It’s easy to find a monster-sized gift giving guide online. Even if you narrow it down to mom, dad, boyfriend or girlfriend. By hobby or interest, like travel. As I’ve been pulling my travel-themed gift guides together, I thought it might be helpful to have some tips on how to choose a gift. How to pick a meaningful gift for someone.
If you’re looking for gift ideas for travel lovers, you’re already off to a great start. You identified a passion you can get inspiration from.
Now, as you think about the travel lover in your life, take a moment or two to think about what they love about traveling. Trying new food? Learning something new? Pushing themselves physically? This 5-step gift giving guide will help you use any of their travel passions in how to pick a meaningful gift they’ll love.
Let’s get to it!
- Gift Giving Psychology: Why and How to Give a Gift
- 5-STEP GIFT GIVING GUIDE: How to Choose a Gift for a Travel Lover
Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links to excellent travel-related products. This means that if you use the links below to make a purchase, I’ll receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting us!
Gift Giving Psychology: Why and How to Give a Gift
Have you ever searched for gift giving psychology?? It’s fascinating what you find out!
Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine published a short article in 2010 that lists five great reasons to give. Whether giving gifts, donating to charity or volunteering your time, everyone benefits: you, the recipient(s) and the community. Spending money and time on others rather than on ourselves makes us happier, healthier, more grateful and more connected. And it’s contagious, as others are inspired to be generous, too. Towards the giver and others.
Another Berkeley article gives us scientific guidance on how to choose a gift for someone. Overall, it reminds us that gift giving is firstly about strengthening relationships. And then it also advises us to choose gifts that are useful, experiential, asked for and have long-term value … without strings attached.
And research from Wharton University of Pennsylvania reveals that, compared to material gifts, receiving experience gifts creates more connection with the giver. Even though the receiver may like both gifts equally, the act of consuming the experience gift increased feelings of closeness. And the ongoing memories reinforce these feelings. But if you want to give a physical thing, you can increase this sense of closeness by highlighting the experience you want them to have with it.
The Wharton article also touches on the giver’s desire to give a physical something. Something more than an envelope, which often prevents us from giving the better experience gift. So, we just need to have some fun in HOW we give it! Hence, Step 5 in this gift giving guide.
So, how do you choose a gift that your recipient will love? A meaningful gift that fosters connection and relationship? Let’s get started!
Gift Giving Guide: How to Choose a Gift
Step 1: Set a GIFT BUDGET that’s comfortable for BOTH of you
It’s helpful to start this gift giving guide with a rough budget. A rough budget will give you some guideposts in how to pick a meaningful gift for someone.
Now, don’t just think about your budget. It’s obviously important to have a sense of how much you’re willing to spend, but another factor is how much they’re comfortable with you spending. Many people aren’t comfortable receiving a gift that’s worth significantly more than they can spend on a gift back to you. Your intent might be to shower them with generosity, but they might just be thinking about how much they now have to spend on you.
Questions on setting your gift budget:
- Do they tend to spend a certain amount on you? If you’ve received a gift from them in the past, think about what its rough value amount is. Depending on your relationship, the best approach might just be to follow their lead.
- Are they generous year-round? Some people like to give gifts all year long, with or without an occasion. Include things like often paying for your coffee, dinner or parking. This might make you more or less likely to spend a bit more now.
- Are there special circumstances at play? Depending on both your unique life situation and the gift recipient’s, you might be interested in spending more or less. An obvious example is recent job-loss by either of you, or a recent promotion!
- Does your relationship offer unique insight into budget? Some relationships have more flexibility on budget than others. Spouses and partners; parents and children; siblings and close friends. General rules might not apply, here, and you can spend whatever you’re comfortable with.
- What’s your rough budget and upper limit? Now that you’ve thought about them, think about you. What are you comfortable spending and what would make you uncomfortable?
Step 2: Get inspiration from your RELATIONSHIP
Step 2 of this gift giving guide is to consider your favorite memories together. If you want to know how to pick a meaningful gift for someone, get inspiration from your actual relationship!
As we learned from gift giving psychology, choosing a gift is a bit of an exercise in relationship-management. While not everyone is really a gift person, the gift you choose can say a lot about what that person means to you. And to celebrate experiences you’ve been through together.
What I love about starting your gift giving guide inspiration with memories is that it also helps ground you in the experience of being with the recipient. Gift giving ideas aren’t just about things; the best gift ideas are those that show you “get” them. A gift that recalls something special, and makes them smile. Which very well may not be a thing.
