Ideas for Teen Gift Experiences - Eva Varga

December 9, 2015

Many studies have shown that material possessions do not equal happiness and that experiences are much more intrinsically fulfilling that things. Giving an experience, or even one’s time, as a holiday gift, in the place of things that people may not really want, is becoming more and more popular.

The anticipation leading up to a trip, event, or experience even has the potential to provide happiness itself, making it the gift that truly keeps on giving! Happiness in the anticipation, happiness during the experience and happiness in the memories.

Give the Gift of Experiences: Gift Ideas for Teens

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Experiences are also a uniting factor. You are more likely to bond with someone who enjoys the same hobby/activity or has traveled to the same places that you have than with someone who has a similar possession.

Gift Experiences

Giving an experience means that your recipient won’t have something else to clutter their home, and it means that they get to do something that is fun and meaningful for them. Today I share ideas for giving experiences instead of gifts.

Field Trips

So many kids crave their parents’ time and attention, so knowing that you set aside the stuff that they usually see you doing in order to be with them means a lot. Even if you can’t afford to go anywhere exciting, your kids will enjoy spending the day with you one-on-one.

If your kids are in school, give a day off “field trip” somewhere exciting. Take them to a museum, an amusement park, or go for a hike. Top it off with a meal at a favorite restaurant.

Give an annual pass to something they’ll enjoy returning to, like the zoo, the aquarium, or a hands-on science museum. If you plan to visit these places multiple times in a year anyway, these passes usually pay for themselves in 2-4 visits.

Give the Gift of Experiences: Gift Ideas for Teens @EvaVarga.netPassion is something that is cultivated. Consider tickets to a concert for kids who are taking lessons. Last year, we gifted each of the kids with a concert for their birthday – The Piano Guys and Lindsey Stirling. For Christmas, Geneva extended the memory of this experience by giving her brother an autographed copy of The Piano Guys’ new cd.

If your children have never seen a live stage production, this could be the year for it. Some of the best shows from Broadway, such as “Wicked,” “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast,” hit the road each year for shows around the United States. Visit your local performing arts center to see what they have planned for 2015, or check out such sites as Broadway Across America to see what might be coming to a town near you.

If you have a sports fan in your life give them tickets to a professional or semi-professional sporting event in your area. Better yet, get tickets for all of you and enjoy the day together.

If you know someone on your list who is planning a trip, see if you can’t buy a special experience for them while they’re there. Vayable is a website that specializes in offering unique experiences to travelers by connecting them with locals who offer tours or lessons that might be hard to find otherwise. You can also contact the local travel bureau in your recipient’s destination and see what they suggest.

Classes & Curriculum

Give the gift of learning and pick up a new skill as family. Sign up the whole group for cooking or art classes or horseback riding lessons. If you live close to water, look into scuba or sailing lessons for the group. Maybe your kids are budding photographers and would love a class in photography.

My daughter has been marveling at a variety of art glass we have seen at local craft sales and festivals. In her stocking this year she will find a gift certificate for a glass blowing class at Oregon Coast Glassworks.

Another option are online classes. These are great because the lessons are taught via video recording and access never expires. Here are few that we have used in the past and have thoroughly enjoyed:


Winter Wonderland Mixed Media Workshop


Pay for Their Hobby

If they love camping, gift them a campsite rental. If they love running, pay for their entry into a local race. The possibilities are endless on this one.


Truly a gift that keeps on giving. If possible with your kids ages, volunteer at a local food pantry or charity and give your kids (and yourself) the gift of helping others! Here are a variety of Volunteer Ideas for Kids.

Give to Charity

We designate a percentage of our income each year to a charity of choice and expect our children to do the same. Two years ago, my son raised nearly $100 that he donated to the Nystagmus Network.

Subscription Gifts

Subscription gifts are fun because an educational experience is delivered each month to your door. What I love about these is the variety – you’ll surely find a service that is suited for everyone on your list, whether they enjoy arts and crafts, cooking, science, or learning about other cultures. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

50% off

The 4-Gift Rule

It can be easy to lose sight of your budget – especially when considering experience gifts. Whether you’re on a budget or just trying to discourage materialism in your family this holiday season, you might want to consider the four gift rule this Christmas.

The 4 gift rule has been circling the Internet the past few years. The idea is that you buy your children no more than four gifts for Christmas, and they fall under these categories:

Something they want, Something they need, Something to wear, Something to read

Give the Gift of Experiences: Gift Ideas for Teens @EvaVarga.netThe “Want”: Despite my preference for experiences, we do get one gift for each child that is strictly something they want. Often these end up being educational gifts like fischertechnik, a Rubix Cube, or craft supplies.

The “Need”: Since family experiences are so important for us, we consider these gifts a need so we prioritize and budget for them. Often these revolve around our family vacations.

The “Wear”: For holidays we give each of the kids one clothing item they need like a new coat or hiking boots. This may also be something fun, like dress up clothes, if they don’t need any new clothing.

The “Read”: I have a weakness for books. We go to the library every week and love used book sales. There is something to be said about owning copies of your favorite titles, however. For Christmas, I always gift them with a book – perhaps the next book in the Percy Jackson series (my daughter LOVES them) or a hardback edition of a book they had checked out from the library and just loved. I also try to purchase books that encourage their passions.

Have you tried to give experiences instead of gifts in the past? What other suggestions would you add to this list?

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