This post may contain affiliate links.
Ah, the holidays. A time of frantic purchasing of gifts for those you love most, and those you love less but are obligated to gift to. Would you be surprised to find out that most people you give gifts to would prefer the cash you spent on the gift rather than the gift itself even if you reduced that amount by 30% (at least for the people you don’t know well enough to know what they really really want.) That’s why I’ve created this minimalist gift guide to help you avoid that gift disappointment.
What is minimalist gifts?
In the case of this guide, experiences and other intangible gifts. Why? These types of gifts are generally more memorable (and meaningful) than physical gifts and they have the added benefit not cluttering up spaces. The last thing you want is for someone to feel guilt in 2 years when they “tidy up” and ask themselves if it sparks joy. Spoiler: it probably won’t.
The downside to these intangible gifts is that they require a bit more brainstorming to come up with something good. No last-minute Target runs for that scented candle no one really wants to receive when it comes to these gifts.
Experiences and Intangible Minimalist Gift Guide Ideas
To help with this I’ve come up with a handy list of ideas as a jumping-off point for you. It is organized into 6 sections: adventure, education, culture, pampering, touching/heartfelt, and services based on their theme.
Go out, explore, and do something wild with these adventure experiences.
1. Plane tickets
A classic, though potentially pricey gift to be sure, and one your loved one will never forget. Get them tickets for a weekend getaway or special trip to somewhere they’ve always wanted to go.
2. Train tour
There is something so romantic about a train tour winding through a majestic landscape. Traveling by train the best form of transportation if the journey is more important to you than the destination, especially if you have good friends and loved ones with you to while away the time.
3. Horseback riding
If romance novel covers are to be believed, horseback riding is for lovers. Most tour companies prefer you only have one rider per horse though which nixes that thought a bit but horseback riding is still a delightful way to spend an afternoon.
4. Bungee jumping
A classic of the adrenaline junkie playbook, bungee jumping is guaranteed to get your heart racing. An unforgettable experience for those with the courage to give it a shot. *I’d suggest asking your potential recipient if this is something that they would like to try beforehand!
5. Skydiving (indoor or from a plane!)
In the same vein as bungee jumping, skydiving has been a way for people to feel more alive while taking their lives into their hands for years. For those looking to simulate the experience in slightly safer conditions, there are now many indoor skydiving facilities with wind tunnels that keep you aloft while being much closer to the ground.
6. Indoor rock climbing
Bringing the outdoors in for a fun way to get fit.
7. Theme park tickets
As an Orlando, Florida native, theme parks have long been a favorite way to spend a day. Tickets to your local theme park, water park, or interactive experience are sure to be a hit.
If you’re in or near Utah, experience a unique fantasy adventure-themed park at Evermore. It’s a life goal of mine to explore this highly recommended alternative to the classic theme park experience.
Related Reading to the Minimalist Gift Guide:
- Learning About Personal Finance: Books for Beginners
- Get More Done: Time Management and Productivity Books
- Freelancer Gift Guide – 13 Gifts They’ll LOVE
8. Trip to an escape room
Escape rooms are a relatively new experience and one I would recommend you try out if you’ve never done. The basic premise is that you and usually 1-9 other people are “locked” in a room or series of rooms and must discover clues and solve puzzles to find the way out/ unlock the door within a specific time limit of usually 1 hour. Most of them are themed and have an overlaying story that the puzzles will be related to.
Escape rooms are a great way to bond and build teamwork while using your brain to solve interactive puzzles.
9. An annual pass to a ZOO
A great option for people with kids or those you know love animals.
It’s like golfing but little and more fun. Show off your mad skills and putt your way around the course. For added fun create little challenges and competitions for your group like who can get the most hole-in-ones, or all the shots have to be hit from between your legs.
Learning a new skill is an amazing present, especially for the holiday. Give the gift of education and watch your loved ones level up on life.
11. Dancing lessons
Learn how to boogie down and waltz through the night.
The very best option for creatives and aspiring entrepreneurs in your life. Skillshare has over 25,000 classes covering design, business, tech, and related topics.
13. ClassPass for fitness buffs
Give the gift of fitness with ClassPass. ClassPass is a monthly subscription service that allows you to search, book, and take classes at the top studios near you all for one low rate.
ClassPass is great for people just dipping their toes into fitness and wants to try out different classes at different studios to see what fits them best.
14. Cooking lessons
Based on who you’re gifting this to these could be basic lessons to the teen about to move out on their own, a specialty course to make a dish from your favorite cuisine or an advanced class for someone looking to level up in the kitchen.
Bonus: After the class is done, plan a dinner where they can show off what they learned!
Get fancy and experience some art. Cultural experiences are good for the soul and are a great way to refill the creativity tank.
15. Concert tickets
Their favorite band is on tour and will be in/near your town? Snag those tickets!
