28 Unique Experience Gifts You Can Give Instead of Buying Stuff

There is a movement going on right now that is really gaining momentum. It’s a movement that is stepping away from giving gifts that are materials and instead investing in life experiences. More and more people are letting go of their desire to have more stuff and to instead step fully into experience all that life has to offer. When it comes to big events like birthday and Christmas, gift giving can be tricky. What if they don’t like what you buy them? Will your gift actually get any use out of it? All anyone ever really wants (or so they say) is time with the people they love. Maybe that’s what the gifts should be all about! That’s where experience gifts come in! Here are 28 new ideas on little experiences you can gift even the toughest people to buy for!

*Quick note: we may earn a commission on the recommendations we share in this post at no additional cost to you!

Why are experience gifts better than stuff?

If you ask people what they received for gifts last Christmas, the majority of them can’t even name one. The reason this is is that material items only bring us short bursts of joy. On the flip side, it has been shown over and over again that when we spend on experiences and time together with one another, that small burst of joy lasts much longer.

I mean think about it, the proof of experience joy is all around us. Inside jokes, pictures we always look back on, memories we tell for years to come… When you have a real experience with another person (or even on your own), the memories of it is something we can tap into time and time again.

As further proof, a study of the 5 Most common deathbed regrets shows ZERO signs of wishing for more material things:

  • I wish I had been more true to myself
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
  • I should have expressed my feelings more
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with friends
  • I wish I would have been happier

None of these things have anything to do with material possessions…except that perhaps they were held back by them. Our life experiences matter. Our lives matter.

Budgeting for experiences

The real bummer comes in when we find ourselves craving experiences, but have zero money to actually get us there! We want to take the trip, go to the concert or fly across the country to visit family that we love, but our bank account is coming up empty.

What most people realize is that designing a life around your bucket list is actually pretty simple. If you’re not great with numbers, click here and use the code FUNSIZED to save 10% on The Bucket List Budget that shows you how to organize your money around the life experiences you want to have!

Here are some discounts to get started!

Don’t worry, you can still find plenty of ways to save some moola when it comes to buying more experiences for the people you love. Here are some of our favorites — we’ll totally share our discounts with you!

Rakuten rebates

Rakuten is an online location to find discounts on so many things! Sure, you can find stuff for your house, clothing and all that jazz, but what most people don’t know is that you can also save on local adventures and even vacation packages!! Click here to get $10 (or more) off!

Do$h discounts

When it comes to using most rebate apps, you have to browse first and select your discounts. With the Dosh rebate app, all you do is link a card and Dosh automatically refunds you on any qualifying purchases you make. Click here to get $5 free!

Restaurant.com

If you are someone who loves the experience of gathering around a table with good food and good people, then make sure you scan Restaurant.com. They always have a variety of gift cards at a discounted price so you can get more for your money! Click here to get a $25 gift card for $10!

Groupon

Another great place to start is to scan Groupon for local discounts on fun activities in your area. This could be spas, massages, arcades, restaurants or other fun excursions you haven’t even heard of yet. Groupon can be such a fun way to find new local places near you while still saving some cash. Check Groupon offers near you!

AirBNB

There are a few ways you can start saving money with Airbnb.

  • Vacation rentals
  • Airbnb experiences

Staying with Airbnb

If you are hoping to get away with some family or friends, you’re probably aware that you can stay at an Airbnb. This can be a great way to cut costs on food and sometimes lodging, but make sure you are taking advantage of all possible discounts!

Whenever you stay at a vacation rental, be sure to be as savvy as you can with negotiating the price and save $40 off your first Airbnb stay! If you have already stayed with Airbnb, have a friend sign up or use a different email address so you can still take advantage of the savings! Click here to get $40 off your Airbnb.

Airbnb Experiences

A newer part of Airbnb is Experiences. This is where locals can take you on tours, take your photo or help you have some other hands-on experience near where you’re staying!

Doing an Airbnb Experience can give you some insights into fun local things to do that you might not find on your own and in some cases, with Airbnb Experience groups, help you meet new people! Click here to save $15 on an Airbnb Experience!

There are so many gifts you can give instead of buying stuff! Not sure what? Check out these 28 unique experience gift ideas for the people in your life!

Experience Gifts For the whole family

Full-blown Vacation

One of the absolute best experience gifts to give is the gift of travel and togetherness. Traveling together and experiencing different places, people and cultures is what life is all about after all!

