20 Experience Gift Ideas + Companion Gifts to Give This Year

Inside: Here you’ll find a detailed list of experience gift ideas for grandparents (or you) to give the Christmas. Gift experiences instead of toys this holiday season and give memories that last instead of items that accumulate.


Experiences over things! It’s my favorite part of having uncluttered my life. I ditched the excess and stopped doing all the things, so that I would have more time to do ALL THE THINGS. And it worked! 

 I now spend more time living my life than I do organizing it. 

experience gift ideas
Photo credit Jamie Lynn Photography

Making memories, savoring rest, experiencing adventure and taking brave leaps gives me life. Gifting those perks to my children, makes this life of less so much sweeter.

Getting Grandparents On Board

The idea of gifting experiences in lieu of toys, came pretty naturally to me once we shifted toward a minimalist mindset. I’ve been bitten by the wanderlust bug and I’d love nothing more than to pass that on to my kids.

But grandmas? Well, for a variety of reasons, they tend to take a little convincing.

Of course, geography is a factor and financial means can make it tricky, as many experiences cost more than a toy would.

One reason I hadn’t considered before is how much fairness plays a role. It’s hard for grandparents to imagine giving your children an experience while the cousins open toy after toy. It just doesn’t seem fair.

The last thing grandma wants on Christmas morning is disappointed grandkids.


However, the most common reason grandparents, as well as aunts and uncles, tell me they hesitated to gift experiences instead of toys is, “I want them to have something to open.”

Best of Both Worlds

I’ve got a strategy that has worked wonders for the amazing grandparents in our lives as they willingly shifted toward gifting experiences instead of stuff.

Giving an experience along with a small, tangible companion gift to accompany it, helps ease the worry of, “but is it enough?” Wrap something small to open that compliments and highlights the experience.

Seriously, small does the trick! View this video I posted on Facebook of my daughter receiving horse back riding lessons for Christmas last year. She simply opened a figurine horse attached to the gift certificate. You’ll notice she’s not the least bit disappointed!

The Gift That Keeps Giving

With experiences as gifts, the excitement lingers long past the moment it’s opened. Not only do they get to enjoy the experience itself, but the anticipation leading up and the memories that last, add to the never-ending joy of gifting experiences over things.

There is certainly a place for toys on Christmas morning. However, gifting experiences allows us to curb the clutter, cut back on the excess and raise our kids to value adventure and time together over possessions. 

experience gift ideas
Photo credit Jamie Lynn Photography

Download my FREE printable coupons to personalize your experience. 

20 Giftable Experiences (And Small Tangible Companion Gift Ideas to Compliment)

Keep in mind, I’m not suggesting you give all of these tangible gifts along with the experience. They are simply suggestions to get your wheels turning.

1. Zoo Membership or Passes

Companion gift ideas: animal stickers or stamps, National Geographic Little Kids subscription

Children’s books: National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia, Little Kids First Big Book of Animals, (really any animal themed books you love)

2. Gymnastics, Dance, Ninjanastics or Tumble Class

Companion gift ideas: gym clothes, Dude Perfect T-shirt, ballet shoes, leotard, water bottle.

Children’s book: Mobi Shinobi ninja books, Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae

3. Amusement Park or Water Park Ticket

Companion gift ideas: road trip snack, swim suit, flip-flops, swim diapers, sunscreen

4. Grandma Camp Coupon Book

Companion gift ideas: printable coupon book, (pick a theme for your grandparent camp and gift according to the theme: adventure, creation, Star Wars, tea party), board games, nail polish, hot chocolate, popcorn, face paint, iTunes gift card for a movie, mad libs

Children’s Books: How to Babysit a Grandma  and How to Babysit a Grandpa, by Jean Reagan

5. Art Classes

Companion gift ideas: sketchpad, colored pencils, giant ream of printer paper, fun tape dispenser, Sharpie markers.

Children’s Books: When Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden, The Day The Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and OliverJeffers, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, Matisse The King of Color by Laurence Anholt

6. Sporting event

Companion gift ideas: pre-game dinner coupon, wall decal, jersey, licensed t-shirt or sweatshirt, Sports Illustrated For Kids Magazine

Here my son received a ticket to see the Detroit Lions with his Grandpa and his dad. He adored this gift and opened a framed photo of the view from his seat.

7. Horse Back Riding Lessons

Companion gift ideas: riding boots, horse stickers , horse coloring book, bag of apples/carrots to feed the horses

8. Swimming Lessons

Companion gift ideas: goggles, swim suit, snorkel gear, towel, swim diapers, dive sticks

Children’s Books: Together by Emma Dodd (I just love this otter book)

9. Museum Membership or Passes

Companion gift ideas: experiment kits: Steam Powered Girls Kits, Snap Circuit

Children’s Books: Who Was? Books, 5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything!)

