This time of year comes with an expectation and desire for giving. We can use this opportunity to bestow on our loved ones things that they need or just might like, practical things, pretty things and fun things. That’s all fine, very fine indeed, and I do love a nice new something-or-other at Christmas-time (read my “things” gift guide for this year). But how about spending your money on experiences instead? As someone who adores receiving experience vouchers for Christmas, birthdays, or whenever possible really, I think they are a brilliant present idea.
As last year’s experiences not things gift guide seemed to go down very well, I reckoned it would be a good idea to do it again. I have compiled my second list of ten experiences that would make great gift ideas for your loved ones this Christmas, or any time of year in fact. This year my list combines a few things I’ve had the pleasure of doing myself, and a few things that are still on my bucket list. And as always, I’d really love to hear your suggestions of things you have done or are on your list in the comments below.
Be sure to check out last year’s suggestions, they are all equally valid.
An Experiences Gift Guide
Probably the water sport of the moment, paddle boarding (SUP) can be everything from calm and relaxing to fast and adrenaline fuelled. It’s not particularly difficult to get going on a board if you have good balance and know what you are doing around the water, so you could just go and hire one, but I would recommend a lesson or guided session to get you started. I spent a morning with Inspire2Adventure on the River Wye which was super fun (read my recap of that one), and they even do lessons at Center Parcs. Already used to paddle boarding? You can also learn SUP yoga, give rapids a go, or go on a tour down a river or on the sea.
If paddle boarding is too sedate for you, or you prefer the noise and rush of something with an engine, then you can get vouchers to try jet skiing on lakes all over the country. Traditional stand up jet skis are hard work on the core (and the rest of the body when you have to swim after it each time you fall off!), but the sit on wet bike types are great for pretty much anyone. Honestly, such brilliant fun. I did my jet skiing experience – something like this one – a few years back in Berkshire and had such a good time and I still want one!
Still water related (it’s like this list wasn’t thrown together…), if you love to hike or scramble on dry land, maybe you’d love to do it in the water too? Gorge scrambling is basically all about following a river, in the river, wading through the water, climbing up waterfalls, maybe down them, and basically just tracing the water’s course. I joined Inspire2Adventure for a chilly gorge scrambling experience last March and had an amazing time, I 100% want to go back and do it again some time – all over the country if I can. Ooo this one!
Hot Air Balloon Flight
From the water to the air. A hot air balloon flight provides amazing views thanks to the most unusual and basic of craft – there is something so wonderful about both the silence and the noise of being in a basket under a balloon. I can’t comment if the hot air balloon flights here in the UK are good value or amazing experiences, but I can certainly vouch for the spectacle that is flying at sunrise in Cappadocia, Turkey. And honestly, it was just so beautiful. There are lots of options for hot air balloon flights in the UK – you could choose something that flies over the recipient’s house, or somewhere that is special to them, or just somewhere that is beautiful.
While we’re flying through the air, how about flinging yourself off a big hill (well, via a winch) with wings attached? A tandem paragliding experience is one of the things that’s made it onto my own bucket list after a couple of friends tried it – it just looks amazing. The views, the feeling of flying, yes please! Something like this looks wonderful.
A Tandem Skydive
Maybe fixed wings are too much for you? You’d rather jump out of a plane with nothing attached? Of course you would! I had my second ever taste of tandem skydiving this year and it remains one of the most awesome experiences I’ve ever had – and I’m using awesome for very good reason here. The noisy fast free fall is like nothing else, and the silent calmness of flying makes it feel like the world has stopped for a moment just for you. I did mine with North London Skydiving (read my review), but there are lots of other options.
I had the pleasure of joining Wilderness Weekends back in September for a two-day wild swimming adventure (read about it), and I would highly recommend them as a company to anyone looking to treat themselves or a loved one this Christmas or for any reason, really. They put on one and two-day adventures such as canoeing, cycle touring, swimming and climbing, and provide everything you need (including camping gear and food) to have a true taste of adventure in the midst of your normal everyday life. Easy adventure, ideal for gifting, and not to be sniffed at.
Has the trend of seeing Segways everywhere finished yet? I don’t think so. Riding one is really quite cool – you go forwards, backwards, left and right by simply shifting your weight a bit. Very clever and easy to get the hang of. There are Segway tours all over the place now, but my favourites have all been offroad in woodland – I reckon it feels faster when you’re on a little forest trail skipping between the trees and the undergrowth!
Driving a rally car is a real skill, and one that is perfect for the motorheads and speed demons in your life. Still on my bucket list, mainly because it is super expensive, you can purchase a real thrill ride – where you are in charge of the accelerator. The ones that appeal the most as the proper rally experiences, where you’re not just on a track around a field, but you’re on a real rally stage – something like Forest Rally or Glos Rally School (I’ve not been to either – do you know if they’re any good?). There are a few available via Buyagift, too.
Okay, so this one may not be outdoors (unless you find one with an outdoor pool – always nice), but if you want to give your loved one the opportunity to relax fully and be pampered, then a spa day is not a bad gift idea. You can go all out with a full day or weekend at a proper spa such as Eden Hall (which I do recommend from personal experience) or Champneys, or plump for something a little smaller (and therefore cheaper) in one of hundreds and hundreds of hotels with spas all over the country. The options are endless.
A good list? Certainly makes me want to head out on another quick Sunday bucket list tick. If I was buying you an experience voucher this year, what would it be for? Tell me in the comments below. And don’t forget to check out last year’s list for more suggestions.
There are a few affiliate links on this page. Should you go on to make a purchase via one of these links, I receive a teeny commission from the company that I then put towards my next bucket list tick or outdoors adventure. Thank you!