How to get discounts on vacation:

Gift cards

If you aren’t quite sure what to get someone on your list, you usually can’t go wrong with a gift card. Maybe you want to share the gift card with someone or just give them something that helps get them out of the house for a bit. You can always opt for Restaurant.com’s $10 for a $25 gift card deal, or try to score FREE gift cards online in your spare time!

Photography sessions

If you want to treat a family, consider funding a photography session for them! In fact, you could even check with local people in your area who are offering an Airbnb photography experience — they usually have the best locations already scouted out and usually offer an affordable group rate!

A photography session would be perfect for:

  • Grandparents who want photos with their grandkids
  • A spouse who would love a romantic session with you
  • Single parents that you know who would cherish photos with their children
  • Young teens who would die to have some new Instagram photos of them and their friends

Remember, click here to get $15 off a local photography Airbnb experience!

Game night

Never ever underestimate the importance of a good game night. Gathering around the table with some of your favorite snacks and board games can be one of the best ways to spend time together (and keep the cost super low).

Even if you aren’t totally down for planning your own game night or hosting the entire family, taking the time to find new, fun board games that they can play together at home can be a good way to encourage time together. Here are some lesser known board games that are a huge hit! (Hint, there’s even a game you can custom-make for them!)

Paint night

Do you have a painter in your family or are trying to find a fun life experience gift for you and your significant other? See if there are any paint nights near you. There are usually a lot of local places that are willing to supply food and drinks along with a full tutorial on how to paint your own beautiful painting.

This is also a great gift idea for parents to give their grown children and spouses! How fun to get everyone out for a night!

**Bonus money saving hack. You could do this as a night in by floating the cost of the supplies and finding one of the thousand painting tutorials available on YouTube!**

Camping or Glamping

Ok, we know, we know, not everyone is down to camp in a tent! But picture it, lounging around in some cozy hammocks with the people you love, telling stories by a campfire and sharing a few laughs while spending some time in nature? That could be pretty awesome,

Plus, if you’re not super nature-friendly, you can always opt for glamping with Airbnb or look into renting an RV!

Escape room

Want to see how quickly you can get your family to turn on one another? Haha, totally kidding. Escape rooms are an amazing way to build team building skills and get some adrenaline going!

You are almost guaranteed to find a local escape room when you check your local Groupon listings!

There are so many gifts you can give instead of buying stuff! Not sure what? Check out these 28 unique experience gift ideas for the people in your life!

Experience Gifts For Kids

Little Passports

While this is still a gift that comes with “stuff” is also comes with a ton of beneficial knowledge for those little ones in your life.

Little Passports is a great learning site that will send your child(ren) monthly kits to learn about different topics. You can choose from early learning kits that teach about things like animals and music.

We took advantage of their United States kit. Each month our kids got to learn about 2 different US states, play games from their culture and even make recipes popular in that particular state.

Professional sports coaching

If you have an older kid who loves sports, why not look into a lesson from a professional!? Yes, I mean an actual pro athlete! On Masterclass.com you can find huge variety of online classes taught by actual pro athletes! For example, Stephen Curry (the greatest shooter in NBA history) can teache you how to play basketball! Click here to get started at $15 per month!

Museum memberships

If you have local children’s or science museums in your area, consider gifting a yearly membership to your favorite kiddos! This can be a perfect way for the entire family to sneak out of the house on a rainy day without having to stress too much about cost!

Depending on the museum and the membership this could also offer other discounts and would hopefully be a fun learning experience!

Funding college tuition

Let’s be honest, most of the time when people buy toys for kids, those toys end up broken or getting donated a year later. Instead of flipping the bill for toys (especially when the kids are so little they won’t even notice), why not start gifting money into a college fund that can benefit your favorite little ones for the rest of their lives?

With UNest you pay $3 per month with a minimum investment of $25 you can start saving for your child(ren)’s college education tax-free!! Then, if you have family or friends who want to give them a gift, they can donate toward their college fund as well! Start a college fund for only $3.

Baking kits

I guess I am sticking with the food theme! But, one of the things I have wanted to do for my children is to teach them how to cook for themselves! That has meant flipping grilled cheese, making scrambled eggs and helping with mashed potatoes.

During out last school year, we used the Organic Baking Subscription from FoodStirs. Every other month my kids got great baking kits like 4th of July cake push pops, Valentine’s Day doughnuts, and spring time mud pies!

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There are so many gifts you can give instead of buying stuff! Not sure what? Check out these 28 unique experience gift ideas for the people in your life!

