Christmas is creeping up on us, so it’s time I got over my aversion to shopping and started getting organised. I’ve read a lot of Christmas gift guides for travellers, but as a part-time traveller there’s only so many suitcases, adaptors and travel clothes I need – I’m more likely to be looking for ways to bring my love of travel home with me. So I’ve collated 24 of the best travel-themed Christmas gifts around. None are too expensive – half are under £20 and only one is over £100. Most of these I’ve either been given or bought for other people, or are on my wishlist for this year. So if you’re looking a present for a travel-lover (or some suggestions for your own list for Santa), hopefully you’ll find the perfect gift in here somewhere.
1. 36 Hours Weekend Guides to Europe, the USA and Canada or Asia and Oceania (£20): These New York Times weekend guide itineraries are perfect for part-time travellers. Each has lots of 36-hour trip ideas with maps and recommendations for what to do, see and eat – and not just in obvious destinations.
2. Spicery Subscription (£22 for three months): Ideal for food lovers and wannabe chefs, each month you get a box of spices and recipes from a different country. It’s enough to make a two-course meal for four people, and you’ll learn to make dishes like Lebanese mezze, Moroccan tagine and Sri Lankan curry.
3. Travel Books (from £5): There are so many travel-themed books around, from guidebooks to fiction, it can be hard to know where to start. I’ve got lots of recommendations in my Reads on the Road series, but few of my favourites are On the Map for cartography lovers, Love with a Chance of Drowning and How Not to Travel the World for travel memoirs, and Ticket to Ride for train travel fans.
4. Lonely Planet Travel Book (£26): This is a coffee table book on a grand scale, with a double page spread for every country in the world. It’s full of big, beautiful photographs as well as a bit of information about each country, so you’ll never run out of travel ideas (and learn lots of useful pub quiz facts).
5. English Heritage Membership (£52): Membership to a local heritage or parks organisation is a good present to get people exploring. In the UK there’s English Heritage and the National Trust, but many other countries have something similar – like the America the Beautiful National Park Pass in the USA.
6. Magazine Subscription (£30): A travel magazine subscription is a whole year worth of inspiration, and there’s something much more exciting about it arriving through your letter box. I really like the Sunday Times Travel, but there’s also Lonely Planet, Wanderlust, Afar and National Geographic Traveler.
Bring the world home
1. Custom Map Print (£48): This is such a genius idea – go to the Mapiful website, choose the place you want in the centre of the map, zoom in or out as much as you like, then add a caption, choose a size and they’ll print it for you to hang on your wall. Great for expats or to remember a special destination.
2. Airportag Cushions and Mugs (£20 and £16): Airportag is another great idea, with colourful designs based on airport codes. There are cushions and mugs featuring places from all around the world, as well as a whole load of other products like blankets, coasters, bags, poster prints and t-shirts.
3. Custom Map Lampshade (£42): This company recycles vintage maps by turning them into lampshades, to either hang up or use on a table lamp. You can choose any part of the UK you want the map to be from (for overseas destinations they say to get in touch to make sure they have the right map).
4. Food Art Posters (£25): These hand-drawn maps were created by the blogger behind the site Legal Nomads. Each country’s top dishes are arranged around the country’s outline. You can choose from Mexico, Vietnam, Thailand, Portugal and Italy, in either black or white, and you can also get tote bag versions.
5. Map Bunting (£16.50): Another clever bit of map recycling, this double-sized bunting mixes old tourist, road and OS maps. There’s regular and long versions and it looks great hung up over a desk or fireplace.
6. Vintage Travel Poster (£4): These reproductions of vintage posters are a real bargain (there’s even a ‘buy two get one free’ offer). I have this Caribbean one up in my lounge but there are lots of different destinations you can choose from, and they’re available in A4 or A3 size so you can get a frame to fit.
Pro packing tools
1. Packing Cubes (£18): Packing cubes are a bit of a travel gift list cliché, but they do really work! Even if you’re not a long-term backpacker they still make it much easier to organise your clothes, make repacking much quicker if you’re moving around a lot, and you can squeeze so much more into your bag.
2. Portable Battery Charger (£12): Long gone are the days when my old Nokia mobile lasted a week between charges. Now my iPhone barely makes a day, especially if I’m taking lots of photos and using Google Maps. So a portable charger’s a really good idea to carry with you. They keep getting smaller, cheaper and more powerful – this one is the same size as a chocolate bar and will give an iPhone two full recharges.
3. Speakeasy Travel Scarf (£45): This is an ingenious idea that’s an upgrade on the dreaded money belt. The scarf has a hidden pocket big enough to store your passport, phone, cards and glasses. So you keep them safe and hidden, but with lots of fabrics and colours you don’t have to stand out as a tourist.
4. ONA Bowery Camera Bag (£125): I’ve tried out a few camera bags and this is by far my favourite. It’s a bit pricey but very well made, lasts for years and ages really well. There are canvas and leather versions and it’s sturdy with lots of padding in the camera compartment but doesn’t obviously look like an camera bag. You can fit a DSLR and spare lens plus a wallet and sunglasses case in without any trouble.
5. Leather Travel Wallet (£33): Bring a touch of style (even if you’re likely to be flying economy) with a leather travel wallet to store tickets, passports and paperwork. They look smart but have lots of storage inside, come in lots of different bright colours and you can also get initials embossed on.
6. Carry on Cocktail Kit (£20): If you fancy upgrading the in-flight drinks offering, these cute mini cocktail kits have everything you need to convert a vodka miniature to a Moscow Mule. There are also versions for a Bloody Mary, Old Fashioned, Gin and Tonic, Hot Toddy or Champagne Cocktail.
Making the most of your memories
1. Line a Day Diary (£10): I was given one of these two years ago and it’s such a simple idea – there’s a page for each day of the year divided into five sections for five different years. Each day you write just a couple of lines and then when you get to the end you start again in the next section. It gets more interesting the longer you do it, when you can look back and see what you were doing on this day each year.
2. Compass Necklace (£10): I’m not a big fan of the obvious travel jewellery, but these compass necklaces have a touch of subtle travel inspiration without being too cheesy. They come in silver, gold or rose gold, with an adjustable length chain, and at £10 they look a lot more expensive than they are!
3. Personalised Map Cufflinks (£32): Another travel jewellery gift, this time for the guys. These silver cufflinks are inset with walnut and you can choose the two country outlines you want featured.
4. Photo Book Credit (£30): Most travel-lovers have hundreds of trip photos on their computers doing nothing. I’m a big fan of photo books and try to do one each year with the photos from all that year’s trips. Photobox books are really good quality and the online software’s pretty easy to use. They usually have a sale where you can buy a photo book credit to give as a present which lasts for three months.
5. Custom UK Map (£17): Ordnance Survey are the kings of maps in the UK, and now they’ve now got a bespoke map service where you can choose your location and put your own photos and text on the cover.
6. Fancy notebooks (£15.60): I was given one of these notebooks a few years back and am a real convert. They’ve got really soft covers, narrow lines and come in lots of different colours. I usually carry one around with me and it makes my draft blog posts (or more likely shopping lists) feel so much more elegant.
So what would make it onto your Christmas list?
Disclaimer: this article contains some affiliate links, where I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you, but I’ll only recommend products I genuinely recommend or use myself – thanks.