In this age of disposal incomes and overwhelming materialism, it’s becoming increasingly difficult buying gifts for friends and family members. Add into the mix a growing concern that the world’s oceans are suffocating underneath a blanket of discarded plastic, and the job gets even harder.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could dispense with buying even more things for people and instead, buy the gift of experience, opportunity, excitement and personal growth? Enter the gift experience.
Gift experiences have been around for decades, but thanks to changing attitudes, have seen a recent resurgence in popularity. Now more than ever, gift experiences are a fabulous way to show someone how much you care about them.
In this post, we’re going to summarise some of the incredible gift experience Jade and I have already embarked upon, before we then think about what we want to do next.
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Hot Air Ballooning
Hot air ballooning is one of life’s ultimate experiences. Nothing else comes close to replicating the feeling you get when sailing slowly above the countryside in a basket made of wicker, suspended only by a nylon balloon filled with hot air.
I bought this experience as a gift to Jade. At the time, it seemed like a great idea, but as the day came around, I must admit, I got a little nervous. I needn’t have of course. Balloons have been taking off since the 1700s and a vast majority of those flights have been uneventful.
Our flight, operated by Virgin Balloon Flights, took off from the Hertfordshire countryside just after dawn one chilly morning and sailed northwards towards Bedfordshire. As the sun slowly rose, we were treated to crystal clear views of the home counties, of planes taking off from nearby Luton Airport and even the skyline of London 60km (37 miles) away.
Our pilot was a total professional with plenty of experience under his belt. He clearly loved his job and his calm commentary and patient question-answering really added to the experience.
Ring Making Workshop
Jade and I eloped in May 2018 and we were keen to make the entire thing as personal as possible. This extended to our rings. We didn’t want to simply buy our rings from a shop, we wanted to make our own.
After some research, we found Rachel Jeffrey Contemporary Jewellery in Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire, who run a quaint jewellery workshop situated in a disused water mill.
Our experience started in the morning and ran until mid-afternoon. The two of us and a small group of other couples were guided through the entire process, from warming and shaping a flat stick of gold, to filing, to treating and to polishing until we had each made a beautiful ring. Some parts were painstakingly intricate, while other parts were very straightforward.
The entire process was great fun. Many of us don’t often get the opportunity to spend so much time crafting something so pretty with our bare hands. This made the experience feel really special.
Find Out More: Read the full account of our ‘Make Your Own Wedding Rings’ experience.
Ever since embarking upon our first segway taster session through the Buckinghamshire countryside, we’ve become a little bit addicted to riding Segways. Having since driven Segway’s in Salzburg and Valetta, we have a strong appreciation for how fun they are and how convenient they are for touring cities.
Our ride in Salzburg in particular demonstrated how well suited they are for exploration. Not only did we cover a large area, extending beyond the city limits, but we crested steep hills with no effort on our part.
Add into the mix the conspicuous absence of any emissions and you’ve got a winning formula as far as we’re concerned.
Book Your Segway Tour Gift Experience
Horse Riding Experience
Our first and only horse riding experience to date took place just outside Bled, Slovenia. Neither of us had had any experience with horses before, despite us both longing to spend some time getting to know some. There’s something strangely beguiling about horses, right?
I had bought the experience for Jade’s birthday and had kept it a secret right up until the stable owner came to collect us from our hotel. He broke the news by asking Jade whether she’d ever ridden a horse.
With thunder rolling around in the distance and under darkening skies, we set off on a circular route taking in the beautiful Slovenian countryside. Jade’s horse was a young, mellow trainee and was attached to our guide’s horse for parts of the journey. He was still learning the ropes but, we were told, showed great promise.
My horse, Philip, was a lot more experienced. As we set off, our guide told me that he was formerly the Slovenian president’s horse and that I should be honoured to be riding him. It wasn’t long before I realised that this was in fact, nonsense.
Philip liked to eat on the move. Every few metres, he’d slow down to grab at tree branches, stripping them of their leaves. Before long, Jade and the guide had cantered off into the distance, leaving me politely tapping Philip on the rear to encourage him to hurry up. He responded occasionally, but mostly kept at his own pace.
Secretly, I actually quite liked Philip. I liked that he had stacks of character and his slow pace allowed me to spend more time taking in the scenery. We lolloped through woodland, along country roads and through streams, with the Slovenian Alps providing a dramatic backdrop. It was wonderful.
Find Out More: Read the full account of a brilliant day in and around Bled, Slovenia, including our first horse ride.
The site for our first ever climb was Mġarr ix-Xini, on Malta’s second-largest island, Gozo. Much like the rest of Gozo, the gorge we climbed was gorgeous, particularly under blue skies and bright Winter sunshine.
