19 Incredible Travel Experiences to Give as Gifts
From clothes to bags to accessories to technology, stuff is fun. Trust us, we love stuff. But stuff doesn't live on in our memories like those unbelievable, unforgettable, life-altering experiences: summiting a mountain in the Himalayas; spotting whales in the waves off of British Columbia; or eating the most incredible croissant in the City of Lights.
This holiday season, try mixing things up for your loved ones by giving the gift of experience. We've hand-picked a selection of some of the coolest, take-your-breath-away experiences out there, from Vermont to Malibu to Siberia to Costa Rica. From epic adventure gift ideas to memberships to world-renowned museums, there's something here for every kind of traveler.
This year, Travel + Leisure is offering its most comprehensive gift guides ever. The goal: to make sure you can find the perfect present for everyone on your list. Below, our top picks for travelers who love to get up and go, love an adventure, and love to remember.
National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass
This year-long pass is perfect for those who love exploring the great outdoors of the U.S. With full access to all national parks, the pass holder is free to roam from Yosemite to Acadia. Each pass holder can bring along up to three accompanying adults where entrance fees are normally charged.
To buy: usgs.gov, $80
Membership at The Met in New York City
For your family and friends who love nothing more than spending a leisurely afternoon strolling through exhibits at the largest art museum in the U.S., a membership at the Met will bring them a little closer to the action. Members get to enjoy express admission, complimentary guest passes, and exclusive access to new exhibitions.
To buy: metmuseum.org, from $100
La Cuisine French Market Tour and Cooking Class
This exciting French market tour paired with an authentic Parisian cooking class is parfait for the francophile and/or chef in your life. The Île Saint-Louis à La Table experience takes participants on a tour of the oldest street in Paris, followed by a hands-on cooking class, and a French dinner overlooking the Seine. Bon appetit!
To buy: lacuisineparis.com, $190
Afternoon Tea at Palm Court, The Balmoral in Edinburgh
There's no better way to make a loved one feel royal than with high tea in Scotland at a glamorous hotel. Treat your friends or family to afternoon tea at the iconic Balmoral's elegant and award-winning restaurant, Palm Court. Here under the canopy of exotic palm trees, visitors can sip on his or her choice of loose leaf tea while enjoying fresh bites like traditional scones with clotted cream, seasonal pastries, and savory sandwiches.
To book: roccofortehotels.com, $47
Tapas Lovers Tour of Barcelona
On this three-stop walking tour in Barcelona, foodies can get an authentic taste of traditional Spanish tapas. Participants will learn all about the Spanish approach to dining while enjoying tapas and wine during an exploration of this beautiful Catalonian city.
To book: foodlovertour.com, $110
Homestyle Seoul Cooking 101
Hosted by former actor-turned-chef Yang Chul, this cooking class, available though Airbnb Experiences, offers participants an intro to tradition Korean cuisine, with a Japanese flare. The class will meet at the host's cozy restaurant, Yang Chul Cooking in Sinsa, pick a classic Korean menu, and interpret it into a casual house dinner.
To book: airbnb.com, $69
Skydiving in Vermont
For that someone in your life who is always seeking a thrill, Vermont Skydiving Adventures offers a safe and exciting first-time skydiving experience for those who wish to soar high above the earth. With just 20 minutes of training, jumpers will quickly be on their way to a unforgettable experience. This option is perfect for first-time or one-time jumpers, as an instructor will be attached during the entire dive.
To book: vtskydiving.com, $250
Malibu Wine Hikes, Hike & Harvest
A Hike & Harvest adventure at Saddlerock Ranch includes a moderate hike through the estate, specifically to the organic vegetable garden where hikers can collect a generous produce bounty (think fresh fava beans, kale, avocados, and various citrus). After the hike, you'll head back to the Malibu Wines tasting room to sip five different local wines. All that, and beautiful canyon vistas, to boot.
To book: malibuwinehikes.com, $50
A Stay at Estate Finca Maridadi
Send your loved one on a luxurious holiday to Spain, where they can wander amongst olive groves, sunbath by a crystal-clear pool, stroll through private gardens, and catch breathtaking views of the Sierra de Grazalema at Villa la Cancela, one of three luxury properties at Estate Finca Maridadi. Located on the four hectare property close to Ronda, Andalusia, the estate is the ultimate Spanish paradise, and just under one hour's drive to the sparkling Mediterranean.
