It’s that time of year. When you’re trying to figure out the gift you want to give so someone you appreciate in your life but you’re at a loss for exactly what to get them.
Over the last 5 or so years, I’ve really come to appreciate gifts of experience more than any other type of gift. So if you’re struggling to find the perfect gift for someone this year, consider one of the ideas below of either planning an experience or reliving an experience.
Plan an Experience
Plan Quality Time Together
This seems simple. But truly, planning a specific occasion before hand for someone special in your life is a wonderful gift. This doesn’t have to be a romantic partner, but can be for a friend or family member as well. Going online to book a reservation for a meal in advance makes it so easy. Pair the meal with something else that person would enjoy, and you have intentional quality time together. It could be shopping together, browsing a bookstore or garden, going on a country drive, going to a movie, going on a hike or walk, camping, kayaking together – you name it.
Tip – Put all of these in a note in your phone ahead of time – things that your partner likes so this becomes much easier in the future. When they say a new place they’d like to try to eat, write it down.
Plan An Event
This can be whatever you’d like. You could host friends or family in your home, or make an event of going to dinner with those same people. If your person loves being around others, this could be a great option. Pick the place or plan the meal, and heck, if you don’t like cooking, get it catered or make it a potluck. Most often, just being around people you love makes it special.
Tip – This is a great idea for a gathering of friends or family. Pick a theme for a potluck or the meal and open up your home. If you live in a small house, or would feel more comfortable elsewhere, see if someone else is willing to host, or book a space or room at a restaurant.
A Year of Planned Quality Time
If your friend or partners love language is quality time, plan out a year of dates or quality time in advance. Again, this doesn’t have to be complicated. You could do dinner and a movie, go on a walk, a picnic at a park, a night in the city, a country drive and food along the way, camping in your yard or even in your house, a game night, a movie night, seeing a show, checking out holiday lights, playing a sport together, etc. There are so many options. But writing them down ahead of time and giving as a gift makes it so much more intentional and appreciated.
Tip – Plan more than 12 of these in advance. That way you have backups and also ideas for things to do other than just once per month. Again, put these ideas in notes on your phone so you have them for later and don’t have to come up with them on the spot.
A Day of Their Favorite Things – Maybe your significant other likes things that are very different than your interests. Plan an afternoon, day or even a weekend doing JUST what they want to do. It could be a trip to their favorite coffee shop, followed by shopping at their favorite store, maybe lunch somewhere they love, followed by a movie or a nap, and going out with their friends. Just think about the things your person adores, and plan those. Make it a special time just about them.
Tip – Notes on your phone are a game changer. Seriously. This is where I keep everything so that when I want t plan out things like this in advance, I can just go to my notes and say yes they mentioned this restaurant, or this item they’d like, or this candy, or drink. It makes it so much easier later.
Get Lost On Purpose
This isn’t for everyone but my Grandma used to go for Sunday drives with my Grandpa and they would just take snacks and enjoy the scenery. I’ve done this where I drive until I don’t know where I am along with a great playlist in the background, and just explore a new area. With someone you enjoy spending time with along for the ride, it’s sure to be fun!
Tip – Make a playlist specifically for this time together. Pick favorite songs or new songs you both enjoy. It will be a way to relive the experience even after you make it back home. Also, pack snacks.
Airbnb List + Gift Card
This makes for not only a great gift for someone special in your life, but also a great engagement or wedding gift. Purchase an AirBNB or VRBO gift card, and curate a list of places that are desirable that you’d both like to go together. It could all be within a few hours drive, or various places across the state or country. Bookmark them all on one list, and then share the link with the giftcard.
Tip – You could also do this with a hotel or airline giftcard, it just doesn’t then have an associated curated list. But you could always come up with your own way to plan out fun places to visit.
Do Something Outside Both of Your Comfort Zones
This one also isn’t for everyone. But something like going to a comedy show, fair, play, musical, tractor pull, try sushi, go out for a night in the city, play laser tag, go horseback riding, take a cooking class, go to a shooting range, ice skating, or a hike could be something a new but great experience. There’s something special about doing something together that you’d normally never do.
Tip – If you’re not sure of ideas, check out Groupon or another similar site for coupons for things in your area. If you’re still not sure, ask a friend or family member to plan this night out for you and make it a surprise. This can make it even more fun.
Relive the Experience
Make a Playlist
Like mentioned above with the Get Lost on Purpose idea, find a way to create something that can be relived after the experience is over. When I go on my trips, I try to make a playlist before I go on each one that sets a vibe for the trip. Then long after I come home from my trip, I can re-listen to the playlist and remember where I was driving for some of those songs. There’s a specific song, “Bottom of the Sea” that whenever I heard it, I can vividly remember a back road in Utah and the curve I was on when I was listening. It’s one of my favorite ways to relive an incredible experience.
Tip – Spotify makes this very easy. Depending on your plan, you can even collaborate on playlists that you and that person could put together before a trip or a drive. Or could put together even after you get home with the songs you listened to most on the trip. I recommend downloading it rather than streaming it to your phone, just in case you don’t have service on your trip.
This is the old school way to remember events, but it is still a wonderful way to bring back great memories. I recently had a code for a free Canvas Wall Tile from Chatbooks (normally $20). I specifically picked a picture where I felt proud of what I did and printed that one out. For me, that photo was the top of Mount Washington after I conquered my fear of driving up the very sketchy mountain to the top.
Tip – Once you print them, display them at home in a place where you will regularly see them. Maybe your home office, living room, or on a fridge.
Make a Slideshow or Video
I always appreciate people who have great videography skills and make videos after getting home from a trip. I have tried to be better at grabbing some video on trips over time, but I think about how awesome this media form is for reliving a trip. Especially with people’s voices on it. Some of the most cherished videos I have are those where I can hear someone’s voice who’s no longer here on Earth with us.
Tip – Your phone camera is good enough for video. If it’s a vacation or meaningful time with someone, capture a few seconds of video at various points throughout the experience and use a video editing app to put it together.
Display the Event
There are a variety of ways to do this but I’ll share just a few. When I travel, I try to collect Christmas ornaments and stickers from my trips as a keepsake. Other people may collect post cards. Or keep tickets or Playbills from events they’ve seen. Rather than throwing these away or keeping them in a drawer, find a way to display them. For tickets and playbills, you could purchase a frame (check on Etsy) with a slot at the top to put these in after you attend a trip. Then you can see the clear box fill up over time with all the events you’ve attended. Another way is to choose a few favorites and make a shadow box with them. You may have seen some people do this with flowers after a wedding or something similar. Whatever types of things you’d find joy in keeping, find a way to collect them together and put them on display.
Tip – A few years ago I started collecting stickers when I’d travel places as they’re often one of th the most inexpensive types of keepsakes. I now take the stickers and buy the magnetic backing and turn them all into magnets. In the future, I plan to paint a wall in my home with magnetic paint to display them all. But until then, I keep them on my fridge or other magnetic surfaces in the house so I can see them displayed.
Print out a Photo Book
This is my #1 favorite way to relive an experience. I joined Chatbooks and printed my first photo book in 2018. I initially purchased photo books after I’d get home from a trip with all my favorite photos so I could relive it through flipping pages. Since then I’ve now also purchased their Monthbooks option ($15/month) where you can pick 30 of your favorite photos from the month and have a book auto shipped to you. I adore this as it’s no longer about capturing the big moments, but looking back at the small but meaningful ones as well.
Tip – If you’re interested in getting a photo book made, you can use this code for $10 off your first order – StephanieNace-QETL. I’ve purchased 63 chatbooks since 2018, and printed 5025 photos in them. I keep many for myself, but have given quite a few as gifts over time. I adore them.
Relive the Experience
This may overlap with the idea of making traditions, but something I’ve started to do more of in the last year or so is do something meaningful during various seasons. I try to create an experience list of places to go or things to do per season and as they’re seasonal, they’re something that can often be done every year. For example, I adore the winter holidays, especially looking at Christmas lights. So in 2020, Teddy and I had a few dates where we could go to dinner and then look at Christmas lights. So this year in 2021, we are going to relive some of those experiences by going to the same restaurant, and then to the lights. We also have done this for making certain recipes together during a season, or going on hikes or trips within the same seasons. It’s a way to still have a new experience while reliving an old one.
Tip – Make an experience list for each season with your partner on your phone. You can share it from the notes app and you can make it a bulleted list for ideas of things to do. I have been doing one each season, knowing, we may get about 1/2 to 3/4 of the list completed. The purpose of the list isn’t to do everything, but to intentionally think of unique things to do during that season together.
As you’ve probably noticed by each of these is that the key is being intentional. Thoughtful gifts are rarely bought the day before in a Target, but are something planned for in advance.
No matter your friend, partner, or family members love language, giving a gift of experience can cover quite a few. Planning a trip together or a meal can be an act of service. Giving a book, a playlist, or photos is a gift, as is a card describing the gift you plan to give to the person. Pretty much all of these suggestions are quality time together. Tell the person you’re with during your time together things you appreciate about him or her and you’ve got words of affirmation.
So make this holiday season one your loved ones will appreciate immensely by giving a unique experience. Spend some time thinking about what your favorite people in your life would love, and plan it. I can guarantee it will be incredibly appreciated.