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9 Alternative Gift Ideas to the Typical Wrapped Package

Think outside the box with these creative experiential gifts.

Dec 06, 2019

What do you get that hard-to-shop-for friend, or the person who has it all? Yes, you could go with a funny pair of socks or a bottle of wine, (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to enjoy a tall one with their feet all toasty,) but chances are you aren’t the only one who’s going the boozy route. So rather than just giving more stuff this year, we’re proposing thinking outside the box—literally. 

Check out our ideas for experience and service gifts that are uber-creative and will show that you really know your pal. And best of all, experiences are best shared—meaning you may even be able to get in on the fun and bond while adventuring together. Need we say more?

Image via Shutterstock / Africa Studio | ALIGN : LEFT

1. A class to learn something new 

Whether in-person or online, classes gift someone the time and resources to pursue a passion—be it cooking, photography, dancing, or more. Sign your friend up for a local swing dance or cooking class by checking their community and arts centers. If you’re unsure what options are nearby or if they travel frequently, online options like Masterclass or cooking classes through Allrecipes or CakeFlix are filled with creative content (and scratch that itch if they’re as obsessed with the Great British Bake Off as we are.)

2. Membership to a local museum or club

Are they an art-lover, symphony-goer, or avid golf player? Gift an experience they’ll actually use on a weekly basis: a membership to the MoMA or the Pops, or a local sports facility or country club where they can get their game on. 

3. Tickets to a live event

Treat someone to their favorite sports team, band, or musical. If you aren’t able to check what dates will work for them ahead of time, many sites like have e-gift card options that allow you to personalize your present with a photo or audio file. (So yes, even before they go see Hamilton, they can hear you attempt to rap at the speed of light like Lin-Manuel Miranda.)

Image via Blue Apron | ALIGN : RIGHT

4. A subscription 

That Jelly of the Month club may not have gone over too well with Clark Griswold, but a subscription that’ll let your bud enjoy their favorites without worrying about the cost is sure to be a hit. Case in point: Our current obsession with Disney+. There’s a reason we’re all running around foaming at the mouth like we’ve just witnessed divine intervention—the new streaming service is that magical. If binge-watching Disney Channel Original Movies isn’t their jam, go with a monthly subscription service like Blue Apron that’ll make meal-prep easy, or Coffee of the Month, so they can discover new products to feed their favorite addiction. 

5. America the Beautiful pass

Shopping for a nature nerd? The America The Beautiful pass is just $80 and grants access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites across the country—including all 61 national parks. The pass covers the card holder, as well as up to three adults traveling in the same car.

6. A plant

What better time to gift something green than when the world outside is covered in snow? Shop for a houseplant that’s easy to care for like peperomia or a ZZ Plant (both available at The Sill) and put in in a pretty pot for some living décor.

Image via Salvation Army | ALIGN : LEFT

7. Donate to a charity 

For fierce activists, those selfless friends who literally want nothing to do with material goods, and advocates for a cause, show that you support them with a donation to their favorite charity or organization. Donations can be made easily online.

8. A pre-paid service

This is for the friend who is so overwhelmed with life, you can literally feel the anxiety radiating off them at every waking moment. A house cleaning service like Molly Maid, or enrollment in a child-care service will give them the ultimate gift: time.

9. Airline miles

For the wanderlust-filled friend that’s always on the search for their next destination, miles or a gift card to their favorite airline gives them the freedom to travel to those places that might otherwise be outside their budget. Opt for this over just buying the tickets yourself, so they can choose dates and times that work best for them or use the amount towards a spontaneous trip they haven’t dreamed up yet. You might even get to tag along!

Written by Mallory Abreu

Mallory is a writer currently based in Des Moines, Iowa, where she works as a home design editor for Better Homes & Gardens. This New England native began her career at the Boston Globe covering music and arts beats, and has since had her work featured in Boston Magazine, Magnolia Journal, BH&G, and other national publications. Catch her playing piano and ogling old homes in her free time. View her portfolio at and follow her on IG at @mal.abreu.

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