gifts for travelers

Gifts for your favorite traveler

Fun and useful items for you or someone on the go

Courtesy Airportag

Pack light. Avoid jet lag. Stay safe; but choose adventure.

These are the oft-repeated mantras of frequent travelers and buying gifts for them is often a challenge.  

To get you started on your holiday shopping, we gathered some gear, gadgets and great ideas for gifts to help travelers stay on course and find new adventures this holiday season.

Our list posted first on CNBC.

Help track great ideas on the go

Courtesy Field Notes

Smartphones and tablets are great for taking pictures and notes, but what about keeping track of feelings, impressions, sketches, perfect one-liners, overheard snippets of odd conversations and great ideas that arrive out of the blue when you’re on the road?

That’s why frequent travelers usually carry some sort of pocket notebook and why new and cool ones are great gifts.

In addition to classic and themed planners and notebooks (many of which can be personalized), Moleskine has city-specific notebooks, passion journals and a line of limited-edition pop culture notebooks celebrating David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and others.

Inspired by the promotional memo books seed, tractor and agricultural companies would give away to farmers, the modern-day Field Notes line of small notebooks are loved by detail geeks and hipsters alike. Give a Field Notes e-gift card, a limited edition set celebrating National Parks, Space expeditions or the band Wilco, or a year-long subscription ($110) that delivers four quarterly mailings with the two-sets of the newest limited editions design and bonus surprises.

Daily travel inspiration

Books that inspire and inform travel or offer historical or political context for a planned trip are always great gifts, as are calendars that can serve as daily reminders of favorite destinations and those places still on “want to go” lists.

Two books to consider for frequent travelers: Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders; 2nd edition (Workman; $37.50) by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton, is filled with (even more) odd, entertaining and must-see spots around the world. Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design, by Mark Ovenden and Maxwell Roberts (Penguin Books: $30), offers a richly illustrated and detailed story of the development of airline flight maps over a century.

E-calendars are useful, but for marking the days until the next trip, travel-themed calendars are far more fun. Look for the 2020 wall or page-a-day versions ($14.00 to $16.99) of “1000 Places to See Before You Die,” “Atlas Obscura,” and “Rick Steves’ Europe.”

Delight those devoted to travel

Many airlines, hotels and cruise lines offer plastic, paper or virtual gift cards and certificates that can be used towards booking flights, adventures and stays. The cards are super-convenient but be sure to check for restrictions and any expiration rules if you go this route for gifts.

Find special gifts for aviation geeks and travelers devoted to certain airlines on airline company store websites. Southwest Airlines may no longer serve peanuts, but it does sell a retro-style lunchbox with the airline’s peanut-pack image on the outside and two 10-oz bags of peanuts (honey-roasted and lightly salted) inside; ($29.00). And fans of the new custom-designed uniforms fashion Seattle designer Luly Yang created for Alaska Airlines can purchase Yang-designed socks, sunglasses, scarves, shoes and handbags and weekend bags online at the Alaska Airlines Company Store.    

Courtesy Airportag

Over at the Airportag aviation and travel gift shop, the choices range from travel bags and bedding to fashion, gear, gadgets, art and housewares that all have airport, airline and travel-related themes. Bonus: much of the gear is customizable.

Travel-sized gifting

Need to fill some stockings? Travel-sized versions of lotions, potions, snack-foods, personal care items and first-aid staples can do the trick. And a box or bag filled with a dozen or more hand-picked travel items makes a great gift.

Travel PAKT creates customized kits of travel-sized toiletries with an eye to sustainable sources, natural ingredients and recyclable or compostable packaging. Minimus.biz carries more than 2500 travel-sized items as well as pre-made sets, including an Eco-Traveler gift set, an Avid Traveler Essentials Gift Set ($65.48; 60 items) a Business Traveler Kit ($24. 24; 15 items) and a Carry-On Caddy for men ($16.72) or women ($16.10).

Interesting eating

Courtesy Traveling Spoon

Finding a great restaurant on the road is a treat, but a variety of dining-with-locals programs connects hungry travelers with amateur chefs. “These programs follow the Airbnb model of connecting travelers with locals worldwide,” says Seattle-based travel writer and Carol Pucci, “Not with a room but with a shared meal in a private home.”

Eatwith, Traveling Spoon, and (by December 15) Meal Sharing are among the programs offering gift certificates that will send your favorite traveler on a tasty new adventure.  

Gifts that do good

You feel good giving a gift. The recipient feels good getting a gift. But it doesn’t have to end there.

