Let me share a little fun fact with you guys about myself: I LOVE Christmas, and especially love picking out the perfect gifts for all the people in my life. I shop year-round for the people I love, and usually have a stash of “oh, this would be perfect for [insert family member name here]” gifts come Christmas time. (Tell me I'm not alone here?)
This year has been a weird one in so many ways, but one thing that hasn't changed is that I'm still looking forward to the holidays and giving thoughtful gifts to the people I love (even if the gift-giving has to be done in a driveway gift swap this year to keep everyone safe!).
While I usually fill my annual gift guide with my favorite travel gear and gadgets, this year it just didn't feel like the best use of this list. Instead, this year I'm curating all sorts of gifts that any travel-lover will love, no matter when they can get back out on the road.
So, without further ado, I give you the 2020 edition of Amanda's Holiday Gift Guide for Travel-Lovers!
(And, in case it needs to be said, nobody has paid me anything to include items on this list; they're all things that I'm personally recommending!)
USEFUL TRAVEL GIFTS
Here are some things that you can use at home now, but that will also be useful for travel once we can get back out on the road.
1. Speakeasy hidden pocket travel scarf
It's true: I'm a liiiiiittle bit obsessed with these hidden pocket infinity scarves from Speakeasy Travel Supply. Not only do they come in soft fabrics and cute patterns, but they also come complete with a hidden zippered pocket that's the perfect size for a passport, credit card(s), and some cash.
These are perfect for travel days – just put everything important in your scarf, wear it like normal, and skip the part where you worry about your essentials getting stolen in-transit.
And when you're not traveling? Well, these scarves are still incredibly cute and comfy! I have 4 or 5 in different patterns, and wear them from fall into early spring.
**And save 10% when you use the promo code DANGEROUSBUSINESS.
2. Comfortable face masks
Even with good vaccine news on the horizon, the reality is that we're still going to be living with COVID-19 for the next 6-8 months at least. It will take that long (or longer!) to get the majority of people vaccinated. So don't think you'll be able to get rid of your face masks as soon as we hit 2021!
Since we're going to need to keeping wearing them for a while, I have a feeling face masks are going to be a popular stocking stuffer this year.
Speakeasy Travel Supply (yes, the scarf company!) also makes my favorite cloth face masks. They have a few different styles, including double-sided cloth masks for adults and kids; masks with filter pockets and nose wires; and even an adjustable mask without ear loops that won a grant from the state of Massachusetts! Check out all of their masks here.
These masks are machine washable, made from 100% cotton, and very comfortable. Elliot likes the ones with filter pockets as they're a little bigger, while I like the regular masks. I have so many of these now, and like to match the patterns to my outfits.
I never thought the topic of sanitizing would be such a popular one, but welcome to 2020! I actually bought a pair of PhoneSoaps last year for Christmas gifts, not knowing then just how useful and in-demand they would become!
Your phone is generally regarded to be one of the dirtiest things in your house, and it's harder to clean than other things that you can throw in the wash. Enter the PhoneSoap. This device sanitizes things like smartphones using strong UV-C light that can kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses.
I use my PhoneSoap to sanitize everything from my phone to credit cards to my car keys. I can even fit most of my masks in here for a quick sanitize between washes! The PhoneSoap cleaning cycle only takes 10 minutes, so it's easy to pop my phone inside whenever I come home from being out.
We even took our PhoneSoap with us while traveling this summer and fall, and it's small enough that I may continue to travel with it next year. It's way better for your phone than alcohol wipes.
I have the PhoneSoap Go, but there are several other models available now, too. They even have a “HomeSoap,” which is large enough to sanitize things like iPads and TV remotes.
**They're having a Black Friday sale where you can save 20% and get free shipping by using the code HOLIDAY20.
4. Personalized passport cover
A little personal touch can go a long way. And an easy gift to get a travel-lover that is guaranteed to be the right fit is a personalized passport cover. These hand-made leather passport covers can be stamped with a travel quote, and your loved one's name or initials. They come in regular or wallet versions, and can be paired with matching luggage tags.
This certainly isn't something every traveler would purchase for themselves, but that's why it would make a great gift! (For the record, I love my own passport holder; it holds my passport, Yellow Fever vaccination certificate, extra passport photos, and my travel insurance info for every trip!)
WEARABLES FOR TRAVEL OR HOME
A few things I'm loving to lounge around in, but that would also be nice as gifts this year.
