gift card options, ideal experience gifts for mom

Inside: Looking for experience gifts for mom? Check out this list of more than 30 ideas to find the right gift for the mom in your life. Give memories or a well-deserved break this Mother’s day, Christmas or birthday (no more coffee mugs)!

It was Mother’s Day almost four years ago when my husband gave me the best gift ever. 

Postpartum depression was closing in, but I didn’t recognize it yet.

What I did know was that I had a 3-month-old and four other kids aged 9 and under, and I was overstimulated pretty much all the time. Sibling fighting or a mini tantrum would send me over the edge.

There were times when I would step outside on the deck because I just needed a five-minute break from the noise.

That Mother’s Day, I didn’t need another coffee mug.

I didn’t need another pair of earrings or even a gift card.

But what I really needed was more than 10 minutes of peace and quiet outside. I needed a break – a real one. And that Mother’s Day? My husband delivered.

When I woke up that Sunday, he was packing up the car with beach towels and snacks and all four older kids. He drove them to the closest beach – over two hours away – for the whole day! 

They left, and I drank in the quiet. I could actually breathe: for an entire eight hours.

That gift kept me going for weeks afterward.

And I know I’m not the only mom who doesn’t need or want another physical gift for a birthday or Mother’s Day or Christmas. 

There’s a growing number of moms who are quietly (or not so quietly) pleading, “Please, I don’t need more stuff. Please consider giving me experiences – memories or time off or both.”

You Might Also Like: What Moms of Young Kids Really Want for Mother’s Day (But We Feel Bad Saying It Out Loud)

Wingspan board game, jigsaw puzzle, book and "Happy Mother's Day" cards spread out on table

Experience Gifts for Mom: Ideas for Mother’s Day, Christmas and Birthday Gifts

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The only downside to experience gifts is often the price tag. They have a reputation for being pretty pricey, and it’s true – they often are.

But I did my best to include options for every budget. 

Things like gift cards can be given with any amount. Pampering gifts could be just a manicure, not a spa treatment.

And babysitting and your time is always free, if you’re the one doing the babysitting.

If the experience gift you want to give is a stretch, try to get all the siblings together to make it happen.

On to the list of experience gifts for mom!

Related: 40 Gifts for Minimalist Moms That Won’t Cause Anxiety

1. Favorite Drive-Thru Restaurant Gift Card

Nothing says “love” to moms of young children like a gift card to their favorite drive-thru restaurant. 

How many times does the toddler or screaming baby fall asleep right before you’re supposed to head into Chick-fil-a? (A lot.)

OR maybe they’re craving a quiet grown-up lunch (not leftover Dino nuggets and carrot sticks) in the same scenario?

She’ll love a gift card for her favorite drive-thru. Trust me. 

2. Chef’s Table Experience

Is mom a foodie? She might appreciate a chef’s table experience at a higher end restaurant in town.

Simply put, a chef’s table is an area in a chef’s kitchen where guests observe the preparation of a preplanned meal before tasting it (source).

It’s typically a fun, interactive experience with the chef, too.

Just make sure to only give this to a mom who will truly appreciate it.

Not moms like myself, who would rather eat Chipotle than a seven course “costs as much as my electric bill for portions the size of my palm” gourmet dinner experience.

3. My Life in a Book

While this is typically seen as an older parent’s gift, this could actually work for moms of any age. After all, how many amazing life stories do we forget with time?

(Only exception: maybe avoid giving it to moms of young children who will see it as one more thing on their impossible to-do list.)

My Life in a Book sends an e-mail a week for 52 weeks with unique questions, like “What are your earliest memories?” Mom responds with a story and perhaps a photo, if she has one.

At the end of the year, My Life in a Book compiles all the stories into a sturdy book that is sure to be a treasured keepsake for years to come.

If she loves writing or telling life stories and adores heirlooms, this could be the perfect gift.

Related: The Best Gifts for Older Parents Who Have Everything (Or Seem To, Anyway)

4. Car Detailing

Nothing says love to a mom with kids still at home than car detailing. Heck, I bet a mom with kids out the house will probably love it just as much.

