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How to gift an experience someone actually wants

One of the big online trends in minimalism is experiences over gifts. And that’s important – but even more important is how to gift an experience someone actually wants!

It goes that most people don’t need more stuff; the memories and knowledge gained from your experiences will last far longer than the typical gift-wrapped item. As it so happens, I think experiences as zero waste gifts is a pretty perfect fit.

What better way to reduce your impact on the planet than by eschewing presents bought just to fill up the space under the tree and instead giving thoughtful, experience-based gifts instead?

But what to actually get them?

Experiences, just like physical gifts, are endlessly customizable based on who you’re buying for, so here are just a few ideas to get you started on these zero waste gifts.

All the ways to gift an experience

Knowing how to gift an experience that makes someone jump for joy (rather than hold the card with a quizzical face and go “oh… thanks…”), is a skill.

Let’s talk through some ideas.

Some of these links are affiliate links, which means if you buy something after clicking I make a small commission at no cost to you!

How to gift an experience someone actually wants - PollyBarks.com

Passes to a local attraction

Scope out what cool spots are around and grab your friend a pass to something that aligns with their interests. A local museum, the zoo, a co-working space, a theater…

The options are endless, almost all local attractions or organizations offer some sort of reward pass for those who use their services regularly!

If you’re not exactly sure what to give, Airbnb has an incredible range of online experiences that people can try IRL or virtually!

Gift knowledge with Skillshare

If you know someone is interested in ongoing learning, or has some specific skills they want to develop, gift an experience of Skillshare access.

Skillshare is an online learning community community with all sorts of artistic, technical, and entrepreneurial classes and workshops on offer. While it may not be quite as sexy as a dance lesson or as exciting as a skydiving experience, education is an incredible gift for the right person!

National Parks Pass (USA)

For just $80, your friend or family member could have access to all national parks for the whole year! States also offer a similar program to state parks, if that would be something more accessible. I personally think this is one of those sweet-spot gifts that many people think about, but never actually purchase for themselves.

How to gift an experience someone actually wants - PollyBarks.com

Send them an e-gift cards

The old standby, giving a gift card. I think gift cards are underrated; as long as you know the basics of what someone likes, you’re able to get them a gift that’s from the heart but also not something they don’t explicitly want.

The best part is that you can gift your friends or family an experience almost anywhere plus you can have the certificate delivered electronically so – boom – no waste!

I highly recommend having a look at my list of ethical alternatives to Amazon so you can gift an experience of not supporting Jeff Bezos!

Plant them a tree in a national forest

The Arbor Day Foundation allows you to plant a tree in someone’s honor. Right now it looks like you can plant a tree for someone in Chippewa National Forest (northern Minnesota). In fact, you can plant five trees for just $10. You’ll even have the option to print out a fancy certificate if you’d like to give the recipient something physical.

Alternatively, why not actually gift them a tree if they’ve got the space for it? I’m here for it.

Give them a subscription

Chances are you know what the gift giver loves – so give them the gift of enjoying it year-round. Some ideas include:

Not the sexiest gift, but gift cards are always practical – and probably highly welcome for those on a budget.


No matter what you end up going, planning to gift an experience is a great way to give an original gift that doesn’t put too much stress on the planet or clutter up the house!

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