleepaway camps, the cost of sending a single child to camp can be astronomical but the rewards are a-plenty. I love that this one is so scalable depending on your budget, because you could easily find a day camp that’s $50 or an overnight one that’s $1,000+.
4. Theatre tickets: our kids’ great-aunt gifts them theatre tickets at Christmas, which I think is one of the most wonderful experiences you could give a child. Especially children like ours who really do have way too many things already.
Family experience gifts
5. Goat yoga (or puppy yoga or bunny yoga…): a family yoga sesh with free-roaming animals who jump and play around — or on top of — you for an hour is perhaps the most endorphin-boosting experience you can have together. We treated The K Man to puppy yoga this summer for his birthday and although it didn’t come cheap, it goes down as one of our best days of 2019.
6. Movie passes: This is one of our favourite things to receive because we go to the movies a lot and it ends up being around $100 for the four of us after we pay for our tickets and get snacks and drinks.
7. Doughnut-making workshop: as a Mastercard cardholder, I’m able to access all kinds of interesting and exclusive experiences — all of which make perfect gifts and many that are suitable for the whole family. Just last week, we took a hands-on workshop at Von Doughnuts in Toronto. It was only $20 each and not only did we have loads of fun in the city on a PA Day, but we also got to eat all of our “hard work.” There are always different Priceless Cities experiences popping up that make amazing day-out gifts (I’ve seen lollipop-making in Toronto, roll-your-own ice cream in NYC and cake pop classes in Montreal to name a few).
8. Family memberships: animals, art or science — take your pick. We loved having different memberships before the kids were in school, filling our days with art galleries, museums, science experiments and more. Pro Tip: You’ll earn serious bonus points if you add an optional parking pass for those who need to drive!
9. Family Fort Night (nah, not that Fortnite): package up a big blanket with a couple of pizza vouchers and a new DVD and pick a night to build a fort, order some ‘za and hang out together watching your new flick.
10. Pottery or Paint Night: we’ve done family art classes together a few times and they’re always so much fun. (Hello, splatter paint!) Gift cards for a local pottery-painting centre is another great way to gift a family you love with quality time to flex their creative muscles together.
11. Flying simulators: from indoor skydiving to fighter jets, your gift gives the rush of jumping out of a plane or getting twist-turned-upside-down trying to lock a missile on the enemy. I’ve personally tried both, and as a bona fide adrenaline junkie, I can tell you that either experience would be a very welcomed gift for the adventure-hungry person in your life.
12. Race car driving: there are racetracks across Canada and around the world where you can rent time on the track in the race car of your dreams. (P.S. I’ll go with you in a heartbeat — just say the word.)
13. Caving, bicycle tours, rowing lessons or horseback riding: all of these and more are Priceless Cities experiences that make gifting the most adventure-seeking, hard-to-buy-for person on your list a breeze.
14. Gym membership: now, you want to be really sure that this won’t be received as offensive. Know your audience and give, say, a gym’s initiation fee or cost of the first month to someone who’s already in a healthy relationship with exercise.
Unique gifts for friends
15. Cooking or winemaking classes: I think these would be such a treat to do with one of your besties!
16. Airline or hotel points: it’s the gift that costs you nothing, except your unused rewards miles or points (which you can collect when you find a credit card with benefits that suit your everyday needs like me and my Mastercard World Elite [note that benefits vary by issuer]). Many loyalty programs allow members to give their points to others, so if you’re the guy who’s got so much status that you’re swimming in points you couldn’t possibly use all on your own, I think it would be so cool to gift your buddy enough for a night or two at a swanky hotel or a short-haul flight. Or both.
17. A DIY workshop: think learn-to-knit-your-own-scarf class or workshops where participants make their own cigars, makeup, soap, candles or whatever.
18. Any Mastercard Priceless Cities experience: you can put this gift in overdrive if you happen to be travelling with your friend and can do something awesome together away from home. I’m just saying that I’d really love to learn how to make pasta with an award-winning chef in Australia, go behind-the-scenes with a fashion designer in Paris or ring in the New Year with the Vienna Philharmonic, OK?! The cost of some of these priceless experiences are obviously bucket list-worthy, but if you look closely, you’ll also find some that are just a drop in the bucket.
Don’t know what to get that “particular” friend of yours? I included a Mastercard prepaid credit card in my holiday gift guide for that very reason. You could win one here.
Not only are all of these unique experience gifts going to win you major WOW-you’re-so-rad points, they’re hella easy to wrap, too! Try a homemade coupon or if that kind of thing ain’t your jam, there are hundreds of free templates online if you’d rather just print one out and fill it in, like this one:
I hope that even one idea on this list helps you give the magic of memories this holiday season.
DISCLAIMER: Mastercard compensated me for this post. All ideas presented here (including the selected Priceless Cities experiences) are my own.