Experiential Gift Guide

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The holidays are coming, and at this time of year, I love to give the gift of experiences, rather than things. We all undoubtedly have too much stuff, and I don’t want to burden my friends and family even more stuff (especially if I’m not 100% sure it’s something they want or need), just because it’s a holiday.

This year, however, it’s more difficult than ever to give experiential gifts. With COVID cases at an all-time high, you can’t exactly give someone tickets to a concert or sporting event. Even gift cards for a movie theater or spa might be used eventually, but more likely, they will end up at the bottom of a drawer, forgotten about, because we don’t really know when we’ll be able to enjoy these experiences again.

This is why I decided to come up with a list of ten experiential gifts that can be used right away—no need to wait for the end of the pandemic.

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  1. Video streaming subscription. Most of us are probably watching more TV shows and movies these days, so who wouldn’t enjoy a subscription to a streaming service? Find out which service(s) they don’t already have, and then give the gift of something new to watch, whether it’s Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV+, HBO Max, etc. You could also give them a downloadable version of a single movie or show that you know they will love. Last year, I gave my dad a digital version of The National Parks documentary series by Ken Burns, which he loved.

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  1. Music streaming subscription. For the music lovers in your life, why not give the gift of ad-free music from a service like Spotify or Apple Music? If you know what kind of music they like, you could also give them a downloadable album that they can keep forever.

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  1. E-book or audiobook subscription. For the avid reader, a monthly electronic book subscription is a great gift. Services like Scribd or BookMate offer unlimited access to their library for a monthly fee. Again, you can also buy someone a specific digital book through a platform like Apple Books.

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  1. Meditation/relaxation app. If you know someone who’s been feeling overwhelmed by the dumpster fire that is 2020 (and let’s face it, who among us isn’t?), a premium subscription to an app like Headspace or Calm might be the perfect gift. I regularly use both of these apps, and I can honestly say that the premium subscriptions are worthwhile. I typically use Headspace when I want to take a few minutes during the day to relax and/or meditate, and I use the soothing sounds and sleep stories in the Calm app to help me fall asleep most nights.

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  1. Yoga or exercise classes. Virtual fitness classes are a great gift for someone who is missing the gym or has expressed interest in getting more active in 2021. Check out your local gym or yoga studio to see if they offer online classes. A subscription to the Yoga with Adriene membership site would also be a great gift for an aspiring yogi.

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  1. Online classes. If you know someone who wants to learn a new skill, consider giving them a subscription to online classes through a website like Skillshare, which offers courses on everything from painting to public speaking, taught by creators and experts. If you have something more academic in mind, try The Great Courses for courses on a wide range of subjects, from economics, to religion, to science.

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  1. Outdoor activities. Tickets or annual passes for local outdoor venues like zoos, botanical gardens, or national parks would be a great covid-friendly gift that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a screen.

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  1. Restaurant gift card for takeout. Give someone a break from cooking while supporting local businesses with a gift card to their favorite restaurant (eating is an experience too, right?). Not sure where they like to eat? Let them choose the restaurant with a gift certificate to Grub Hub.

  1. Grocery delivery. Another great option for that friend that loves to eat is a gift certificate to Imperfect Foods. They deliver foods that aren’t up to the strict standards of grocery stores, thereby helping to eliminate food waste and build a better food system for all. Imperfect Foods also has special holiday gift boxes containing snacks like almond butter toffee that broke into pieces during production, or dried mango considered too “sunburnt” for grocery stores. These food waste-fighting boxes can be shipped anywhere in the contiguous US. Check out my full review of Imperfect Foods here, and get $10 toward a box by using this link.

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  1. Donation to a Non-Profit. Finally, make a donation in your loved one’s name to their favorite charity. Find inspiration for great local charities using Charity Navigator or CharityWatch. These independent evaluators have resources to help you choose a charity where your money will do the most good. You can also make the process more “experiential” by giving to a nonprofit like microfinance lender Kiva. With the gift of a Kiva Card, your recipient can choose who to support, and when the loan is repaid, they can lend again for even more impact.

Can you think of any other pandemic-friendly experiential gifts that I may have missed? Let me know in the comments!

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3 thoughts on “Experiential Gift Guide

  1. Pingback: Sustainability Accomplishments of 2020 and Goals for 2021 | The Better Planet Project

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