If you want to give a gift that lasts, keep in mind that experiences may provide more enduring happiness than physical presents, according to one study conducted at Cornell University.
For example, Megan McKeever, a Brooklyn, N.Y.–based editor and mother of two, once received a ticket for skydiving from her husband. “Roy made a scrapbook of all our adventures: pictures, napkins and matchbooks from restaurants, concert tickets, etc. He even printed out the emails from setting up our first date. At the end of the scrapbook, he made a little pocket that said something like ‘And here’s our next adventure.’ Inside was the gift certificate to go skydiving.”
The gift of experience can also include less-adrenaline-filled options:
A walking-tour map of a city that someone you love is planning to visit is a great idea; so is a walking tour of landmarks in your own city. The latter can double as a sweet opportunity to spend time together, making it even more meaningful.
Tickets of all kinds — to concerts, plays, live podcast performances, standup nights, or whatever your recipient likes best — make excellent offerings. This is another present that sets you up to spend time with someone.
Give the traveler in your life a series of language lessons. It’s like offering the keys to a foreign locale.
A cooking class or series of classes can be a wonderful gift for novice cooks, as well as experienced chefs who want to learn a specialized skill, like making pastry.
Restaurant gift certificates are reliably welcome. Who doesn’t relax more over dinner knowing that the tab is already paid?
Dance lessons are an excellent present for your favorite social butterfly, or anyone on your list who’s looking to get out and meet people. Lessons for dances that require a partner, like salsa, tango, or swing, also make a great gift for a couple, or can be something you do with a friend. And some studios say that you don’t need a partner for dancing and can come alone.
Most people are delighted to go to wine tastings, but why not a tasting for cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, or tea? They’re fun for the curious foodie in your life.
Travel-themed gifts are almost always welcome, and there are many options: Transfer some of your own frequent-flier miles or hotel points to a loved one’s account; buy an airline gift card to start the loved one’s trip with some expenses covered; or offer a gift certificate for a hotel or resort where you know that person loves to go. It can also be fun (and bonding) for a family or group of friends to pitch in for a weekend get-away together — in lieu of exchanging gifts.
This originally appeared as “The Gift of Giving” in the December 2019 print issue of Experience Life.