30 sentimental gifts perfect for everyone on your list

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  • Gift giving is one of the too few opportunities to remind our loved ones just how much we love them.
  • Sentimental gifts are a great way to do exactly that - whether it's a custom comic book of your love story or a poster that turns meaningful audio clips into art.
  • Below, you'll find 30 thoughtful options that will work for anyone on your list.

At its core, gift giving is the practice of turning feelings like love, warmth, appreciation, and pride into physical keepsakes. It's one of the too few opportunities to convey to loved ones just how much we really love them.

We all occasionally need the practical gifts that accompany birthdays, graduations, and other celebrations: fresh sheets, external batteries, and airline gift cards to get home for Thanksgiving this year. But, once the basics are covered, most of us really just want to relive (and prolong) our best memories, honor our closest relationships, and fill our lives and homes with mementos that encourage us to savor the meaningful connections we have with one another. In other words, gifts that recognize what really makes us happy.

For that tall order, we followed the guiding principles of sentimental gift giving: customization, uniqueness, and thoughtfulness. Below, you'll find 30 thoughtful gifts that range from classic to unexpected, and work for everyone from newlyweds to grandparents to best friends.

Below are 30 thoughtful sentimental gift ideas:

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A custom map poster

A custom map poster
Make a custom map poster at Grafomap, $49

Grafomap is a website that lets you design posters with maps of any place in the world — including their hometown, college town, or favorite travel destination.

Expertly framed memories

Expertly framed memories
Gift a framed photo at Framebridge, from $39

Buy Framebridge Gift Card at Framebridge, from $25

Framebridge makes custom framing for not-custom-framing prices. You can print or paint something on your own and have it framed, or have them print and frame it, and you can take advantage of the team of designers for help deciding what frame to get.

A calendar full of cherished personal photos

A calendar full of cherished personal photos
Personalize the Brass Easel and Calendar at Artifact Uprising, from $55

Photos of loved ones are an instant source of joy and structuring our daily life around them with a calendar is a great way to fill each day with more gratitude and happiness. Artifact Uprising has one that comes in a beautiful brass easel as well as a wood clipboard ($25) that you can customize. The calendar is updated on a rolling 12-month basis, so you don't have to wait until January to create one.

A night out at their favorite sporting event or seeing their favorite band

A night out at their favorite sporting event or seeing their favorite band
Gift live concert and game tickets, from $15 per person

Is there a good concert, play, or game coming up in the next few months that they'd love? Grab tickets and make a night of it together — or, if you live far away, make sure they get to enjoy their favorite band live with a friend.

An engraved timepiece

An engraved timepiece
Personalize a watch at Timex, from $57

If you're looking for subtle and impactful, engraving a watch is a classic for a reason. They can keep it forever, wear it every day, and know how much personal significance it has without always answering questions from onlookers. It's functional, thoughtful, and timeless.

A custom-made comic book telling your shared story

A custom-made comic book telling your shared story
Gift Custom Comic Book at Etsy, from $390.31

If you have the means, few comic book nerds would turn down owning a detailed, beautifully designed comic book featuring them as the lead character or superhero. Purchase the comic, email the makers telling them your story, and send in photographs of the characters and event setting to make sure everything looks true to life. You'll see a rough draft, send back any edits you have, and they'll complete the final copy. Opt for a digital print (emailed) or get it sent to you as a fully fledged canvas print.

A personalized photo book

A personalized photo book
Personalize Snapfish Photo Book at Snapfish, from $15

Convert their pile of photos and favorite mementos into one glossy book they can showcase around the home for a cohesive, beautiful keepsake.

A framed quote

A framed quote
Personalize Custom Quotes at Minted, from $32

Frame one of their favorite quotes, lyrics, or sayings and customize everything from font color to matting to make it theirs.

A custom photo pillow

A custom photo pillow
Make a custom photo pillow at CanvasPop, $39

If they love their pet more than pretty much anything in the world, a pillow immortalizing them is a uniquely thoughtful gesture — and decor they're unlikely to already have. You can also get them a custom painting if that's more their style.

