Gifts For Travelers: Consider The Person, Place And Travel Trends

gifts for travelersWhen it comes to gifts for travelers, there are a lot of choices. Leisure travelers, those who commonly associate travel with fun, vacation time and new places have their needs. Business travelers are a different story, often looking at their frequent trips to the same place as work and a hotel room their office. Adventure travelers and others have their own priorities as well. Each has different needs. Knowing what they put a high value on can help us pick the perfect gift. To find out, we checked a number of published packing lists for a variety of travelers.

Universally common and high-priority advice includes packing a passport, travel documents like visa’s, hotel and flight confirmations, boarding passes and a list of critical phone numbers. Basics like appropriate clothing, personal care products, smartphone apps and money round out the list. Nothing really shocking there but that’s the point of a packing list, to jog our memory so we don’t forget something critical.

All of the above considered, a document organizer might be a good idea for a less-than-organized traveler on your gift list. Victorinox, the Swiss army people, has a Travel Organizer that features: a large stash pocket and full-length zippered pocket to store tickets, a passport and most sizes of currency; a zippered pocket for coins; dedicated card slots; and a micromesh ID slot ($32).

But say your traveler already has something like that or is the type of person that you know will not use it. If they have not traveled in a while, they may not know about the current trend to travel light. OneBag, a website dedicated to “the art and science of traveling light” has some ideas.”There’s no question: over-packing tops the list of biggest travel mistakes,” says OneBag on its website, which promises, “going pretty much anywhere, for business or leisure, for an indefinite length of time, with no more than a single carry-on-sized bag.”

Benefits of traveling light include increased personal security with just one bag; that’s less to lose due to theft, damage or misrouting. Traveling light means no checked bags and a more stress- and hassle-free way to go.

So maybe “things” are not what we should focus on for the traveler on our list. That leaves gift cards, arranging for an appropriate gift to be waiting for them at their destination and well wishes.

Just in time for the holidays, Carnival Cruise Lines has launched its first-ever gift card program, a pre-paid card that can be used as payment toward a “Fun Ship” vacation or a variety of shipboard purchases. Celebrity Cruises (with a double your gift card offer) and other cruise lines have a similar program, as do airlines, car rental companies and major hotel chains like Marriott, Best Western and others.

A gift card from TravelSmith or REI Adventure products would take the pressure off of gifting, allowing the traveler to pick what they want or need. A better gift card would be for places your traveler might visit on a planned itinerary or serve as incentive to book that trip-of-a-lifetime.

Someone traveling to Disney World in Florida, for example, might appreciate a McDonalds gift card. That may sound like a dumb gift but just outside the gates of Disney World where dining can be expensive, is a McDonalds and the largest McDonalds in the world is not far. Oh, all of the sudden “dumb” is “thoughtful” and absolutely used, rather than set aside with other well-intentioned gifts.

Need some other gift ideas? Check this video from US Airways:


OneBag offers some other guidelines that can steer us in the right direction too, focusing on three areas that can lead to some great gift suggestions:

  • Packing List Usage, abandoning the folly of lugging around too much stuff;
  • Weight Reduction, finding travel-friendly versions of the stuff you do carry; and
  • Bag Optimization, understanding what to look for in efficient & effective luggage.

[Photo credit- Flickr user tikigod]

Travel health gift guide: what to get the incessant wanderer on your list

travel healthTravel junkies are a special breed. Only a very distinct personality type gets a rush from being on the road as much as possible, or relishes the discomforts and situations most people go to lengths to avoid. Homesickness is a foreign concept.

I know, because I too suffer from this malady. It started early, because I have a vivid memory of bursting into tears when I was six or seven, after we dropped a friend off at the airport.

“What’s wrong?” my dad asked. “I’m sad because we’re not getting on an airplane,” was my reply (ironic given my aviophobia, which had its onset about 12 years later).

A paralyzing fear of air travel hasn’t stopped me from roaming, however. So, whether you have a loved one who practically lives at Club Med or one actually enjoys sleeping on the ground or in janky Third World hostels rife with cockroaches…lucky you. You have a travel addict in the family or as a friend.

One experience incessant wanderers don’t go looking for? Illness or injury. While not inevitable, the more time you spend abroad, the greater the likelihood of suffering from anything from an infected bug bite or Bali Belly to…worse. But as I’ve always said, you can get hit by a bus crossing the street.

Of course travel isn’t inherently unsafe, but there are precautionary measures that minimize the odds of having health issues on the road. Below, my road-tested gift picks for frequent travelers (especially those who visit sub-tropical or tropical climes) and outdoor enthusiasts.

