19 gift ideas for the traveler in your life
Know someone who’s planning a trip? Maybe just dreaming about it and needs a little kick in the pants? With the holidays right around the corner, I thought I’d share some ideas for gifts that might be of interest to anyone from the wanderlusty travel slacker to the seasoned frequent flyer. From books that’ll inspire you to leave home to products I’ve used on my trips (and now don’t leave for the airport without), this is my personal list of the best loot for the travel-minded.
Best of all, most of these are under $20!In no particular order:
1. Gift Subscription to Afar Magazine. Hands down the best, most beautiful magazine I’ve seen for those who prefer independent, off the beaten path experiences when they travel. Published 7 times a year, this publication features very well curated recommendations, a behind-the-scenes look at destinations, and great advice on traveling like a local, all packaged within gorgeous, stunning photography and editorial design. $20 for 1 year (7 issues).
2. Travelon Bag Bungee. I’m a big fan of small rolling suitcases (and fitting 2 weeks’ worth of clothing inside). For long trips, it can get pretty tiring hauling a duffel or one of those huge monstrosities you see backpackers wear (though I’m sure they’re great, I never enjoy looking like a tourist when I’m in a foreign country, and guess what those instantly accomplish?). However, you’re bound to have more than just the suitcase. Any kind of extra bag - laptop bag, “personal item”, purse, sack, or even shopping bag is going to be difficult to manage at the same time as your jacket, boarding pass, passport, bottle of water, sanity, etc. So, what do you do? You bungee it! I can’t believe I did my big 17-day trip to the Middle East and Spain last year without this thing. It’s great. It will literally hold anything on top of your suitcase that won’t fall between the 2 bars of your handle. At one point in Croatia we were balancing a nerdy man-purse on this thing with open side pockets containing a 1-liter bottle of wine on one side and some red party cups in the other (that were inexplicably tiny - I have no idea how Croatians would play beer pong). So, yeah. I recommend it. $11.20 on Amazon.
4. Inflatable Neck Pillow. Long flights, economy seats (well, that’s how I fly anyway - when you’re flying for free you’re pretty happy with coach!). Comfort level - not high. But have you ever seen someone with one of these neck pillows attached to the outside of their luggage, or (cringe) worse - around their necks as they walk through the airport. Yeah, don’t be that guy. Be the guy with the neck pillow that stays hidden and takes up zero space until you get on the plane. I give you, the inflatable neck pillow. (This particular brand has a huge valve – not your typical balloon valve – that allows you to inflate and deflate quickly, with minimal effort.) Available on Amazon for $12.30.
5. The New York Times, 36 Hours: 125 Weekends in Europe. This gorgeous hardcover book compiles the best of the New York Time's 36 Hours series, with this book focusing on Europe. I myself have taken amazing trips to locations that were otherwise not on my radar (like Cartagena, Colombia), inspired solely by these 36 Hour articles - check them out even if you don’t get this book. $34.04 (hardcover).
6. Luckies of London Scratch Map. Getting back from a trip and reconciling your amazing adventure with your regular life can be tough. You want to keep the memory alive while staying motivated to plan your next trip. Hang up this unique scratch map in your living room, scratch off the areas you’ve been, and await both the envy of your friends and the nagging voice of your inner travel addict urging you to scratch off more places… Available for $20.55.
7. Pilot & Capt. Civic Pride Shirts. Let’s face it, most souvenir t-shirts suck. They scream “I’m a tourist” even when you’re back on domestic soil. Alternatively, maybe you found a nice-looking one but hesitated to buy during your trip because you had limited luggage space. Instead, pick up one of these shirts when you get back (or to help celebrate someone else’s big trip!) to express your love for the city you left your heart in. (Available in a limited number of city versions for now, but let’s hope that changes.) $32.00 from pilotandcaptain.com.
8. Travel Power Strip. Imagine you (or your lucky traveling gift receiving friend!) has just returned from a tiring, exciting day of exploring a new city. They arrive back at their hostel or hotel and realize their camera or phone (or both!) is low on battery. Oh, and their travel partner’s phone is too! But there’s only one adapter. Or, they have multiple adapters but there is only one working outlet that is so dodgy it has to be un-plugged a tiny bit at just the right angle to actually let electricity flow (I’m looking at you, Rome Airbnb apartment). Voila! Buy 1 adapter, and then this thing, which (as power strips tend to do) allows you to plug in multiple devices at once. And it’s slim and compact, so it won’t take up much room in your luggage. Trust me, this is a must if you’re traveling with someone. No more battling over who gets to charge their iPhone first so they can finally upload the day’s 2,046 photos to Instagram now that they’re within wifi range again (never book a room that doesn’t have free wifi). Available on Amazon for $9.49.