The only difference? Make sure to give the highest level of detailing to the mom of young kids. 

(Trust me: thinking about what the detailers might find underneath those back seats makes even the most seasoned mom shudder. Yuck.) 

The mom with kids grown and out of the house? You can probably get away with the standard detail package.

5. House Cleaning

Along the same lines, most moms would love a break from cleaning the house – or from nagging getting their kids/partners to help clean the house. 

Give them a break in the form of a house cleaning gift certificate! Either a basic session or deep cleaning.

Need a more budget-friendly option? Get the whole family involved and clean the house as your gift. – even the windows!

Because as much as I’d love to see housework split more equitably, the reality is that women (and therefore moms) still do “65% of the physical household work”, including cooking and cleaning. Even if they’re working outside the home! 

Of all the experience gifts for mom ideas, this one is at the top!

6. Horse-Back Riding Experience

Does the mom in your life love horses, but has never been horse-back riding? Or maybe she grew up riding, but hasn’t been in years (because: taking care of little people)?

Give her a single horse-back ride experience for her birthday, Mother’s Day or Christmas. Make sure to tailor it to her skill level. 

You could also give horse-back riding lessons…but only if you’re also signing up to babysit the kids once a week for eight weeks. 

7. Day at the Beach

If you’re lucky enough to live on a coast with a beach not too far away (within a 1-2 hour drive), take mom to the beach for the day.

Or alternatively, as my opening story suggested, take everyone else to the beach and let mom enjoy the quiet house.

The best part? The cost of going to the beach for the day is mostly the gas and/or tolls to get there.

8. Concert Tickets

Does mom love that in person, extrovert’s dream, concert experience? Give her concert tickets!

But if Taylor Swift is her jam, be prepared to sit on the computer while you wait for the minute ticket sales to go live lest you be forced to pay top dollar to the ticket scalpers.

Or you could just stick to something a little more tame, like a local band concert. 

9. Charcuterie Board

I’m betting that many moms with kids under ten won’t make a charcuterie board on their own. If you’re the only one who will appreciate it, what’s the point?

So make mom a charcuterie board! These are super trendy, and for good reason – they’re delicious and beautiful at the same time.

You don’t even need a real charcuterie board. Especially if she probably won’t use it more than once or twice a year, use a large cutting board, instead.

You could include:

  • fresh berries
  • hard and soft cheeses
  • fancy crackers
  • spreads
  • olives or pickles
  • chocolate

See this “perfect charcuterie board” blog post for more ideas.

10. Broadway Show

Does she love musicals and you live in proximity to New York City? Give her tickets to a Broadway show!

Don’t live near NYC? Other big cities, like Boston for instance, sometimes offer a Broadway-like theater experience.

Search “Broadway in [insert big city near you]” to see what’s available locally.

11. Sky-Diving Experience

Is mom a bit of a daredevil? Give her a sky-diving experience.

I’ll be honest: I hesitated to include this one. But then I looked up the stats for tandem skydiving and learned that “you’re more likely to get struck by lightning or win the lottery than die skydiving” (source). 

It’s not as risky as it sounds!

12. Hotel or Bed & Breakfast (or AirBnB) Gift Card

I’ll be honest: I’m a little iffy on AirBnB at the moment. 

On the one hand, it’s an amazing way for second home owners (or even a spare room!) to make extra income. 

On the other hand, it’s probably contributing to housing crises in more countries than just the US because people are buying up land or multiple houses for this business.

Then again, I’ve seen some really cool and unique getaway experiences hosted on the platform – like glamping or treehouse getaways that you might not be able to get anywhere else.

If mom’s more a “just give me a vanilla, introvert getaway”, a night at a local hotel. Want something a little more cozy? A bed n’ breakfast could be perfect. 

But if she adores “once in a lifetime” getaways with friends or a partner, explore AirBnB. 

13. Rock Climbing Session or Membership

Is rock climbing something mom has always wanted to try, but never actually got around to doing?

Give her a rock climbing training session and a day pass to try it out. 

(If she’s already into it, consider giving her a gift card for better gear.)

14. White Water Rafting

We have a white water rafting place nearby, and MAN is it popular! 

