Lizzie Dragon
by Lizzie Dragon
Posted August 31, 2020

Holidays, birthdays, weddings, baby showers, the gift-giving occasions seem endless. Whatever the celebration, you want to give the perfect gift to the one you love.

But, before you hit the shopping mall to find the blender for the newlyweds or the dollhouse for your little one, let us let you in on a secret. Research has shown that experience gifts are better than the material alternative. Have we piqued your interest? Read on.

experience gifts for christmas

Why choose experience gifts over materials

Take a note from millennials, who say spending money on experiences is better than spending it on material things. According to a poll by Boston Consulting Group, 78% of millennials would rather spend money on an experience.

But studies have shown experiences to be more beneficial for everyone, not just millennials. Based on his research, psychology professor at Cornell, Dr. Thomas Gilovich, says, “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods.”

Still not convinced that an RV road trip with your best friend is better than the new iPhone? Let’s dig deeper into why you should gift an experience.

We’ll discuss experiences vs. materials in terms of:

  • Happiness
  • Connection
  • Individuality


The Journal of Experimental Psychology found that we derive happiness from the experiential more than the material, meaning we find more satisfaction traveling and enjoying live entertainment than do getting a new tv or jacket. Why? Happy memories endure while the value of material possession fade.

Dr. Gilovich studied the connection between money and happiness and stated, “New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.” In his research, he found that though happiness with material and experiential purchases, at the time either is received, evokes the same amount of overall happiness, that of the material items will decrease over time, while satisfaction with the experiences had will actually increase!


“We are a sum of our total experiences,” as Gilovich explains. Our experiences become a part of our identity, while material goods remain separate. Even a negative experience can be looked back on fondly as a moment of character-building.

Not only do experiences build a connection to ourselves, but they also help us develop connections with others. Strong bonds are built by shared experiences. After someone is gone, they are still a part of the story we share with others.

And research shows that experiential gifts strengthen relationships, whether or not the giver and the receiver experience it together. So, even if you don’t go to the concert you gave your husband for his birthday, you are still a part of his story through that experience because you gifted it to him.


In most cases, you’re looking for something perfect for someone you care about, something unique to their interests, a gift from the heart.

Though it is possible to find a unique material gift, an experience is unique to every individual. Even if two people eat at the same restaurant, the experience will be different for both as we process life and its experiences differently.

Memories are the gifts that keep on giving, so why not give your outdoorsy friend a trip through a national park instead of a pair of hiking boots?

experience gifts for families

Experiences for every group

Experience gifts are great options for every age group, not just millennials. Couples, families with children, and everyone in between can reap the joys of new and shared experiences with and from the people they love.

A family fun adventure

Are the toys stacking up? Kids tend to get and forget, so the toys they no longer want or use end up in a pile or stashed in the closet with all the other forgotten toys. Instead of adding to the growing pile, why not take a trip as a family? There are plenty of family-friendly adventures from Colorado to Florida. 

Enjoy the benefits of a family experience, including:

  • a smaller pile of toys and miscellaneous things
  • time to bond and share together
  • a memory that will last forever (even after the kids grow up and move out)

A couple’s getaway

A meaningful experience can do wonders for any relationship. Like we said before, connection is built through shared experience, so go out for a special dinner or vacation. If you’re an older couple looking for something new to do, check out some 55+ RV resorts.

Bask in the benefits of quality couple time, including:

  • a deeper relationship
  • some quality time alone
  • a new shared memory with some cute couple pics

A friend’s trip

As you get older, move away for college or your dream job, get married, have kids, or whatever cards life deals you, it gets harder and harder to spend time with your friends. Gifting experiences to your friends, wherever they may be, shows them you still care and allows you the time to spend with them.

Take in the benefits of some fun with friends, including:

  • making more memories together
  • time away from the daily hustle and bustle of life
  • a further developing bond, even if you live far away
experience gifts for couples

Gifting the perfect experience

Looking for the best experience gift? Consider the life and interests of the gift receiver:

  • Hobbies & Interests
  • Bucket Lists
  • Dream Destinations
  • Schedule

Hobbies & interests

Is your brother an artist? Give him a membership to the art museum. Does your daughter really like baseball? Take her favorite team’s game. Is your toddler obsessed with Disney princesses? Take them to Disney World.

Bucket lists

Is there something your friend, dad, wife, or whoever always talks about wanted to do but hasn’t done?

Maybe, your best friend has talked about trying pottery for years, or your dad has always wanted to go skydiving, but they haven’t gotten the chance. Pay attention to what they’ve expressed interest in throughout the years and gift it to them!

Dream destinations

Say your mom has always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. The perfect gift could be a family RV trip through Arizona or glamping in Grand Canyon National Park. Or your engaged friend loves New York, so book a getaway for her and her significant other in NYC.


Life gets busy. Everyone has different schedules, and not all can pack up and leave whenever. That said, try to find experience gifts without expiration dates or strict timelines, so the gift can be used whenever schedules allow.

Booking plane tickets or hotel rooms aren’t typically flexible, so find out the person’s schedule and plans before investing in the more inflexible experiences.

Skip the mall trip

Instead of hitting the mall during the crowded holiday seasons, purchase an experiential gift for the special people in your life.

We have experience gift guides for them all: 

Give your married friends an RV road trip or your dad some Super Bowl tickets. No matter your budget, there is an experience gift for everyone you love.

Lizzie Dragon


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