A handful of date-night bucket list ideas

A handful of date-night bucket list ideas
Date Night Bucket List, available on Uncommon Goods, $18

Insurance that the months ahead won't contain much boredom, this Date-Night Bucket List comes with plenty of fun and unique ideas. Couples can add their own, draw them at random, and add the date they checked off each "date night" in pencil on the back for a keepsake.

A cute set of mugs

A cute set of mugs
Gift Personalized Family Mugs at Uncommon Goods, from $30

Turn your family, friends, or a newly-engaged couple into characters that actually look like them on a cute set of mugs they can keep around the home. One side features the artists' depiction of them (personalized through your choices of skin tone, hair, and clothing color) and the mug owner's first name, while the other displays your family name and year established — for friends, this could be the year you met.

Plan a meaningful trip

Plan a meaningful trip
Buy Journy Gift Card at Journy, from $50 Buy Airbnb Gift Card at Zola, from $100

Whether you choose to revisit the first place you met or want to set out on a new adventure together, traveling can be a sweet, thoughtful way to create new memories.

Journy, an online startup, can make planning easy. It acts like a personal travel concierge for $25 per day. An expert takes into account your preferences, plans, and feedback to design the ideal trip — including booking hotels and making dinner reservations. Find more details on the service here.

Turn meaningful audio into art

Turn meaningful audio into art
Personalize the Sound Wave Art Print at Etsy, from $37.99

Send in an audio file of you or a loved one speaking, and Studio of Sound will turn it into personalized sound-wave art. This gift is particularly thoughtful for long-distance relationships or for commemorating a loved one.

Long-distance touch lamps

Long-distance touch lamps
Gift a set of two Filimin Long-Distance Touch Lamps at Uncommon Goods, $170

Everyone is busy these days, and it's not as easy to keep up with loved ones as we all wish. A set of paired lamps, one of which lights up when the other is touched, lets them know you're still thinking of them even when you don't have time to talk. One Insider Picks editor uses them to keep in touch with her parents.

A cooking class for foodies

A cooking class for foodies
Book Sur La Table Cooking Class, prices vary depending on your location Buy a Cozymeal Gift Card, from $50

Whether you spend most of your time together trying out different recipes — or they're often treating you to a delicious meal — you may want to turn your gift into a thoughtful, shared experience.

Cozymeal lets you sign up for cooking classes to learn how to make everything from Italian pastas, to vegan soul food, to sushi for groups of one to 100 guests. You'll select an experience, pick a date, and show up to learn from one of the nation's top chefs — including a few who have worked in the world's best Michelin-starred restaurants. You can read our full review of Cozymeal here.

Otherwise, Sur La Table also offers cooking classes at most locations that range from Nashville fried chicken to South American fare. You can also find a decent amount of classes in your area through Groupon and Airbnb Experiences.

Handmade rings with engravings of the actual fingerprints and handwriting of a loved one

Handmade rings with engravings of the actual fingerprints and handwriting of a loved one
Gift Actual Fingerprint Band at Etsy, from $55

Custom-design these sterling silver, 18-karat gold-filled, and rose gold-filled rings with the actual fingerprint and handwriting (or text, if you prefer) of a loved one.

90 tiny messages in a bottle

90 tiny messages in a bottle
Gift Infmetry 90 Pcs Capsule "Message in a Bottle" Letters at Amazon, $11.99

Write 90 tiny personal messages to a loved one and stuff them inside these cute capsules for easy, daily reminders of love — none of which you have to remember to send every morning.

Brightly embroidered pillows of their favorite state

Brightly embroidered pillows of their favorite state
Gift Hand Embroidered State Pillows at Uncommon Goods, $184

Bring their favorite state to them with detailed and brightly embroidered pillows that pay homage to each state's cities and cultural touchpoints. Each pillow is piped with black velvet and soft poly-fill, and handmade in India.

A photo print of an important life moment

A photo print of an important life moment
Personalize Intersection of Love at Uncommon Goods, from $75

Commemorate the moment their path first crossed in a sophisticated, unique design.