There’s an option for every level: a gentle, family or beginner white-water rafting trip or a rapids, extreme level.

If mom loves new experiences outdoors, look for white water rafting places near you.

15. Ski Passes

This is obviously a seasonal experience gift, but if you are giving around Christmas or a winter birthday, it can work. 

(Excuse my ignorance around skiing, but I don’t think there are any ski resorts open on/around Mother’s Day.)

If you have a serious skier on your hands, you could give a gift card for ski-related gear. Or not so into skiing/snowboarding? Try snow tubing, instead.

16. Golfing Experience

Does mom already love golf? Give her a full round of golf.

Is she a novice but loves the occasional round at the driving range? Give that (it’s probably cheaper!).

Or maybe she just loves mini golfing with the fam. Make it a family affair!

17. Hike or Nature Walk

If you’re giving at a time when the weather is suitable and the mom in your life loves hiking and the outdoors, set up a hike (surprise or not).

Mom wants to take her hiking up a notch this year? Give her hiking-related gear at the same time. 

Especially since the hiking gift itself is typically free, unless you’re paying for babysitting to take her on a date hike.

18. Rent Bikes

Getting nice bikes can be expensive both to buy and to maintain. Especially if you aren’t going to use them all the time.

What could be even better? Giving mom a one-day bike riding experience.

Bike rental shops are typically found close to trails or parks designed for riding bikes, or they offer shuttles from the shop to the trails.

19. Arboretum Tickets

Maybe the mom in your life loves the nature and the outdoors, but isn’t an “Imma gonna conquer this gnarly, incredibly steep mountain” kind of gal. 

Instead of a hike, you could get tickets to your local Arboretum or sculpture garden. 

Or for a cheaper option, find a quiet, flat path around your local reservoir.

21. Pampering Gift Certificate

This one is so common it’s become a self-care cliche. But the mom in your life loves pampering in all its forms (plus the time away from momming), who really cares if it’s cliche? 

Give her…

  • Mani
  • Pedi
  • Spa Package
  • Facial
  • Massage

Pick the one you think she’ll love most – or the one you can afford. Maybe include $5-$10 in the card for tip money as well?

And I’m pretty sure this goes without saying, but if she needs babysitting to use the gift certificate, make that happen, too. 

22. Museum Tickets

Does she love learning? Give her tickets to a local museum.

You could consider…

  • Art Museum
  • History Museum
  • Science Museum

Or something even more unique like Philadelphia’s Illusion Museum. 

(If you live anywhere near Washington, D.C., many of the museums there are free! Sometimes libraries offer free passes, too.)

23. Favorite Coffee Shop Gift Card

I’m pretty sure this one is self-explanatory. Moms and coffee just go together.

Give her a gift card to her favorite coffee shop. Dunks, Starbucks, Tim Horton’s (for my Canadian friends), or local hidden coffee shop gem.

While I don’t drink tea all that often myself, I’m pretty sure you can get tea and/or breakfast options at most coffee shops, too. 

So even if the mom in your life hates coffee – how, HOW?! – she can still get yummy treats, breakfasts or beverages of her choosing.

(Panera could be a great gift card choice for the mom doesn’t like coffee.)

24. Art Class or Craft-Related Gift Card

Does the mom in your life love art or pottery or knitting? Or maybe she’s always wanted to try something along those lines?

Option 1: Give her a class. We recently bought a pottery class for our son that wasn’t too expensive – 6, 2 hour classes for $160.

Option 2: Give her a one night experience like painting pottery at a local shop. These type of places are popping up all over the place and can be super fun (she could invite friends along, too).

Option 3: Is she already pretty into her hobby? Give her a gift card to her local craft store. Then she can get what she needs/wants, instead of you needing to guess.

25. Favorite Book Store Gift Card

Does mom devour books faster than the library can keep them in stock? Give her a book store gift card.

Whether it be Barnes and Nobles or local bookstores, I know she’ll also love supporting in person book-buying. 

Because as much as we love Amazon’s prices and 1-day shipping, there’s nothing like browsing a local book shop.

