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13 Experience Gifts for Kids: Create Memories Instead of Clutter This Holiday Season!

Just For Fun
Kids With Sailboats in Luxembourg Gardens in Paris Kids With Sailboats in Luxembourg Gardens in Paris

Giving your kids the gift of experiences instead of things can open their minds and create lifelong memories. Five years ago, our family took a two-week family vacation to Europe. It was our first international trip with the kids, then ages 3, 8 and 11. Our two oldest still talk about the fun they had propelling big wooden sailboats around the duck pond at the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, bike riding through Vondelpark in Amsterdam, and our houseboat rental on the Amstel River with the swing on the deck. Even our youngest remembers seeing the Eiffel Tower "sparkle" at night and riding in the basket of a Dutch bakfiet bike. We still joke about the massive amount of crêpes, Belgian waffles, and Dutch pancakes we all consumed.

There's a saying that "travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.” I think the same can be said of all experiences. Unlike physical ‘things’ that provide only temporary happiness, experiences create lasting memories and joy that become part of our life story and identity. "We are not our possessions, but we are the accumulation of everything we've seen, the things we've done, and the places we've been." Things won't change who we are, but experiences certainly can. 

While Millennials get a bad rap for many things, they are a generation that truly 'gets' this. More than any generation before, Millennials are prioritizing experiencing over possessing, with nearly 80% reporting they would choose to spend money on an experience over purchasing a desirable thing. Sixty-nine percent feel experiences make them more connected to others, and research proves them right. Giving an experience as a gift is proven to forge stronger bonds between people than a material one and provides more lasting happiness

This doesn't mean that you need to whisk your kids off to Europe Christmas morning, or that you should ditch all of the toys under the tree this year. However, perhaps think twice before adding yet another Squishy to that already staggering collection (or is that just my daughter?). Instead, think about replacing some of that clutter-to-be with meaningful experiences that will provide lasting memories and joy well beyond the holiday season.

Check out our list below for some experience gift ideas, plus money-saving deals and tips! As a Washington, DC area mom, note that some of the deals mentioned are specific to the D.C. and Baltimore areas. 

13 Experience Gifts for Kids

1     Museum, Zoo or Aquarium Membership
Is there a local children's museum, zoo or aquarium your kids love? Purchase a family membership and make a pact to visit at least once per month. Your kids will love having something fun to look forward to each month. 

2     Classes or Camps
Give your child the gift of exploring a new interest or developing or refining a new skill with a session of classes, or a week of summer camp. There are so many classes and camps available these days, online included! If the class or camp requires special equipment, like dance shoes, a baseball glove, or instrument, wrap that up to place under the tree. Save up to 50% off lessons and classesSave up to 50% off school holiday, summer and sleepaway camps.

3     Choose-Your-Adventure Gift Card Pack
Bundle some gift cards or passes together for some of your kids' favorite places and let them choose their upcoming adventures! There are so many options to choose from that work for all different ages and seasons: Laser tag, ice skating, bowling, indoor play and jump places, rock climbing gyms, zip lining and high ropes adventure courses, paint ball, movie tickets, trampoline parks, pottery painting, aerial arts gyms, go-karts, mini golf, escape rooms and more! Score discount passes for a wide variety of kids activities & events

4     Sporting Event Tickets
Surprise your junior sports enthusiast with tickets to see their favorite team, or even season tickets or a multi-game ticket package. Minor league and college teams are more affordable options. If you live in the DC area, check out this great holiday deal for Washington Nationals ticket packages starting at only $49. Football fan? Score 83% off Club Level seats for the Washington Redskins.

5     Amusement Park Season Pass
My middle schooler recently completed a life timeline project for his history class. Included in his top five most memorable moments to date: Riding every single roller coaster at our local amusement park. Not every family can afford a Disney vacation, but season passes to a local attraction may be within reach. Many amusement parks offer early bird discounts on season passes around the holidays, so be sure to check for those.

6     Streaming Music Subscription
Our boys love listening to music, but we didn't love their constant charges on our iTunes account. Our gift of a 1-year subscription to Apple Music last Christmas was a huge hit (pun intended). Check out this CNET review of available streaming music services.  

7     Kindle Unlimited Subscription
"That's the thing about books, they let you travel without moving your feet." ~ Jhumpa Lahiri
If your child is an avid reader, a digital book subscription makes the perfect gift. Kindle Unlimited will run you about $10/month.

8     Subscription Boxes
Give your child the gift of a new experience every month with a subscription box service. There are so many wonderful options out there, covering all different interests. Whether your child is into science or coding or cooking or arts & crafts or video games, there's something for them. Check out My Subscription Addiction for a comprehensive list of options for kids of all ages. Save 20% off a subscription for one of our favorites, Little Passports

9     Theatre or Concert Tickets
There's nothing quite like seeing your favorite musical artist, group or entertainer live in concert. Check out tour schedules to see if your child's favorite is coming to town and surprise them with tickets. Tickets to an upcoming play, musical or dance performance are also great choices. A season subscription for community or youth theatre is a great option for younger kids and usually very affordable. Save up to 50% off tickets for upcoming kid-friendly shows and performances.

10     Magazine Subscriptions
Magazine subscriptions make great gifts for kids of all ages (and adults, too!), with so many different options to choose from covering just about any interest: Science, sports, music, cars, animals, cooking, dance, art, gaming, fashion, current events, jewelry, pop culture, yoga . . . you get the idea. Get a one-year magazine subscription for only $2 - choose from dozens of popular titles! How's that for an affordable gift?! Highlights™ Magazines are always a great choice for younger children. Save 52% off a one-year subscription.

11    YES Day
Give your child the gift of designing their own day of fun. In our house, we call this "YES Day" where we say yes to whatever they want to do. Grab some brochures for several fun local attractions (or print out material online), design a gift certificate with a budget listed and let them have fun planning what your family will do that day. The fun is as much in the planning as it is in the doing. 

12     Special Trip
Two years ago, I surprised my husband and boys with a trip to Florida for Washington Nationals Spring Training. My husband still says it was the best gift he's ever received, not only because he loves baseball, but because he got to share it with his boys. Think about what your kids love most and plan something special that you know they will love. It doesn't have to be extravagant or ultra expensive. Perhaps just playing in an indoor pool at a local hotel is all they need to have a great time. A family camping trip is also a fun and affordable experience gift for kids. Find affordable family-friendly getaways. 

13     Lifetime Keepsakes
Some of the best gifts I've received are those that remind me of great experiences. As I prepared to write this article, leafing through the photo book of our European travels brought back so many great memories. I'm grateful to have that physical reminder that brings me joy every time I look at it. One of the most unique and special products I've come across in this category recently is a Skylight frame. Skylight is the first touch-screen, WiFi connected digital photo frame that you can update by email from anywhere. The photos appear within seconds after you send them - a great way to display and remember all of those great experiences! Save $25 off a Skylight Frame.

CertifiKID receives compensation from some of the businesses mentioned in this post. However, we only promote businesses that we genuinely believe in and think will appeal to CertifiKID subscribers.

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CertifiKID was founded by a mom with a passion for helping parents provide the best experiences for their children on a budget. From outings to adventures, classes to camps, theater to sporting events, amusement parks to getaways, CertifiKID provides the best family-friendly experiences at unbeatable prices. Sign up for family-friendly deals in your area and start saving!