Questions on your favorite memories together:
- What do you two love doing together? Such a simple question, but one that offers SO much gift idea inspiration! From cooking together, to drinking together, to watching cheesy black-and-white movies together. Racing each other at the pool or swapping gardening tricks. Traveling together, or trading travel stories. Whatever you two have in common is the perfect place to start in how to pick a meaningful gift!
- What insights have you learned from just being with them? Just being around someone gives you insights into great gift ideas. And if you’ve also traveled or worked with them, chances are you’ve learned a lot about them! Their early-morning cravings and late-night indulgences. Quirky collections. Intrigues they really connect with, or whether they’d pick bubble-tea over ice cream. Gift idea GEMS!
- What insights have you learned from special events? While your day-to-day interactions can give you inspiration for gift ideas, so can those special occasions and events. Some people love getting all glammed up, including the minimalist and the more flamboyant. Do they embrace the diamonds and stilettos, or complain that they never have a clutch that works? More great gift ideas!
- Is there something you’re always saying you should do together?What’s better than building on precious old memories with precious new ones? Whether it’s making a coffee date or going to the symphony or taking that dream trip together … Whatever you keep meaning to do, maybe it’s THE perfect gift idea.
- Which themes immediately come to mind when you think of your gift recipient? This question is both an extension and summary of the questions above. Thinking about themes might help clarify and consolidate some of your bubbling gift ideas. Include themes of what you enjoy together and just what comes to mind when you think of the other person. This transitions us into the next section, too!
Step 3: Clarify ideas with their FAVORITE THINGS
After considering your favorite memories together, the next step in how to choose a gift for someone is to reflect on their favorite things. The key here is their favorite things.
While it kinda goes without saying, I’ll still say it: how to pick a meaningful gift for someone is about them and not you. As fun as it is to buy gifts you’d love, the objective here is to choose a special gift they’ll love. It also means you have to pay attention!
Questions on their favorite things:
- Do they prefer more practical, useful things or the extra special, indulgent things? Sometimes this is obvious, and sometimes not. Often, we’re okay with a certain amount or a certain type of special, indulgent gifts, if you know them well enough to choose well. For example, I don’t like trinkets but love Christmas tree ornaments. If you’re unsure, go with something that strikes a balance. Like a fun kitchen accessory or personalized photo mug instead of wall art.
- How do they like to spend their spare time? An obvious theme here is to consider hobbies they do all the time, like reading or going to the gym. But also consider occasional activities they’d like to do more often but might not have the gear (e.g. day hiking pack) or opportunity (e.g. subscription to Masterclass to learn from celebrities) to do them. Maybe you can solve this problem for them.
- What’s their personal style? Personal style obviously applies to clothing and accessories, but also things like entertainment genres, too. Do they prefer light and happy, or darker and deeper? Would they love a little luxury? Help organizing all their jewelry? Something to up their game when traveling for work? Or something techy and outdoorsy, or classy and suave?
- What consumables do they indulge in? Thoughtful consumables might just be the perfect gift for someone who has everything. And for those who don’t want anything. Maybe they indulge in a type of craft drink, dessert or cuisine. Or locally-made soap and creams, or organic essential oils. This could inspire anything from a single gift, to a monthly subscription, to an evening experience with a local crafter or chef.
- Do they have time or location constraints? If you’re considering an experience gift, consider carefully what their constraints might be. Finding childcare to go to a spa appointment or fancy restaurant, for example. Or having transportation to get to that awesome event, or whether a particular store is even in their town.
Step 4: SHOP where it’s fun for BOTH of you.
How to pick a meaningful gift for someone might also mean being selective in where you shop. Where you buy your gift might be a matter of convenience, a matter of philosophical preferences, or both.
I’ve seen recommendations to donate to your recipient’s favorite charity in their name as a gift idea. While I’m an avid charity supporter, I don’t love the idea of giving a donation as a gift. At least not on its own. My experience is that it doesn’t satisfy a giver’s desire to give, nor a receiver’s desire to receive (which actually aligns with gift giving psychology research above). If you go this route, I’d encourage putting extra attention into Step 5 so that your presentation shares your heart and makes the experience more rewarding for both of you.
That aside, you can still support a good cause in how to choose a gift for someone. Below are some suggestions to consider.
