People are starting to take notice of the value of buying ‘experiences’ versus “stuff” as gifts these days. Why? Research indicates that sharing experiences with those we love make us happier overall than possessions do.
‘Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,’ says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over 20 years. ‘We are the sum total of our experiences,’ he says.
Gilovich’s and other researchers’ findings are part of a group of psychological studies that make up what is known as the Easterlin paradox, which found that people’s satisfaction from buying possessions over time went down, while their satisfaction on experiences they purchased went up.
But, giving an experience gift is a tad risky — you have to really know the person’s likes, dislikes, and what they are willing to try. While one of my best friends is a thrill-seeker and will gladly jump out of an airplane at a moment’s notice, I wouldn’t be caught dead on a rollercoaster. Instead, I’ve enjoyed ‘fun runs’ with friends, horseback riding, and wine and painting parties at galleries. So, it is critical to know your recipient fairly well!
While plane tickets or an all expenses paid trip to Mexico might be outside your budget, there are other fun experiences that are definitely budget-friendly. (And, if you can find any of these experience at your local Groupon or LivingSocial deals site, you can stretch your dollar even more!)
Check out these 33 gift experience ideas organized by the type of recipient, sure to put a smile on their face 🙂
33 experience gift ideas
For those who love to be out in nature – whether it is the mountains or the beach.
- Horseback riding
- Rock climbing
- Hot air balloon rides (Zipline, rock climbing and hot air balloon rides require the recipient isn’t afraid of heights!)
- Deep sea fishing
- Skeet shooting
You know the types: wouldn’t miss a day at the gym, bulging muscles — why not give them the gift of more fitness!
- Fitness classes: Yoga and hot yoga, kickboxing, Crossfit, Krav Manga, Jazzercize, Barre classes, Jiu-Jitsu, acrobatic classes
- Tickets to extreme challenge races: Spartan race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash
- Tickets to a fun run: Mud Run, Electric Run, Bubble Run, etc.
Read more: Best and worst fitness trackers
For those who just want to have fun
These folks don’t necessarily care what they’re doing, as long as they are having fun doing it! (Ok they care a little… the activity does have to be ‘fun’.)
- Tickets to the fair
- Tickets to a ‘fun run’: mud run, paint run, bubble run, etc.
- Theme park tickets
- Trampoline gym passes
- Wine and painting events
- Sports car driving experiences: Drive a sports car or Nascar vehicle (supervised) at thrilling speeds!
Those who love to entertain
People who enjoy having guests over love learning how to make the experience even better! Cooking classes, wine-making, or beer-making classes are great for these folks too.
For those who love to be creative!
- Painting, drawing, glass blowing, music lessons, cake decorating, dance lessons, pottery classes, etc.
Those who appreciate the arts
People who appreciate the arts are far ranging — everyone from those who love heavy metal music to those who enjoy watching the Nutcracker, so you’ll definitely need to know your recipient well for this category.
- Museum tickets
Those who want to be pampered
And who doesn’t? If you have someone in your life who could use a little relaxation, a spa gift card could be a great way to go.
- Spa gift certificates
- Massage gift certificates
- Mineral springs spas
Let’s get these gamers out of the house! Finding game-like experiences outside or in a facility are fun for those who enjoy video games.
- Laser tag
- Zombie apocalypse room escape
Adventurers & thrill seekers
Who doesn’t like at least a little thrill in their life?
- Whitewater rafting or kayaking
- Zipline or rock climbing
- Amusement park tickets
- Flying lessons: Learn to fly an airplane! (supervised)
- Scuba diving lessons
- Sports car driving experience
- Sailing lessons: Learn to sail a sailboat!
- Hang gliding
- Murder mystery dinner parties
- Dinner and a movie gift certificate (Some places have dinner at the theater!)
- Comedy clubs
- Brewery tour and tasting
- Botanical gardens
- Top Golf gift certificate, if there is a location near you (a cross between a golf driving range and bowling)
- Helicopter/airplane tour
- Museums, zoos, nature centers, and aquariums
- Wine tours
Read more: The health benefits of coffee and wine
- Zombie apocalypse room escape: Similar to a murder mystery dinner — solve puzzles, find caches, use clues, tools and pure wit to find the key to your freedom to avoid being caught by the impending zombie apocalypse!
- Sailing lessons: You’ll probably need to be within driving distance of a large body of water, but
- Bumper ball: Imagine yourself inside a big inflated ball – then imagine yourself in
- Fencing classes: Learn to be as cool as Wesley, fighting the Spaniard in The Princess Bride.
In order to find these experiences, type the word ‘local’, then the word or phrase or what you’re looking for in your search engine. You might also find big discounts at Groupon, or Living Social.
Experience gifts that are more about memories with those you love might be infinitely more valuable than something you’d end of spending more money on — and, since studies have found experiences increase satisfaction versus decrease it over time, the right kind of experience gift that matches the recipient is sure to be a smart buy.
Read more: The best things in life are free.