Experiences Not Things: 7 Fantastic Holiday Gift Experiences for Travelers

I’m always psyched when I read that Millennials value experiences over things. It’s definitely true that the memories of an amazing trip can bring you far more happiness over a lifetime than the latest igadget or a lovely sweater.

The holiday’s are when it’s easy to lose sight of this. Between Black Friday, holiday shopping and mountains of presents under the tree, commercialism has a real stranglehold on the holiday season. You can combat this, at least a little bit, by opting to give the gift of experiences instead of things.

So, although I still think a Kindle makes the best gift for travelers, I’ve made a list of some great experiential gifts to consider giving an explorer you love. I haven’t included any affiliate links, these are just things I’ve found or done that I’ve enjoyed (if you want to do some of your holiday shopping through my Amazon affiliate link, I certainly wouldn’t mind though). I hope you find a great last-minute experience gift for that one really hard to shop for person on your list.

Food Tours

Food Tours are one of the best ways to experience a new (or even a familiar) place. Exploring the streets, sampling new dishes and learning about new customs makes for an amazing cultural experience.

This isn’t just for people on the road either: Last year both of our families got us gift certificates for Savor Seattle so we could get to know our chosen hometown a bit better.

I have a whole archive of food tour reviews, but here are a few of my favorite companies:

Eating Europe Food ToursThese tours are great quality- I’ve taken their Rome and London Soho Tours and they are excellent quality. They also have tours in Prague and Amsterdam.

Vallarta Eats– If your loved ones are heading to Mexico this winter, this is a spectacular way to really get to know Mexican food.

Chicago Pizza Tours- You can always say I Love You with pizza. To me at least.

Cooking Classes

Like food tours, cooking classes are a great way to explore a new culture. Best of all you don’t even need to leave your hometown to do it! From sushi rolling to crafting Thai curries to the secrets of the perfect pizza, a cooking class gives you skills you can use for the rest of your life.

Walks of Italy– We took a spectacular all day cooking lesson in Tuscany with Walks and eventually gifted my in-laws the same experience. It was a huge hit.

Photography Lessons

Anyone who has sat through a relatives vacation albums (or just has a Facebook account) knows that traveling to a beautiful place is no guarantee of taking beautiful photographs. Cameras are popular gift, but what if you gave you friends a head start on taking memorable photos by buying them a photography class instead?

Most local colleges offer beginners courses, so start your search there

Museum Passes

An annual pass at a local museum is a fantastic gift for a family or just a well-cultured individual.

Think a membership to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or a gift card to the EMP Museum in Seattle. Something they can enjoy over and over

Additionally, If your recepient is traveling somewhere specific in the next year, why not give them a VIP experience? We did this for my inlaws when they visited Rome- we got them an early morning Vatican tour with Walks of Italy so they could see the Sistine Chapel without the crowds.

Choose Your Own Adventure

If you’re not really sure what your giftee is in to, let them pick out their own travel experience. Give a gift card to a tour aggregator site like Viator or Vayable where users can pick from all sorts of activities.

Last year I bought my mom a Viator gift certificate to use when she came out to see me in Seattle. We ended up doing a Pike’s Place market tour and visiting the Chihuly exhibit, which was so fun. I also went up in a seaplane with Viator this summer, so the options are diverse.

A Place to Stay

This was also the year I helped my Mom discover the beauty of apartment rentals. Staying in an apartment over a hotel is such a cultural enhancer. It’s also a lot more comfortable in many ways.
Unlike most of the apartment rental websites, AirBNB does sell gift certificates. Pair with one of my 7 Things to Bring Along to Enhance Your Apartment Rental and you’ve got a nice little package gift.

Big Ticket: An Actual Trip

If you’re feeling truly, insanely generous and/or wealthy, why not buy someone an entire trip? It’s the perfect kick in the pants for someone who is dying to travel but too busy/unorganized/scared to make it happen.

I’m not much of one for guided towards myself. But a couple of my friends run tour experiences that have gotten great reviews In particular, Earl of Wandering Earl runs exciting trips to both familiar and challenging places around the world.

Got another idea for a great experience gift? Add it in the comments!

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10 thoughts on “Experiences Not Things: 7 Fantastic Holiday Gift Experiences for Travelers”

  1. I agree with the experiences thing, but stuff can be nice if it fills a “doing” need. You need to know the person well in order to pull this off though…

  2. What a great roundup of gift ideas! I just saw that AirBnB sold gift certificates and they snuck their way to the top of my list. 🙂 Also, I have never thought about the local photography class, but that might be an awesome investment in myself! Brilliant!

  3. These are excellent experience gifts. Personally I love cooking classes and food tours, so those would ALWAYS be welcome gifts.

    One great experience gift is the gift of a photographer to help capture the experiences! I know as a solo traveler I would love to have a photographer tagging along with me on my adventures 😀

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