The gift guide for the travellers in your life
Buying a gift for an inveterate traveller can be a challenge. Perhaps they travel light and don’t want a lot of stuff to clutter their life; perhaps you want to acknowledge their travel habit but can’t find anything suitable. Or maybe that traveller is you and you want to treat yourself, but can’t quite decide what to buy.
This traveller’s gift guide is here to help, by giving you some gift ideas for the travellers in your life.
Socks and undies may be the tired cliché of a present, but for travellers they can actually be a pretty good gift — things seem to wear out faster on the road and quality makes a difference when you’re wearing the same things almost every day!
These socks have a great reputation in the travel community, and for good reason — they’re awesome. They keep your feet warm and wick away moisture, so they’re great for walking… which most travellers seem to do a lot of!
Craig’s been swearing by five-toe socks recently, as he’s found that they prevent blisters, and these copper-infused socks also wick away moisture and have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties — which means less smell!
Merino thermal underwear
You never know when the weather’s going to change, so even if the backpack is filled with summer clothes, a small corner should be dedicated to warmer layers. And if the traveller is heading into winter, the more layers the better! Merino wool underwear has the advantage of being really quite attractive, and can be used as an outer layer if necessary. Go for a top first and leggings second.
We’re always trying to travel light, but sometimes that means replacing old equipment with a better version. If your traveller has a heavy old backpack or scuffed-up suitcase, consider replacing it for them, or choose one of these lighter options:
We travel with all our documents, including marriage and birth certificates. Various currencies that we aren’t currently using, transport cards for cities we plan to go back to — these can’t live in our regular wallets, so we use a document wallet.
We don’t use them ourselves, but if you heard the recent story of the honeymooner who was denied boarding for having a damaged passport, you might consider a passport cover an essential. And there are some pretty ones out there!
One of the best equipment discoveries we ever made was a multi-adapter, which allows you to plug almost any device into almost any wall socket around the world. We have one each, and your traveller should have one too.
Water is important, and we can limit the amount of plastic we use by carrying our own, refillable bottles. Consider a Vapur bottle for pack-down size, or a filter bottle for travel in places where the water can’t be drunk straight from the tap.
Packing cubes aren’t for everyone, but they can really save space and aid organisation. You could also consider these space-saving bags.
Since no-one’s travelling all that much at the moment, you might prefer to go for an inspirational gift — after all, we can always dream about the next trip, even if it’s a while away.
Coffee table books
There are some truly beautiful coffee-table books out there, full of wonderful photography. Before we started travelling, we liked to look through this kind of book to get ideas about where to go. Consider Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List or National Geographic Simply Beautiful Photographs.
If your traveller is more interested in the fine details, a guide book is also a good idea. Choose a print book if your traveller likes to scribble ideas in the margin, or a Kindle version if weight is an issue.
A huge map for the bedroom is on many a traveller’s wish-list. I love these ones, which allow you to scratch off the countries you’ve visited. Or pick up these awesome scrunch maps to take on the road.
Why not give the gift of experience? One of the best birthday presents I ever received was a day out with my Spanish friends; they took me bowling and to a spa complex, and even made me lunch!
You can either take your traveller out directly, put some money in a card with instructions on how to use it, or buy a gift voucher for something you think they’ll like.
Both Context Travel and Urban Adventures have gift certificates available for purchase, and you can set your own value. Check the price of tours in the location the traveller will be to get an idea of how much to make the voucher out for.
Or you could just book them on to the tour of their choice direct from the company. We like Intrepid for longer journeys and Stray for hop-on hop-off trips in New Zealand, Australia, and Asia.
For our tenth wedding anniversary, Craig’s parents shouted us a stay in a lovely hotel in Spain. It was a fantastic present! Do the same by buying a gift card from AirBnB or your favourite hotel chain.
We all like to be entertained! There are heaps of options for entertainment gifts, such as gift vouchers for the theatre or the cinema in your traveller’s location, or digital entertainment. My mother often buys us iTunes gift cards as a present, which we can redeem for all sorts of things on the iTunes store.
You could also consider a travel-themed game like Ticket To Ride or Thurn und Taxis. Get a printed copy for travellers with a base, or a digital version for nomads.
We’ve been playing a lot of Ticket to Ride online with our nephews recently — we’re in New Zealand and they’re in Australia, but we start a Zoom call and set up an online game, and all play on our phones or tablets. It’s great! If you find a game you like to play with the travellers in your life, expansions can be a good gift for the future.
Perhaps your traveller really just has everything they need; so give them the gift of giving. We love Kiva, which allows people to lend small amounts of money to people who need it. A gift certificate for Kiva lets your traveller choose borrowers to support, and when the loan is repaid, they can relend it. It’s brilliant. (Join our team of lenders, together we’ve lent over $50,000!)
Charities like World Vision and Tear Fund have gift catalogues that allow you to give a gift to someone in the developing world in the name of your traveller. Or you could make a donation in their name to your charity of choice and let them know you’ve done so in their card.
One year, Craig decided that it was ridiculous that I was carrying 12 books in my backpack, and bought me a Kindle. It was an excellent gift that my back continues to be thankful for. If your traveller already has one, how about a case? You could also consider upgrading their phone or going the whole hog and buying a fancy computer. Let me tell you, I certainly wouldn’t mind if someone gave me a new MacBook for Christmas.
We’ve found our Plox power brick to be an absolute essential for recharging phones when electricity isn’t available, and noise cancelling headphones can ensure a bit of a rest in noisy environments. Craig swore by his Sleepphones until they died in his luggage one sad day — a good choice for a traveller who listens to podcasts or music as they fall asleep.
Beautiful things are often small and don’t take up much space, but can be truly meaningful. Some friends once gave me a beautiful Kiwi necklace as a going-away present, and I wear it regularly. You could also consider a Pandora charm if your traveller has a Pandora bracelet, or have a custom-made necklace made.
If you want something unique, check out this beautiful jewellery made from crockery shards by a friend of ours. Many of the designs are suitable for men or women.
You might think the traveller in your life is the hardest person in the world to buy for, but I’m sure you’ll find the perfect gift. And if all else fails, there’s always chocolate.
What’s the best travel gift you’ve ever received? Do you prefer receiving an experience as a present, or something you can actually unwrap?
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