If you want to give a gift that's really meaningful, consider giving the gift of an experience instead -- something they've always wanted to do, but never got around to, maybe because it seemed too indulgent, or because they were too timid. For example, for Mother's Day, I once treated my mother-in-law to a manicure. She had NEVER gone to a salon before, so she felt so pampered and special! She still talks about it, ten years later. For his 18th birthday, my nephew got to a flying lesson. He said it was the biggest thrill of his life! Or how about the time my father-in-law got to ride around a track on horseback for his 80th birthday. He had been a jockey in his youth, but hadn't mounted a horse in over four decades, so it was a very emotional moment.
These are just some examples of how special and unique an experience can be. Colorado company Cloud9 Living wants to steer the concept of gift giving away from the material giving with their selection of amazing experiences for every taste, region and budget. You can choose from experiences like:
A golf lesson with a PGA pro
Sailing an America's Cup class yacht on San Diego Bay
A Wine Tour of the Napa Valley
A Food Tour through New York City's Chinatown
A relaxing afternoon at a spa
A River Rafting Adventure
Driving a Stock Car on the legendary Talledega Superspeedway
Hot Air Balloon Rides
The list goes on.
Giving a memory beats giving yet another bauble or trinket. It can be tailored to the recipient's likes and dislikes, it won't take up any space, it won't break or rot in a closet, and the person you give it to will treasure it forever!
To show me just how special the gift of an experience can be, Cloud9 Living treated me and a friend to a Chocolate Tour in San Francisco. The whole experience was amazing, from start to finish!
To start with, the giver can go to Cloud9Living.com to select from over 1,800 unique experiential gifts for men, women and couples in 43 regions. You can search by region, by experience type, by recipient (man/woman/couple) or by occasion (anniversary, wedding, birthday, etc..). Their website contains a detailed description of all the experiences, along with FAQ's and customer reviews so you can find out exactly what you or your gift recipient will enjoy. You can also give open gift certificates so gift recipients can choose the experience they want. You don't need to commit to an exact date when you book the experience, and the certificates never expire. You can present your gift to your recipient via email or a physical gift certificate, which has a unique code. The recipient will then log on to Cloud9Living.com, type in the code, book their preferred date, and they're all set to enjoy the experience of a lifetime!
Once I decided I wanted to try the Chocolate Tour, Cloud9Living sent me an email confirmation with all the information I needed to select a date and redeem. They also sent me a physical certificate which is perfect for gift giving. I booked a date and received a confirmation with more details, including meeting times, contact numbers, even tips on what to take (a bottle of water, sensible walking shoes, layers).
We visited seven places in total, a mixture of chocolate makers (they make the actual chocolate from beans), chocolatiers (they make confections like truffles, flavored chocolate etc... from chocolate) and chocolate purveyors (they sell chocolate bars and confections from various makers and chocolatiers). I'll go into detail about each of them in another post, but be assured that the three hours passed by waaay too quickly. At each stop, someone gave us a little introduction and description of what we were about to taste. After the tasting we were given a bit of time to look around the shop and make purchases (which of course everyone did!).
The chocolate was divine -- the really good stuff, $50-$60 per pound kind of chocolate -- and each type had its own distinct, unique flavor. We tasted chocolate from Switzerland and Belgium, as well as artisanal chocolate from the US that rivals their European counterparts (trust me, we spent a week in Belgium this summer, and this stuff is good!).
Our guide was great. She kept us on track and kept us together as we made our way from store to store, throwing in bits of fun trivia about the city, the surrounding areas and local landmarks. She educated us on how chocolate is made, how gourmet chocolate differs from regular chocolate, how to taste chocolate, and how to store chocolate. She even brought us up to date on fair trade and slave free certifications, as well as the latest flavor trends like salted caramel and tea infusions.
Chocolates from all over the world at Cocoa Bella
It was truly an amazing experience. The chocolate was so good, and we learned so much about good chocolate, I may never go back to regular candy bars again! If the rest of the experiences at Cloud9 Living are as good as this one, this may be the one site that will appear on my holiday wishlist each and every year.
Hot chocolate from NewTree
This holiday season Cloud9 Living is holding its first "9 Days of Christmas" contest. Entrants across the country can enter to win an experience package during each of the nine days leading up to Christmas:
Day 1: Learn to Fly experience
Day 2: Spa Packages
Day 3: Stock Car Ride & Drive experience
Day 4: Food Tour for two
Day 5: Golf Lesson with a PGA Pro
Day 6: Dinner Cruise for two
Day 7: White Water Rafting for two
Day 8: Tandem Skydiving
Day 9: Fighter Pilot for a Day
A winner will be announced each day between December 16-24 (participants can still enter the contest through December 23).
For contest rules and to enter, visit the Cloud9 9 Days of Christmas contest site. Good luck!
Disclosure:I received a complimentary chocolate tour experience courtesy of Cloud9 Living . The views and opinions expressed here are my own.