Last-Minute Holiday Gift Experiences

Need a present in a pinch? Remember, experiences > stuff

By Katie O'Reilly

December 18, 2017


Photo courtesy of evron2001/iStock

If you’re like us, you’re sweating the holiday crunch because you still don’t have gifts for all the enviros on your list. In your defense, greenies can be pretty hard to please—which is why quality time and thoughtful touches are where it’s at. Read on and relax; there’s no need to brave the mall or order more wrapping paper. We’ve curated eight gifty experiences that’ll keep recipients feeling merry and bright, well into 2018.

Hipcamp site in Finney Farms, Washington

A Hipcamp site in Finney Farms, Washington | Courtesy of Erinn Hale

How does the gift of tent views, campfire stories, cozy cabins, Instagram-worthy yurts, tiny houses, primitive backcountry adventures, glamping, and/or airstream excitement sound? Check out this digital gift card from Hipcamp, a.k.a. the Airbnb of campsites. Hipcamp catalogs thousands of wide-ranging sites and helps users conveniently book, plan, and host all manner of camping adventures.

Trail food

Present the outdoor adventurers with a cure to boring trail fuel, via the gift of a subscription to Trailfoody ($20 to $37 per month). The service delivers a monthly sack stocked with all-natural, hard-to-find snacks. These upgrades to garden-variety adventure fare like gourmet trail mixes, artisanal fruit leather, energy drinks, bars, and jerky will make trail sommeliers out of your buds.

Artwork of mountains

Don’t have a gift to put under the tree? Your loved ones won’t be disappointed once they hear you’ve commissioned custom artwork that benefits causes they hold dear. ArtSugar is an online gallery that allows customers to choose from limited-edition prints (starting at $30) or commission a custom piece (meaning you can artistically immortalize loved ones’ favorite pets and wild places). The best part is, a portion of proceeds from each purchase goes to the giver’s charity of choice. And you can choose from a wide range of artists, subjects, and styles. Need some guidance? We’re partial to Alyssa DePaola’s landscapes featuring national parks including Death Valley and Joshua Tree (pictured), and think they’d pair nicely with a gift donation to any organization that works to preserve the sanctity of public lands. Each print or painting arrives wrapped, framed, and ready to hang.

tribute card

Seeking a meaningful way to express your love and gratitude for a special someone in your life? Look no further than Its software makes it easy to build a tributary video montage ($50 to $100) featuring you or a group of people sharing your appreciation of a loved one. Not only do these virtual cards require but a scant 15 minutes to build, but also company stats show that they result in tears of joy a whopping 80 percent of the time. So, you might want to send some recycled tissues along with this gift.


Give the chefs and foodies in your life the gift of a fresh and exciting spice pantry throughout 2018. RawSpiceBar’s Quarterly Spice Subscription ($88/year) includes quarterly shipments of six freshly ground spices and blends (enough to cook two meals for four each week), plus cards containing recipes to suit a full range of palates and diets.

Female chef cooking

Photo courtesy of Aramark

This year’s 33rd annual Taste of Yosemite event takes place from January 7 to February 2—meaning you can treat the outdoors-loving gourmand in your life to a memorable culinary extravaganza within the crown jewel of the national park system’s famously old-world Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly the Ahwahnee). Each session (starting at $205) includes cooking demonstrations, opportunities to mingle with notable guest chefs, wine tastings, and a five-course gala dinner. The best part of all? Sessions are moderated by big-deal food writers such as Jessica Battilana, Carolyn Jung, and Janice Wald Henderson.

Crater Volcan Negro

If the folks on your list are of the mind that there’s no better gift—or experience—than travel, you’ll want to check out Namu Travel’s Central American adventures. We recommend the Adventure Highlights Tour ($2,120/8 nights), which will have you and your loved ones hiking, horseback-riding, and ziplining through Costa Rica’s cloud forests and over waterfalls and dormant volcanos. You might also look into Eco-friendly Costa Rica ($3,283/8 nights), which includes much of the same, plus meals made from locally grown ingredients, guided tours through national parks, and stays in luxury eco-lodges.

Natural World Safaris

Photo by Richard Denyer

Consider inviting those adventurous animal lovers on your list who’ve been really good this year along on an unforgettable wildlife encounter. Natural World Safaris offers a full range of far-flung trips led by former safari guides, biologists, wildlife photographers, and other specialists of the natural world. These professionals ensure that guests can get up close and personal with some of the world’s most spectacular and elusive wildlife. In many cases, trips also offer guests opportunities to support local conservation projects. You can take loved ones gorilla-tracking in Uganda (pictured), dog-sledding and ice-fishing beneath the Arctic Circle’s Northern Lights, tracking snow leopards in the Himalayas, swimming with sperm whales in Dominica, learning to photograph lemurs in Madagascar, and much more. Guides draw on their firsthand experience to custom-tailor bucket-list-worthy adventures on every continent. Such experiential luxury starts at about $2,000.