The Best Gift Ideas for Travelers
In the article below I will discuss several items that make the best travel gifts for her and the best travel gifts for him. Two items that can make an enormous difference in your travel experience are your luggage, and noise-cancelling equipment, so I will give those two some more in-depth explanation below.
1. Noise-cancelling headsets
Having worked for BOSE, a company famous for it’s noise-reduction technology a few years back, I quickly got a crash course on the merits of traveling without noise. In essence, excessive noise activates stress hormones, keeps you awake, it is tiresome and affects us on many different levels in a negative way.
Noise-cancelling technology lightens this tress by at least 80% in my experience. And instead of merely blocking engine sounds, noise-cancelling technology “cancels” it, by producing anti-noise with neutralizes the incoming sound waves. This sounds very science fiction, but it actually works. Pop on a headset and the minute you switch on the equipment, the muffled noises around you will almost disappear and you can feel your head clearing up. The first time you do this, it is an almost surreal experience.
And once you have had your first transcontinental flight with one of these puppies you will never want to do without them ever again. Those two kids nagging away at everyone’s nerves in the row behind you? Consider them eliminated. That mind-numbing engine noise attacking the senses? You won’t be able to hear it anymore, effectively transforming your travel experience, making these tremendously cool Christmas gifts.
There is a caveat though. The noise-cancelling headsets that perform at the very best level are a little on the bulky side. Think Having owned a headset that goes over your ears I can confirm that the noise reduction is impressive, and that you will not be able to hear what is going on around you anymore. However, after a few hours you may want to catch some sleep, and this is a challenge with a bigger-sized headset. Eventually, you will take off the headset and the ambient noise will shock you.
There are smaller models, but I find them a compromise on every level. Smaller enough to provide less performance, and yet big enough to not allow you to rest your head.
The in-ear headphones offered by several companies including both BOSE, Sony and other manufacturers offer a solution. Their noise-cancelling performance is still very adequate and yet you can rest your head without a problem. I reckon that in combination with a neck pillow, you’d have a winning combination (I never tried).
Also note that the bigger headsets come in bulky carrying cases, and that they will quickly fill up your carry-on case. The in-ear sets come in little practical pouches, making them a much more practical proposition. Add their discrete look, and I’d say you have one of the best travel gifts for her. The nerd factor is high with these gadgets, so I doubt she will ever have heard of this technology. But once you’ve experience continental flights with one of these, you can’t go back. Several airliners already offer these headsets to their 1st class airliners, so you know they are on to something.
For worldly globetrotters, great luggage is one of those unique gifts for travelers that will always be appreciated. Why? Because it is one of those articles people will usually skimp on because they don’t know any better.
But with all the developments in recent years, we can do a lot better than a weekend bag or suitcase on wheels. A few years back I bought a matching set off travel bags consisting of a shoulder bag and a backpack and they perfectly compliment each other.
Wanting that flexibility, I made a conscious decision to buy two smaller items instead one big one and for weekend trips, I found that this is the perfect setup. You get to pack and repack your most important items once you arrive at your destination. And instead of hauling around that one big bag, you get to bring your bare necessities with you on a day-to-day basis, wherever you are.
And as a gift, especially women will appreciate you going that extra mile with two matching luggage pieces. Not only is two always better than one, you are also giving them the ability to accessorize.
For someone who really needs that single piece of luggage, there is good news too. With the wider acceptance of carbon fiber construction, this exotic material has trickled down to the travel industry as well.
In short, quality luggage has come a long way and it really pays off to ditch that pas-me-down Samsonite your parents gave you. Cheap suitcases (the one that eternally seems to be “on sale” anywhere in the world) are made of ABS plastics. But the good stuff is usually made of polycarbonate which is more durable, less flexible and also has a sleeker look to it.
Smart design allows travelers bring pieces with them that fit inside overhead compartments, but will also expand if that extra space is needed for some reason. The higher end of the market even offers expansion and compression systems that will allow you to bring several more days of clothing with you, which is an incredible value proposition. Look up “Briggs & Riley expendables” and you will know what I mean. Hint: It’s got nothing to do with cheesy action flicks with old Hollywood stars.
There are also several companies selling “smart suitcases”, but most of the gimmicks these suitcases feature are, well… gimmicky. There is a certain brand making waves with their flagship product that has a “tracking device” in it, an app that allows you to lock and unlock it, and integrated scales functionality. Apart from the USB charging, I would say most of this is fluff, and right now it is not technically possible to track a suitcase with GPS unless there is a real GPS unit integrated into the suitcase. The Wi-Fi sniffing device their product integrates is completely useless.
