Although it seems like we were just lazing away our summer days, there’s definitely no denying it: Winter is here, and the holiday season is right around the corner. Kind of freaked out by how fast this past year went? We are, too. Also kind of freaked out by all of that gift shopping you have to do soon? Ditto. The pressure to find your loved one the perfect gift can oftentimes be exhausting. What should I get my roommate? What should I not get my new boyfriend?
The holidays are stressful, but don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. If you’re looking to make this year’s present creative, unique or even a bit weird, then check out these options that are sure to be way, way better than your boring old gift card.
1. Let her know she lights up your world
Give your loved one a piece of the universe this holiday season by gifting her a star! Easily done through online services such as Name a Star, this gift is a creative one and can be romantic or even just a sweet, friendly gesture. Your BFF or SO receiving a star from you this holiday season is sure to brighten up his or her day. Just imagine your loved one looking up at a starry night sky and seeing your gift twinkle down at him or her!
Name a Star’s nine different packages to choose from range from basic certificates priced at just under $20 to more robust packages for nearly $100. The location of your star is up to you: Either choose the specific constellation you want it to be in or leave it up to the service to pick one out for you. But don’t stress about the location! Name a Star guarantees your star to be visible via a telescope, binoculars or the naked eye (depending on where you live and its pollution levels) from your location during the time of year you place the order.
Additionally, most packages come with a star chart to help you accurately mark the location and “celestial address” of your star. Although a symbolic gift, the recipient will have her star’s name recorded in an official Name a Star Record Book.
2. Get her in touch with her wild side
Who wouldn’t want to be gifted a lion, a tiger or even an elephant this holiday season? If your friend is an animal lover or you just want to see the look on her face when you tell her, “I got you a polar bear for Christmas,” then consider adopting her a wild animal!
Wild animal adoption can be done through many zoos or animal conservation organizations, so be sure to check out one near you. Some, like the Smithsonian’s National Zoo or the World Wildlife Fund, have adoption packages at a wide range of prices that help to support animal life.
Katie Sieger, a recent graduate from St. Olaf College, says that for just a $55 fee, you can adopt a wild animal from WWF and receive a plush, an adoption certificate and species card, a photo of the animal and a gift bag.
“When you ‘adopt’ an animal in someone's name from WWF (you can adopt a tiger, African elephant, three-toed sloth, panda, polar bear, red panda, sea turtle and so many more!), your donation helps with the WWF's conservation efforts around the world,” Katie says. “It's a great gift idea if you have a friend that is obsessed with animals or passionate about protecting endangered species.”
Oh, and WWF’s latest addition to its long list of adoptable animals? A narwhal. Imagine the look on your friend’s face when you give her that.
3. Take her up, up and away
Gliding peacefully 3,000 feet in the air in the early morning over beautiful landscapes that are sure to take your breath away? Yes, please! Hot air ballooning is only becoming more popular, accessible and affordable to the public these days — many ballooning groups can be easily found with a simple Google search based on where you live.
Balloon Rides Across America offers flights from almost 100 different locations across the United States. Their prices typically cost $299 per person, but you can currently save $40 for a reservation for one person or $80 for a reservation for two. This service suggests you book your flight a week to 10 days in advance, or further ahead of time for a specific date, such as a holiday or birthday.
Similar companies like American Balloons are a bit cheaper, ranging from $189 per adult or $125 for children. This service advises that you reserve your spot at least two weeks in advance.
Don’t forget: Experiences like hot air balloon rides can be made much more affordable by taking advantage of promotions, holiday specials, online vouchers, coupons or discount sites such as Groupon.
4. Give generously to those who need it
In the spirit of the holiday season, why not give your loved one the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with doing a good deed? Donating to a charity in your friend’s name is a great alternative gift idea that is perfect for the friend who already has it all (or just has a good heart!). Plus, getting the certificate or card in the mail saying how the donation has benefitted the lives of others is sure to put a smile on your loved one’s face.
Recent University of Nottingham graduate Sheetal Mistry explains that ActionAid “has a 'Christmas catalog' where you can donate gifts to charity in the name of friends and family. For example, you can buy a goat for a poor family in Africa as a gift! My mother's friend bought her a sponsorship of a child in poverty in Sierra Leone. I know that's a bit of a serious gift … but it's definitely different and creative!” See all of the unique gifts you can give through ActionAid here.
If your loved one is passionate about a certain cause or volunteers with an organization, consider donating there as well. Making a difference for a cause that she loves is going to make the holiday season that much greater for her.
