Scientific research shows we find material objects exciting at first, but over time we adapt to their presence and the happiness they generate fades. In contrast, the level of happiness an experience generates goes up over time. Unlike material objects, experiences become an ingrained part of our identity and, when shared, allow us to connect with others in ways material objects do not. Experiential gifts in place of stuff also prevents further stressful accumulation of clutter in the home. Need ideas? Here are five great experiential gift ideas.

  1. Tickets for movies, concerts or any type of entertainment. It’s always nice to receive a gift card for the movies or a pair of tickets for an event of interest. It’s a great excuse to go out and have fun with a friend or family member with a similar interest. Tip: before buying event tickets confirm the recipient would love to attend the event and is able to attend on the designated date.
  2. Enrollment in classes, workshops, camps. Some people would love the opportunity to further develop an interest or hobby. A really thoughtful gift could be a class, workshop or camp that aligns with this interest. Tip: make sure they are able to make the time to enjoy it. A complementary gift might be providing the childcare or eldercare needed to free them to attend.
  3. Memberships for museums, gyms, other institutions and/or clubs. For families, a membership to a museum or zoo can be a great gift. These kinds of outings add up, and the cost can be particularly difficult to bear when young children aren’t able to enjoy the museum long enough to make the entrance admission feel worthwhile. A membership, however, eliminates the issue. It gives the family the opportunity to visit as often as they want for an entire year for the cost of what would ordinarily be a couple of admissions. Tip: listen for specific interests or ask if they’ve ever been to… to get great ideas.
  4. Local Adventures. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time being a tourist in our own city. There are probably many interesting places to see and things to do. It could be as simple as a walking tour with picnic, or as extravagant as a big night out on the town with a harbour cruise or dinner at a swanky restaurant. For the recipient, it’s a fun time without having to do any of the planning, and a great way to connect with the tour guide. Tip: Choose a theme and create an adventure.
  5. Getaways. Who doesn’t like a chance to getaway, to disconnect from the everyday and create some great memories—alone or with others. Set your budget and make it happen. There are so many fun ideas: a weekend in a tent at a provincial or national park, a night at a country bed and breakfast. Maybe it’s a night in another city at a luxury hotel. It just takes a bit of thought and planning—but totally worth the memories it will generate. Tip: think about what would make it easier and have some suggestions handy, like a referral for a dog sitter.

What would truly make some of these experiences memorable, is for you to be there too.  Don’t be afraid to plan yourself in, where appropriate of course. Other experiential gift ideas? I’d love to hear them.

Here are some other great ideas for gifts that don’t contribute to clutter. Looking for office gift exchange alternatives?