To book: finca-maridadi.com $1,285
Pizza Class in Naples
When in Naples, learn how to make pizza – and not just any pizza, but the real deal. Give the gift of spending a morning or afternoon with Tommaso Mastromatteo, one of Naples' best certified pizzaiolos. The class will include authentic Italian espresso, a walk through a local neighborhood, and lessons about the best products and techniques for mastering the art of the perfect Neapolitan pizza.
To book: eatinitalyfoodtours.com, $117
Antarctic Climate Adventure
This is the ultimate wilderness journey. The Climate Cruise takes participants on an epic tour through the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula. For 10 days, travelers experience the rugged, natural beauty of the Antarctic while learning about the unique environment and wildlife from on-board lecturers. From taking excursions to spot humpback whales and leopard seals, to hikes with panoramic glacial views, to visiting a chinstrap penguin colony, embarking on this epic adventure will create memories for a lifetime.
To book: quarkexpeditions.com, $8,850
The Edge of the Earth: Fogo Island
Known to some as one of the four corners of the Earth, Fogo Island is a place of untamed beauty. Simultaneously remote and accessible, a rugged coastline and unique, intimate community make Fogo Island one of the most fascinating getaways in the northern hemisphere. Located off the Northeast coast of Newfoundland, the Fogo Island Inn has 29 guest suites and offers an unparalleled, luxury accommodation experience in this special place.
To book: fogoislandinn.ca, from $1,675
Save the Sea Turtles in Costa Rica
If you have any aquatic animal lovers in your life, this trip would be the gift of a lifetime. With over 18,000 volunteers since 1998, RCDP International Volunteer offers enriching service trip experiences in over 20 destinations. Through this exciting sea turtle conservation project, volunteers have the opportunity to nurse sea turtles back to health while studying and exploring the captivating local culture and environment of the Osa Peninsula.
To book: rcdpinternationalvolunteer.org, from $525
Broadway Historic Theatre and Commercial District Walking Tour
Any history buff will love this close look at the Broadway Historic Theatre and Commercial District of downtown Los Angeles. Once the entertainment epicenter of L.A., Broadway boasted state-of-the-art opera theaters, movie palaces, and massive departments stores. Join the L.A. Conservancy for an enriching tour of the district, where participants get to see the old sites, learn about the culture and architecture of decades past, and hear about the area's current revitalization projects.
To book: laconservancy.org, $15
An excursion for the ultimate explorer. Head to Russia's far east, the Kamchatka Peninsula, and discover some of the world's most breathtaking beauty, untouched by mankind. This eight day trip takes travelers to Avachinsky Volcano, the Bystraya river, the Dachniy hot springs, Mount Vachkazhets and Avachinsky Bay, and provides ample opportunity for spotting wildlife like brown bears, arctic foxes, mink, and more. The trip offers comfortable accommodations and meals in Paratunka in addition to English-speaking local guides.
To book: 56thparallel.com, $2,080
Yoga in the Himalayas with Ananda
For the yogi globetrotter in your life. Ananda destination spa offers a five-, seven-, or 14-day yoga and spa package that allows participants to get deeper into his or her spiritual practice. With the stunning backdrop of the Himalayan foothills and the meandering Ganges river, there is no better place to find some balance.
To book: anandaspa.com, prices vary
Lending a Hand on Lakota Land
For those who love the adventure of giving back, a service trip with not-for-profit Simply Smiles to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation provides a rich and unparalleled experience. Home to four bands of Lakota Indians, La Plant, South Dakota has experienced years of poverty and innumerable challenges. Join the Simply Smiles team for a life-changing week of building homes, providing fun activities for local Lakota children and adults, and bringing hope through hands-on support to a community in need.
To book: simplysmiles.org, $750
Safari in South Africa
Spend nine nights traveling to the highlights of South Africa. You'll cover the Sabi Sand Private Reserve, Cape Town, the Cape Winelands and the Kalahari Reserve — and it's all topped with a slumber under the stars!
To book: rothschildsafaris.com, From $11,444 / adult, $8903 / child (8-16 years)
Airbnb Gift Certificate
Talk about endless possibilities. If you want to give the gift of accommodation or adventure, but are unsure of where he or she will travel next, opt for a gift certificate from Airbnb. It's the perfect way to leave an experience open-ended and up to the recipient, so her or she is free to roam, with a little help from a friend.
To book: airbnb.com, prices vary