We all deserve some serious swag during our end-of-year holiday celebrations, if only as congratulations for making it through the 463 months of 2020. Coming up with gift ideas for friends and family (and ourselves!) can be another stress. Have no fear, we have gift ideas aplenty for the would-be, armchair, and frustrated travelers in your life, at multiple price points. Read on, and you’ll conquer your gift shopping in record time – and with no stress!
Gifts for travelers who enjoy reading and writing about travel
For the avid reader:
- While your cousin is waiting for the green-light to restart her around-the-world journey, why not give her a great travel book to enjoy? In Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, author Rebecca West describes her six-week journey through Yugoslavia, made in 1937. Widely considered to be one of the best travel books of the last century, it was published right as Nazi Germany invaded Yugoslavia.
- Florence Nightingale, known as the mother of professional nursing, was also a prolific letter writer. She wrote regularly to her family during a five-month sail down the Nile in 1849 – the resulting letters were posthumously published as Letters From Egypt , a colorful description and astute analysis of Egypt and its people, as well as an indirect portrait of the young Florence.
- From roughly the same period, Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad humorously recounts Twain’s cruise around Europe and the Holy Land in 1869 with other Americans.
- For something more contemporary, pick up A Month in Siena, Hisham Matar’s account of his stay in Siena pondering the relationship between art and life.
For the writer:
- Travel Listography: Exploring the World in Lists is a great gift for your listmaking friend. In one cute book, she can list not only the world cuisines she’s tried and wants to try but also islands she’s visited and hopes to visit – as well as categories such as “Places I have little interest in visiting” and “Silly things I’ve done on trips” – all packaged with charming illustrations.
- Everywoman’s Travel Journal has gracious plenty lined pages for the traveler’s thoughts and observations, as well as some tips, handy information (and though we all have our iPhone or Pixel, information on paper is a fantastic backup), and a handy pocket for odds and ends (and the inevitable stamps and tiny items we seem to accumulate while wandering). All this is packaged in a slim volume with a simple and beautiful cover design and elastic closure.
- Travel Checklist Journal is great for your friend who is always planning the next group get-together. Complete with a pre-trip checklist, packing list, and writing prompts for a two-week journey, the journal also includes a few phrases in French, Spanish, and Italian – and a pocket for postcards, stamps, and more.
- Finally, for the retro friend, pick up a set of Steamline Luggage vintage travel stickers. This set of 5 charming vintage luggage stickers celebrates five women, adventurers, and explorers.
Gifts for travelers who like (or need) to be organized
- If you know someone (raises hand slowly) whose wires constantly get tangled, these cute cord tacos can make the wires keep to themselves. Leather circles with sturdy snaps create a cord taco and are invaluable for keeping your carry-on bag tidy.
- If you plan to spend a bit more, spring for the Bellroy tech kit, and your aunt who travels frequently for work will sing your praises all year long. The kit, at around 9 in X 5 in, is small enough to fit easily in any carry-on, and has it all – mesh pockets for items like your mouse, elastics for wires, and a floating pocket for external batteries and more. Made of recycled fabric and environmentally certified leather, the kit ticks all the sustainability boxes too.
- A Sim cardholder makes a fantastic stocking stuffer or secret Santa gift for the traveler who will buy a sim card in the country they’re visiting. Our favorite, the SIM Card case, with a slim debit-card-size design, an iPhone ejector pin, and six nano sim storage slots.
- Cocoknits organizer roll, originally designed for knitting accessories, is a fantastic way to carry small items that normally get lost in a carry-on – think medicine packs, nail clippers, hair elastics, pens, and more. Made from durable kraft paper, the four small compartments can be carried individually or rolled together.
- If your parents have bemoaned staying in one place this year and plan to travel as soon as they’re vaccinated, give them each a Zomake travel backpack. This 35-liter backpack functions well as a carry-on but packs down small enough (and is light enough at .78 lbs) to carry in checked luggage as a destination daypack. This particular model has two side mesh pockets for water bottles/umbrellas, plus two exterior pockets, a slot in the main compartment for a tablet or small laptop, and the whole thing is water-resistant. I’ve found mine invaluable – sturdy, practical, comfortable, and with all the color choices fashionable and distinctive.
- For your best friend whose makeup is always picture-perfect, check out the Kusshi makeup bag/organizer bundle. The bag itself has a wide bottom, so it stands up easily, and the zips go down to the bottom, making it super easy to access every last product inside. The bag has plenty of pockets and double mesh pouches for your products and tools, and the optional brush organizer snaps in for even better organization. Both pieces are machine-washable and look and feel luxe.
- For your coffee-addicted dad who can’t start his day without a cup, splurge on the Pakt coffee kit. Weighing in at 3.76 lbs, this kit provides an electric kettle that works safely at all voltages, a cup, and a grounds (or teabag) container, as well as a scoop and metal filter, packs up smaller than you can imagine, and is carry-on friendly.
- Help your yogini friend continue her practice while she travels by giving her Gaiam’s 2 mm Travel Folding Yoga Mat. Weighing in at a mere 2 lbs., the mat folds into a 10 X 12 inch rectangle for easy packing and comes in beautiful colors and interesting designs.
- For your older sister who needs new containers for her shampoo and conditioner (and other liquids, the Matador FlatPak Toiletry Bottle 3 piece set is a luxe take on the old-fashioned travel bottles. Durable and ultralight, these bag-bottles come with a hang loop and easily roll up as you use the contents.
