Last year, I decided to do something a little different for the holidays. I asked everyone on my side of the family to give my children experiences instead of toys. At the time, we had our house listed for sale, and I could not handle the thought of more “stuff” to be organized for each showing. So, the request was really made for my sanity. However, in the end, I think my kids enjoyed it even more than I did.

Their favorite was a gift from my sister’s family. They gave each of my children a small, wrapped gift. Inside were books about fish, each one matching my children’s reading levels and interests. Also included was a card filled with passes to the National Aquarium. My kids were thrilled!

Even better, over one of their school breaks, we planned for our two families to visit the aquarium together. Not only was it an awesome gift, but together we created many family memories that we still talk about.

Toys are great, and my kids get sentimental with everything they receive. But sometimes it’s nice to bring the focus back to quality time. Material possessions definitely have their purpose, but a fun memory can last a lifetime.

If you like something physical to hang onto, it’s easy to tie in a small souvenir. Whether it’s a trinket from the gift shop, a book about the topic or even a simple photograph that you can frame, there are lots of options for turning an “experience gift” into a lasting memory.

Below are some suggestions for gifting experiences on any budget. Some experiences can get pricey, but don’t stress if you have little money to spend. Remember, this is more about the time than the money spent.

  • Family passes to attractions – museums, zoos, aquariums, train rides
  • Gift cards to fun interactive places – laser tag, indoor play parks, arcades
  • A state park pass with maps, binoculars and a magnifying glass
  • Season passes to a bowling alley, ice skating rink, museum, pool or nature center
  • Music or acting lessons
  • A week of summer camp or a fun STEM session
  • A share of a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm
  • A picnic basket with a few goodies, along with a map of a new park
  • Seasonal passes to a strawberry patch, pumpkin patch, Christmas tree farm
  • A certificate for a sporting lesson, whether gymnastics, dance, soccer, archery, climbing or martial arts
  • A family pass for horseback riding lessons or a trail adventure
  • A certificate to special classes – pottery, art, knitting, cooking
  • Concert or theater tickets
  • A scavenger hunt around a local playground that ends with playtime

Each of these presents gives your loved ones reasons to spend time doing something they love while also creating lasting memories. Try these ideas as a starting point to get creative. Then personalize an experience gift based on the interests, hobbies and passions of that special person receiving the gift.


Karissa Tunis is co-author of “Parenting While Working from Home: A Monthly Guide To Help Parents Balance Their Careers, Connect with Their Kids, and Establish Their Inner Strength.” She is also co-owner of



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