The blueprint of a beloved ski resort

The blueprint of a beloved ski resort
Gift Ski Resort Blueprints at Uncommon Goods, from $75

Whether they grew up on the slopes or drag friends and family along as adults, skiers can take their favorite slopes home with them with this blueprint-inspired art. Featuring iconic ski resorts such as Park City, Vail, and Breckenridge, each officially licensed print is created with a vintage, distressed finish and contains detailed historical and statistical facts about the area.

A bound love letter, curated from A-Z

A bound love letter, curated from A-Z
Gift How Do I Love Thee From A-Z at Uncommon Goods, $20

Follow 26 prompts laid out in old-school typewriter font to leave your loved one with a bound love letter they can keep forever — the perfect spot for recording your favorite romantic moments, memories, inside jokes, and all the tiny and enormous reasons for why you love them.

Personalized wine labels

Personalized wine labels
Gift Custom Wine and Champagne Labels at Esty, from $3.50

Celebrate a loved one's birthday, achievements, or new life stage with a bottle of bubbly and a thoughtful, personalized label they'll want to keep.

Monogrammed crystal champagne flutes

Monogrammed crystal champagne flutes
Gift Waterford Lismore Essence Set of 2 Monogram Lead Crystal Champagne Flutes at Nordstrom, $170

Monogram two crystal flutes and send some champagne to christen them with. This heirloom is perfect for celebrating your favorite couple, partner, or life event, ensuring they'll have the tools to do so many times together in the future.

A portable Bluetooth printer

A portable Bluetooth printer
Gift HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer at Amazon, $99.95

Sprocket uses the free-to-download HP Sprocket app and Bluetooth connectivity to make printing photos from social media accounts, smartphones, and tablets relatively seamless.

A family cookbook

A family cookbook
Gift My Family Cookbook at Uncommon Goods, $35

"My Family Cookbook" is the perfect prompt for passing heirloom recipes down through the ages — from Dad's award-winning chocolate chip cookies to grandma's impossibly good lasagna. Blank pages for conversion tables, photo galleries, and space for over 80 recipes make this the perfect place for loved ones to contribute their favorite dishes, or be passed along to newlyweds hoping to create memories of their own in the kitchen.

A poster of you and a loved one characterized by your favorite drinks

A poster of you and a loved one characterized by your favorite drinks
Gift Personalized Drinks Print at Etsy, $21.88

Whether you're turning a best friend or a lifelong partner into a cocktail avatar, the quirky Personalized Drinks Print is a sweet and fun approach to sentimental gifting.

A custom watercolor of their wedding venue

A custom watercolor of their wedding venue
Gift Custom Watercolor Wedding Venue Illustration at Etsy, $90

For a deeply thoughtful gift for newlyweds, commission a custom watercolor of their wedding venue or location. All you'll have to do is send the artist a photo of the building.

A candle that smells like home

A candle that smells like home
Homesick Candles, $30, available at Uncommon Goods

It's hard to put a finger on just what makes home smell like home, but a whiff of a Homesick candle will transport them there with its nostalgia-inducing scents. Uniquely specific scents are made to capture the ethos of states, cities, and even memories like road trips, backyard BBQs, and cooking in Grandma's kitchen. If they're far from home, this affordable candle is a small but meaningful gesture that can bring them just a little closer.

A cutting board that memorializes a meaningful recipe

A cutting board that memorializes a meaningful recipe
Family Recipe Cutting Board, $140, available at Uncommon Goods

There's something about family recipes that make them taste even better. Maybe it's knowing that they've been passed down through generations of cooks, or remembering the childhood memories of eating and cooking these dishes at every special family dinner. Whatever the case, every family has their own quintessential recipe. This cutting board offers a unique way to preserve those special family favorites. Ingredients and directions are engraved on solid cherry wood, and can even be etched in the recipe writer's handwriting.

A reel viewer filled with snapshots of old memories

A reel viewer filled with snapshots of old memories
Create Your Own Reel Viewer, $29.95, available at Uncommon Goods

As a kid, flipping through a reel viewer was one of life's greatest joys, and just because they're all grown up doesn't mean they won't like playing with the gadget. Fill the reel with snapshots of their most cherished memories for a gift that'll flood them with all sorts of nostalgia.

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