Tapping into the gig economy for holiday experience gifts

photo illustration of a frying pan
This holiday season, cooking lessons and dinner at a chef’s home table are among the gig economy experiences you can give — or earn money providing as a freelancer.
(Photo illustration by Nicole Vas / Los Angeles Times; Cooker King / Unsplash)
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Want to give unique gifts this holiday season? Consider holiday gift experiences. Thanks to the burgeoning freelance economy, there have never been more options. Whether you want to give unique dining experiences, custom tours or a day of leisure, there’s a fun and affordable holiday gift experience that your recipient is sure to love.

Better yet, scientific research indicates that spending on experiences beats spending on products before, during and after the time of consumption. In other words, experiences spark more happiness than, say, a sweater or a pair of socks.

Of course, freelancers who want to make a few bucks this holiday season can jump in and provide these experiences on any of these sites. Here’s what’s out there and where to look to buy — or provide — those services.


Unique dining

Want to surprise a friend or family member with an out-of-the-ordinary dining experience? A site called EatWith allows you to book dinner at a chef’s home table — literally.

Chefs from all around the world use this site to host dinners in their own homes. You can book a meal near where you live or, if you’re planning a trip, reserve a meal in Paris or London. The variety is astounding.

The site’s offerings include an African vegan dinner in Los Angeles or a French-Asian fusion meal made by a master chef in Paris. The meals are generally not cheap, ranging from $50 to more than $100. But with the opportunity to talk cuisine with the chef, they can be extraordinary immersive experiences that a foodie would treasure. Search for the meal you want by city or date — or you can get an EatWith gift card and decide what experience to book later.

Cooking classes for adults

The love of your life loves to do their own cooking and loves to learn? You can buy him or her an in-person or online cooking class through a site called Tastemade. Tastemade is a media company that is all about food for people interested in buying — or getting paid to provide — streaming cooking shows, classes and in-person and online experiences. The site enlists both amateur and celebrity chefs, who teach customers how to make macarons, collard greens and all sorts of other things. Classes cost anywhere from $15 to $100, depending on the chef, topic and location. Some chefs also offer memberships, which give access to special events.

Fun classes for kids

I have a nephew who is into bugs and dinosaurs. So last year I gave him a subscription to National Geographic’s kids’ magazine. But my high-energy nephew needed something more interactive. So this year I’m considering buying him a class — or series of classes — on Outschool.

Outschool has all of the predictable enrichment classes in English, math, writing and history that you’d expect. But it also offers fun and imaginative sessions like “Snackable Science” — a class where you eat your experiments — and “virtual escape rooms” aimed at improving critical thinking. And if you have expertise, this is a site where you can make money sharing it with others.


Custom tours

A site called Viator, which is affiliated with TripAdvisor, books just about any type of day trip imaginable — “secret hikes,” bus tours and more — all over the world. You can also get tickets to theme parks, though sometimes without the discounts you’d get by booking directly.

But the truly unique experiences on Viator are offered by freelance tour guides, who will tour you around in a classic convertible, provide sunset bike tours or help you discover little-known hiking trails. Tours range in price from $15 to more than $1,000. Some can be booked individually; others require a group.

Your own song

Want a really romantic gift? Consider a custom song. A site called Songfinch encourages consumers to let them turn your devotion into lyrics. You choose the artist and musical genre and give the songwriter the details that you’d like to include in the lyrics. For $200, the site then takes your information and delivers a custom song, which you get the right to play (for personal use) forever.

Day off

Think Mom or Dad is overworked and would love to have someone else clean and organize the house? Give her the day off by hiring a Taskrabbit. At Taskrabbit, you’ll find freelancers who can assemble furniture and bikes, deep-clean your house, organize your office or run your errands. If a valued recipient on your gift list could use a day off or skilled aid with a project, this is the place to find someone who can swoop in to help.

Go fishing

Got an avid fisherman, waterskier or sailing enthusiast on your list? Consider giving him or her a day on the water. A site called LakeHop enlists boat owners to offer experiences on lakes around the country. You pick the boat, which comes with the owner/captain, and the adventure. If you’re closer to an ocean than a lake, you can do much the same with Boatsetter or GetMyBoat. However, whereas you normally get a captain with the boat on LakeHop, Boatsetter and GetMyBoat book boats and captains separately, which can make them a bit more expensive.

Outdoor adventure

If your best holiday would be spent driving to Yosemite — or Grandma’s house — in an RV, you can rent one through peer-to-peer RV specialists at Outdoorsy, RVnGo or RVShare. Each site allows RV owners to set their own prices and determine what extras are included. Customers choose the RV they want and arrange the pickup and return with the owner.


Something for under the tree

Experiences are great. But sometimes, it’s nice to have something under the tree too. If you want to make it something unique or personalized, check out Society6 and Etsy.

Society6 is a print-on-demand operation that invites artists to sell their designs on T-shirts, coffee mugs, baseball caps and tote bags. Etsy is a massive arts and crafts sales site where you can find everything from custom jewelry to furniture.

Kristof is the editor of, an independent website that reviews moneymaking opportunities in the gig economy.