Experiences to Give: 10 Birthday Gift Ideas They'll Love

Experiences to Give: 10 Birthday Gift Ideas They'll Love

If you need a birthday gift that will make them say Wow!, bypass the clothes, home décor accessories and other material items.

 

A variety of studies have indicated that gifting an experience can result in higher levels of satisfaction than gifting a material item. 

 

Not sure what experience to give?

 

We’ve got you covered with 10 experiential gift ideas to delight your birthday person and create truly memorable moments. You'll also find some gift giving prompts to help you customize the experience so it's a perfect fit.

 

You can jump directly to the 10 experiential gift ideas here. If you're not familiar with gifting experiences, keep reading to learn more or go directly to the section by clicking its link below.

 

The Differences between Physical Gifts vs. Experiences


Before sharing some creative ideas that will make you look like a gift giving rock star, it's worth noting what an experiential gift is.

 

An experiential gift is something the receiver can experience, or an activity they can do. Though you might wrap up a physical representation or symbol of the experiential gift, the birthday person will one day experience the gift itself.

 

Giving someone tickets to the movies would be an example of experiential gifting.

 

While you might gift wrap the movie tickets, the receiver will one day use them to experience the joy of watching a film on the big screen.

 

(The tickets might even be to one of those fancy schmancy movie theaters where you can know an enjoy a full meal and cocktails in addition to some  buttery popcorn!)

 

Generally speaking,  physical gifts are tangible things you own while an experiential gift is something you participate in.

 

Why Experiences Make Great Birthday Gifts

Researchers have found that experiential gifts have longer “emotional horizons”: the person is delighted when they learn of their experiential gift; they anticipate the experience in the days/weeks/months leading up to it; they have the enjoyment of the experience itself; and then relive the memory of the experience.

 

While most people have received an item of clothing that they are excited to wear, it's far less common for us to receive movie tickets to see the latest Marvel movie where they introduce this incredible character who goes on to become our all-time favorite.

 

I like to think of the before, during and after enjoyment of experiential gifts as packing a triple dose of delight, combined with a side of novelty and a dollop of scarcity.  It's the "new" and "rare" factors that really gets the happy chemicals in our brain dancing, which is why experiential gifts can also deepen the relationship between the gift giver and gift receiver.

 

Add Birthday Decor to the Experiential Gift

The first time some girlfriends and I went away for the weekend to celebrate a 40th milestone birthday, it was fun...but it wasn’t very birthday-ish.


We tried to find decorations when we got there, but no luck. The hotel concierge didn’t have much to offer either. The birthday candle in the dessert was pretty much it---underwhelming for a milestone birthday celebration!


Over the years I’ve learned that if you want to celebrate a birthday away from home, here are the best options: 

  • Pack the birthday banner (and the necessary tools to hang it!), the happy birthday napkins, the party fans, etc. in your suitcase
  • Research your destination ahead of time. Be sure to build time in to your schedule to get the items and ready them.
  • Order an all-in-one party kit that has you covered

 

After celebrating many birthdays away from home, I took what I learned and started Birthday Butler. Easy elegant party decor that can be set-up in just a few minutes.

 

Bring party decor with you 50th milestone Birthday Butler

Friends celebrating a milestone birthday at a beach getaway.
Get this birthday centerpiece here.
 

These Birthday Gift Ideas Can Fit Every Budget

One of the challenges of making any list of gift ideas is knowing what the context is--who's giving the gift; who's receiving it; how much are they looking to spend on a gift and more.

Know that these gift ideas can be scaled up or down to fit your budget and circumstances.

 

So let's get (experiential) gifting!

 

A Birthday Gift of Travel Can Help Them See Anew 

Take the birthday person on a trip to a favorite place, or somewhere they’ve always wanted to visit.

 

The gift of travel can be especially exciting after a year of being in quarantine!

 

Depending on where you go and what your budget is, the gift of travel may be the trip of a lifetime (“Happy 50th birthday! We’re finally going to Italy like you always wanted!’) or something closer to home (a road trip to the Jelly Belly Factory because, like Ronald Reagan, jelly beans are the birthday person’s favorite guilty pleasure.

 

Gift giving prompts:  

Is there some place they’ve always wanted to visit?
Do they have a favorite place they’ve wanted to go back to?
Have you heard them comment on a story heard saying, "I wish I could do that..."?

 

Gift travel for 60th birthday milestone - Birthday Butler

 

A Birthday Gift to See their Favorite Sports Team Play 

For the sports nut in your life, few things are sweeter than attending a game or match of their favorite team or player.


(As my sports-loving son will tell you, he will happily attend pretty much any professional sports game, tournament or match.)


Most sports teams publish their schedules far in advance so it’s a bit easier to see when they might be in your area


If tickets to a professional sporting event isn’t in your budget, you might want to investigate whether tickets to a game at their alma mater might be an option.

 

Gift Giving Prompts:

What’s their favorite sport? Favorite team?
Is it feasible to go to a game or match?
Any chance the person already has plans to attend?  (If you’re not sure, proceed with caution!)

