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The Best Unique Experience Gifts - The Most Memorable Gifts for Christmas

Updated on January 14, 2012

Give a Hot Air Balloon Ride - a Unique Experience


What People Really Want for Christmas

Everybody’s an expert when it comes to the Best Christmas gifts for Mom, Dad, Grandparents or Kids! Do an internet search and you’ll find dozens of recommendations all claiming to be the “Best Gifts.” You may have heard that Grandpa wants a new fishing pole and Grandma wants the latest Apple gadget. Perhaps someone told you that Mom wants a Pandora Bracelet or Dad wants the latest BBQ equipment. These things are fine for short-lived happiness with your gift, but for long term happiness and satisfaction, people really need something different.

The Best Gift is a Unique Experience!

You can spend your money buying your loved ones cute clothes or the latest and greatest gadgets, and they will love them that day and maybe the next day. But what about in a week or two? They’ll have put those things aside, and the joy they experienced when they received the gift will have faded or disappeared.

So what do people really want for Christmas or any other time of the year? The answer is something they may not even think to ask for: Experiences!

Experience gifts last longer

According to a 2010 article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, by psychologists Travis J. Carter, and Thomas Gilovich, people are happier when spending money on experiences than when they spend it on material things. In fact, 57% of people studied said that experiences made them happier than material things.

Gilovich and Carter found that when people purchase material things, they tend to later think about the purchase more and compare it to their other options. This leads them to wonder if they made the right choice and lessens their satisfaction with their purchase.

Why experiences last longer

  • Each experience is unique and can’t easily be compared to other experiences the way material things like TVs or jewelry can be compared. When people spend their money on experiences, they are less likely to make comparisons.
  • Experiences tend to stay fresh in our minds longer. While material things get old and we become used to them. When we think about our experiences, the highlights remain fresh in our minds long after the event, especially if we have picture to remind us.

Go on a Wine Tasting Tour for a Fun Experience

A wine tasting tour with friends is a fun and memorable experience!
A wine tasting tour with friends is a fun and memorable experience! | Source
  • We tend to block out the less pleasant parts of the experience (except with very bad experiences) and remember the good things. So we will remember lying on the beach on Oahu, but might forget that our plane was delayed in Chicago for 4 hours. On the other hand, that electrical gadget that failed after 2 months is still there to remind us of our poor choice in purchasing it.
  • Experiences are likely to be social events.Material things are solitary. Sharing an experience and being able to talk about it later keeps it fresher in our minds and adds to the pleasure.

Give a lasting memory and pleasure with a gift of a Unique Experience

With this in mind, here are some great gift ideas that will bring a happy smile to the recipient’s face long after the novelty of that bracelet, tackle box or cute coffee mug wears off:

  • A Weekend Bed and Breakfast Getaway – Give Mom, Dad or Grandparents a gift certificate for a weekend at a bed and breakfast where they can do something they enjoy. Perhaps it would be a weekend of antiquing, lying on the beach, enjoying a beautiful mountain getaway or going to a casino – pick something that will be a special treat.
  • Theater tickets to an off Broadway production or a play. These tickets are often too pricey for older people on a modest budget. It will be a special treat!
  • Tickets to a sporting event. Whether it’s football, baseball, basketball or another sport, Dad, granddad and even the kids would enjoy a day out rooting for their favorite team!
  • Time with grandchildren or children. – How about a special day outdoors with grandchildren or children? Plan a day at the pumpkin farm, berry picking or to cut Christmas trees. Take along a picnic lunch and snacks, too.
  • Mother/child or father/child one-on-one time. How often do parents get one-on-one time with their grown son or daughter? Make a date to go for breakfast once a week or dinner once a month, just the two of you. Give a gift certificate with dates and times. And turn off the cell phone!

