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Gift an experience instead of a 'thing' this holiday season

Is what you want to buy stuck on a ship, think about a gift card or an experience. The best gift might not be a "thing" anyway.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With many popular holiday gifts trapped at sea right now, people are considering alternatives to put a smile on their loved ones' faces. 

So if you can't find a specific gift, what are your options? Experts recommend shopping local, which helps support small businesses and vendors.

You can also consider giving someone an experience or a gift card, two ideas that are sure to please. These popular gifts take the stress out of holiday shopping and they're easy to find. 

Gifting someone an experience is easy. Just know your audience, what they like and where they like to go. Whether it's a weekend getaway to the Biltmore or Charlotte Hornets tickets, there are countless options for giving someone an experience rather than a traditional gift. 

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"Thinking differently about the holidays is the way to go as gifts are not going to be there as much as we would like," Farnoosh Torabi, editor-at-large at CNet Money, said. 

So what's a good experience? It depends on who you're buying for, obviously. 

How about Carowinds amusement park? You can pick up a 2022 gold pass for $115. It's good all year, covers them for SCarowinds, Winterfest and Carolina Harbor water park. 

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to the Defenders team by emailing money@wcnc.com.

Maybe it's an adventurous whitewater experience in our own backyard. These types of gifts can be big hits. You can also donate to a trip or to a favorite spot. Hotel and Airbnb gift cards can help knock down the price of a long weekend. 

Gift cards are popular, too. And gift cards are big business. In 2019, researchers say gift cards contributed $98.6 billion to the economy. Torabi says if you're considering a gift card, shop around. You aren't buying a tangible item, so dig for deals. 

"Shop early and look at discount sites," Tarobi said. "You might be able to get $100 worth of goods for 20% off, so basically you'll spend $80."

Before you go on a gift card frenzy, be aware that gift cards cannot expire within the first five years and all fees will be disclosed on the packaging. Be sure to use it, though. In 2019, almost $3 billion worth of gift cards went unused, according to a report from CNBC.

Giving gift cards to large chains is a pretty safe bet. If you choose something local, like a store or a place to eat, use it quickly. If that place goes out of business, that gift card will be worthless. 

Contact Bill McGinty at bmcginty@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook.

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