10 Experiences That Are Better Than Wrapped Presents

Words by Oriana Cuenca

Anything. It seems that whenever you ask someone what they want for Christmas, a birthday, or any other celebration, the answer seems to be some variation of “just get me anything.” Maybe it’s Filipino modesty that’s to blame for the vagueness, but sometimes people don’t know what they want anymore. In the age of self-stirring mugs and over a hundred scents of perfume, we’re overwhelmed with material options and just can’t choose. Sometimes it’s the opposite. There is so much stuff available but we just don’t want any more. Presents sometimes end up as clutter too sentimental to part with, and the piles keep growing as the years go by.

As people turn away from presents wrapped in boxes, a new kind of gift has emerged: the experience gift. Even the people on your gift list who seem to have it all can’t possibly have experienced everything there is to experience. Experience gifts are a thoughtful and memorable way to give your loved ones memories that will last longer than any material present. Set aside the Christmas wrappers and tape because here are 6 experience gifts that are better than any material present.

10. Visit a local cat or dog cafe

Owning a pet is a responsibility that not everyone is willing to commit to. A puppy with a bow around its neck looks adorable in the moment, but many of them are abandoned when the work that comes with pet ownership sinks in. If your friend or sibling loves animals, consider taking them to a pet cafe instead. They get to spend the day petting and playing with the animals with no strings attached. It’s like having the perks of a pet without the responsibilities, a win-win for everyone.

9. Get them a ticket for their favorite play, movie, game, or concert

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Credits: Flickr. Yun_Q

Tickets are the classic experience gift. These shows do not happen often, and their prices can be steep. If you’re going for something extra special, tickets would be one of the best gifts you can give. Nothing can beat the awe of hearing a band that you’ve had on repeat for years play live or the joy of meeting an idol with your fellow fans during a fan meet.

8. Prepare a meal for the whole family

wolfgang steak

One of the things most parents want on Christmas is to see their whole family complete at the table. Skip the handkerchiefs and perfume bottles this year and prepare a meal for the whole family. If you have the skill for it, cooking all of mom and dad’s favorite dishes for Christmas morning is far more magical than any present under the tree. For a more hassle-free experience, treat them to brunch or a lovely dinner. An upscale steak place like Wolfgang’s Steak House will surely have the ambiance and the flavors for an unforgettable celebration.

7. Go Book Shopping Together

This one is a bibliophile’s dream. While not strictly an experience gift, hunting down a good book together is an experience in itself. Head to a large book store and go shelf to shelf. It will give you a chance to talk about the most memorable works and talented authors that you know. Letting them choose a book will also avoid any awkwardness from buying a title they already have, and you’ll be absolutely sure they’ll like whatever they choose.

6. Buy passes for a fitness class or a fun run

No, the active people in your life do not need a new water bottle. For the friends and family members who live in the gym, discovering new ways to stay fit is always a welcome experience. Look for yoga sessions, cycling classes, dance fitness groups, or even pole dancing workshops. There are many different gyms and studios that offer a one-time-pass or trial, so you can find something that suits their taste. If there’s a fun run happening soon, get your active friends a new singlet and sign them up for the 10k.

5. Treat them to a food trip

For anyone who can’t say no to food, a food trip is a dream present. There’s nothing better than being to bounce from place to place sampling all kinds of flavors. Come up with an itinerary of restaurants or food stalls featuring some of their favorite dishes. For the uncle who loves Chinese food, a Binondo Food trip would be a feast. If a friend has a sweet tooth, take them dessert hunting in BGC.

4.Treat them to a spa or manicure day


Life can get stressful, and sometimes everyone just needs a break from it. What better gift for the workaholic in your life than a day full of relaxation. Treat them to a spa day to get rid of the work week’s tension. The pampering will make them feel extra special and ready to take on the day ahead. A manicure is also a good choice to add a bit of color to the days ahead.

3.Plan a museum hopping trip

If there’s someone on your gift list who adores art and history, you can bet that they would love a day being surrounded by the best of both. Manila has several free museums you can visit for free, and most are walking distance from each other. Plan an itinerary and get lost in the finest pieces the country has to offer. It’ll surely bring you closer together than the artsy tote or history book you were planning.

2. Libre the whole squad to Karaoke

It gets harder every year to meet up with friends. Schedules don’t match, deadlines pile up, and life, in general, gets in the way. For those rare breaks and celebrations that you all have, treat everyone to an experience you can all use to catch up. Karaoke is a classic Filipino activity everyone in the squad can enjoy. Belt out the latest hits and even grab some snacks on the side.

1. Volunteer with them for a cause they care about

Sometimes there are just people who really do have it all, and they know it. That’s why they would prefer to spend occasions giving back instead. Instead of giving these people a gift, arrange an outreach for a community they care about. Partner with a charity to take less fortunate children on a field trip day, or give donations to an animal shelter in kind. The warmth from helping others is a gift in itself.

A final tip for giving experience gifts: Take pictures. When you’re giving memories, the best way to preserve the moments is to keep digital or printed photos as keepsakes. Concerts and plays will have ticket stubs to remember them by, but a family dinner or a breakout day doesn’t always come with something tangible. Photos will give your recipients something to remember years into the future.

Experience gifts are a far more thoughtful and memorable present for any occasion. As an added bonus, experience gifts are more environmentally friendly since they don’t consume resources for manufacturing, shipping, and gift wrapping. For the next birthday or holiday, don’t think about what the recipient wants to have but what they like to do, and you’ll be on your way to giving a gift they can never forget.

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