1. Wanderbabe leggings
Real clothes have become sort of obsolete this year; I'm living these days in leggings, t-shirts, and comfy sweaters, and would guess many of you are, too. But there's no rule that says our lounge-around-the-house clothes can't also be cute!
I got a pair of leggings from Wanderbabe Clothing this summer, and am in LOVE with how soft and buttery they are. They are designed by a fellow travel blogger, made in the USA, and a portion of proceeds is donated to organizations that support women.
I'm wearing the Many Purple Moons High-Waisted Leggings in the photo above, and find myself reaching for them more and more often. These will likely get rotated into my travel wardrobe next year.
**Sales for Black Friday! Save 20% with code FRIYAY.
2. Cozy slipper socks
I'm a big fan of cozy socks and slippers – and not just at home! I often pack slipper socks when I travel, too. They're great on planes and in hotel rooms, and generally don't take up a whole lot of space in a suitcase or carry-on.
I like my slipper socks to have a semi-solid bottom, and discovered these knit slipper socks from Azerbaijani Socks and fell in love! They're called jorab, and have been a part of Azerbaijani culture for centuries. These are knitted with Azerbaijani patterns by women in rural Azerbaijan, meaning your purchase is helping keep a unique tradition alive.
3. Coordinates bracelet or rings
Jewelry is always a great gift idea, and why not make it custom? You can order a pretty bracelet or set of rings with custom map coordinates on them; perfect for a travel-lover, or anyone who has moved around a lot.
I have a set of coordinate rings with the coordinates of where I grew up, and of Wellington, New Zealand, where I lived for a while during college. They're great for stacking!
Here are some Etsy listings that I love:
**And note that these are all from Etsy shops, many of which are running Black Friday sales!
4. Map jewelry
GIFTS FOR THE ECO-CONSCIOUS TRAVELER
Looking for ways to use less plastic at home AND while you travel? Here are my favorite eco-friendly items that also make great gifts.
1. Camelbak MultiBev bottle
I'm a big fan of CamelBak, and own several different styles of their water bottles that I use for everything from traveling to working out. They released a new bottle this year that I'll be adding to my arsenal very soon: the MultiBev, which can serve as both a to-go coffee cup AND a water bottle.
This insulated bottle/mug combo comes in two different sizes and a few different color combos. This would make a great gift this year.
**Save 25% off all bottles through Dec. 1 using the code HOLIDAY25.
2. Reusable straws
While many restaurants around the world are switching over to biodegradable straw options, you still find a LOT of plastic straws out there. I find plastic straws to be one of the most unnecessary kinds of single-use plastic, simply because there are plenty of better options out there!
But this fold-up drinking straw would make an even better gift! It comes with a little carrying case and a brush for cleaning. Great for a stocking stuffer.
3. Solid shampoo/conditioner
For various reasons (including wanting to waste less plastic and keep my luggage lighter), I've started traveling with solid shampoo and conditioner on some of my longer trips. Shampoo/conditioner bars take up far less space in a suitcase, and aren't subject to the liquid rules that regular bottles of the stuff are.
This time spent at home is great for trying out products like this; you can test to find out which ones you like and which ones last the longest so you're ready once travel starts back up again.
TRAVEL TECH YOU CAN AFFORD
1. Kindle Paperwhite
I don't go ANYwhere without my Kindle these days. And the Kindle Paperwhite, in my opinion, is the very best Kindle out there. It has a built-in backlight perfect for reading on planes, won't hurt your eyes with screen glare, and has a battery that lasts for weeks. The newest version of the Paperwhite is waterproof, too, making reading on the beach, by the pool, or in a fancy hotel tub even better.
And of course my Kindle gets a lot of use at home, too! I read most nights before bed, and have breezed through dozens of books during the lockdowns.
**Kindles are up to 35% off for Black Friday on Amazon!
2. Anker Soundcore Mini
You don't need to spend $100+ on a fancy bluetooth speaker. This SoundCore mini by Anker produces great sound at a really affordable price. AND it's small enough to easily throw in your bag on your next trip.
This speaker has become a must-have for me on road trips, for listening to everything from music to podcasts when you inevitably lose radio signal.
3. Anker power bank
While batteries are lasting longer these days, I still find that my phone often runs out of juice after a long travel day of using maps and posting to Instagram Stories. For this reason, I always travel with a small power bank for backup battery power.