Questions to where to buy your gift:
- Do you want a store that delivers for you? You can generally get anything delivered for you, even chocolates from across the country! And shipping is often included in online prices, depending on how much you spend. But free online shipping isn’t just with major stores like Amazon. A great place to find unique gift ideas is on Etsy, which features small artisan shops. You’ll find plenty of fantastic gift options AND free or low-cost shipping rates, depending on the shop.
- Does your recipient have a favorite store? While you can always get a gift card and give it in a fun way (see Step 5 for tips!), another idea is to pick something you think they’ll like. Just give a gift receipt so they have the option to return it (and be sure to tell them it’s okay!) and they can have fun picking out what they really want.
- Is there a charity or cause they love to support? My friends and I are huge fans of Ten Thousand Villages, with beautiful unique gift ideas ethically handmade and fair traded from around the world. Find anything from household items (hammocks!!) to clothing, board games and baby gear. How to pick a meaningful gift for someone gets much easier shopping here.
- Would they prefer an experience gift? There are SO many ways to give an experience gift. Something as simple as movie tickets or a restaurant gift card, taking them out for ice cream or sharing a bottle of wine. Depending on your relationship, you might give an experience gift to do together or one they can do with someone else. I love experience gift ideas that also support small local companies, like pottery painting, kayaking tours and escape rooms! Check Viator for fun ideas near you.
- Would they love help with ticking off that travel bucket list? Most travel companies like Intrepid Travel’s small group tours (or Peregrine, Intrepid’s premium tours) will hold a credit for your recipient that they can apply whenever and wherever they want. And websites like Tinggly make it easy to give a weekend getaway or an experience in more than 100 countries. Choose a fun theme, like Superman, Superwoman or Best in the World; send by email or a pretty little box by mail, and your recipient can choose when and where they spend it on. Both of these companies promote responsible and sustainable travel.
Step 5: GIVE your gift thoughtfully
Now that you’ve put all this thought into how to choose a gift, don’t forget about the packaging! Let all those thoughtful ideas continue to the presentation.
This gift giving guide wouldn’t be complete without helping you think through a great way to actually give your fabulous gift. How to pick a meaningful gift for someone includes making the entire gift giving experience meaningful. If you’re having it delivered, your options are obviously more limited. But you can still have some fun here.
Questions on how to give your gift:
- Do they love or hate the gifting occasion? Some people LOVE birthdays and holidays, and others kinda hate them. If you’re applying this gift giving guide to someone who loves them, you can have a lot of fun with shimmery ribbons and balloons. But if you’re shopping for a more sensitive situation, like the first special day without a loved one, give it deeper thought. Subdued and humble might be better.
- Wanna scratch-and-reveal a surprise? If you’re giving an experience gift, take a look through Etsy’s scratch-and-reveal ideas! Just like the super fun travel gift box in the image above, you can choose from a theme or completely customize a scratch-and-reveal card. You can even customize a set of coupons. SO fun!!
- What wrapping might add to the sentiment you want to give? If you need inspiration for gift wrapping ideas, just spend a few minutes on Pinterest! Among my favorite ideas is repurposing a brown paper bag as wrapping paper, maybe by adding a few of your own special drawings, with ribbon and a black-and-white photo gift tag of your recipient. Or, simply using a pretty gift box from Etsy wrapped in a beautiful ribbon can make the gift giving and gift opening experience feel so much more luxurious!
- How can you top it off? A nice touch when wrapping up your gift is adding a little immediate gratification or fun little surprise. For example, a candy cane or small tree ornament at Christmas, to chapstick at a beach party or a balloon filled with treasures or (compostable!) confetti to blow up and pop! This is a particularly great idea if you’re giving an experience gift or something else that isn’t a thing, per se.
- To deliver in person or not? Now, all of these fun ideas are much easier to do if you’re hand-delivering your gift. You can, of course, have everything sent to you to package and mail, or to someone you know and trust near the recipient. If you go through a small shop like one on Etsy, chances are that they’d be willing to add a few extra touches for a small fee. And if it still comes down to an impersonal box delivered on your behalf, consider mailing a hand-written note explaining why you picked that gift. Include that confetti balloon and photo of you together. WIN.
What’s your favorite take-away from this post? Leave a comment below!
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Other posts you may like:
- 55+ Best Gifts for Travel Lovers to Enjoy at Home, too!
- 40+ Christmas Vacation Ideas for Couples
- 15 Tips for Traveling with Your Aging Parents
Featured photo credit: Roberto Nickson from Unsplash.