Christmas shopping season is in full swing, but you might want to pump the brakes before you hit the mall.

More often than not, the person you are shopping for would rather receive an experience-based gift instead of a physical gift. A national survey conducted by storage finder revealed that 81 percent of Americans would prefer the gift of an experience such as concert tickets, yoga classes or a streaming subscription than they would material goods.

The same survey found that 1 in 4 gifts are never used by the recipient, and that 1 in 5 people never use half of the gifts they received. That is a lot of wasted wrapping paper, not to mention time and money!

Deciding what type of experiential gifts to give to your loved ones can be just about as challenging as picking out physical goods, so here are some ideas to get you started:


Professional organizer Julie Bestry says you can’t go wrong with the gift of entertainment.

“A booklet of movie vouchers, season¹s tickets for the theater or even a weekend trip to see a Broadway or Las Vegas show will yield fond memories long after the big event,” Bestry says.

Whether you buy tickets for an individual event or for a package or season, the size of the gift can be appropriate for your budget but specific to the recipient’s tastes says Bestry.


A day at the salon or sauna can be a great gift, especially for those in your life who always seem stressed out.

“I treated my closest friend a day with me at a local spa. How often do you take a day and make yourself your primary focus?” says professional organizer Kim Oser.

Oser said treating a loved one to a shared experience is a fantastic gift, and one that doesn’t take up precious physical space.

“Giving someone 100 percent of your attention is a huge gift regardless of the dollars spent,” Oser said.

Bestry also offers some ideas for pampering experiences: gift certificates for haircuts, styling, facials, massages, manicures, pedicures, reflexology and even acupuncture are all possibilities.

Another option?

“Many cities have blow-dry salons, like The Dry Bar, a kind of salon that just does washes and blow-outs (no cuts, no color) for when someone gets asked on a date or schedules a business dinner on a bad hair day,” Bestry said.

Home Upgrade

Here is a gift idea that your loved one will experience for years to come.

“My husband secretly switched out our electrical sockets with special ones he ordered online (through SmartHome), and installed himself when I wasn’t looking. These outlets can be programmed to come on and off via an app on my phone,” said professional organizer Seana Turner.

Turner said now she can turn on and off the electric candles she likes to place in her windows without having to travel the whole house.

Giving the gift of smart home technology is an innovative and thoughtful gesture.

“Talk about a great gift! This addressed a felt need, included a functional gift, and included an act of service,” Turner said.

Adventure and Sports

Have some thrill seekers on your list? Bestry says to consider passes for hot-air balloon rides, rock climbing or zip lines. Other options include a week of fantasy baseball camp, pre-paid rounds of golf or batting cage time.

“For the more casual adventurer, bowling, miniature golf or paintball can work equally well,” says Bestry.

The SpareFoot marketing team recently had excursions at Top Golf, which adds a competitive twist to the classic driving range experience and to K1 Speed, which offers a thrilling racing experience in electric go-karts. Gift certificates to either of these locations will offer a fun-filled day to the recipient. Check online for locations.

A Mental Challenge

If the kind of adventure the person on your list is looking for is a bit more cerebral, consider buying them passes to a local escape room experience.

The concept is taking off nationwide and there is likely one near you. Participants are locked in a room and must find hidden clues and solve puzzles to “escape” before time runs out.

“Most pricing seems to be about $28-$40 per person. Type ‘escape room [your city]’
to find the options near you,” Bestry says.

Check out Escape the Room NYC and Escape Mission Chattanooga for examples.


Bestry also advocates classes and workshops as gifts.

“Knowledge is power, and skills, once learned, can last a lifetime,” Bestry says.

Consider cooking, music, or self-defense lessons. Pre-pay for a series of classes in
ballroom dance, quilting, horseback riding, or scrapbooking–whatever delights the people on your list who thirst for knowledge, Bestry says.

Alexander Harris