Experience Gifts For Anyone

Wine of the month club

Have a wine junkie on your Christmas list this year? Why not consider opting into The Wine of the Month club? This could be great if you are looking for an excuse to get together with your favorite people at least once a month, or if you just know your favorite wine enthusiast would totally get a kick out of the gift that gives all year!

Personal trainer

Is there someone in your life who is really wanting to improve their health and get in shape? A lot of times, the cost of a gym membership is too much for people, let along a personal trainer. They might have some goals they want to meet, but aren’t able to take full advantage of the options available to them.

The Aaptiv app is the perfect solution to this! In this one app you get access to trainers who will help with:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Marathon training
  • Weight lifting
  • Cycling

The best part is, you can click here to get your first 30 days free!

Cooking classes

Just like the kids, cooking classes are a good idea for adults as well! You can always browse Groupon for local cooking classes in your area, or you could pop open a bottle of wine at home and get a cooking class from some of the pros!

I mean how cool to give the gift of a class from your favorite chef? Select your cooking class starting at $15 a month!

Photography classes

It seems these days more and more people are getting into photography since we all have a phone tucked in our back pocket! While there are dozens of opportunities locally on Groupon to get photography lessons, Masterclass is currently offering lessons with the famous photographer to the stars, Annie Leibovitz!

What could be better than allowing someone to learn the best photography techniques from one of the most famous photographers of our time?

Local concerts and shows

If there is a local concert or show in your area that you would love to gift to someone, check Seatsforeveryone.com for the best and most affordable tickets around! You can search local venues and probably get some new ideas on shows you can try out in your area.

Try crafting your own beer

There are so many breweries popping up these days, there is almost always an opportunity to go sample local beer and develop a fine beer pallet if you will.

However, if you are wanting a more hands on experience (and maybe a few laughs), you can buy beer kits on Amazon that teach you how to start making your own beer! If you have a beer lover in your life, this could be a perfect gift!

Writing lessons

For that person in your life with a passion for writing, MasterClass offers a variety of different writing classes you can take with a wide range of different successful writers! People like:

Click here to get writing lessons for only $15 a month!

Massage and spa days

Nothing says “I love you,” quite like a spa day. Flipping the bill for a day at the spa would be perfect for:

  • Spending a day with your mom/grandma
  • Treating your child to a special day with you
  • Gifting a girlfriend (or guy friend) who you know could use a pick-me-up

There are usually a ton of Groupon options out there for different discounts in your area. Just make sure to check reviews before you book!

Car starters

There is really no denying, if you live in a colder state one of the best experiences you can have in your life is the gift of a pre-warmed up car in the winter time. Seriously. While more and more cars have this feature available, you can also snag car warmers on Amazon!

Music lessons

Again, you can search Groupon for local music lessons in your area or you can always gift someone online classes with one of their favorite musicians. MasterClass offers some of these great music legends right in the comfort of your own home:

Fitness classes

Maybe fitness classes don’t sound like the greatest gift in the world but they could be a great chance to try something new and do it with a friend!

There are so many great fitness classes these days like hot yoga, aerial classes, pole classes, dance classes. You name it, they’ve thought of it. Check Groupon to see if any fun classes stand out in your area.

Manicure and/or pedicure

Whether you are a man or woman a day where you are treated to a mani/pedi together is always a relaxing way to spend the day.

Housecleaning services

Again, this may not be an adventurous life experience, but how much more could a person in your life do if they didn’t have to stress about deep cleaning their house?

If you know someone who is overwhelmed at this time in their lives, this may be the exact gift they need to calm their souls and raise their spirits.

Gun or archery range

Sure, I’ll end on this note. Why not. Now, I know this gift isn’t for everyone, but you don’t have to be a hunter or a “gun nut” to have fun being outdoors at a shooting range.

Whether it’s a stress reliever, fun practice or just a unique experience you’re after, this might be the ticket!

Remember…

The most important thing about gift-giving is making sure you are buying something perfect for the person you are giving the gift to.

Maybe they love unique experience gifts or perhaps they just really want that new KitchenAid they keep talking about. No matter what, it’s important to think about the person receiving the gift. If you don’t, you run the risk of spending money on a gift that may never be used.

Also, I am a firm believer that there is so much more out there than just giving gifts. Life is short and there is no better present then just spending time with the people you love the most. That’s something anyone can do, even if you’re flat broke!

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1 COMMENT

  1. Marissa | Squirrels of a Feather | 11th Dec 18

    I love all these ideas! I also believe experiences are better than possessions. Going yonpin this for future gift ideas, thanks!

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