Showing us the ropes was former ice climbing world champion, Stevie Haston. Stevie’s celebrity status was proven when we arrived at the gorge and was stopped by a starstruck Austrian climber who excitedly asked him for a photo.
Just getting to our first climb was exciting enough. We edged our way down a steep slope, scrambled across limestone rocks and down into the gorge. Jade and I held each other’s hands over the trickier bits whilst Stevie went ahead in his flip-flops.
It was a calm and sunny day, not too hold or cold, therefore perfect for climbing. Our three climbs were each around 30m high. They were taxing, sometimes a bit scary, but ultimately great fun. Stevie was supportive throughout and gave lots of sage advice. We always felt like we were in good hands and it didn’t take us long to put our trust in him and the equipment.
We’re so glad we gave climbing a go and will definitely be looking to continue our climbing careers. If you’re at all interested in climbing, we totally recommend you give it a go.
Find out more: Read a full account of our first climbing experience on the island of Gozo, Malta.
Surfing and Portugal go hand-in-hand, so we couldn’t visit without giving it a try. Our beginner’s lesson took place on a murky day at Praia Grande, world famous for its surfer-friendly waves.
After donning wetsuits, we had a brief warm-up and some tuition on the beach, before we headed into the water with boards in tow.
It wasn’t long before we discovered how easy it is to fall off a surfboard. Initially, we stayed lying down on the board, only lifting our upper body as the wave propelled us and our boards forward.
After a couple of goes, we attempted to stand. Staying loose and low is crucial to keeping your balance, but that’s easier said than done when there’s a crest of water suddenly carrying you towards the beach. There’s a lot to think about all at once, and the excitement, noise and flurry of water meant we struggled to keep our brains in gear. Our first few attempts didn’t end well. We were soon submerged in waist-high Atlantic salt water.
After a few more attempts, something clicked. When it comes to surfing, practice really does make perfect it seems, as suddenly, we both managed to stand on our boards and surf, albeit for around 10 metres.
Find Out More: Find out more about our first ever surfing experience on Praia Grande, Portugal.
The popularity of indoor skydiving has soared in recent years and as a result, more and more wind tunnels are opening up. Many people see skydiving itself as a step too far and something they wouldn’t give serious consideration to, but indoor skydiving is different.
On the face of it, indoor skydiving appears to be safer, seems more accessible and frankly, less insane, so more people are willing to try it. We ourselves gave it a try and really enjoyed it.
After a brief tutorial, basically describing the body position to adopt once inside the tunnel and after being kitted out in some rather fetching overalls, we headed in and waited our turn. As you might imagine, the fans creating the wind necessary to skydive create some considerable noise, and so the instructors communicate by means of a tv screen and multiple hand gestures.
When it came to our turn, there was actually very little for us to do, other than flip forward into the tunnel and relax. Instructors inside the tunnel take control of you and spin you about a bit, before pushing back towards the door.
If you can pick up a cheap deal, indoor skydiving is worth trying out. We were slightly caught out by the terms of our experience and ended up slightly disappointed to have only one go in the tunnel each. If you do give this experience a try, give the small print a good going over so that your expectations are right.
Treasure Hunt/Murder Mystery
These can come in various guises – some are app based, while others are in a printed booklet. Some are guided, while others are self-guided. In all cases, there are always a series of clues that guide you around specific points in a city, often to solve a mystery or to find hidden treasure.
Real-world treasure hunts are a great way to explore parts of a city you might otherwise never have seen. They’re also pretty inexpensive and really good fun!
Amazing Gift Experiences We’re Yet To Try
We’re always on the look out for our next adventure. Here are some other amazing gift experiences we’d love to try.
Learn the throw clay like a pro potter. Soon enough, your kitchen cabinet will be full of unique crockery.
Glass Blowing Class
The secrets of the fine art of glass blowing is a mere puff away.
Kite Surfing Lesson
Waves not strong enough for you? Let’s see what the wind can do!
Learn what’s tasty and nutritious whilst out in the wilderness. More importantly, learn what you must steer clear of.
Bee’s are essential to life as we know it, so discover how to nature and care for these wonderfully sociable little creatures.
Brush the llama. Feed the llama. Scoop up the llama’s poo. Have selfie with the llama. What’s not to love?!
Liven up birthday cards and correspondence with beautifully precise handwriting. Everyone will be shocked!
Paddle boarding is huge right! Jump on the bandwagon and set sail aboard a board.
Use muscles you never knew existed to climb and glide your way up and down decorative silks.
Sheer insanity! Effectively the only way to feel what’s it’s like to be dolphin.
Still Struggling to Decide?
If you’re still finding it difficult to choose the best gift experience, don’t forget that you can buy themed gift packs that include a handful of different experience options.
Do you have any other gift experience recommendations? Have you tried any of the experiences we’ve covered in this post? Let us know in the comments below.