9. Goal-Zero Solar Recharging Kit. Speaking of power issues. What if there isn’t an outlet at all? Because you’re… outside? Or on the go so much there isn’t a chance to sit down and recharge? Pick up this recharging kit (which can be powered by either the sun in 5 hours or a USB cord) and never worry about having enough juice again. Probably not a necessity for most everyday travel, but a must for adventurous, outdoorsy hiking and camping trips. $82.39 on Amazon.
10. Delaying the Real World: A Twentysomething’s Guide to Seeking Adventure. This is the perfect guide for young people who are inspired to travel but not sure how to make it happen. Speaking from personal experience, it’s already tough navigating that stage of life without also trying to figure out how to deviate from the standard post-college track. This is the ultimate handbook for young aspiring travelers. From $7.74 (paperback).
11. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel. A better guide for longer-term travel (6 weeks or longer), this is a great resource for planning a longer break from your regular life to travel the world. From $11.07 (paperback).
12. Moleskine City Notebooks. The first city guide you write yourself, these notebooks are a cross between a guidebook and a travel journal. Each highly personalizable notebook features a city map (including zoomed-in versions and a metro map), 12 zone maps with street indexes, several blank pages within a 96-page tabbed archive ready for you to record all of your impressions, favorite places, and memories, and much more. From $16.16.(Moleskine also makes more generic Travel Journals.)
13. Journeys Of A Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips [National Geographic]. A highly visual guide, this beautiful hardcover book specializes in the sort of adventure travel you’d expect to see from National Geographic. Not the best resource for exploring city life in other countries, but a great inspiration for everything else (and looks nice on your coffee table, too). Available on Amazon for $28.72 (hardcover).
14. Kindle. I have to say, I wasn’t sold on Kindles at first. I really like the tactile experience of holding a book while reading it. However, for travel, this thing really is necessary. Travel involves two things: limited space/weight capacity in your luggage, and lots of waiting time. Even if you’re not packing as light as I do, you still probably don’t want to waste precious luggage space on a big thick book (or two or three!), especially if some of them are guidebooks – but you still want to be able to read your favorite books to pass the time in airports, trains, etc. The Kindle Paperwhite is your best option if you think you’ll be reading in dark circumstances or in bright light (beaches come to mind). $119 for a Kindle Paperwhite, or standard Kindles run from $69.
16. Dream Essentials Sleep Mask & Ear Plugs. Equally necessary for both countries with pre-sunrise Islamic calls to prayer broadcast over loudspeakers from the nearest mosque AND loud European city streets below windows that must stay open due to a lack of air conditioning. Put on this stylish (ha) mask, pop in the accompanying ear plugs, and you’re dead to the world. Also great for airplanes. $9.95 on Amazon.
17. Point It: Traveler’s Language Kit - The Original Picture Dictionary. This dictionary features no words, just pictures of most things you’d need to refer to when abroad. Next time you’re in a country without any knowledge of the language (not recommended, but sometimes unavoidable, particularly for more obscure locales), simply flip open the book, point at the item in question, and let your awkward hand gesturing take care of the rest. Available used on Amazon from $5.98 or for $9.95 new at the MOMA store.
18. REI Clothesline.If you’re packing more than a week’s worth of clothing at a time, you’re going to need to worry about laundry at some point. When you’re traveling on a budget and you’re in a foreign country, sometimes the easiest, least-hassle option is just to hand-wash in the sink of your hotel room (and if you’re doing any kind of camping, it’s your only option!). This clothesline will allow you to hang up your undies to dry no matter where you are. $7 at REI.
19. Better Than Fiction: True Travel Tales from Great Fiction Writers. If this Lonely Planet compilation of short memoirs by some of the world’s best novelists doesn’t inspire you to start your own adventure, I’m not sure anything will. $12.26 (paperback).
So there you have it - my list of top gift ideas for travel addicts and aspiring travelers alike. Did I miss something? Let me know!