The Best Experiential Gifts to Give the Travelers in Your Life

Because memories last longer than material things.

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Even if they’d rather get stuck in a middle seat on a long haul flight than admit it, most frequent travelers subscribe to the philosophy of “live, laugh, love.” They’re also fans of another cheesy motto: Collect moments, not things. This can make your favorite traveler difficult to shop for, unless you consider the fact that they might prefer experiential gifts over wrapped-up objects.

There are tons of bookable experiences around the world that are dead simple to give away. You won’t have to stand in line at the box office or wait on hold to score tickets to a giftable activity or event, nor will you have to take out a second mortgage. Instead, you can just book online—starting at just $33. Below, find eight easy-to-book experiential gifts around the globe. Of course, some may involve a plane ticket, but others only require a decent WiFi connection. And the best part? You won’t have to wrap a thing or make a single trip to the post office.

Castelfalfi wine tasting
Photo courtesy of Castelfalfi

Florence, Italy

Forget Eataly. For the wine connoisseur on your list there’s no better place to sip pinot grigio than at a five-star Tuscan resort nestled in a mountaintop medieval village surrounded by vineyards. Not only does Castelfalfi grow its own grapes on site, but it also produces seven organic award-winning wines less than half a mile from its hotel lobby. Tastings, which last 90 minutes and are offered year round, start with a quick tour of the vineyard and end with a subterranean sampling in a traditional cellar where the wines are aged in oak barrels. To fully appreciate the myriad of flavors, each blend is paired with a local product such as wild boar or caciocavallo cheese.

Curio Spice Co. class
Photo courtesy of Curio Spice Co

Cambridge, Massachusetts or online

Some people travel to see the sights. Others travel to eat. For your friend, or family member, who travels via their taste buds, consider this hands-on workshop where they’ll learn the foundations of flavor theory. Then, under the guidance of a globe-trotting spice expert, they’ll make their own mixes using nearly 100 different spices from around the world. The in-person class is offered January 25 and March 7 at Curio Spice Co. in Cambridge, MA. There’s also a virtual class (for $40) on January 11.

Edge at Hudson Yards
Photo courtesy of Edge at Hudson Yards

New York, New York

Whether it’s their first time in Manhattan or their 500th time, any Edge ticket holder will be amazed by the view from the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere. Indeed, this 1,100-foot-tall attraction in Hudson Yards isn’t for acrophobics. It offers 360-degree views of the Big Apple and even features a glass floor and glass side panels that are angled so visitors can “lean out over the city.” The deck is open 365 days a year, seven days a week. For the ultimate thrillseeker, consider the City Climb experience ($185). It’s the world’s highest open-air building ascent, culminating at the Edge. 

Onda Pura surf lessons
Onda Pura on Facebook

Porto, Portugal

Portugal may not be the birthplace of surfing, but it does boast the world’s biggest wave and one of the world’s best surf schools, Onda Pura. Class takes place on a sandy, man-made beach just 20 minutes from historic downtown Porto. Because the beach is partially formed by the port, it has consistent beginner-friendly waves, regardless of the season. Onda Pura’s skilled instructors not only speak English, but they’re also trained in teaching people with disabilities and working with all ages. Group classes include one instructor for every seven students. Interested in a private lesson? They’re just $55.

REI Mt. Rainier Snowshoe Tour
Photo courtesy of REI Experiences

Issaquah, Washington

This bucket list-worthy calorie-torcher is ideal for the fittest person on your list. Snow or shine, they’ll have to embrace their inner Bigfoot to trek up and down some pretty serious terrain on Mt. Rainier, the snowiest place in North America. Fortunately, REI, which hosts the experience, provides snowshoes and poles in addition to guides. No prior snowshoeing experience is required, but it is an all-day adventure, so stamina is a must. The reward? Some truly stunning views of the Evergreen State. Choose from several dates offered throughout December and January. 

The Chef & The Dish
Photo courtesy of The Chef & The Dish

Online

Ideally, you could afford to send the self-proclaimed master chef on your list to Peru to learn how to make ceviche. But if your budget (or their schedule) doesn’t allow for that, book them a Chef & the Dish Cooking Class. The company was founded in 2016 by a former executive at Apple and offers more than 125 cooking experiences showcasing hundreds of dishes from pretty much every inhabited place on earth. Classes are taught in real time by award-winning chefs, some of whom have Michelin stars, in their home countries. While they may not give away their secret recipes, they will show how to make their favorite native dishes. The $299 price tag may seem expensive, but it covers the class for two people.

Coral
Photo courtesy of The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

The Maldives or online

Planting a tree in someone’s honor is so 2022. This year, why not plant coral—or better yet, arrange for the eco-warrior on your list to get their hands wet? If your friend or family member is headed to the Maldives, they can participate in coral planting at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort. The property works with Reefscapers, a marine consultancy company that has planted more than 500,000 coral colonies. Of course, you can also adopt coral in someone’s name online. Just don’t forget to register the recipient’s email address so they can track their coral’s progress. New photos are uploaded every six months, and it doesn’t take long before a little coral is teeming with a lot of life. 

Chai Lai Orchid elephant sanctuary
Photo courtesy of the Chai Lai Orchid

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Everyone knows someone who prefers animals to people. For that person, you can’t go wrong with this full-day adventure that centers around playing with Asia’s largest land animal. Of course, in addition to cuddling a 250-pound elephant calf, participants learn how to care for and even communicate with these revered behemoths, all of which were rescued and now reside at the Chai Lai Orchid elephant sanctuary just outside of Chiang Mai. And because no trip to Thailand’s jungle is complete without exploring hidden temples, swimming in a waterfall, and enjoying a picnic lunch, the itinerary includes those highlights, too.

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Katie Jackson is a freelance journalist who pays her mortgage in Montana but lives out of a 50-liter suitcase. She covers mostly travel but has also written about food, fashion, real estate, and commerce for publications including USA Today, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, The Sunday Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and more. She has a degree in marketing from St. John’s University, but she’d never sell anyone something they don’t need.