5. Push her down a hill (we promise she’ll love it!)
Ever heard of zorbing? Basically the art of rolling down a hill in a hamster-ball-like transparent “zorb,” zorbing is sure to be an insanely fun and unique experience for you and a best friend or loved one to do together. Zorbing works by having a person (or several people) strapped into or standing inside a flexible plastic ball that is then placed inside a slightly larger ball, leaving room between the two for shock absorption when you are bouncing and rolling down the hill.
Look into gifting either a dry zorbing ride, in which you are securely strapped inside the ball, or a wet zorbing ride, in which you try to run inside the ball filled with water (significantly more difficult—and fun!). Wet zorbing is also said to be better for light stomachs because you are held afloat by water instead of constantly being rolled upside down. If zorbing interests you, find a sports center or organization near you that provides zorbing events.
For more information, check out sites like OGO or Freeballin USA. Zorbing with Freeballin’ USA costs $20 per one-person ride. If you want to book a two-person ball, it’s $30. Zorbing isn’t available in many states, so if you are looking for the ride of your life and you live in the right location, you should definitely give zorbing a chance!
6. Get her the gift that keeps on giving
A monthly gift box service tailored to the interests of your loved one is an unique and fun gift that he or she is sure to love (and continue to love!). There are countless different types of gift box services you can get. Consider signing your girly BFF up for a monthly beauty box service like Birchbox for just $10 per month or having an ingredient and music box delivered to a friend who loves cooking and great music with Turntable Kitchen at $25 per month. A monthly gift box is sure to be something that your loved one looks forward to each month.
Not sure if you can afford a full year of gifts? Don’t worry! Many gift box services allow you to decide how many months you want to continue the service for. Some will allow you to simply have the gifts delivered until you choose to stop the subscription, or you can set a certain number of months that you would like to pay for ahead of time. While some high-end and more luxurious sets can be quite expensive, cute and fun ones like Sock Panda, which is a monthly gift box service of crazy and fun socks, are much cheaper (Sock Panda being just $12 per month!).
You know your friend is going to expect a gift from you in December, but imagine how excited she will be when the gifts continue to roll in for several months after that as well!
7. Take a ride on the wild side
Pull a Paul Blart from Paul Blart: Mall Cop and take your bestie on a Segway ride. As cheesy as it sounds, you guys will be laughing all the way through (and will get some super cute pictures while doing so!). Some prime location spots to take a Segway ride include your favorite park, a sports track, a trail or your local downtown. If you are going to an actual course or you signed you and a friend up for a lesson, look into reserving a spot a couple weeks or months in advance, based on how regular the lessons are or how busy the course usually is.
In many metropolitan cities, like Washington, D.C., Chicago or San Francisco, there are Segway tours you can go on that will give you a firsthand look at the interesting or historic parts of the city. These are often cheaper than taking part in a Segway lesson on an actual course. Services like City Segway Tours are a great option (if they are available in your city) and cost around $70 per person, depending on the location and tour you choose. However, many cities and large parks also have Segway stands that you can rent a Segway from for a lower hourly rate. For these, there is generally no way to book in advance because it is not an actual lesson. Renting a Segway in a park is also generally much cheaper, and you have the freedom to explore on your own without being guided. Just imagine the memories you and your loved one will have from this creative gift!
8. Get candid together
Want to create some super-cute holiday memories? Hire a photographer to take pictures of you and your BFF, SO or family this holiday season! Who wouldn’t want a framed, totally candid (okay, maybe completely staged – they have to get our good angles, right?) picture of you and your loved one frolicking in the snow in cute holiday-themed sweaters?
There are many ways to make this gift option inexpensive, too. Head over to the photography or photojournalism building on your campus and see if a fellow classmate could snap a few pics for you. You could also get in touch with a local event photographer or high school senior photographer (contact him or her through his or her Facebook page or personal website!) and see if he or she needs sample prints for their website at a reduced price or even for free. You could also book the same photographer who shoots for your sorority, sports team or school newspaper. If all else fails, hit up a friend who has a fancy camera and see if she’ll get a couple candids!
Booking a rookie or inexpensive photographer could run around $30 or more per hour (with professional photographers being much more pricey). Unless you only want to post these photos on social media, you will have to also pay for prints.
Not all gifts have to come in a pretty little box. Why not get creative this year and give your loved one a truly amazing experience instead? Get weird and creative with your presents this year and give your friends and family a gift (or experience!) they will remember for years to come.