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Holiday Gifts for Travelers

Top picks for thoughtful presents for the nomads on your list

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Top picks for thoughtful presents for the nomads on your list

Posted on December 5, 2019

Shopping season is upon us, and we’re all busy searching for special gifts for friends and family. I used to find this process almost overwhelming, and then I heard a great suggestion: “Make a list of the recipient’s interests and the things that define who they are, and you’ll know what to buy.’’ If you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself shopping for people who love to travel, because now, more than ever, great options abound.

Alice Waters' books
Gift idea: ‘ new book paired with a gift certificate to Chez Panisse


It’s the Thought That Counts

We never seem to have enough time these days, so the kindest gift for someone setting off on a trip is a custom curated list of tips for their destination. You might get your ideas from talking to friends who have been there or even posting queries in social media. Just be sure to crosscheck everything with trusted guidebooks, travel blogs, and magazines. You’re also welcome to run things by me at travel@ranchandcoast.com. You might also want to provide a gift certificate for a recommended restaurant, sightseeing experience, or place to stay.

Miraval Spa
A gift certificate for a spa stay is sure to be well received

Another welcome gift would be a list of movies and books set in your nomad’s next destination. Get ideas at websites “Read the World” or “A Little Adrift.” If you buy a book or two, add some fun DIY giftwrap, perhaps using a map of the destination or the travel section of your favorite newspaper.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets for a special performing arts event make a great gift


Little Things Mean A Lot

One thing I’ve learned in many years on the road is that certain small items can make a big difference. I would never leave home without a sleep mask, which enables snoozing on flights and in hotel rooms with gauzy draperies. Speaking of inflight comfort, I’m hearing high praise for Sleepy Ride foot hammocks, which makes it possible to put your feet up during long flights.

I also carry my own comfy Bose headphones for watching movies that I upload to my tablet before leaving home. At my destination, I find my Beautifive lighted folding tabletop magnifying mirror to be so much better than what hotels provide, and I love my phone apps for yoga, guided meditation, and white noise. Another important item: a small flashlight (preferably with a rechargeable battery). I most often use mine for adjusting the thermostat during the night in too hot/too cold hotel rooms.

If your travel-lover’s trip is overseas, they may need adaptor plugs. Most small electronics are dual voltage these days, but pretty much every region has unique electrical wall outlets. Equally important, a lightweight charger to extend their smartphone battery until plugging in is handy. Since I’m often in the field all day taking photos, I’ve tried lots of these. I’m currently using a Mophie Powerstation and have just ordered a super lightweight AtomXS that can be carried on a keychain. thegrommet.com

Grommet phone charger
This handy phone charger is the perfect stocking stuffer

And, I almost can’t tell you how happy I am that I started using packing cubes. While they haven’t turned me into Marie Kondo, they make it possible to find what I’m looking for without tearing through my whole suitcase. Eagle Creek (based in Carlsbad, by the way) makes some good ones that come in all shapes and sizes, and they are also available at the Container Store and similar places. Eagle Creek also makes a lightweight daypack for hiking and days out in town. shop.eaglecreek.com

More stocking stuffers? Doctors recommend compression socks for travelers because they reduce the risk of developing dangerous blood clots. They also help control swelling and leg pain. Having said that, vanity kept me from using them until I discovered the fun, colorful styles from Dr. Segal’s. For the dental hygiene-conscious, another company, Doctor Plotka, makes a great antimicrobial travel toothbrush (available on Amazon). drsegals.com

Dr. Segals Purple Stripes Mens Compression Socks
Dr. Segal’s makes these colorful compression socks


Collapsible metal strawMore Great Gifts

If your traveling friends are concerned about keeping the planet healthy, they probably already have a clutch of refillable water bottles, but Vapur collapsible water bottles are extra handy because they fold flat and fit well into seatback pockets. vapur.us

Millennials on your list? Metal straws and bamboo cutlery are de rigueur — as they should be for all of us since the plastic versions are a nightmare for the environment. Final Straw makes cool, colored, collapsible ones. finalstraw.com

In addition to all these practical gift ideas, I can’t resist mentioning my favorite accessory: a beautiful silky scarf printed with a world map. Your favorite jet-setters will love wearing it because, inevitably, it turns every conversation to travel.  roadlesstravelledlife.com   Elizabeth Hansen

Vintage world map scarf
This vintage world map scarf is popular with travelers


John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center; Chez Panisse Photography courtesy of ADAMS/HANSEN STOCK PHOTOS     Hotel Pierre: Courtesy photo     Yoga: Photo courtesy of Miraval Spa     Phone Charger: Photo courtesy of The Grommet     Compression socks: Photo courtesy of Dr. Seagals     Final Metal Straw: Courtesy photo     Vintage World Map Scarf: Photo courtesy of Road Less Traveled


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