Why You Should Gift Experiences Instead of Things This Year

Four hands form the letters L-O-V-E in front of an ocean backdrop.

The calendar just rolled over into December, which means it’s officially time to start thinking about Christmas (if that’s something you celebrate, of course!).

Experts are predicting some seriously massive retail spending this holiday season—like, $1 trillion kinda massive—and with the annual surge in consumerism come uncomfortable questions of sustainability, ethics, and happiness:

Where is all this stuff being made and by who? What impact is its production having on the environment? Are we buying it because we want to or because we’ve been conditioned to think we need it? Will it actually make us happy? Do we really need more things?

You might be thinking, “UGHHH, girl, I am already up to my eyeballs in to-dos before the year ends—please don’t give me something else to stress over!!”

And believe me, I get it. I’m not about to tell you to make space in your busy calendar for handmade gift-crafting or existential meditation (although if you can find the time, you are a literal superhuman and can you please tell me your secrets??). My will is just as weak as anyone else’s when it comes to the shiny new things popping up constantly in our feeds and inboxes.

And that is 100% okay! Wanting and buying stuff is not inherently bad. But there is truth to the idea that you can have too much of a good thing.

Recent research into the psychological effects of materialism shows a strong relationship between our desire to own more stuff and an increase in anxiety, depression, and disengagement from others—and the hyper-materialistic holiday season only seems to aggravate the problem.

One solution? Channeling some of the money you would’ve spent on things into experiences, instead.

Not only do experiences come in all shapes and sizes (vacations, cooking classes, sports, volunteering, art shows, spa days… the list is endless!), but studies suggest they actually make us happier.

Being a boutique travel agency, our favorite experience to gift is (of course) travel! Whether it’s a romantic couples getaway, a group trip with your besties, or a well-deserved solo vacay (“Merry Christmas to me!”), you’ll be coming home with incredible stories, fresh perspective, happy memories, and a deeper sense of connection to this planet we all share. Can the new iPhone give you all that?

Here are just a few reasons why you might want to consider giving the gift of travel this year:

A woman in a black dress and sun hat smiles in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

The happiness we gain from traveling continues to grow over time

Think about the last time you bought something you were really excited about. Maybe it was an expensive outfit, the latest smartphone, a chic piece of furniture, or a new car—something you’d been eyeing for a while and finally decided to pull the trigger on.

At first, you might’ve been a little obsessed with it, right? You probably got a bubbly boost of happiness every time you looked at it. But over time, that excitement inevitably fades until the object you used to think about constantly becomes just another part of your daily life.

The joy we gain from experiences, on the other hand, has been shown to increase over time. A life-changing trip to the other side of the globe isn’t something you buy, use, and never think about again. That experience becomes part of your identity and lives in your memories, growing rosier and more cherished over time.

There’s a reason the phrase “leading a rich life” doesn’t really have anything to do with wealth or possessions—experiences (and travel in particular) have a lasting value that material goods can’t match.

An elderly man in a blue baseball cap smiles from behind baskets of spices and produce at his market stall.

Travel allows us to support small, local businesses both at home and abroad

Small Business Saturday was just over a week ago (Nov. 24), so this is something that’s been on our minds.

Not only does travel give you the chance to support small businesses at home by using a local agency to plan your vacation (hey heyyy! 🙌), you also have the opportunity to boost small businesses abroad by seeking out family-owned accommodations and local tour guides, shopping for fresh food at markets instead of grocery stores, and buying handmade souvenirs from local artisans.

Using your passion for travel to empower and encourage hard-working business owners around the globe is awesome—and it flat out makes you feel good! (Gifts that help us do good AND feel good are the best kinds of gifts)

Two smiling women with their arms around each other’s shoulders outdoors.

Travel gives us a chance to share the experience with loved ones

When you give someone a thing as a present, it’s typically for their enjoyment alone (no one’s gifting their BFF a pair of cute shoes and then going, “I really want us to wear these together”).

An incredible trip to the Caribbean, though? Or Europe? Or South America? That’s the sort of gift that’s made for sharing. ❤️ Bringing someone along for the ride gives you a double shot of those feel-good endorphins—enjoyment of the experience itself plus the happiness that comes from being there in the moment with someone you care about.

You and your SO both buying Fitbits won’t bring you together the same way that a dreamy escape to the Mayan Riviera will, just as you’re far more likely to bond with a stranger over a movie you both watched and loved rather than the fact that you both happen to own the same pair of jeans.

The bottom line is that shared experiences connect us in ways shared consumption simply can’t. And if gifting an experience—big OR small—can help us have a simpler, happier, more fulfilling holiday, then I am definitely all for it.

 

 

Got someone on your Nice List who deserves the gift of travel this year? (It’s okay if the answer is “Yeah, ME!” 😜) Let us play Santa and sort out all the details for you so all you’ve gotta do is grab your passport and go!

Courtnie Nichols

TravelBash, 14260 West Newberry Road #325, Newberry, FL, 32669