Give A Hot Air Balloon Ride for a Unique Experience

A hot air balloon ride is the experience of a lifetime! Up, Up and Away!
A hot air balloon ride is the experience of a lifetime! Up, Up and Away! | Source
  • Grandparent/grandchild event. Grandpa doesn’t need another fishing pole, but how about going fishing with his grandson or granddaughter? Grandma won’t enjoy a new teapot as much as she will enjoy an afternoon tea with her granddaughter or an afternoon at the zoo with her grandkids – no parents allowed!
  • Give a certificate for a class. There might be something that the person on your list has always wanted to learn: stained glass, caning a chair, scuba diving, quilting or reflexology. Whatever it is, someone teaches it and it would be a fun experience.
  • Lessons with a Pro. This could be a series of lessons with a golf pro or a chef, or even a Kung Fu instructor! Be creative!
  • A hot air balloon ride. This is an extravagance, but could be the experience of a lifetime for someone who has always wanted to do it. Many commercial companies offer a catered Champaign breakfast or supper when the ride is over.
  • Tickets to a concert by their favorite artist. These tickets can be pricey, and many people don’t like to spend the money on themselves. This is a great gift for any age – Older people might like to see an opera or their favorite Country star or crooner, teens will enjoy seeing their favorite teen idol in concert. Even the younger set would love to see a Disney or Sesame Street production.
  • A cruise. Surprise spouse or parents with a three or four day cruise where they will have fabulous food and a tropical getaway.
  • A dinner cruise or paddle wheeler cruise. For a less expensive option, how about a dinner cruise around a local lake, on a river or in the bay.
  • A wine tour. Depending on where you live, this can be a great day’s outing to local wineries with lunch in a scenic spot.

How about a flying lesson or ride in an open cockpit biplane!

That wonderful, wonderful flying machine!
That wonderful, wonderful flying machine! | Source

Skydiving and Freefalling out in the wild blue yonder

Skydiving is a unique experience that no one would forget!
Skydiving is a unique experience that no one would forget! | Source

Flight of a Young Eagles

A volunteer pilot takes a Young Eagle up for her first flight.
A volunteer pilot takes a Young Eagle up for her first flight. | Source

Go all out for the Extreme Experience with one of these gift experiences

If you have a big budget and an adventurer on your list, how about one of these extreme experiences to create memories that will last a lifetime. Be sure to include the cost of video taping it!

  • Tandem Skydiving
  • White water rafting
  • Hang gliding lessons
  • Fighter pilot for a day
  • Stock car ride along
  • Drive a stock car
  • A sailing charter
  • A fishing boat charter
  • Learn to ride a Harley motorcycle
  • Food and wine tour
  • Bull Riding school
  • Rock climbing lessons
  • Learn to drive a bulldozer
  • Take kids for a behind-the-scenes experience with Penguins, Belugas and more! Check with your nearest zoo or aquarium for special programs!
  • Swim with dolphins
  • Free Flight Experience for kids 8-17 with Young Eagles program- See link below

Give a Camera Along With the Experience

Experience a day on a sailboat or sailing lessons

Give some sailing lessons or a day on a sailboat to that would-be sailor in your life.
Give some sailing lessons or a day on a sailboat to that would-be sailor in your life. | Source

A campout and a campfire - Memorable experiences for kids

Roasting marshmallows around the camp fire with the grandchildren is a memorable experience for everyone.
Roasting marshmallows around the camp fire with the grandchildren is a memorable experience for everyone. | Source

Less expensive experiences also make memorable gifts

Wonderful and lasting experiences don’t have to cost a fortune. Here are some ideas for gift experiences that are less expensive, but memorable:

  • A family outing to the Science Museum or Zoo followed by pizza.
  • Manicures and pedicures for the ladies.
  • Tickets to a sporting event for the guys.
  • A membership to a zoo or museum
  • A visit to a fortune teller.
  • A mystery dinner theater.
  • A gourmet cooking class.
  • Grandparents spending a day teaching a grandchild to sew or knit or build a birdhouse.
  • A family weekend or day at the beach.
  • A family day of baking cookies, making tradition ethnic foods like ravioli or tacos, making Christmas tree ornaments or doing crafts – include grandparents!
  • An overnight camp out in the backyard or a local park.
  • A bonfire with roasted hotdogs and toasted marshmallows. (check local ordinances about open fires, first!)

Check your gift list

Who needs a great experience? Maybe it's YOU!

What gives you more pleasure, remembering the year you tramped out in the snow with your whole family to cut a Christmas tree or the toy you got that year for Christmas? Think back over the last decade. Do you still smile at one of the memorable vacations you took, or a day you spent doing something special with Grandchildren. Or do you still take pleasure in that computer you bought in 1996?

Perhaps this is the year you will give, and receive memorable and unique experiences. I hope you do!

Copyright 2011 ©Stephanie Henkel


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