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How to Gift an Experience

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Courtesy of Roderick Eime / Flickr

Expert advice for giving something that isn’t a thing.

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As a traveler, you don’t need an academic study to tell you that experiences are more valuable than things. But that doesn’t mean that peer-reviewed documentation doesn’t exist.

With your priorities suitably in order, buying yourself a ticket, a tour, or a trip is a simple thing. But what if you want to give a loved one a (life-affirming) experience instead of a (resource-destroying) piece of consumerism?

For a bit of sage advice, we asked someone who has given this some serious thought. Johannes Reck is the CEO of GetYourGuide, the Berlin-based company that is the largest online booking platform for travel activities — from Albania to Zimbabwe and from Snuba to the Louvre. Here’s what he has to say about getting the most out of giving travel experiences.

Think back to your favorite vacation, and you probably won’t remember the movie you watched on the plane ride there, nor the hand towels in the hotel you stayed in. It’s what you saw, heard, ate, drank, and did while in the destination that’s stayed with you all this time.

This is why travel experiences can make amazing gifts. As memories, they’re intangible and can outlast any present that comes in a box. This is also why they can be such challenging gifts to give. You can’t preview and compare a walking tour, an attraction visit, or a cooking class in the same way that you can with more concrete gifts.

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So, if you decide to give someone a travel experience, consider the following to make sure your gift is a success:

Make it personal. Don’t just give a general-purpose gift voucher to a friend or relative; that’s the easy way out. Give a specific experience you think they will like, and one that is relevant to your relationship with them. It says you know them well.

Make a planned trip better. There’s no need to come up with an entire vacation from scratch. If you know a friend or relative is headed somewhere soon, why not improve that existing trip and turn it into an amazing experience? That’ll help you narrow down your decision on what to give, and chances are much greater the gift will be redeemed and enjoyed.

The best travel experiences can happen close to home. Don’t send your friend or relative to the end of the world; consider choosing something nearby. A nice tour or activity right in your hometown can be just as exciting, but less of a time commitment.

Don’t forget to coordinate the logistics. Everyone wants to go on a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, but simply getting to the helicopter is part of the experience and can make or break the day. Make it as easy as possible for your friend or relative to enjoy their gift.

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Don’t be afraid to invite yourself along. Sharing experiences with those you care about makes them even more memorable, so try to join the recipient yourself if you can, and enjoy the experience together. It’s one sure way to make sure that your gift gets used and enjoyed.

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