For years, research has been telling us that doing things can bring more joy than having things. And we’re catching on: According to Eventbrite’s nationwide research of millennials conducted by Harris in 2014, the share of consumer spending on live experiences and events relative to total U.S. consumer spending increased 70 percent over the past 30 years. Another study published in 2014 by Paulina Pchelin and Ryan T. Howell — “The Hidden Cost of Value-Seeking: People Do Not Accurately Forecast the Economic Benefits of Experiential Purchases” — even found that after purchasing an item that they’d initially thought would be a better use of their money, people felt that a life experience would make them happier and be a better value.
These findings beg the question: If gifts are supposed to make the recipient happy, why not give an experience? Here are six great options to consider.
1. A stay in the Treehotel. A collection of cabins on stilts in Sweden, each “treeroom” offers fantastic views of the Lule River Valley, plus miles of forest. The treerooms, priced at $620 per night and up, have a sleek modern design, including structures inspired by UFOs and another that looks like a human-sized bird’s nest.
2. A personal skincare and makeup consultation. For $500, get a personalized consultation from makeup artist and wellness expert Jessa Blades (in-person in New York and Los Angeles and via Skype everywhere else).
3. A VIP museum tour. Truly Experiences offers a crowd-free tour of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. For $600, up to five guests can enter the museum for an exclusive, uninterrupted experience before it opens to the public.
For a truly VIP experience, you can book a private tour of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
4. A private island. You’ll get peak privacy when you rent your own island, and you can choose from 222 destinations in Belize, Honduras, the Maldives, Philippines, British Virgin Islands, Fiji, and more. Prices by request.
5. Lessons in unusual hobbies. Choose a skill based on your loved one’s interests. Two fun options: The Institute for Art and Olfaction offers beginner’s perfumery classes, ranging in length from one day to 10 weeks ($100 and up). And Urban Glass Studio offers a weekend class in how to make neon signs ($550).
6. A bioluminescent kayak adventure. Cloud 9 Living offers experiential gifts all over the U.S., including this kayak tour ($75 per person) in Tomales Bay, near San Francisco. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can paddle through glowing waters — a rare natural phenomenon, and an experience that often sells out.