8 Experience Gifts to Get For Your Family Instead of Useless Crap

Toys are fun, but fleeting. This year, give your family the gift they'll remember forever – a family vacation.

Originally Published: 

Millennials prefer experiences. This oft-cited talking point is a little bit bullshit. Sure, 65 percent of millennials are currently saving money to travel — well outpacing the previous generation. But that’s not stopping this generation of parents from also spending increasingly more on holiday gifts than ever. It’s probably more accurate to say that gift-getters today prioritize going places and getting things more than any other generation.

What does this all mean for holiday gifting in 2019? That if you have the means and insight to offer experience gifts — an all-inclusive trip, an investment towards a vacation, a plane ticket — you should. But also be sure to pair it with a tangible token that is in itself a good gift. Sounds needy? It is. But fear not – we’ve done the work for you. Here are experience gift ideas for the whole family.

All-Inclusive Vacations

Thanks to a few massive resorts that “have it all” and, at the same time, have nothing at all of interest, the all-inclusive vacation gets a bad rap. It’s nice to have everything ready for you. To have a guide. To not have to plan every last hour. The trick is to go more adventurous with an all-inclusive vacation. Relaxing for a week on the beach? You can plan that. Cycling through Italy’s Piedmont region? Here are the trips to book, and a little something to wrap along with the confirmation printout.

The Trip: Disney River Cruise, Rhine

If Disney World is full of Disney cultural sampling, the European Disney cruise is immersion. Sure, there are Disney movie sing-alongs in the evenings, Disney pins to collect and trade, and plenty of references to Disney films in the landscape, but there is mostly river, an intimate ship with resort-worthy amenities, and the European landscape of your choice. It’s like staying at a Disney resort, except you wake up in a new location every morning. Try the Rhine River tour because, well, ziplining through the Black Forest, exploring medieval wine caves, and seeing Switzerland, France, Germany, and The Netherlands in one trip sounds like some fun for kids and parents both.

The Trinket: Steamboat Willie Lego Set

It’s nostalgic, it’s cute, it’s a LEGO set. This Steamboat Willie Lego set is a great gift on its own and a perfect pairing with a ticket to a Disney River Cruise.

Buy Now $90

The Trip: A Bike Vacation for the Whole Family

Mt. Rushmore is a bit of an overrated National Monument. Presidents’ faces carved into a granite cliff face feels a bit, authoritarian? Pointless? Odd? The one very good thing about the monument itself is that it lives within South Dakota’s Badlands, a stark landscape with bison, big-horn sheep, stark landscapes, and some of the world’s richest fossil beds. All of which adds up to an immersive landscape that is best explored over a week, by bike. The Mt. Rushmore Family Tour takes cares of it all for the family.

The Trinket: Customized Family Water Bottle

You can plaster the family name — or crest, or a personalized nickname — over the high-end Camelbak Reign water bottle. Hydrate proudly.

Buy Now $30

The Trip: A Bike Vacation for the Parents

The Trek Travel vacation is pretty much the perfect vacation for couples. It’s all-inclusive, meaning your not-so-humble shelter, meals, afternoon glass of red, and even the bikes — drool-worthy high-end electronic-shifting bikes — are ready to go when you need it. The difference between Trek Travel and, say, a high-end inclusive resorts is that you feel freedom. For one, you don’t have to drive anywhere and can’t bike and scroll on your phone — so you get a vacation from your car and screens. Then, there’s the added benefit that the locals love a cyclist. As you cycle through small towns in Italy, well let’s just say Italians respect a cyclist. There’s little better way to see Italy — and no better way to spend time as a couple.

The Trinket: His and Hers Cycling Kits

For the ride, you want kits (kit is cycling-ese for spandex bike outfit) that complement each other, but you don’t want to be all matchy-matchy. A branded cycling jersey can easily signal that you’re an insufferable bike nerd or, just as bad, that you wouldn’t know a sprocket from a derailleur. Lululemon’s simple, neutral jerseys are judgment-free. Also, they’re flattering, so there’s that. Here’s our choice

For him:

Buy Now $148

And her:

Buy Now $148

High-End Lodges

Many parents think pricey lodges are lost on the kids. They get bored. They care more about the cushy seats than the well-appointed rooms. They wonder where the pizza is. These details may be true, but you’re losing the forest for the trees. High-end lodges offer so very much more than a place to stay. They are the perfect intro to big outdoors adventuring. Here are two perfect American destinations — for your family’s next summer and winter vacation.

The Trip: Big Sky Resort

Montana’s Big Sky resort has fewer skiers per acre than any mountain its size, wildly varied terrain (with a huge range in degree-of-difficulty), and there’s a kid’s club open from four to six — which just happens to coincide with après-ski hours. The most convenient and luxurious stay starts at the Summit hotel.

The Trinket: Ski Helmets for All

Sure, you can rent a helmet, and while the musty, sweaty smell wears off, it’s still all a little gross. Show that you care about safety by gifting helmets to the fam.

For the kids, the Giro Launch Combo Pack Kids Snow Helmet w/Matching Goggles look cool enough that you’ll get zero complaints :

Buy Now $85

For the adults, this Smith Optics Unisex Adult Holt Snow Sports Helmet come in a variety of colors and are surprisingly affordable:

Buy Now $65

The Trip: Jackson Lake Lodge

Sure, you could stay with the throngs of tourists at Ol’ Faithful lodge, but that’s feels less like an outdoorsy getaway than a historical retreat. Head instead to the heart of the Tetons where the bison roam and the grizzling forage, the lakes sparkle, and the mountains loom.

The Trinket: National Parks Pass

If you’re visiting the Tetons, you need to see its neighbor Yellowstone too. On this one trip, the annual National Parks pass will pay for itself — and motivate you on to more big National Parks adventures.

Buy Now $80

Airbnb Animals Experiences

Airbnb, that app that lets you rent out random people’s homes around the world for less than a hotel room, has been growing its portfolio to include experiences — basically, things to do while on vacation. There are now more than 30,000 of such experiences, but we’re pretty confident the best ones all have to do with animal interactions. Like these three trips with goats, llamas, and bats. Each is, obviously, paired with the appropriate cute and cuddly stuffed animal.

The Trip: A Desert Exploration With Goats in Pioneertown, CA

A hike in the California desert is made better with a group of goats (they call it a “tribe” or “trip” of goats).

Buy Now $75

The Trinket: This adorable stuffed goat that fortunately does not eat carpet.

Buy Now $11.45

The Trip: Hike with Llamas in Charlottesville, Virginia

Can’t get the kids to go on a nature hike with you? Bring on the llamas. Cries of, “Are we there yet?,” will be but a distant memory.

Buy Now $50

The Trinket: What’s cuter than a stuffed llama? Real question.

Buy Now $11.34

The Trip: Paddleboard with Bats in Austin

Austin’s famous bats are best experienced by paddleboard. Hire a guide help you navigate the chiropteran waters.

Buy Now $49

The Trinket: If you’re kids love bats enough to get into a boat and go straight to their lair, they’re going to love this plush bat.

Buy Now $9.73

This article was originally published on