Are holidays & ‘experience days’ better gifts for women than toiletries?

It can be hard to know what to give the women in your life for Christmas and birthdays – although some tastes are easy to predict, giving variations on the same gift every year can get boring. And some tastes can be too expensive, or so sophisticated they’re almost impossible to define, making it virtually impossible to choose a nice present.

Although it’s easy to pop into the chemist and buy perfume or toiletries, it might not be the best option – in a recent survey, 52% of women admitted that they keep unwanted presents to give to someone else instead, and the most commonly “regifted” items are toiletries, perfume and candles.

It’s like a secret black market, with unwanted soap being handed from woman to woman to woman, the only real winners being the chemists who sell those “no need to think about it” toiletry gift packs. Less than half the people who get them actually want to keep them.

Unwanted toiletry gifts pop up more and more in charity shops, too, especially in the months following Christmas. Whether these sell or not is unknown… perhaps there’s a landfill somewhere, full of out-of-date body scrub and foot lotion. Bad for the environment, but perhaps it’ll smell better than the average rubbish dump.

The phenomenon seems just as wasteful when seen from a financial point of view. The research, carried out by travel and leisure deals website Travelzoo, found that men spend more than women on gifts, with the average being £80. That’s a lot of money for a gift that ends up getting handed on to a stranger.

So what’s the alternative? You could ask for specific instructions on what to buy, which rather takes the fun out of it, and comes with the risk of the request being out of your budget – and the awkward conversation that comes with that. Knowing what to get does mean the money isn’t wasted, but it’s also nice to surprise a loved one with something unexpected and thoughtful.

A holiday might seem like an extravagant alternative to soap, but if it’s the one and only gift – and perhaps given for Christmas and birthday, if they’re close together – it might represent good value, especially if you can find a good deal. A holiday can be enjoyed as a couple, and can’t be handed on to anyone else!

The only problem with booking a surprise holiday is making sure the recipient can get the time off. A compromise might be to ask them to book days off, but keep the destination a secret. Or just arrange a weekend trip, instead.

If a week away or weekend break is too pricey, perhaps a spa day or trip to the theatre would be appreciated. Most spa day experiences come as a voucher so the outing can be arranged to fit in with the recipient’s schedule, while theatre, dance and music productions are normally performed in the evenings or at the weekend. Tickets prices vary but will definitely be achievable if £80 is the budget – and once again, the gift can be enjoyed then and there, a visceral experience that improves someone’s quality of life, rather than some impersonally packaged soap that they might not like the smell of…

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