Americans Ditch Gadgets for Shared Experiences This Holiday Season

November 29, 2023

Americans are ditching the old-school gift wrap game. Rather than giving the latest gizmo or gadget, 92% prefer to give and receive experiences they can share with loved ones this holiday season.

Letters to the North Pole are filled with wishes for getaways (51%), concert tickets (40%), outdoor activities (30%), and museum visits (27%), according to a survey conducted by GetYourGuide. Travel is the most coveted experience this year, with millennials leading the charge.

“I’d much rather fly off to warm weather and spend days at the beach with my kids than get jewelry or an expensive holiday gift from my husband. This year, we’ll return to the St. Maarten timeshare we fell in love with last Christmas. We’ll give each other tiny stocking stuffers like candy or local rum we pick up on the island, but that’s it,” says Monica Fish, founder of Planner At Heart.

While the instant joy of a physical gift is undeniable, its sparkle tends to fade over time. Sharing an experience creates meaningful memories and a bond between the giver and receiver that lasts a lifetime.

Generation Zers, now in their pre-teens to mid-20s, also share this sentiment. Bella Bucchiotti, founder of xoxoBella, explains, “As a member of Gen Z, I value experiences like outdoor activities, concerts, and museum visits with loved ones over traditional holiday gifts. For me, material possessions hold less value. Experiences provide lasting memories, connections, and fulfillment, enriching our lives in ways possessions simply can’t.”

Planning Holiday Travel Despite Economic Concerns

Despite an uncertain U.S. economy dealing with inflation, high interest rates, a food and energy crisis, labor strikes, fluctuating gas prices, and the restart of student loan payments, Americans still plan to splurge on holiday travel.

According to GetYourGuide, most (57%) respondents plan to keep their travel budget under $1,000. However, compared to last year, there’s a 35% increase in the number of Americans who plan to spend more than $1,000.

But for some, it’s less about the money and more about the precious moments. “We love traveling for the holidays. When we are on vacation, we find that our kids bond with each other in a way they never do at home. This time is priceless to us. We create photo albums when we get home, and the memories live on,” says Karen Kelly of Seasonal Cravings.

Where are Americans going this holiday season? Domestically, those looking to escape the cold are heading to Florida (17%) and California (12%). In comparison, those looking to embrace the chill are headed to New York City (11%). International travelers don’t care as much about the weather as they head to destinations like France (13%), Mexico (10%), and Canada (10%).

Americans Are Facing a ‘Funflation’ Phenomenon

It’s the new term economists are using to describe Americans’ unusual spending habits on fun experiences during a time of inflation— ” Funflation.” Typically, consumers only spend money on necessities when costs go up. Yet, consumers aren’t tightening their belts regarding their enjoyment this year.

Taylor Swift fans — aka Swifties — shelled out $1,300 per ticket for a chance to experience the Eras Tour, which generated $5 billion in consumer spending. Almost 20% report sharing the experience with their parents, 31% said they went with their children, and just about 20% mentioned going with their siblings.

Most attendees (53%) went with their friends, and 42% went with their significant other.

“‘Funflation,’ Taylor Swift…those experiences are really where people are willing to pay,” Corie Barry told the crowd at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit. “Bigger ticket items in electronics are not right now where people are interested.”

According to a recent Bank of America report, Funflation is in full force, and live entertainment has taken center stage as consumer spending shifts to an “experience” economy, with millennials and Gen Zs at the forefront.

An Experience-Based Economy

An experience economy occurs when there is a shift in consumer preferences from physical products to memorable and immersive experiences. It’s not a new concept, initially coined in a 1998 article by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. The reference has resurfaced over the last few years, as there has been a significant increase in Americans’ enthusiasm for authentic experiences.

Spending on experiences has surged by 65%, while spending on material possessions has seen a more modest 12% increase from 2019 to 2023 in the United States, according to a Mastercard Trends Report. “Experiences” included tourist expenditures at restaurants, amusement and recreational activities, casinos, nightclubs, bars, and various events.

“My husband and I have told our families not to give us gifts for many years. Instead, we come together over dinner the day before Christmas or Christmas Day, and then hubby and I (now with the kids) fly out on Christmas Day to somewhere around the world. We chose to celebrate this way because we value experiences over material things.” says Tamara White with The Thrifty Apartment.

Perhaps this shift towards experience-based gifting reflects a broader cultural shift towards valuing quality time and unique life experiences, signifying a change in consumer preferences and societal values. The embrace of shared experiences during the holidays shows the true happiness of the season is found in the memories we make with one another rather than in the objects we exchange.

This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Alexandrea Sumuel | Wealth of Geeks undefined


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