The Perfect Gift Guide for the Traveler in Your Life 

beautiful Christams scene model homes at the Christkindl Markt in Salzburg

Visiting my family in the USA in November, I was astonished by the steady stream of signature brown cardboard packages arriving at all times of day, every day to every household.  Buy, return, buy, dispose, replace, repeat.  For this holiday season (and years to come) I am merely suggesting to think outside the proverbial gift-wrapped box.  This is a gift guide for travelers. The daughter living out of a backpack, a brother touring in a van, or the mother who just KonMari’ed their whole house.  The friend who mindlessly Insta-buys anything on their own anyway, or the wife you have bought earrings for every year for the past 10 years.  Let this year’s holiday gifting be less about the stuff and more about the good stuff.


ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU

Mariah sang it best.  Time is the most cherished gift.  It is your most valuable commodity.  You can never get it back and you can’t earn more than 24 hours in a day.  As you get older, it is time that passes faster.  What do companies offer you when you are interviewing for a position?  That’s right, money (how much they value your time) and time, paid time off, sick leave, and vacation days.  And when you are on vacation, do you feel your time is more precious than the rest of the year?  Of course it is, you had to earn it.  Make the most of it.  Gifting quality time to your nearest and dearest this year is the best gift you can give.

Iconic train station in Porto, Portugal showing the clock and the train schedules and platforms

2022 was a rough year for a lot of people.  We are engaging with each other less now than ever before.  Plans and dates are frequently getting canceled, shortened, rearranged, postponed, or even blown off and filled with excuses.  Humans are social creatures and being together (when you enjoy each other’s company of course) is the best way to feel good this holiday season.  You don’t have to say “yes” to everything, but follow through and keep your dates — you will be surprised at the good feelings those will stir up in both you and your friend.


THE BEST PRESENT IS TO BE PRESENT

Now that you have set aside time for your loved ones, it is time to be present and engaged.  Leave the phones at home, in the bag, or in the glove box.  Where’s the fun in going to a restaurant, eating together, not speaking, not looking at each other, and focused on the phones.

Make the plans, follow through, be present, be mindful, listen, laugh, cry, chat superficially, and have the deep, emotional dialogs.  More people want this in their life. 

And I’ll share another secret with you… It is not uncommon for frequent travelers to have difficulty reconnecting with their loved ones from home.  Ask the questions and show interest in their lives, it will be wonderfully received.


EXPERIENCE SOMETHING TOGETHER

Ask the traveler in your life, “why do you travel?”  Maybe they say “I want to see beautiful places.  I want to eat this, I want to drink that, I want to swim there…”  The underlying desire is to experience something new and different.  Curiosity drives most travelers.  Culture, history, architecture, above the clouds, and under the sea.  An excellent gift is anything that creates memories.  And of course, the BEST gift would be an experience that you share together. 

Welcome local experiences, a sporting event, a vintage car show, goat yoga, or an art installation in the park. 

Check local Facebook groups, newspapers, and calendars and find the special events coming to your town.  Alternatively, you can check out TripAdvisor and AirBnB experiences and see what the tourists are doing in your neck of the woods. 


GIFT EXPERIENCE IDEAS ALONG THEIR JOURNEYS

If your traveler has an upcoming trip here are some great ideas of experiences to gift:

The Food Lover

A cooking class, a noodle workshop, a wine tasting, an introduction to bee-keeping, a reservation at a unique restaurant, a culinary tour of a town or region, a stay at a working vineyard or farm.

The Active Traveler 

Bike tours, yoga workshops, dance lessons, kayak excursions, fishing charters, scuba packages, skydiving gifts, surfboard rentals…

The Artist

Tickets for concerts, festivals, theater, photography classes, jewelry making, Plein-air workshops, museum or UNESCO site entrance fees, tattoo sittings with someone they admire.

The Nature Enthusiast

Safaris, boat trips, trail fees, or National or State Park memberships.

The list goes on and on…

Finding an activity that they will enjoy and benefit from is always greatly appreciated.

Here’s where you can find some of these experiences: AirBnB experiences, EatWith, Traveling Spoon, Viator, ToursbyLocals, and Embark.  Before purchasing, make sure the gift fits with your receiver’s interests and timeframe, and most importantly read the reviews.


SUBSCRIPTIONS

Duolingo app statistics for 2022.  A valuable gift for any language learner

While your traveler may be hopping all over the place, they still will likely have a fair amount of downtime. Having something new to read, listen to, or play will make their long travel days and waiting in queues much more bearable.   

Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Podcasts, Audible, Kindle, language apps like Duolingo or Babel, workout apps, hiking trail apps, Netflix, HBO, National Geographic, Conde Nast, chess tournament apps, there are apps for everything

While many have free options, they are littered with advertisements. Offering to pay for the annual subscription to an app they already use or introducing them to something new to enjoy is a thoughtful gift that takes no additional space in their luggage.


MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

While money seems impersonal, it is always a welcome gift.  It may not have the same effect as tearing open a big, beautifully wrapped box with gusto, but they can choose exactly how they will use it.  Maybe it goes toward a plane ticket or a fancy dinner or to pay down their credit card bill from their last big trip.  What they choose to spend the money on may be different from what you might choose for them. But whatever it is, the freedom and flexibility will make their life a little easier or more exciting or more memorable. And isn’t that what you want for those you love?


TRAVEL VOUCHERS

Transfer airline points and miles, a gift card for Amtrak, hotel reward points or booked stays, petrol cards.  Maybe this will upgrade their usual digs or let them explore someplace new.

View of the clouds from the plane.  Travel vouchers are excellent gifts for travelers.

IT’S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS

Thoughtful or charitable giving is kind and wonderful and the benefits spread far beyond your relationship.  If you are gifting to a nonprofit organization or charity in a person’s name, make sure it is supporting a cause THEY believe in, not necessarily what YOU believe in. They may have visited a small village that impacted them and needs book donations, feminine products, water access. Consider what they are passionate about and support that.

Sites like www.charitynavigator.org or www.guidestar.org can help you discover, sort, and read about charities and how the funds are distributed.


THE WISHLIST

Me modeling my new puffer coat after years of wearing one covered held together with duct tape.  Replacement items are wonderful gifts.  Asking what they really need.
Christmas came Early
A fresh puffer for 2023

Still eager to give a tangible gift? ASK what they want, need, or something that would make travel more enjoyable or comfortable. Maybe they need to replace a rain jacket, get a lighter sleeping mat, or they really want a new lens for their camera. When the receiver is part of the process this will ensure that they will get exactly what they want. A win for you and a win for them.  


THAT’S ALL GOOD, BUT I STILL WANT THE PRESENTS!

Christmas at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.  This is a beautiful experience, but also exemplifies the lavishness of Christmas Season and the piles of gifts.

GIFT GUIDE FOR TRAVELERS: CLOTHING

Silks are great to travel with — they are compact, quick-drying, and light. Stay away from heavy flannels, cottons, linens, leathers, and denims. Look for clothing that can be layered and mixed and matched with other items in their closet, or backpack. Purchasing items made of quality, breathable fabric will pay off in longevity. If you find local quality goods even better, but here are some travel brands that I have found to be reliable and long-lasting over my years of travel.

  • Arc’tyrex
  • Athleta
  • Columbia
  • Darn Tough
  • LLBean
  • Madewell
  • Naot
  • Patagonia
  • REI
  • Rothys
  • Smart Wool
  • The North Face
scoping out the hippos through binoculars in the front of a Mokoro in my North Face Puffer jacket

GIFT GUIDE FOR TRAVELERS: GEAR

There is a wide range of quality and warranties when it comes to gear – read the reviews. 

  • Headtorch – great for finding your way in the dark and not disrupting your hostel bunk mates.
  • Eagle Creek Compression Packing cubes OR Sea to Summit Packing cubes– GAME CHANGER!  I unpack my bag in every place I stay.  When you are in it for the long haul, having clothes in a dresser or stacked neatly on a shelf make it feel more like home. Cubes keep your shit organized and compact.
  • Sea to Summit Dry bag – From rafting to heavy rains, it’s good to know you can have your belongings protected.
  • Sea to Summit Silk sleep liner – lightweight and small cocoon sheet that fits inside your sleeping bag or a great option for a sketchy bedsheet situation.
  • Turkish towel — More versatile and comfortable than the small foldup quick-dry towels.  Use it as a wrap, a shawl, a towel, or a curtain.
  • Platypus water bladder – Lightweight, compact, and rolls up when empty.
  • Ankor battery bank – When everything runs off USB, you really need a power supply backup.
  • Hard drive – It’s certainly not a sexy gift, but there is some piece of mind knowing that your work is backed up if your computer fails.
  • Universal power adapter — I was gifted one that was excellent, and I have yet to find another quality adapter as good.  Again, this is just something you have to research.
  • Inside-out Loofa — This is small and about $5. It’s a loofa that holds your soap bar.
  • I have been on the lookout FOREVER for a great cosmetic/dop kit that keeps things organized, hangs, and is compact. If you find one, send me the info!!!

Happy holidays and wishing you an adventurous New Year!

Christmas lights and the entrance of the Christkindlmarkt in Charleston, South Carolina in 2022.

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