A man and woman at a food cart.

Gift Ideas for People You
Just Don't Get

Whether it’s your casserole-loving aunt or that teenager who likes to play video games, these gifts are perfect for the people in your life you don’t quite understand.

It’s that time of year again. The Halloween candy is about to hit the clearance rack and the grocery aisle will soon morph into rows of red-and-green tinsel. It’s only a matter of time before Mariah Carey starts singing “All I Want For Christmas” approximately 173 times a day. In addition to the lovely things this holiday season brings (eggnog, candy canes, snowmen, etc.), there’s a chore that accompanies it: shopping for people you don’t really get.

It’s hard to find a thoughtful gift for people you don’t know much about. Take your great aunt, for example. She’s famous for green bean casseroles and panda-themed embroidery but, other than that, you really have no idea. Or what about that shaggy-haired teenager who always shows up at family gatherings? You don’t even know who he belongs to, let alone what he might want for the holidays.

The good news is, you don’t have to lose sleep over this anymore. Below, we’ve gathered five people who might be on your shopping list, along with great gift ideas for each of them. So go ahead and close your Amazon browser and quit typing in “what to buy my random in-law.” We’ve done all the work for you. Just scroll down the page to find the gift you need.
Illustration of a cat lady with coffee.

The aunt with too many cats

Maybe she’s your actual aunt or maybe she’s a friend of the family. A coworker you chat with occasionally (Peggy from Bookkeeping) or that lady your mom went to high school with (Carol who kind of smells like meatloaf). Whoever she is, you don’t really understand her and you have no idea where to begin when it comes to a gift. For this woman, the key is something warm, safe, and cozy. Here are some ideas:

Illustration of a teen with a skateboard and smartphone.

The spaced-out teenager

He could be a relative or maybe he’s one of your friend’s kids. He doesn’t say much, but when he does, it’s riddled with Gen-Z code words like “bruh,” “fam,” and “yeet.” His mane of hair is always hanging in his eyes and he spends most of the time at family events glued to his phone or playing in the garage on his skateboard. And although he was born in the mid 2000s, his fashion sense looks more like a 1980s episode of “Yo! MTV Raps.” This guy is all about style and he loves anything throwback-related. Any of these stylish duds will work:

Illustration of a parent sports fan.

The super parent

Whether it’s your mom, your dad, or even a close friend’s parent, there’s one thing that unites this personality type: total devotion to parenting. They’re on every PTA committee, they attend every soccer game, and they haven’t missed a school play since kindergarten. They’re multi-tasking machines who are always on the go. If they don’t have a real-life minivan, they have a metaphorical minivan. However, they’re notoriously hard to shop for because they’re so efficient that they already have everything they need. But not to fear, any of these “practical but fun” gifts will put a smile on their face.

Illustration of a distance runner.

The ultra-hardcore athlete

This is the person who bikes 20 miles to work and back, hits the gym at lunch, and then cools off in the evening with a jog around the neighborhood. With a style and physique that’s sort of like “Jillian Michaels meets Bear Grylls,” they ski, hike, bike, and kayak. They compete in ultra-marathons and participate in all manner of outdoor sports. You can’t tell if you aspire to be them or if it’s exhausting just watching them. You’d like to get them something athletic or outdoorsy but have no idea where to start. Here are some good places:

  • A hydration pack ($90) — Whether running, skiing, biking, or simply doing lunges at their stand-up desk, this lightweight backpack will keep them hydrated.
  • A sports duffel ($40) — This versatile multi-sport bag can be worn as a sling or converted into a duffle—plus, it packs into a travel pocket.
  • Trekking poles ($50) — Made from aircraft-grade aluminum, these collapsible trekking poles are lightweight and grippy.
  • A handy headlamp ($30) — It’s hard to find a better gift for an outdoor athlete than a headlamp, which comes in handy everywhere.
  • A three-piece dry bag set ($25) — Whatever water sport they’re into, this assortment of dry bags will keep their belongings from getting wet.
Illustration of an energetic kid.

The energizer kiddo

When you watch this kid running around, it's hard to tell if they’re naturally energetic or if someone just gave them seven pounds of chocolate. Their sweet, adorable personality is paired with unbridled energy and it’s rare to see them sit down. In fact, you’re not sure if you've actually ever seen them in a seated position (though you've certainly seen them crawling out of chairs a number of times). They love playing outside—tag, hopscotch, red rover—and they’re always off seeking their next adventure. This kid needs a gift that can keep up with their pace.

  • A cozy winter jacket ($120) — If they’re going to spend 12 hours on Saturday digging snow tunnels in the yard, they’ll need to be warm. (This puffy jacket has girls' and boys' versions.)
  • A versatile backpack ($65) — This cute backpack is a great place for them to keep all their stuff (although good luck getting it all back in).
  • Sneakers with traction ($50) — Active kids need good shoes—these Omni-Grip™ soles have special traction to help keep them upright.
  • A cute hat ($25) — Winter is coming and this fleece hat with earflaps is both practical and adorable.
  • Warm gloves ($18) — Whether they’re climbing a rope, pushing the tire swing, or doing cartwheels in the lawn, warm gloves will prevent their hands from freezing.
Need more ideas? Check out Columbia Sportswear website.
(And good luck with all that gift-wrapping.)