Most of us have way too much stuff.
One survey found that 1 in 7 Americans has a room in their home that they can’t use because it’s filled with things they rarely use. Another found that the average American is currently hoarding 23 items they have no use for. And the more crap we accumulate, the more miserable we become.
This holiday season, we once again have an opportunity to dive head-first into consumerism or focus on making memories instead. If the memories sound good to you, consider giving experiences as gifts this year. Here are 21 creative ideas.
For The Family Cook
Even for those who love to cook, coming up with a quick and creative family meal on a hectic weeknight can be a tall order. With a subscription to a meal kit service, however, all the guesswork is taken out of dinner without resorting to takeout or the same old tired spaghetti recipe. Plus, there’s no need to worry about food waste. Of all the meal kit services I’ve tried, my favorite is Home Chef, though you can find services that cater to just about any dietary preference.
Cooking classes can be great for someone who wants to expand their skills in the kitchen or has tons of cooking gadgets but doesn’t really know how to use them. There are classes available across the country through companies like Sur la Table, or you can book classes through a local cooking school.
One incredibly important aspect of cooking that’s often overlooked is knowing how to handle a knife. Not only will a course in knife skills be fun and informative for any budding chef, but it’ll help increase safety in the kitchen, too.
For The Culture Buff
Sometimes the only way you ever make it to the local museum is when you have guests in town. But visiting a museum can be a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Museums including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York offer gift memberships. Even better, you can deduct the membership fee on your taxes in many cases.
With popular musical hits such as “Wicked,” “The Book of Mormon” and “Hamilton,” a gift of theater tickets is sure to be a hit. You can give tickets to a particular production or consider a general pass such as the Broadway gift certificate so your recipient can pick a show that fits their tastes and schedule.
Living near a major city means there’s always something to do or see. But it’s easy to take that for granted. Give the gift of experiencing your hometown from a fresh perspective with tickets to a city tour. My personal favorites are the architectural boat tour in Boston, the walking tours of New Orleans and the Conch Train Tour in Key West, Florida.
For The Imbiber
Whether your loved one is a sommelier in training or simply appreciates classy day drinking, they’ll definitely appreciate the gift of a wine tasting. Send them on a tour of local vineyards, to a neighborhood wine shop or let them taste from the comfort of their own home with a wine tasting gift set.
If your friend or family member prefers to sip on an ice-cold IPA, they’re sure to enjoy a tour of a local brewery to learn about the brewing process while sampling the products. But they don’t have to be a craft beer snob to appreciate a brewery tour. Mega-brewers, such as Budweiser and Coors, also offer tours of their brewing locations.
9. Subscription cocktails
For the person on your gift list who likes to entertain at home, learning a new cocktail recipe will ensure they’re the life of the party. A cocktail subscription box from a service like Shaker & Spoon will let them test out a new concoction while learning the techniques for mixing a perfect drink.
For The Animal Lover
10. Zoo or safari park pass
Is there an animal lover in your life? A zoo membership allows them to appreciate wildlife from Africa, Asia and beyond. Many zoos also have animal encounter add-ons that could be perfect for the penguin lover or cat lady in your life.
Owning a horse is a major time and money commitment that many people can’t handle. But just about anyone can get their fix of these majestic creatures by spending a couple of hours riding. Give the gift of a leisurely trail ride or, for the more experienced rider, give show jumping lessons.
What could be better than waking up early on the weekend, gathering in a room full of strangers and contorting your body beyond what you thought possible? A lot of things, probably. But goats? Tiny goats? Nothing. That’s exactly what you can give with goat yoga, which is part exercise class, part petting zoo and 100 percent adorable.
For The Adrenaline Junkie
Flying a plane is one of the most exhilarating experiences on the planet. If you know someone who loves a thrill and isn’t afraid of heights, consider giving the gift of flight and buying them a flying class through a local aviation school.
If staying on the ground is more their speed, Chris Burdick, the founder of Automoblog.net, suggested gifting the opportunity to race a Ferrari or Lamborghini around the track. Xtreme Xperience and similar companies offer exotic drives. Or get behind the wheel of a real Formula car with Formula Experiences.
If you’d like to give a gift that has a much lower chance of resulting in injury, consider a gift certificate to an escape room experience. Your loved one’s heart will get pumping when they’re locked in a room and forced to find their way out by solving dozens of puzzles before the timer runs out.
For The Health Nut
One of my favorite group exercise studios is Flywheel. But at $28 a pop, it’s just too darn expensive to go to classes on a regular basis. Whether it’s indoor cycling, hot yoga, Pilates or TRX, fitness fanatics will appreciate the gift of a pass to a luxury workout session. You can also buy a membership to Class Pass, which allows members to try out various classes at local studios.
Running is one of the best ways to stay fit, and road races have become increasingly popular in recent years. Last year, 17 million Americans completed a running event. But the sport of running isn’t exclusive to serious athletes. Entry to a fun 5K, such as the Color Run, Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge or, my personal favorite, the Zombie Mud Run, is a great gift for runners of all fitness levels.
Rest and recovery are just as important as hitting the gym. Give your loved one relief from sore muscles with a Swedish, deep tissue or sports massage from a specialist. You can also give them a Spa Finder gift card, which is accepted at thousands of locations across the U.S.
For Anyone Who Could Really Use A Damn Break
19. House cleaning service
Sometimes the greatest gift of all is relief from the chores of daily life. If you know someone who could really use a day off from housework, buy them home cleaning services through a company such as Merry Maids. Just be sure you’re close enough with the recipient to know they won’t be offended.
This gift won’t cost you a dime and will likely be the most cherished gift by the parent on your list. Volunteer to babysit the kids free of charge for one day so the parents can indulge in some self-care or enjoy a date night. You can find cute coupon printouts on Pinterest.
You don’t have to drop thousands of dollars on an expensive vacation in order for your family member or friend to experience the amenities at a luxury resort. J.R. Duren, senior editor at HighYa.com, tipped me off to his detailed review of ResortPass, which lets you purchase day passes to high-end resorts and hotels in seven states across the country. The site also allows you to send a gift card amount of your choosing to a recipient. “If you’re not sure how much to give, you can search hotels in the recipient’s area to get an idea of how much the packages cost,” Duren said.
Honestly, this is an experience I’ll probably gift myself this year.