SteriPEN or LifeStraw portable water filter
Reasons why one of these is a worthwhile investment:

  • Saves money on purchasing bottled water in developing nations/places without potable water
  • Better for the environment (see above)
  • You can contract giardia or other nasties from improperly “bottled” water (trust me)
  • You don’t have to be out in the backcountry to have a potable water shortage; owning a filtration system is good insurance you stay hydrated and healthy, even in the city.

[Photo credit: Flickr user fauxrealphotos]travel healthTravel first aid kit
Even infrequent travelers should carry basic first-aid supplies: band-aids, gauze pads, Neosporin, OTC meds, etc.. Personalize your gift by tailoring a pre-purchased kit (REI is a great place to find different types and sizes) to suit the interests and needs of your recipient.

Wilderness first aid class
CPR or a general first aid class is a good idea for anyone, but if any of your loved ones live for backcountry pursuits or traveling off the beaten path, a WFA course can be a lifesaver–literally. Look one up in your area through the American Red Cross.

Controlled-release DEET and/or Insect Shield apparel
There was a time, several years ago, when I shunned DEET unless I was in a malarial region. Why, I asked myself, would I willingly douse myself in a pesticide? Why would I inflict said poison upon the environment?

That philosophy is all well and good until you get bitten by something harboring an infectious evil (in my case, it was sandflies carrying the Bartonella bacilliformis bacterium) that anti-malarials can’t prevent. Also note that malaria prophylaxis is not without considerable side-effects and may not protect you against certain strains of the disease. Be sure to talk to an infectious disease, tropical medicine, or travel physician experienced with actual working experience in these regions.

These days, I’m all about DEET if I’m traveling somewhere with potentially harmful biting insects, especially now that there are controlled-release versions on the market (there are various brands on the market; Sawyer Products is highly recommended). One application is good for up to 12 hours.

As for clothes, I love my Insect Shield long sleeve button-up shirt from ExOfficio. Good for up to 70 washings (after which you still have a good-looking, lightweight travel top), bug-repelling garments are treated with permethrin, EPA-registered, and free of toxic-smelling fumes.

Sun protective clothing
As you likely know, heat exhaustion or heat stroke can be serious; even fatal. In addition to a good sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat, sun protective clothing is a seriously smart idea for outdoor types. Once again, I recommend ExOfficio, or REI own brand, which will save you a few dollars.

Bear bell or spray
Google “2011 grizzly attacks.” ‘Nuff said.
travel health
SmartWool
socks
What they say in the military is true: you gotta take care of your feet. Once your dogs go, you’re SOL in the backcountry or tropics. Keeping feet clean and dry (and warm, if applicable) is of utmost importance (at the very least, fellow travelers will appreciate your hygiene efforts). These moisture-wicking, stench-resistant socks are invaluable even if you’re just planning an extended trip.

Ibex woolies
Getting chilled can quickly become serious or fatal, and hypothermia prevention in the form of extra layers is key. These 100% merino wool underlayers from Vermont-based outfitter Ibex are the bomb. Comfortable, warm, moisture-wicking, and seriously odor-proof (anything that remains fit to wear in public after a month-long backpacking trip from the Andes to the Amazon–sans laundry–is a product I heartily endorse). Plus, they come in cute stripey designs as well as solids.

[Photo credit: Band-aids, Flickr user m.gifford, feet, Flickr user Cin]

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In a Bag Cities: Toy Blocks for Travelers or the Kid Inside

At my dad’s house is a bag of wooden blocks. They are vintage Playskol-a present given to my brother way back when but still fun to haul out just the same. I use my son as an excuse. The Japanese company MUJI makes blocks in a bag that are so adult friendly a kid isn’t needed for a reason to play.

Taking the term, “city blocks” to a new level, MUJI’s wooden blocks cross generations by representing the world’s most famous cities. You can own New York, Paris, Tokyo or London-or buy them all to mix it up. The Eiffel Tower joins Big Ben perhaps? The Empire State Building next to Senso Ji?

If you’re looking for a present for the world traveler in your life, these might be it. Or use them as a creative way to drop a “Let’s go there” hint. Or when you’re sitting at your desk wishing your were heading somewhere exciting you can build your destination and pretend. If you live in a city and wonder how suburbia might feel, you can build that too. Suburbia comes with trees.

You can buy In a Bag, New York at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in Manhattan. All of them can be ordered on-line from the MUJI website.