10. Cooking Lessons or Baking Day

Companion gift ideas: ingredients, sprinkles, boxed cake mix and frosting, apron

Children’s Books: Baking Day at Grandmas, by Anika Denise, cook book

11. Golf Lessons or Outing

Companion gift ideas: Golf clubs, golf bag, tees, golf balls

12. Fishing Getaway or Day Trip

Companion gift ideas: fishing hat, sunglasses, lure, waders, fishing pole, tackle box

Children’s Books: Dangerous Book for Boys  (Lots of lure tying and outdoor advice. My son adores this book!)

13. Airplane or Train Ticket to Visit Out of State Grandparents

Companion gift ideas: airplane snacks and books

14. Weekend Getaway or Family Vacation

Companion gift ideas: camera, travel snacks, activity book, accessories that fit the trip such as: goggles, ski hat, hiking shoes or sunscreen, wrap mementos from previous trips (Mickey ears, Great Wolf Lodge Ears, Disney t-shirts you already own to clue your kids in that they’re going back)

Children’s Books: The Travel Book, Lonely Planet Kids

15. Music Lessons

Companion gift ideas: instrument, sheet music, Snark guitar tuner, Itunes gift card for new music, (maybe even ear plugs for mom and dad)

16. Camping Trip or Backyard Campout

Companion gift ideas: sleeping bag, flashlight, tent, smore’s kit gift basket, Mad Libs

Children’s book ideas: Do Princesses Make Happy Campers? by Carmela LaVigna  Coyle, Dangerous Book for Boysby Hal Iggulden, A Camping Spree With Mr. McGee, by Chris Van Dusen

17. Stem Classes at Local Children’s Museum

Companion gift ideas: STEM or STEAM builder kits: National Geographic Da Vinci’s DIY Science and Engineering KitSTEAM Powered Girls activities. STEM puzzle, STEM games: Rush Hour

18. Laser Tag Gift Certificate

Companion gift ideas: a stealth, dark t-shirt to wear when dominating, water bottle and snacks

19. Trampoline Park, Ropes Course or Rock Wall Climbing

Companion gift ideas: required grip socks, snacks for outing, water bottle

20. Nature Center Classes

Companion gift ideas: rain boots, critter case, magnifying glass, butterfly net, National Geographic Break Open Geodes Kit

Companion gift ideas: How Things Grow, by Eric Carle

I hope these suggestions get your wheels turning and boost your confidence in shifting toward experiences over things.

Read 100 Minimalist Holiday Gift Ideas, for more ideas to help you give with intention this season.

100 minimalist holiday gift ideas

My kids would much prefer a back yard camp out with grandma and grandpa or a gift certificate to the trampoline park, instead of more toys. Really, ask them!

This life of less is working. Week by week I see my kids living out this lifestyle more and more. They continue to make generosity a priority and acknowledge that more stuff does not lead to more joy.

Experience gift ideas
Photo credit Jamie Lynn Photography

A Case For Less: More Articles to Encourage You to Give Experiences Instead of Stuff

How to Slow Down Time, Backed By Science, Becoming Unbusy

Why Experiences Are Better Than Things, Becoming Minimalist

Raising Minimalist Kids: 5 Strategies to Get Your Kids On Board

For more inspiration

Follow us on Instagram and Facebook

Need Some Serious Pre Holiday Decluttering Motivation?

Sign-up for my new, FREE 3 Day Email Series, Unstuck.

Here we will tackle 3 common decluttering obstacles so you can let go and get uncluttered for good. If you’ve ever gotten started and then gotten stuck, this FREE resource is for you!

minimalist bloggers


6 thoughts on “20 Experience Gift Ideas + Companion Gifts to Give This Year

  1. Dear Rachelle,
    I am a Grandparent who did this very thing last year and the kids loved it. I made up their own personal tickets announcing their gift. One got a years membership to the local aquarium, another gymnastic lessons and the two older ones got tickets to FCC soccer games. I was talking to my daughter about doing it again this year and she said, “ Mom it’s such a great and thoughtful gift but unless you are able to take them to all of this we will have to this of something else. I just can’t “
    Herein lies the problem. So I am not quite sure how to do this kind of gift but not put more work on her.

  2. Such a great point Carol! Becoming too busy in the name of less stuff puts us right back where we started. Her time is certainly an important thing to consider. It’s not a gift if it’s a burden. Some grandparents are in a position to take grandkids to their experiences, but many are not. I’d suggest doing one family experience. Of course check with your daughter first. Maybe it’s not the season for classes and individual memberships. Maybe an overnight to a water park or tickets to a theme park or theater production for the whole family would be more feasible.

  3. I absolutely love this post, and the ideas that you provide. My husband and I have been thinking about ways to gift our kids with experiences instead of more *things* – this list is so helpful! And what a great idea for grandparents, too. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. This is an amazing post. Thank you so much for the gift ideas. Gifting experiences is awesome but combining it with a small tangible item helps to keep some of the fun of it for our family members. Great ideas! I will be sharing this post with multiple people this holiday season.

  5. Your list is wonderful; may I also suggest that grandparents also want to give their time to be with their grandchildren. I’d love for the grandchildren to have the experiences of these suggestions; I believe it’s even more valuable – and lasting!! – to the grandchildren to remember quality time with their grandparents. We will not be around forever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.