5 Great Ideas for Gifting Outside the Box

5 Great Ideas for Gifting Outside the Box

We’ve all got enough stuff and there are only so many new gadgets that anyone needs. We’re also becoming more conscientious of the social and environmental impacts of disposable junk and fast fashion and want to minimize our contribution to those issues. So our family leans heavily toward experiences as gifts. Experiences are also perfect for that impossible to buy for person.


giftsWe frequently vacation as our family Christmas gift. We’ve spent Christmas in both Disney World and Washington D.C.  Last year we took a trip to Paris over Thanksgiving as an early family Christmas gift, this year we’re heading to NYC right after Christmas. We took a Caribbean cruise to celebrate our 40th birthdays, and now that the kids are older, we try to take a couple’s trip for our anniversary every year.

Traveling over the holidays can even be budget friendly.  That is definitely not the case for Disney (the parks often shut down due to reaching capacity on Christmas Day), but Christmas week was a great time to visit Washington D.C.  We got amazing hotel rates because we were traveling off-season. We spent Christmas Eve attending services at the gorgeous National Cathedral, and Christmas Day at Mount Vernon and Arlington National Cemetery. It felt very appropriate to spend Christmas Day at Arlington.

Of course, if you’re planing travel as a gift, it needs to be for someone that you have the ability to plan.  You don’t want to give someone a 7-day cruise if they have obligations that prevent them from accepting it.  And your gift might not be a surprise.

But if you do decide to make travel your family gift–especially over the holidays–the key to holiday travel is to plan ahead.  Know what will and won’t be open.  Make dinner reservations. And if you’re going somewhere busy like Disney, research crowd patterns and how best to spend your time.  We knew the Magic Kingdom was likely to close on Christmas Day, so we headed over early for breakfast in Cinderella’s castle, got to see the park in peace and calm before the crowds hit, and then headed to the much less crowded Animal Kingdom for the rest of the day.

Entertainment & Sports Tickets

Of course, trips aren’t the only experiences you can give.  Sometimes time or budget doesn’t allow for travel. We also give concert and theater tickets as gifts A LOT.  Kenny and the kids are all music lovers and there is always a concert on their wishlists. I’ve already bought Foo Fighters tickets for this year’s Christmas gift.

giftsI’ve always been more into the theater, and now the twins appreciate it even more than I do. For their 16th birthday, the twins got tickets to see Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen. Hot tickets, and not inexpensive, but also not more costly than a new iPhone, which is a pretty typical 16th birthday gift.

We’re also lucky to live in a place with multiple professional sports teams, so we also give sporting event tickets, and there’s something for nearly every price range.  We can pick up hockey, basketball, and baseball tickets for very modest prices.  Dallas Cowboys tickets are definitely a splurge. Smaller cities often have local or college teams and those games can be just as much fun as the professional teams.

Memberships and Passes


When the kids were little, we asked the grandparents to give them memberships to the zoo, museums, and the arboretum instead of toys.  We were really pinching pennies back then, and spending $50 for our family of five to visit the zoo was not in the budget very often. We loved receiving memberships so that we could pack up a picnic and go whenever we wanted.Another benefit is that many museum memberships are reciprocal, which gave us free or discounted admission to other museums.

Similarly, do you have roller-coaster loving teens on your list?  How about season passes to their local amusement park?  My girls love that they can head out to Six Flags with their friends even with their wallets are light.

Lessons, Classes & Camps

Another experience option is lessons, classes or camps.  I gave Kenny guitar lessons one year, and I’d love it if someone would give me sailing lessons. Does someone on your list want to learn photography, painting or pottery?  How about a sports camp? Cooking classes from their favorite chef or to learn a new cuisine?

A little research about whatever your loved one is interested in may turn up options you’ve never even thought of.

Vacation Experiences

giftsFinally, if there’s already a trip in the works for someone you’re giving to, perhaps you can give an experience at that location. You could give the grandkids a character breakfast if their family is visiting Disney, pay for a special tour like snorkeling or visiting a local attraction, or gift your spouse a spa service if she’s heading to a resort hotel for business (Kenny, are you reading this?).

Or how about a meal at an upscale restaurant? For Kenny’s birthday, I surprised him with reservations to the Wolfgang Puck restaurant at the top of Reunion Tower in Dallas, and it was one of the most fun birthdays we’ve had.

Another one of Kenny’s favorite experience gifts was indoor skydiving with the whole family. It was a fun of experience and it was awesome that we could all do it together.

If you’re still trying to figure out the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for person, think outside the box–literally!

I am a 40-something lawyer and mom of 3 teenage girls. I love exploring new places, and when I can't be on the road, I'm planning my next trip. Over the years, I've learned a lot about how to travel in a pack of five. Our trips range from budget-friendly road trips with the family, to more luxurious trips for work, either solo or with my husband, Kenny.

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