The newest trend in holiday gifts doesn’t take up space in carry-on luggage or add weight to checked bags.
It doesn’t even need to be packed.
Rather than giving holidaymakers new gear for travel — electronics organizers, Yeti thermoses, yet another airplane pillow — some are giving travel itself.
A survey of more than 1,000 Americans by the computer company Adobe showed that while 51% of respondents plan to purchase physical gifts this holiday season, 17% plan to give “an experience” instead.
Survey respondents cited spa treatments (25%) and concert tickets (25%) most often, while others said they planned to give plane tickets (21%) and cooking classes (16%) as gifts.
“Experience gifting” — as it is known — isn’t new. But it’s finding traction this holiday season as a push for minimalist packing converges with a pandemic that has made travel a top priority for many in 2022.
More experiences, less ‘stuff’
Migle Rakauskaite, the chief marketing manager at travel experience website Tinggly.com, said the pandemic is prompting an increase in travel experience gift purchases.
“Gifting traditions are changing,” she said. “People seem to value quality time together and doing something meaningful. Experience gifts are so much more valuable than the regular ‘stuff.'”
They’re also easy. With a few strokes of a keyboard, buyers can give experiences that once would have required time and coordination to pull off — a street food tour in Vietnam, a hot air balloon ride outside Chicago, or a private gondola tour for two through the canals of Venice, Italy.
Tinggly.com’s travel experience “gift boxes” never expire, which played a “huge part” in the rise of purchases during the pandemic, Rakauskaite said.
Perhaps most important of all, recipients — not the buyers — get to choose their own experiences at a time and date that suit their schedules.
Tinggly addresses a hang-up some have about giving intangible presents — it sends a package for recipients to open. Gift boxes can be mailed worldwide, though last-minute purchasers can also be sent via e-voucher, according to a company representative.
A weekend getaway
For people who prefer to hole up and relax on vacation, booking a weekend away may be a better option.
Ski chalets, lake houses and other homes on the rental website Vrbo can be purchased as gifts, said Alison Kwong, a company senior manager. Once the house is booked, the purchaser needs only to add other travelers’ names to the reservation.
Kwong recommends purchasers start by thinking about the type of home that suits the recipient. That could be a house with a game room or home theater for families, or a mountain cabin with ski-in, ski-out access for a group of friends.
“When you find a vacation home you know they’ll love … make sure the vacation home offers flexible cancellation in case they need to change the dates of their stay,” she said.
Onefinestay, a home rental website with houses and villas in “bucket list” destinations — such as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Cayman Islands and Italy’s Amalfi Coast — lets people book homes as gifts.
Purchasers need to confirm dates, credit card information and guest details before the stay, according to a company representative.
Roadtrippers and campers
Those who prefer vacations in the great outdoors can receive travel gifts booked through Campspot.
The website is like an Airbnb for outdoorsmen, connecting travelers with campgrounds, recreational vehicle (RV) parks, ranches and rustic resorts, many of which cost less than $50 per night.
Another option for RV owners is a gift membership to Harvest Hosts. Memberships are $99 a year and grant overnight parking access, without extra fees, to more than 2,700 places across North America. Spots are unconventional and less crowded, according to the website, and include wineries, organic farms and museums.
For $40 more, RV owners can also park their vehicles at hundreds of golf courses on the continent too, according to a company representative.
To go big this holiday, companies that combine home rentals and concierge services are an option.
The Nightfall Group rents houses from Beverly Hills, California, to the French Riviera.
Travelers can tack on services from airport transfers and stocked groceries to jet and yacht charters. Chauffeurs, chefs, nannies and butlers can also be booked through the Los Angeles-based company.