 

Milestone Birthday Gift - Take Them to a Game - Birthday Butler

 

Give Concert Tickets for a Birthday Gift


Gifting tickets so they can see their favorite band or performer in concert is downright fun. They’ll be thrilled to know they’ll be at the show and have you to thank for it!


(My mother once surprised me with concert tickets. Even though it was many years ago, I still remember it being one of my favorite gifts of all time. As I type this, I'm smiling as I remember the thrill of seeing Andy Gibb in concert!)


For that friend or family member who is an avid fan, you can gift them tickets to an event in town—or away!

 

As decent seats at a concert can be cost-prohibitive, you can also consider who their favorite band was in their younger years.  Musical acts who topped the charts years ago are likely to be more affordable than seeing Beyonce!

 

Gift Giving Prompts:

Who are some of their musical favorites?
Are any of those artists performing live this year?
Are they coming to a venue near the birthday person? 
Could you plan a trip to another city?

Send them to a concert for Milestone Birthday Butler

 

Give Lessons they'll Love as a Birthday Gift

Give the birthday person lessons to do something they’ve always wanted to do!  


Borrowing a well-worn cliché, you can give a friend a rind of cheese---or you can give them lessons on how to make many rinds of their own cheese!


Two of my closest friends love, love, love cheese, which is how the three of us ended up at a cheesemaking class in Berkeley, CA.


As I’m no cheese expert, I Googled cheesemaking lessons in my area and found a great option at FarmCurious and then gifted lessons to each friend for her birthday.


I’ve given many gifts over the years and this one was a hit. They were both so into the cheesemaking that they bought kits to make their own cheeses at home.


Every time I look at the picture below, it makes me smile thinking about how into the class they both were!

Birthday gift of cheesemaking recommended by Birthday Butler

A fun gift of cheesemaking for the birthday girls!
(One friend is on the left, the other is the second from right. I'm in the center.)

 

Gift Giving Prompts:

Is there something the birthday person loves to do? A food they love to eat?
Would they appreciate lessons to learn more?
What options are available for lessons in their area?

 

Give a Birthday Gift of a Personal Portrait Photography Session

If you’re searching for a birthday gift for someone who’s just gone through a significant transition---whether they’ve left the corporate world to strike out on their own; been through a change in relationship status; or achieved their fitness goals—consider gifting them a private session with a photographer.

Beautiful new photos  will help them celebrate how far they've come and how great they look!

 

A  talented photographer can capture a wide variety of images and make the birthday person look amazing.  This is the gift that keeps on giving as the birthday person will have a host of photos they can use to hang above their fireplace, use on their website or social media or even include on their Christmas cards.

 

Many photographers will also schedule someone to do hair and make-up and assist with wardrobe decisions so they will look extra amazing!

 

Gift Giving Prompts:

Have they looked at an old photo (perhaps on their professional bio) and said, "I really need to get new pictures...) 
Would updated photos be something the birthday person would enjoy?
Is there a photographer who specializes in a particular style of photos?
If gifting romantically, would they enjoy a boudoir photo session?

 

Gift 50th Milestone Birthday Butler

 

Give a Birthday Gift of Tickets to a Special Performance You Know They’ll Love

A Broadway musical. Trevor Noah performing. A front row seat at a TED talk.

Give them a ticket to whatever live event would make the birthday person say WOW!

As we were forced to stay home because of the global pandemic, this is a gift sure to be appreciated.

 

Gift Giving Prompts:

Is there a special event they’d love to attend?

What’s the schedule like?

Is getting tickets feasible?

 

Gift Broadway Tickets for 50th Birthday Butler

Give a Birthday Gift of a Private Museum Tour 

For the arts lover in your life, gifting them tickets to a museum can help them appreciate art in a whole new way—especially if you include a private tour guide or an art historian who specializes in their area of interest.

Depending on your budget, it may be a local museum, a regional one or the Louvre. 

Gift Giving Prompts:
Do they have a favorite museum?
Is a private tour or expert an option?
What are scheduling options?

 

Private museum tour for milestone birthday butler

Give a Birthday Gift of Relaxation at a Spa

Ah, to be pampered!

Gift a relaxing experience at a spa to someone who needs to destress or anyone who wants to feel lulled into a sense of relaxation.

Schedule time for them to be fussed over and let them pick treatments that make them giddy. 

If you don't want to break the bank, it may be helpful to give a gift certificate with a specific dollar amount on it so you can stay within your budget.

Gift Giving Prompts:
Does the birthday person appreciate pampering?
Are there spas in their area?
Can you go with them?  😉

 

Birthday Gift of Relaxation at a Spa - Birthday Butler

Treat them to a Birthday Gift of a Shopping Spree

Treating someone to a shopping spree for a downright decadent birthday gift!


The notion that they can get what they want and it will be taken care of, can be exactly what the birthday girl or boy needs.


Simply select the desired shopping venue (in person or online!), set a few ground rules (whether that's two new outfits; a set dollar amount; anything you can grab in under a minute ala a game show) and get shopping!

Gift Giving Prompts:
What's a favorite store, mall or website?
What kind of guidelines do you want to provide so you are BOTH happy with the gift?When do you want to do it?

 

50th Birthday Gift of a Shopping Spree-idea from Birthday Butler