10 Outside-the-Box Experiential Travel Gift Ideas

Sheryl Nance-Nash
U.S.News & World Report

Not all gifts should be wrapped and placed under the tree. If an aspiring globe-trotter on your list is yearning for a long-lasting memory on an epic trip, give a gift that keeps on giving: an experiential vacation. From a foodie pilgrimage in Paris to a once-in-a-lifetime hike through Machu Picchu to a bucket-list skiing adventure, these trips cater to travelers of all kinds. Read on for a few underrated and surprising gift ideas well-suited for every jet-setter in your life.

[Read: 10 Great Gifts for the Traveler on Your List.]

Explore Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley

The celebrated Inca Trail in Peru awaits those seeking a legendary adventure. Reputable outfitter VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations offers the opportunity to hike the Inca Trail and learn how ancient traditions remain in modern Peru, as well as stroll the cobbled streets of Cusco, a UNESCO World Heritage site. And after all -- what travel gizmo, gadget or book compares to experiencing Machu Picchu first-hand?

Check off Bucket-List Experiences

From May to September, guests staying at the JW Marriott Resort & Spa in Cancun can snorkel alongside whale sharks where the Caribbean Sea meets the Gulf of Mexico. And if that's not adrenaline-pumping enough for your adventurous companion or family member, there's the Cenote Azul, a natural limestone pool that the Mayans believed had healing power. Plus, there are a wealth of nearby ancient Mayan ruins to explore, including Chichen Itza.

Send Loved Ones on an Animal Adventure

For your Jane Goodall-loving friend, consider booking a trip with luxury safari outfitter Volcanoes Safaris. Their safaris specialize in mountain gorilla and chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda and Uganda. Participants can embark on a customized four- to 12-day expedition that includes stays in eco-friendly lodges in the Volcanoes Collection. Plus, participants can take part in eco-tourism and conservation efforts with the local communities they visit, and have the chance for excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Marcy Mendelson, a conservation photographer and founder of Cheetah Watch, a documentary project aimed to raise awareness of issues threatening cheetah populations, will offer Cheetah Watch Namibia Safari Tours in 2017, offering journeys based on her expensive knowledge of the country.

[See: 8 Ethical Travel Destinations to Visit in 2017.]

Make the Traveler in Your Life an Opera Star for a Night

Opera Australia makes it possible to give the special people in your life the gift of stardom. Your loved ones will visit Sydney's iconic Opera House to head to a studio for a fitting for a handmade costume, get a private meeting with the assistant director and rehearse for the performance. On the big night, they can enter with the cast through the stage door, get their hair and makeup done and, once fully in character, make their stage debut as they join the chorus on stage.

Rock Out on the High Seas

Any rocker in your life will go wild for the the Rock Legends Cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas from Feb. 15-19, 2017. Artists such as Sammy Hagar, Pat Benatar and others will be aboard the ship for four nights of 60-plus concerts, artist meets-and-greets, acoustic sets and more. To make it even sweeter, the funds from each cabin sold on the cruise are donated directly to the Native American Heritage Association, a nonprofit that provides necessities to families living on reservations in South Dakota.

Take Them Out to the Ballgame

To win over the serious Boston Red Sox fan on your list, splurge for an overnight stay at the Fenway Park Suite at Hotel Commonwealth in Boston that's conveniently just a stone's throw from Fenway Park. The suite showcases original ballpark seats on its walk-out terrace, a mural of the Green Monster scorecard and a plethora of memorabilia, including a coffee table signed by many Red Sox legends. There's also the opportunity to have the World Series trophy delivered to the suite to snap memorable vacation photos. How's that for bragging rights? Pair all this with tickets to the game, and you'll have the perfect gift for the sports and travel aficionado on your list.

Get Out on the Slopes with a Pro

Kim Reichhelm, a world-renowned skier, will host two trips to Japan where she'll guide a group of skiers through the legendary Japanese "Japow," or deep snow that comes from the cold fronts of Siberia and transforms into lots of snow over the Sea of Japan. The trip also has a cultural and culinary theme, as well as trips to hot springs to relax and rejuvenate after shredding powder.

Send Them Well Wishes

Caso Palopó, a luxury property near Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, is centered in a destination built upon ancient Mayan culture and practices, making it an ideal place to receive a personalized Mayan blessing. The lakefront ceremony takes place with a Mayan shaman and includes an ancient blessing meant to offer well-wishes by evoking energy from the four elements of nature, during which guests write their wishes on paper, throw them into the fire and dance around the pit afterward. The experience is a fun way to appreciate the beautiful culture and scenery of Guatemala, and an extra perk to a luxurious stay at the private home-turned-boutique hotel.

Fulfill Your Friend's Football Fantasy

What die-hard football fan doesn't dream of going to the Super Bowl? Make it happen this year by booking your pal an Official Super Bowl LI package. Experiential hospitality company On Location Experiences partnered with Ticketmaster earlier this year to provide verified tickets for the Super Bowl. You can pick from hotel packages, access to exclusive Game Day events, on-field access and much more. Plus, your friend can enjoy exploring Houston.

[See: 10 Bucket-List Destinations That Don't Cost a Fortune.]

Treat Your Favorite Foodie to a Once-in-Lifetime Culinary Experience

René Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen has partnered with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to create a cutting-edge culinary journey. Passengers can take off on the Four Seasons' private jet and experience different food cultures by crisscrossing the globe, visiting the world's best restaurants and sharing intimate meals in some of the most coveted kitchens in the world. They will join local chefs and food producers to explore and forage through markets and farms to taste indigenous seasonal ingredients. Stops include Seoul, South Korea, Tokyo, Paris and others. Sure, you could make reservations at a top-tier restaurant, but this gastronomy experience is a surefire winner for jet-setting food lovers.

Sheryl Nance-Nash is a freelance writer, specializing in travel, business and personal finance. Her travel articles have appeared in Upscale Magazine, Orbitz.com, Cheapoair.com, The Tennessean, BeachDeals.com, Lincoln Star Journal, Knoxville News Sentinel, the Williamsport SunGazette and TheRichest.com. Her business and personal articles have appeared in The New York Times, Money, Forbes.com, DailyFinance.com, Newsday, ABCNews.com, Black Enterprise, Essence and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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