I like the Anker PowerCore 15000 because it's fairly small (meaning easy to throw into my purse or day pack), but mighty – it will charge my phone 3-4 times before needing to be charged itself.
This has saved me on more than one occasion, like that one time I was in Istanbul trying to make sure my dad and I could find our way back to our hotel, and my phone inconveniently decided to die when we were still about a 20-minute walk away. Luckily I had my power bank and charging cord in my bag, and simply plugged in and kept walking.
TRAVEL-INSPIRED GIFTS FOR THE HOME
1. Scratch-off map
I like finding creative ways to bring my travels into my everyday life – and that includes in my home decorating! I love these scratch-off travel maps not only because it's fun to reveal all the places you've been, but also because they make for a great conversation piece up on the wall!
I especially like this one from Landmass Goods because it includes all the flags of the world for you to scratch off, too.
2. Custom map gifts
When I buy gifts, I try to make them personalized when I can. It just adds that special extra touch. And a really fun option for a travel-lover is a custom map!
I like these personalized map prints, which would be great to commemorate a special big trip. (A friend of mine got one made after a honeymoon road trip, for example.)
I also love this shop for beautiful watercolor maps of different US states and regions – I might need to buy the Great Lakes one for myself!
3. Adventure fund jar
Looking for something small but cute and very travel-centric? This “Adventure Fund” jar makes a great gift. Elliot and I have had a coin jar on the table in our entryway since we first moved in together, and you'd be surprised how quickly all that loose change can add up!
4. Digital photo frame
This one doesn't have to be just about travel, but would be a good way to share and display your favorite travel photos!
I actually used to have a digital photo frame about a decade ago, back when they were clunky and you had to load photos onto an SD card. These days, digital photo frames look a lot better, AND are much higher-tech. Now, you can send new images to a frame over wifi or via email, and you can also organize them through apps and websites.
We thought of getting my grandma (who lives in a nursing home) one of these for Christmas so we can send her photos and videos since we can't go see her.
**This frame is also currently 20% off for Black Friday! A good deal!
5. Custom View Master
Speaking of unique ways to display travel photos, this one is a fun one! You can gift a Viewmaster with a custom reel of memorable photos (yes, a Viewmaster like the ones you used to play with as a kid!).
I love this as a gift idea, since it's not something a person is likely to buy for themselves. Plus, the ability to choose which photos go on the real makes it a great personalized gift. I gave Elliot one of these several years ago for our anniversary, and he loved it!
6. National Park blanket
This is one of the pricier gifts on this list, but I like them so much that I'm still going to include them. What better way to bring travel into your everyday life than with a blanket that celebrates America's great national parks?
Pendelton is known for its high-quality wool blankets, and they now have a line inspired by national parks. Whether its Yellowstone, Crater Lake, or the Grand Canyon that you like best, these blankets would make the perfect statement piece in any room. My favorite? The Glacier blanket, for sure.
FOR THE OUTDOOR ENTHUSIAST
1. GRAYL purifier bottle
Have an outdoor adventure enthusiast in your life? Then a GRAYL Geopress would make a great gift. These water bottles are also purifiers, great for backpacking and hiking since they allow you safely drink water from any water source, be it a stream or waterfall.
I have often traveled with a bottle like this, which also works to make tap water safe to drink all around the world by filtering out viruses, bacteria, pesticides, heavy metals, and microplastics.
They have an “ultralight” version of this bottle, too, but I prefer the larger Geopress one, as it's easier to use.
**Save 20% on GRAYL products for Black Friday, too!
2. Hiking poles
Have you or your loved one picked up hiking as a hobby during 2020? Lots of people have! In that case, a set of nice hiking poles would be a great gift for Christmas.
(And, before you tell me that they're dorky, hiking poles are an *excellent* piece of gear to own. They can help improve your balance, protect your knees, and even encourage you to pick up the pace on a hike.)
I bought my dad a pair of hiking poles a couple years ago for his long walks with his dogs, and he's brought them on all our trips since! (And yes, you can travel with these; buy the collapsible kind, and pack them in your checked luggage.)
3. Packable sun hat
Sun protection is no joke, people. I've been on a quest for the past couple of years to find a packable sun hat that I love. And I've finally found some! I really love the hats made by the Wallaroo Hat Company, which are not only cute sun hats, but also effective – many of them have UPF protection built right in.
I so far have the Victoria Fedora and the Naples Fedora, and love them both. The Victoria can be folded up and packed (though you'll want to unfold it as much as you can).