(And since browsing doesn’t pay the bills, gift cards can help keep them in business.) 

Plus, books are super easy to pass along to someone else when she’s finished with them: Little Free libraries, the actual library, thrift stores or friends who love to read. 

26. Wine-Tasting Experience

If mom is a wine connoisseur, consider giving her a wine-tasting experience. 

Take a trip to your local vineyard and taste the wine, then get a bottle of two of her favorites. Vineyards often offer tours as well, sometimes at no charge. 

27. Cooking or Baking Classes

Maybe mom loves cooking or baking, but wants to improve her skills. 

Give her a cooking or baking class. Some places not even have virtual options, so you can learn in the comfort of your own kitchen!

28. Martial Arts Class

Is the mom in your life an Alias fan? Does she dream of learning how to kickbox or punch a punching bag without hurting herself?

Give her a martials arts class for Mother’s Day or Christmas.

Martial arts are all so different! Make sure to choose one suited to her unique interests, whether that be karate or jiu jitsu or kickboxing. 

29. Archery Lessons (or Session)

Got a Katniss Everdeen admirer? Sign mom up for archery lessons. 

Or if she just wants to give it a go (#sorrynotsorry – Bluey’s playing in the background) on her own, or she’s already an experienced archer, give her a session at your local archery range.

30. Ice Cream Gift Card

Maybe going out to ice cream is something she loves, but doesn’t do very often (because: the cost of food these days). 

Give her a gift card to your local ice cream shop. Or just surprise her on Mother’s Day or her birthday and take her out to ice cream with just you (partner or child) or the whole family!

For different sweet frozen treat experiences, you could find gelato or Italian ice places near you. You could do a fro-yo place with all the toppings. 

Or find an old-fashioned ice cream parlor nearby for a spin on the classic ice cream trip. 

31. Escape Room Challenge

Has mom always wanted to do an escape room challenge with the family, but it hasn’t happened yet?

Make her dreams come true by giving her an escape room challenge gift certificate.

Be sure to coordinate with the kids to be available on the date of the challenge.

32. Movie Tickets

Is mom a movie buff? Give her a gift card to the movies! 

If you want to upgrade this gift, try a place that does dinner and a movie, with reclining seats. 

33. Board Game or Puzzle

Not all experience gifts are necessarily non-physical gifts. So if mom loves strategy board games or puzzles and prefers to stay home, give the woman what she wants!

If you go with the board game option, maybe be willing to play the game with her?

It might not be your favorite activity, but being willing to play will probably mean the world to her (from a mom who loves Wingspan and adores when her non-so-Wingspan-loving family plays with her).

Another idea: look for board game cafes near you. See if they offer gift certificates to the cafe itself (be sure to include the cafe hours with the gift).

34. Babysitting

The thing that so many moms with young children want for Mother’s Day, but it feels pretty awful to say it out loud: time away from their kids. 

Give them a babysitting session – either by paying in advance for a few hours of babysitting with a trusted family babysitter OR stepping up and volunteering to be that babysitter yourself.

This remains my favorite Mother’s Day gift of all time. 

Related: 60 Practical Gifts for Minimalists (Organized by Interest)

Last, But Not Least, Consider Giving Your Time As The Experience Gift

I’ll leave you with this idea. Because we once lived paycheck to paycheck – and could again – I know how tight finances could be.

Consider giving your time in the form of service. It’s free!

Remember those littles coupons for various services that kids used to give moms for all the holidays? Well, turns out adults can give them, too.

If you’re an adult child of an aging parent? Give gardening time. Or cleaning time. Or “fix all the little things I might hurt myself fixing” time. 

If you’re the partner? Take something off her plate. 

If she normally takes bath and bedtime, offer to do it for her. Or cook dinner and clean up the kitchen. Or clean the bathroom.

Has she been wanting to repaint the living room? Or build garden beds? Offer to help!

You get the idea. I hope one of these experience gifts puts a smile on mom’s face and makes her day special, whatever the holiday may be.

Do you have other experience gift ideas for moms? Share in the comments!

Read Next: Practical Minimalist Gifts for Him (for Men Who Hate Clutter)


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