The World Wildlife Fund offers symbolic species adoption kits ($55 and up) that include a plush version of one of 100 animals (search by popularity or threat level: extinct, endangered or near threatened) as well as a photo, adoption certificate and a species information card. Gift a ‘virtual’ adoption of animals ranging from African Elephants and Hammerhead Sharks to honeybees and zebras and more of your funds go to saving animals travelers may get to see in the wild.

Gifts for Good helps companies and corporate gift-buyers find and create gifts that give back in some way to a wide variety of social causes. Travel-related gifts include everything from socks adorned with world maps ($14.95) to stainless steel water bottles ($25) and upcycled backpacks made from old vinyl billboards ($68). Some, but not all, items on this site have minimum orders.

Souvenir Sunday: last minute gifts for travelers

Santa

Still puzzling over a gift for the road warrior or frequent traveler on your list? How about a plane ticket?

That’s what a recent poll from Switchfly discovered people really want.

More than half of those interviewed (65 percent) said they would be delighted to receive an air travel gift for the holiday. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they’d prefer a gift of a first-class upgrade, while 31 percent would rather have a plane ticket to a foreign country.

Buying plane tickets for your friends and family can be complicated – and costly – so consider instead one of the travel-related gifts on this list.

Some help travelers be more efficient on the road. Others may improve a travel experience, help someone out of a jam or just serve as a pleasant perk on a stressful travel day.

Best of all, the items here can be purchased on-line and delivered to an email inbox at the very last minute.

Because we know you’re a busy traveler too.

Words and pictures for travel

The classic DK Eyewitness Travel Guides were recently revamped and now have updated itineraries, new content, even better images and improved usability. The books are still a bit heavy for those who need to travel light, so it’s a good thing that most all the guides, along with the DK Top 10, Eyewitness Family Travel and the Eyewitness Back Roads series are now available as e-books.

Rosetta’s Stone’s courses in 30 languages can also be delivered as e-gifts and can help travelers with down-time on long plane rides learn how to order a great meal or close a deal in another country.

TSA-compliant conveniences

Day of Relaxation Gift Set from Minimus.biz

Relying on hotel toiletries can be a hit or miss proposition, so most frequent travelers stuff their TSA-compliant 3-1-1 bags with tiny tubes and bottles of lotions and potions from brands they love or an assortment of items snitched from hotel bathrooms along the way.

The gift of replenishing those minis is made easy with an e-gift certificate from Minimus.biz, a website that carries more than 2,500 travel and individual-sized items (including food) and a nice variety of gift and personal care travel kits.

Another option is a subscription to Birchbox, which will send your favorite traveler a box filled with five beauty and personal care samples for the next 3, 6 or 12 months. (Prices start at $30 for women and $60 for men.)

Birchbox chooses the grooming products in the amenity kits offered to travelers flying in JetBlue’s Mint premium cabin between JFK and LAX or SFO and has a couple of JetBlue discount codes out there that anyone can use for subscriptions and product discounts.

For the hassles

Just about every airline offers gift cards for travel that can delivered electronically. But for those days when a buddy is stuck at an airport due to bad weather, an ailing airplane or a canceled or just-missed flight, a gift certificate for a service at an airport day spa, such as XpresSpa, or a day pass or full year’s entry into a club lounge may be the answer.

“One option for e-gifting lounge access is — if a friend or family member is a frequent traveler, purchasing a lounge membership online for them could make a lot of sense. For example, United offers their United Club membership for $500 per year, while Delta offers their Delta Sky Club membership starting at $450,” said Lounge Buddy co-founder Brent Griffith.

The Plaza Premium Lounge, an independent all-travelers-welcome lounge with branches in London, Vancouver, Hong Kong and 15 other airports, offers e-certificates for gift cards that are good for a package of 5 to 10 visits that can be used by one person or shared around.

Need more ideas? In his Seat 2B column, Joe Brancatelli has a great list of tried and true gift ideas for road warriors.

(My story about last minute gifts for travelers first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior in a slightly different version.)

Souvenir Sunday: scratch and crumple travel gifts

Don’t tell my friends and family, but pretty much everyone on my list – including me – is getting some sort of scratch or crumple map from me this year.

Yes, everyone is happy to have Google maps back on their iPhones, but these crumpled/stuff-able city maps seems like they’d be loads of fun. They’re printed on some sort of fibrous, rip-resistant, waterproof material and are available for New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona and Tokyo for about $20 each.

Some people keep a number tally of how many countries they’ve been to; this scratch-off map let’s them keep a visual tally. About $24.

I found these – and lots of other map and travel-related goodies that will end up in gift boxes this year -on the Uncommon Goods site, although I suspect you’ll also find these items in some other on-line and ‘in-person’ stores as well.

Now.. back to shopping..