These hats aren't cheap, but are good quality and last a long time – making them a great gift.
FOR THOSE WHO JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN
Looking for something fun to gift the game-loving traveler in your life? Here are some fun and interactive gift ideas.
1. Lonely Planet Everyday Adventures
Lonely Planet is usually known for its travel guidebooks, but recently they released a new “guide” called Everyday Adventures, which aims to give people new ideas of ways to explore places closer to home. I'm a big fan of hometown travel, and think this would make a fun gift, especially this year.
2. Travel LEGO sets
Jigsaw puzzles are SO last lockdown. If you want to amp it up a bit and buy something the whole family can work on together over the holiday break, why not a travel-inspired LEGO set?
Elliot and I got a very tiny LEGO version of Big Ben for Christmas last year, and worked on it during the first round of lockdowns. It was super fun, and I had no idea LEGO's architecture line was so extensive! They have everything from mini city skylines (like Paris and San Francisco and Tokyo) to intricate sets to recreate famous sites like the Statue of Liberty and Trafalgar Square.
LEGO has a lot of things on sale for Black Friday, too, so have a look if you're in the market to build something at home this holiday season!
3. Travel-themed board games
In our house, we are big fans of board games. (Any fellow Betrayal at House on the Hill fans out there? It's a current favorite of ours.) But don't assume that board games only mean Monopoly and Clue. There are SO many great games out there.
For those who want to weave a bit of travel into their board games, check these out:
- Trekking The National Parks
- Ticket to Ride Europe
- And they even make “escape room in a box” games now!
FOR THOSE WHO DON'T WANT “STUFF”
I personally enjoy buying people physical gifts to open on Christmas Day, but it can be really tough to find things that are both thoughtful AND useful. Sometimes, more “stuff” just isn't the answer.
If you're looking for some non-material things to buy the traveler in your life this year, here a few things to consider:
1. A virtual tour
I know, I know, a lot of us are “Zoom-ed out” right now, but in a couple months a virtual tour of a museum or famous site might be the perfect weekend break at home. Several companies are still offering excellent virtual tours.
My go-to for walking tours in Europe is usually Walks, and they've been expanding their live Tours from Home offerings all year. Some that sound great include an Antoni Gaudí tour of Barcelona, a tour covering the secrets of the Sistine Chapel, and a tour of the highlights of the Louvre in Paris. These tours are only $10 each.
Other places to look for virtual tours include Airbnb Experiences. Virtual tours can be trickier to find here, but they do exist! For example, my friend Laurel is currently offering a super cool virtual experience where you can learn all about the world's primates!
2. A virtual class or tasting
Virtual cooking classes, cocktail classes, and even wine tastings are available out there, and make a great group activity you can do with friends or extended family from the safety of your respective homes. Virtual cooking classes were really popular in the early days of the pandemic, and I have a feeling they may make a comeback this winter, too.
Walks offers some virtual culinary classes (some in partnership with Devour Tours), including a pasta-making class with Italian chefs, a traditional Greek cooking class from Athens, and a tapas and sangria class from Spain. These are all done live with chefs in Europe, making them really unique.
3. Bookings or gift cards for future travel
It's looking like we might finally, finally be in the home stretch of COVID-19. Vaccines won't make the pandemic go away overnight, but many people in the travel industry are at least starting to be optimistic about travel in the second half of 2021.
If that's the case, then you might want to take advantage of holiday deals on things like tours and hotel bookings (with good free cancelation policies, of course!) now, in hopes that we can do at least a bit of travel next year.
Some companies offering great sales AND solid cancelation/no-change-fee policies include:
- Intrepid Travel – My favorite tour company is once again doing a Cyber Sale, offering 20% off most tours for 2021 (valid through Dec. 1). They have a flexible booking policy with no change fees up to 21 days before departure.
- Booking.com – The hotel booking site (that I personally use most of the time) is offering 30% or more off on stays completed before Dec. 31, 2021. Many hotels on Booking offer free cancelation.
- Quark Expeditions – Not sure when even small-ship expedition cruises will be back, but Quark is offering a truly tempting deal: 2 for 1 on many of their Arctic and Antarctic voyages! They also have a risk-free cancelation policy and flexible re-booking in case you can't go when you originally book.
So there you have it – another year, another gift guide! Which of these items would you like Santa to bring YOU this year?
Pin it for later: