Gift giving is hard. We shop, we slave, we scour the internet for the perfect something to encapsulate the person we love (or like, or marginally tolerate, depending on the occasion).
We spend hours trying to find an emblem of this person, something that at best both suits them and enriches them.
And we end up with monogrammed golf balls, earrings that, inevitably, break a week later, books that end up colonizing the windowsills, collecting dust. We end up with detritus when we wanted delight. And what did we expect, trying to funnel all our sentiment into an object?
Here’s a thought: what if we could circumvent the materialism and cut straight to the heart of gifts? What if, instead of trying to find a trinket to encapsulate or enrich our loved ones, we could find an experience to do the same thing?
And we can, thank goodness. It’s called an experience gift, or an adventure gift, and it comes in literally thousands of variations, with something for anyone who ever cared to dream about anything at all.
Never heard of them? The concept of experience gifts originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1990s, and is now one of the fastest growing movements in the gift industry. While it took the United States a little longer to catch on (when doesn’t it?), Americans are finally discovering how easy it is to make a dream come true—for their loved ones and for themselves.
Ranging from high-thrills adventure gifts like race car driving and learning to be a fighter pilot to luxurious day spa packages and gourmet restaurant tours, there’s an experience gift for everyone and anyone, kids to grandparents. These five experiences sample the best of the best in experience gifts:
Gourmet Restaurant Tours: You spend an hour in the grocery store, perusing the produce section and scanning the aisles for obscure Indian spices to prepare a new dinner. The Cooking Network is a source of unquantifiable joy. You read all the reviews of the best restaurants, eye the storefronts with your taste buds buzzing. And with a gourmet restaurant tour, you can finally get a taste of what everybody’s been talking about. Some tours lead you from kitchen to kitchen on foot, providing an intimate glimpse of the city, others whisk you about in private cars or limos. The city—and the transportation—are yours to choose.
Fighter Pilot for a Day: The ultimate adventure gift for men, this experience straps him into the pilot seat of a fully acrobatic fighter jet, alongside an ex-military pro. After basic instruction on the ground, the pilot zips him up into the clouds, where your novice pilot learns how to dogfight like the pros, outsmarting, outmaneuvering and outgunning a real opponent up in the sky.
Day Spa: Luxurious gift experiences for women, these spa gifts range from elegant mani-pedi packages to full days of relaxation. There are volcanic stone massages, soothing facials and skin evaluations, replenishing seaweed wraps and vitamin water soaks, just to name a few. From one who knows: nothing relaxes the soul like getting your toes rubbed.
Golf Lesson with a PGA Pro: Beat the sand trap. Conquer the drive. Shore up that short game. Available all across the United States, these lessons help the beginner develop sound basics of form and technique, or hone the more experienced golfer in weak areas. Capitalize on a lifetime’s worth of training and experience with a lesson from a PGA professional golfer, without having to spend your own lifetime on the green.
Sailing Experiences: From America’s Cup Sailing to wine tasting sails, these relaxing waterborne excursions whisk you out onto the water for an afternoon or evening enjoying the calm seas (or lakes, depending on your location). For more adventurous folk, take a look at experiences like private sailing lessons or cruises on the high-speed, high-tech International America’s Cup Class racing yachts. For more indulgent tastes, try a wine- or beer-tasting sail, a champagne brunch cruise, or skippered sailing charter.
About the Author: Mandy Evergreen is a blogger for Cloud 9 Living in Boulder, CO. Cloud 9 Living is the largest provider of experience gifts in the United States, offering over 1,700 unique and memorable experiences in 43 major cities. Check out their most popular experience gifts for great gift ideas or view their entire catalog at www.cloud9living.com