Stats: 92% of Americans Would Rather Receive Experiential Gifts

According to GetYourGuide, this holiday season, a staggering majority of Americans (92 percent) are hoping for gifted experiences over physical gifts compared to last year (77 percent). This is the third year GetYourGuide surveyed U.S. consumers about their holiday shopping and travel plans. In that time, Americans’ desire to give and receive experiences as gifts has seen remarkable growth, surging from 62 percent in 2021 to 92 percent in 2023. The latest survey dug even deeper to uncover top categories for travel experiences, what motivates people to travel or where they get their inspiration, and what they consider the most important factors for unforgettable experiences.

Holiday gift shopping is once again likely to look different than years past—especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Most Americans no longer sit back and wait to start hunting for the perfect gifts until they’ve got a belly full of Thanksgiving turkey.

  • Nearly two in three (64 percent) begin their holiday shopping before Black Friday or Cyber Monday, an 11-percentage point spike since 2022 (53 percent). To that effect, getting holiday shopping done early is a priority for the busiest shoppers: Parents (69 percent) are more likely to start their holiday shopping before Black Friday or Cyber Monday than those without kids (59 percent). 
  • Just 24 percent wait until the last weekend in November, a nine-point drop since 2022 (33 percent)—though Gen Z are particularly likely to wait until then (32 percent)—and 12 percent still plan to wait until December.

While price (56 percent) remains Americans’ top concern when gift shopping, it is a seven-point drop from last year when 63 percent said the same. Likewise, concern over inflation fell nine points, from 41 percent in 2022 to 32 percent in 2023. Instead, this year is seeing more than a third concerned about shipping delays (37 percent) with nearly as many stressing over out-of-stock items (32 percent). Concerns over return policy (24 percent) rose four points over 2022 (20 percent). 

Exchanging physical gifts may bring immediate joy, but over time, the happiness derived from these surprises may fade. In contrast, the act of giving and receiving experiences leaves a lasting impression on both the giver and the recipient. Most Americans also agree that uniqueness makes for the best gifted experience (79 percent), followed by exclusivity (70 percent). If they were to receive an experience this holiday season, most people are hoping to be surprised with: 

  • Travel or trip (51 percent)
  • Concert or show (40 percent)
  • Outdoor activity such as skiing or hiking (30 percent)
  • Museum visit (27 percent)

Giving and receiving an experience is on the rise, which coincides with an increase in bookings data on GetYourGuide: The brand has seen a 63 percent increase in bookings in 2023 compared to last year. For a quarter (25 percent), the best holiday gift they’ve received was an experience. This narrowly outranks jewelry (24 percent, including 29 percent of women) but "blows away" third-place contender clothing (17 percent).

Orlando, Florida
Florida it the top destination for travelers this holiday season. Orlando, seen here, is always popular due to its theme parks. (Photo by Kruck20/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

This year, as economic woes slowly wane and supply chain issues aren’t top of mind anymore, Americans are also willing to splurge more on holiday travel than last year. While 57 percent spent or plan to spend less than $1,000 on their holiday travel this year, the 43 percent who have spent or plan to spend over $1,000 marks an eight-point increase from 2022 (35 percent).

While more than two in five of those who have booked their holiday travel (44 percent) did so in the past one to two months, another 28 percent did so three-plus months ago—that’s June or earlier. But, not everybody is booking early, and it might be because family time requires less planning than a vacation to an exciting new destination. Among those traveling this holiday season, nearly two in three of those visiting family or friends (63 percent) have not booked their holiday travel, nearly one and a half times those who are traveling for pleasure (44 percent) who have not done so.

Among those planning to travel domestically, warmer destinations including Florida (17 percent) and California (12 percent) are top spots to travel to this winter, while chillier New York rounds the top three (11 percent). For international travel, it’s less about hot weather than it is about romance: France is the top international spot to visit for winter travel (13 percent), among those traveling internationally, followed by Mexico (10 percent), and rounding out the top three is Canada (10 percent).

Many Americans (45 percent) have been inspired to pick a specific travel destination by an event or experience they heard about that was happening there, such as a concert, game or other event—but these days, picking a spot is about a lot more than word of mouth or a brochure. A surprising 36 percent have been inspired to visit a specific spot after seeing it featured in a TV show or movie they enjoyed, while another 31 percent cite being inspired because a TV show or movie was filmed there. GetYourGuide’s Sicily bookings saw a 230 percent increase in 2023 compared to 2022, following the second season of HBO’s “White Lotus,” while Chicago bookings saw a 62 percent increase immediately following the June 2023 premiere of “The Bear” on Hulu.

Pop culture inspiration is also on the rise, with more than four in five (81 percent) citing it as their reason to travel, including 33 percent who saw the local cuisine featured in a show or article. Food tops the type of experience Americans are looking for, with over half (56 percent) choosing this as the category they would book for vacation.

Meanwhile, 25 percent have been inspired to visit a location after it went viral or trended on social media—including 31 percent of those under 40. Another 22 percent have been influenced by a celebrity or influencer showcase to pick a location, including 32 percent of Millennials and 26 percent of men.

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