Giving the gift of memories with Travelzoo
Finding thoughtful Christmas presents for family and friends in the run-up to the big day can sometimes feel overwhelming. Giving a gift is all about making someone feel loved, so more of us are choosing an experience gift rather than a material present, and a survey conducted by Travelzoo found that 84% of people would feel happy or excited to receive an experience gift.
With this in mind, we wanted to find out how people have felt about the experience gifts they have received, and the special memories that have been created along the way.
Our respondents below have shared experiences ranging from 30th birthday surprises to breathtaking marriage proposals -- memories that they treasure to this day and that might inspire you as you do your festive shopping this year.
'He loved it so much, his dad got him another lesson for Christmas'
Kirsty Daniel, 25, from Edinburgh said: "For my boyfriend's 21st birthday, I got him a flying lesson. I got to sit in the back of the plane, and flying over Edinburgh and the coast was incredible and much better than any physical present I could think of for a big birthday!
“I've always thought an experience present is more impactful than anything physical. He has actually done a second hour of flying since, too; he loved it so much, his dad got him another lesson for Christmas the next year!"
'My partner proposed on a tour around beautiful King's College'
Carly Beech, 22, from Sheffield told us she and her partner travelled to Cambridge for a day trip as it was the location of their first date. She said:
"We walked around the city, looking at the beautiful sights, and sat in a pub by the river, where we watched people go punting. After going for lunch in the city, we picked up tickets to have a tour around King’s College.
“We walked through the grounds and admired the building, and as we got to the end, my partner got down on one knee and proposed. Cambridge has since remained a special place for us, and we love going to visit whenever we can."
'It would have been serene had we not kept falling off!'
Louise Chapman, 39, from Lincolnshire told us: "I'll always remember setting out on the glassy water of Loch Lomond on paddleboards with my young son and husband, the impressive peaks of The Trossachs National Park rising up around us, and not another person to be seen.
“We'd found a farm that had diversified into hiring out wetsuits and paddleboards, and it felt like we'd discovered a secret.
“The scenery and solitude reminded me of New Zealand and was a setting brilliantly equipped to remind you how vast and amazing the world is. It would have been serene had we not kept falling off quite so spectacularly, with masses of hilarity!"
She added: “Equally exhilarating was ghyll-scrambling in the Lake District, which involved climbing up the side of a hill in wetsuits then stepping into a stream and working our way down in it, leaping from the tops of waterfalls into the pools below.
“Again, we did this as a family, this time with a guide, and it was thrilling and a little frightening to see my little boy taking the leaps -- I admit I did have to look away a few times as he did it so he couldn't see the fear on my face!
“These are the moments I live for. My husband and I barely ever buy each other tangible gifts -- we use birthdays and Christmas as an excuse to invest in tickets, weekends away and special treats. I'm not a fan of buying things for the sake of it, but we've never once regretted spending on an experience."
'My 30th birthday experiences were the best gifts I've ever received!'
Charles Baxter from Cambridgeshire said: "For my 30th birthday, my now wife took me on a trip to London featuring a series of surprises. It was amazing! On the train to the capital, she presented me with my first envelope of many, hinting at my first 'birthday experience'.
“I'm an Arsenal fan, and she took me on a guided tour of the stadium hosted by former Arsenal player Perry Groves. It was the absolute best start to the adventure. From there, we dropped our bags at our hotel. I love tech and she'd booked us into a cool place in Westminster where you controlled the TV, lights and room temperature from an app on your phone!
“For the rest of the day I was presented with envelopes letting me know all my surprises -- a Harry Potter exhibition at the House of MinaLima on Greek Street, where you can see loads of the artwork from the films, then onto Gordons Wine Bar for a cheeseboard and wine, and then a comedy club just off Leicester Square.
“The next day we went for cake and champagne for breakfast, to Namco Funscape in Westminster for arcade games, bowling and pool, then in the evening my final surprise was an open-air cinema in Soho Square to watch 'The Big Lebowski'. Two days packed full of surprise experiences -- the best presents I've ever received!"
'It meant the world to share an important birthday bonding with my mum'
Aoife Daly, 24, from Essex said: "My favourite gift experience was going to see 'The Phantom of the Opera' with my mum for my 21st birthday. It was so special -- the show was simply magical and it meant the world to share an important birthday bonding with my mum."
'One of the most memorable experiences ever was a birthday hot air balloon ride'
Daniel Benning, 29, from Reading, told us: "One of the most memorable experiences my girlfriend and I have had together is a day spent in a hot air balloon sailing over the Thames River in Henley.
“Nobody tells you that, before you jump into the basket and soar like a sparrow, you have to help set up said balloon. This all adds to the experience, and if anything, helps build excitement as you see the air rise and your carriage tower over you like a skyscraper.
“Add in the fact that our pilot for day was part balloon enthusiast, part mad scientist
and this created a day that will live long in the memory!
“There’s something quite surreal in the moment where you enter the basket, take your seat and the weights are removed from the balloon. You have no control, but there’s something quite therapeutic about climbing into the clouds in an open air basket.
“Words will never do justice for the views you will see at that height, as cars are transformed into little ants and the place you’ve known so well suddenly looks completely unfamiliar in its new perspective.
“It’s really quite humbling being that high up and knowing that as big as your day-to-day problems can sometimes feel, we are such a tiny part of this gigantic universe.
“Would I go again? Yes. Are you missing out if you haven’t? Absolutely."
'It's much better to make memories than buy gifts!'
Celine Rowley, 23, from Oxford said: "My boyfriend and I always get each other experiences, such as holidays or concert tickets. I bought him a race day last year, which he loved. We always agree that it’s much better to make memories than buy gifts!"
'It's safe to say we won't forget this trip'
Gemma Trippett, 28, from Peterborough said: "I was so lucky that my mum chose me to go with her on a 2-night spa break at Ragdale Hall to celebrate her 50th birthday. I have never felt so relaxed, and the facilities were second to none.
“I also surprised my husband with a weekend break in Devon for his 30th birthday earlier this year. The cottage was cosy and perfect for our little family. With a wood burner, toys provided for children, stunning food on offer from the host and a log-fired hot tub, it's safe to say we won't forget this trip."
Have these stories inspired you to buy an experience for a loved one this Christmas? If the answer is yes, we have hundreds of gift experiences to choose from so you can give them a gift they will never forget.