16. Opera tickets
We all know “what opera is like” from movies and tv shows. Let me tell you, the experience is something else entirely. When watch and can feel a song in your chest, even though you can’t understand the language, you realize that emotion is a shared experience that transcends language barriers.
17. Ballet tickets
Like the opera, this is an experience that everyone should try at least once. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.
18. Theater tickets (Hamilton yo…)
It’s like a movie but done live and right in front of you. Tickets for one night are grand but a season pass to your local playhouse is even better!
Soak up the history and learn about something new. Plan a low-key meetup at a coffee shop afterward to talk about your favorite parts or what you found most interesting.
20. Art gallery
Similar to the museum, art galleries are a great experience for soaking up the artistic genius of others. Learn more about the art, view the masterworks, and leave feeling inspired.
21. Paint night
If you’re feeling particularly inspired and want to try your hand at painting your own masterpiece (with a little guidance) give your loved one the opportunity to paint their own art! You’ll both have a conversation piece for years to come.
Sometimes the people in your life just need to recharge. Delight them with one of these experiences to make them feel pampered and loved.
22. Sensory deprivation tank
You don’t have to be a Stranger Thing to benefit from a sensory deprivation tank experience. Also called float pods or float tanks, these isolation chambers are designed to eliminate as many external stimuli as possible (light, sound, touch) to relax you and facilitate meditation while you float effortlessly in a shallow tank of saltwater.
23. Chocolate tasting
Chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Enough said.
24. Beer/Wine/Favorite Liquor tasting
Like the chocolate tasting but with the adult beverage of your loved one’s preference. Many of these are done at breweries and wineries as well as some restaurants and bars.
Who doesn’t love a good massage to melt away the tension and stress we all carry with us? Many spas and massage parlors offer gift certificates for specific massage packages. Make a date of it and get a couple’s massage for you and your partner or best pal.
Do up them fingers and toes. Such a little luxury that makes you feel like a million bucks.
Has your friend or partner been talking about a wild new color they want to try in their hair or fun new haircut? Push the forward and set up an appointment with their favorite stylist!
28. Full-day spa experience (at home or at an actual spa)
To really up the pampering experience, book a full-day spa experience with pre-planned treatments or offer them a budget and let them pick their own!
Show you care with a slightly more intimate or heartfelt experience.
29. Dinner and a movie gift cards
Are some of your friends new parents or freelancers that haven’t been able to leave the house recently? Plan a fun night out for them, all plans made and paid for in advance to allow them to let loose and enjoy their evening.
30. Picnic lunch
Is there anything more charming than a picnic lunch in a lovely location? Create a lasting memory with this fun day out experience.
31. A website/giant card/wall art celebrating your relationship and listing all the things you love about them
Show your loved one how much you care, with an over the top declaration of your affection.
32. Family photoshoot
Sometimes things like the traditional family photo get pushed by the wayside during the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Slow down and give your family the experience of getting photos professionally taken so everyone’s good angle is shown.
33. Date night coupon book
While technically a physical gift because it comes in a coupon book, the coupons are for experiences so I think it counts. The book is just packaging.
Anyways, one way to do this is to create a package of one date a month preplanned and paid for with gift cards. Use your favorite ideas from this list!
34. Time with you to help them go after their big dream
Probably the most personal and heartfelt on experience on this list. We all have big dreams we want to accomplish. Show your support by helping your loved one write up a business plan, review their book drafts, polish their resume, practice their performance, or whatever else they need to get one step closer to achieving theirs.
Sometimes the best gifts are the ones that make life a little bit easier. These services are designed to do just that.
35. Dinner box subscription
There are a million dinner box subscription services out there now. With so many options out there, there is a perfect one for your loved one. They’ll think of you every time dinner is taken care of for them.
36. Maid service/Deep cleaning
Even someone who keeps a tidy home has things they would love to get cleaned that are difficult to get to during the average week. Give the gift of a spic and span home with a deep cleaning service.
*Be aware that this might be taken as an insult. Tread carefully and maybe ask ahead of time if this would be enjoyed.
37. Free babysitting for 1 night/weekend
Is your loved one a parent? They won’t stop thanking you for this gift, I’m sure of it.
Last but not least, give the gift of good books that they always want to read but can’t find time for. An audible subscription will allow them to download one book a month (and 2 audible originals) to listen to while driving, cleaning, or wherever else they choose.
How to Wrap the Intangible
There are a number of ways you can gives these experiences and intangible gifts as an unwrappable present. The most obvious is as a gift card, either as a branded and only usable at the place it was purchased or as a generic usable anywhere (with instructions on how you intend for it to be used).
Another way is to create a redeemable gift certificate with instructions that they should come to you when they want to redeem it and you will book/create/facilitate the experience for them.
With this minimalist gift guide, you can choose to be memorable this holiday season with intangible gifts. Experiences are more likely to be both remembered and valued than a physical gift and are a great way to create a stronger bond with your loved ones.