Either way, great luggage is one of those gifts for people who love to travel. Do some research, and present your loved one with a gift they will cherish and appreciate for years to come. Look for an interior that allows stacking and organizing, a USB charger unit and whether or not a set, a carry-on or a bigger luggage piece is your best option.
A word on rollers – while a suitcase on wheels is amazing in flat airport territory and convention centers, these get very tiresome in cities, especially in Europe where cobblestone surfaces are widespread. So in essence, the set approach I discussed earlier (two smaller sets instead of one bulky carrier) solves many problems for a small space and weight penalty.
While both suitcase sets and noise-cancelling headsets are in the upper price range, there are numerous other ideas that make some of the best travel gifts for him (or her).
3. Priority Pass
A priority pass is incredibly useful, as it eliminates some of the mayor annoyances of travel, which is the waiting. If you have ever traveled with someone who’s headed straight for the business lounge and you were allowed in as well, you know the deal.
From Jamaica to Estonia and of course all international airports, a Priority Pass allows for a first-class experience on an economy flight. 2016, Priority Pass officially added their 1000th lounge to their portfolio so which ever airport you are flying to, you will find a lounge with fast internet, free drinks and the occasional buffet.
Do make sure your friend isn’t already subscribed to some service, because frequent flyers usually are. For someone leaving on a gap year though, this is one of the best gifts for people who love to travel. Every time they are in an airport, they will make use of your present and thank you for it. Apart from a sleeping pod, this is the ultimate way to relax on an airport, making these passes helpful and cool Christmas gifts.
4. Sleeping solutions
I brought up the neck pillow earlier, and whenever I fly, the boarding area usually has at least two or three people who are ready to rock, with an inflated neck pillow around their neck. Personally I find it a terrible device that doesn’t live up to its promise, but maybe your neck is different. Either way, it makes an incredibly lame gift so skip it.
What does work for a great sleeping solution is earplugs. Hardly a great gift for him or her, but it is still an attentive gesture. My personal favorite to give to travelers is a travel hammock though or airlounger, depending on where they are going.
Hammocks make some of the best travel gifts for her because of the instant win on instagram. The association with great beach holidays is unbeatable and they don’t just look good. I’ve fallen asleep countless times in great hammocks and even spent the night in them. All you need is a spot to tie them up, and with no immediate trees around, you will be amazed at just how many balconies can hold a great hammock.
For the more lad-culture inclined, there is the airlounger, a simple tube you can quickly inflate anywhere that offers ultimate relaxation on the go. It’s an ideal solution for long train station delays, beaches with pricey chair rentals or resorts that run out of poolside seats.
They tend to look a little obnoxious, as you sink away in them with both legs on either side, but in combination with earplugs or the aforementioned noise-cancelling headset, this is an advanced cocooning setup, making both of these in a set ideal gifts for people who love to travel.
5. Power adapters
Traveling regularly between three continents quickly exhausts your different gadgets due to the unavailability of the right power sockets for your setup. While there are universal travel plugs, and they really do work, they will usually only allow you to charge one power-hungry battery at a time. So whether it is your GoPro, your iPad or Phantom that needs charging, one will always be low on power.
Apple solved this problem better than other companies by selling a travel kit in most of their stores, offering a valuable solution. Having a MacBook Pro that still has its trusty two USB-ports, I am a charging powerhouse even on the road, with two adapters for every continent (roughly), and the necessary USB-ports to charge additional devices. So if you have an Apple aficionado in your circle who needs a gift, order the adapter set now; it isn’t prohibitively expensive and makes one of those great gifts for business travelers.
6. The big no-no’s when you’re looking for cool Christmas gifts for travelers
Avoid The Lonely Planet or other guides. Whatever is printed on paper is probably already outdated and doesn’t take into account special events and other calamities. On top of that, most travelers are constantly online, picking snippets of information here and there to get all the info they need.
Handheld books just don’t have the speed of a quick Google search, and neither do they have an algorithm warning you that the “palace is closed today” or telling you that there are similar tours in the area.
The same goes for well-meant novelty items like UV-light hotel room inspectors, detergent gels, passport covers, luggage labels, tie-wraps (seriously) or Travel SIM cards and traveler checks. That last one must be a generational thing, but apparently some people still think of them as practical – they’re not.
The best gift by far you can give and traveler, male or female is the one they desire. So have an inconspicuous chat, maybe start of yourself about that fancy thing you saw someone use the other day. Get your friend or lover going on what it is they would like and try to get as much detail out of them without raising suspicion.
Remember, great gifts are even better when they come as a surprise.
More Inspiration: Check out other amazing places you need to visit
Alexander Grootmeester is an copywriter/online media expert living in South-east Asia for the better part of a decade. Asked what he likes best about living there, he usually answers that it’s “the tightly organized anarchy”.