The best gifts are experiences — here's what to give the foodies, thrill-seekers and others on your list


For some people on your holiday shopping list, an "Instagrammable" moment beats a new pair of shoes or a sweater any day.

More than 3 in 4 millennials would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying something desirable, and 55% of millennials say they're spending more on events and live experiences than ever before, according to a 2014 Harris Poll of 2,083 adults ages 18 and older.

This holiday season, give your love ones the gift of relaxation, education, or just plain fun. Here are "experience" gifts for everyone on your list.

For the foodie

"Some of the things that we find are really popular are things that people can do together," says Michelle Geib, president of Xperience Days Ltd., a gift-giving company that offers activities and experiences. "In that category, food tours, wine or beer tastings, or cooking classes are all very popular and they're offered all across the country."

For the person who is constantly whipping up something new in the kitchen, consider getting them a gift certificate for a cooking class where they can learn a new skills and enjoy the food as well. Prices vary, but Sur La Table, for example, offers courses for $59.

Before you purchase this kind of experience for someone else, keep in mind any dietary restrictions they may have.

For the recipient who needs some R&R

Geib says a "learn to" experience, such as a painting or pottery class, is a great way to create memories and to relax. This type of course can cost $45 per person in some locations. 

"In terms of our price points, most of our customers are spending between $150 and $200 on experience gifts for two people," says Geib.

One way to take a self-care gift to the next level is to anticipate the recipients' needs.

"Say you have a mom in your life who you want to give a pedicure or facial to. That's great, but she still has to figure out who's gonna watch the kids while she goes to do that," says Kelly Holmes, founder of the blog Happy You, Happy Family. "It carries extra work in order to get the benefit of the gift."

She suggests offering up babysitting services for busy parents who can't take time away from their kids, or bringing self-care to them through at-home services.

For the kids

"When you give a gift to the whole family it kind of creates these core memories that kids go back to again and again throughout their life," says Holmes.

Consider gifting them tickets to a local museum or aquarium, or a seasonal pass to the zoo. Museums and attractions also tend to offer discounted prices for children's tickets as well as seasonal tickets.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, for example, offers membership plans for children and families and grants them access to multiple parks and attractions in the New York City area, as well as food, retail, and parking discounts.

Mister Manners provides tips for proper gift-giving etiquette

Video by Courtney Stith

While you might shell out a bit more for an experience than you would for a plastic toy, Holmes says it's worth it.

"It's really investing in them and investing in those moments of connection and giving them those memories that they're gonna remember for a while," says Holmes.

For the thrill seeker

Indoor skydiving could be the perfect, once-in-a lifetime experience for the adrenaline junkie on your list. Indoor skydiving experience iFly gives flyers the chance to experience what it feels like to skydive without needing to jump out of a plane.

Their basic first-time flyer package starts at $59.95 but can vary depending on the number of flyers, whether you have flown before and how much time you fly.

For the family that wants to bond

The holidays are about togetherness, so there may be no better gift than one that can be shared with the whole family.

Depending on your family dynamic and whether any kids involved are old enough, escape rooms can be memorable, especially with larger groups. For under $30 per person, you can give your loved ones a 60-minute experience that requires teamwork to crack codes and solve clues to "escape" a submarine or Jurassic-themed room.

Typically, escape room locations have a variety of themed rooms that have varying levels of difficulty.

Overall, "you definitely get more for your money than you would with a material gift," says Geib. "The value is much higher and you're really getting long-lasting memories for the price you pay."

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