Gifts for travelers who enjoy flying in comfort
If you want to surprise your soon-to-be traveling friend with something to make their flight more enjoyable, read on:
- For the audiophile, why not give them Sony Noise Canceling Headphones WH-1000XM4? Weighing a mere 254 g, these Bluetooth-enabled headphones employ technology to provide an adaptive experience, including speak-to-chat, which pauses your music when you speak, ultrafast charging, and a host of other features. They fold to a remarkably small size and come with a compact carrying case and wire for a wired experience.
- For your aunt whose skin complains about dry skin after a flight, give her a bottle of Mario Badescu Hyaluronic Dew Drops Serum. This lightweight serum really packs a moisturizing punch and will help your skin stay dewy and soft. You might pair it with Odacite’s hydrating spray in rose neroli. It’s vegan, cruelty-free, and free from all the additives. And it smells heavenly. A spritz of this throughout your flight will renew your skin. Add a Sephora face mask and eye mask (or two) to the mix for a flight that feels practically like a spa day.
- To help your best friend, who always hits the ground running no matter how long a flight she’s just enjoyed, surprise her with some fashionable and functional Sockwell lifestyle compression socks. Not your granny’s old-fashioned compression socks, these are available in both firm and moderate compression as well as great patterns. They’ll make your bestie feel like she can run a marathon, much less explore an entire city the first day of her journey.
- Of course, for a fantastic first day, you need to actually sleep on the flight. The Sivio eye mask has a plush, washable cover surrounding a comfortably weighted interior that can be both heated and chilled when you’re home. And the Huzi infinity travel pillow is a revolutionary new design that is ultra-comfortable, ultra-soft with a bamboo fabric exterior, and can be worn as an (admittedly weirdly bulky) infinity scarf.
- For your environmentally conscious friend, pick up a S’well enamel Traveler bottle (16 oz) or Larq bottle. The S’well bottle weighs in under a pound, keeps beverages cold for 24 hours or hot for 12, and has a fashion-forward design. (It also is available in smaller and larger sizes). The Larq is a more expensive option but comes with proven UV disinfection technology that activates every 2 hours to keep your bottle pathogen-free. The insulated version holds 17 oz and keeps liquids cold for 24 hours or hot for 12.
- For your stressed friend, gift a subscription to the highly ranked meditation app Headspace to encourage your friend to relax and focus.
And of course, everyone on your list could benefit from hand sanitizer, mask, and face shield gifts, which brings us to our final gift category.
Gifts for travelers concerned with health and safety
We all want to keep ourselves and each other safe, so consider giving friends and family some of these items to show your love and concern for their wellbeing.
- For your cousin, who seems to always run out of hand sanitizer, we suggest Aesop’s rinse-free hand wash. It has a lovely scent and leaves your hands clean and residue-free. Or for your friend who is a frequent traveler, give Aesop’s Departure Kit It consists of 7 travel-size Aesop products to ensure clean hands, hydrated skin, and oral hygiene (though a toothbrush is not included). Olika hand sanitizer, which comes in a 3-pack (as well as six scents), works well for the active traveler, as well. The charmingly designed container clips on so your hand sanitizer (which hydrates as well) is always at the ready.
- For your friend who never tires of using masks, we recommend Caraa’s universal or tailored masks, sold in 5-packs and 3-packs, respectively. Double-layered with adjustable ear elastics and a filter pocket, these masks work well for everyone. Caraa also sells fitted P99 filters that have been independently tested. If your safety-conscious friend has enough masks but no way to carry them, consider giving Caraa’s Double Mask Pouch for their mask storage solution. The pouch is extremely light, washable with waterproof antimicrobial lining throughout the two mask pockets (one for clean masks, one for used) and filter storage slot. It holds up to 10 masks and can be used with any masks, not just Caraa masks.
- Let’s face it – sometimes you just want a face shield, whether in a quiet airplane or on a packed subway. Two of our favorites for gifting are Noli’s Mirror Face Shield (why not go for a Daft Punk vibe?) and Gizda’s Hooded Face Shield when you want your head covered as well. Noli’s shield is very sturdy and functions well as a sun shield and sun visor. Gizda’s hooded shield works well when you want a bit more infection protection than just a mask – since it covers only the head, with handy arm straps to keep the shield in place when you move around or sleep. It’s fantastic on long haul flights.
- For your friend who suffers from allergies, we suggest the Pure Company’s Portable Air Purifier. Very lightweight (.65 lbs.), the air purifier uses negative ion technology to purify the air without needing a filter. You can add a decorative wrap to the unit, or purchase optional pads and essential oils to provide a soothing or uplifting scent. Bonus: The soft, quiet sound produced by the purifier acts as a white noise machine, and can quickly lull you to sleep.
- If your mother always wants to wipe down every surface when she enters a hotel room, surprise her with a UVC Sanitizer wand. With caution and time, you can effectively sanitize surfaces with UVC light. This wand is lightweight and portable.
- For the friend who is uncomfortable in accommodation bedding, give him Coyuchi’s organic sateen travel sack as a shield between himself and the provided bedding. The fabric is so luxe and soft, he may start using his travel sack at home as well (or buy himself a set of Coyuchi’s sheets).
- For your family member who seems to always get into scrapes, we recommend Welly’s Human Repair Kit and Travel Medicine Kit. They both measure about 4 X 4 X 2, and weigh a mere 4 oz. The Human Repair Kit contains helpful items like antibiotic ointment and colorful fabric bandages, whereas the Travel Medicine Kit incorporates small amounts of helpful medicines, like tablets for motion sickness, pain relief, nausea, gas, sleep. With the cute design and handy tin, both kits are great gifts.
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