With the holidays approaching, many of us are focused on – or even stressing about — what stuff to buy our loved ones and friends. But more studies show that experiences or gift experiences bring people more happiness and excitement than do possessions. So why not put this research into practice? Instead of buying the traveler in your life more stuff this holiday season, give the gift of a travel experience instead.
Here are five gift experience gift ideas to help you get started.
- Cooking Course
One of the best ways we’ve found to go deeper in the understanding of a place is by getting our hands dirty and learning how to cook its food. The history and culture of the cuisine will emerge from the recipes and through the communication of traditions around the dishes. Often, cooking courses will begin at a local fresh market so participants have a chance to learn about the ingredients and specialties directly from vendors and producers. Eating the final product – the icing on the cake.
- Walking (or Biking) City Tour
When we first arrive in a new city these days, we often take a walking or biking tour on our first day to help orient us as to the history, layout, and culture of the city. Usually the guides are a wealth of information, not only about what to see in the city, but where to eat, drink and seek out further points of interest and experiences. In addition to general tours, there are also topic specific tours available that meet just about anyone’s area of interest, from street art to photography.
- Home-Cooked Meal in the Home of a Local Resident
Food is a great connector; it can quickly bring people together from very different backgrounds and build new friendships. Eating at local restaurants is great — but what about the opportunity to eat in a local person’s home? This not only guarantees a home-cooked meal, but also a local connection that provides another personal window onto the place you are visiting and allows you to dig a little more deeply into its essence.
- City and Museum Cards
Many cities offer one, three or five-day city cards that carry free or discounted entry to museums, attractions and special events. Many of these city cards also include a big plus: free access to public transport. This feature alone often opens up the city in so many ways as it enables a visitor to explore all corners of the destination on the ground — and drop into museums on a whim without worrying about blowing the travel budget.
- Boat Trip or City Cruise
Sometimes the best — and most relaxing — way to experience a destination is from the deck of a boat. There is no traffic to disturb you and exploring a place by boat provides a different perspective on the architecture and flow and feeling of a place. For a splurge, choose an evening boat ride that includes dinner with perhaps some live music as background to an entire night on the water.
Inspiration: Viator offers boat tour and city cruise options in locations around the world.
At this point you might be bought into the idea of gifting a travel experience for the holidays, but don’t know how to go about it practically.
If you know the travel plans of the person for whom you are trying to buy, then things are a bit easier. You could start with one of the websites listed above and see if there is a good experience match for that destination. Another option: get on your favorite search engine and enter the destination name with the type of experience you’d like to gift. You can sift through the quality of options by looking for customer reviews on the company website or on trip review sites like TripAdvisor.
If you don’t know person’s travel plans, then consider purchasing a more open general gift certificate from a company that offers a variety of experiences in destinations around the world. Then next time your favorite traveler leaves for a trip, she can choose which type of experience would be the best fit and let the travel dreaming begin.
And here’s the bonus nugget: as you search for travel experiences to gift, you might be so inspired that you even decide to book a trip yourself.
Feature image courtesy of Thomas Huang