Travel Hacking: Best Holiday Gifts For Low-Tech Travelers

I’m an unapologetic Luddite. My colleagues at Gadling will attest to this. The fact that I write for AOL is both cosmic luck and hilarious irony given my initial reluctance to embrace the digital era.

I can’t help it; it’s hereditary. At least, that’s what I tell myself, whenever I watch my dad pecking away on my grandparent’s 1930s Smith-Corona (not a lie), or fumbling with the remote.

It’s unsurprising that when I travel, I try to keep things as low-tech as possible. It’s a matter of both practicality and part of my old school aesthetic that leads me to eschew costly devices and other gadgets. I’m also incapable of figuring out how to use them, so I look at it as less items to get stolen or malfunction.

I know I’m not alone, so I’ve compiled a list of holiday gifts for the die-hard travelers on your list who refuse to change their old-timey ways. Just remember, one of these days, us minimalists are going to be cutting-edge for being retro.

Gift card to an actual bookstore (preferably independently-owned), or travel store.
Yeah, books are heavier to lug than a Kindle or a Nook, but as a writer, I value the written word. So do a lot of people, and one of the joys of traveling for us is exchanging books with fellow vagabonds or trading in at a guesthouse or hostel.

Prepaid international phone card
Cheap, abundant, and a hell of a lot less of a hassle than dealing with Verizon overseas (in my experience). A prepaid international card is easy to purchase, although do note it’s usually less expensive for travelers to purchase cards at their destination. It’s the thought that counts.

Netbook or airbook
I may be tech-challenged, but I’m not crazy. I can’t earn a living if I don’t travel with a computer. My inexpensive little Acer has seen me through a lot of countries and fits neatly into my daypack, along with its accessories. Don’t forget a wireless mouse to go with it.
Waterproof journal
Many travelers keep journals, and some of us who travel occupationally still carry notebooks (I don’t even own a tape recorder). It’s a huge bummer, however, when the inevitable rain, beer, wine, or coffee renders covers soggy or writing illegible. An all-weather notebook is the solution.

Ibex undergarments
I used to work in a mountaineering/ski shop in Telluride, and I swear by Ibex. Their 100% merino wool, American-made boy shorts, long johns/long “janes,” cami’s, sports bras, and adorable, long-sleeve, stripey tops are the ultimate underlayers for cold weather adventures. I road-tested some items on a month-long backpacking trip through Ecuador, from the Amazon Basin to one of the highest active volcanoes on earth. I was able to do laundry exactly twice. Ibex: 1, Stench: 0. Men’s and women’s items available; they also make outerwear.

Travel scarf/shawl/blanket
Many women get cold on airplanes and long, AC-blasted bus rides. Since I backpack, I’ve found several different drapey items in my travels that pull triple duty. Depending upon what part of the world I’m in, I’ll use a soft, alpaca shawl to dress up outfits, as a lap blanket, or an impromptu pillow. In the Andes, I sub a llama wool poncho. In the tropics, it’s a pretty, airy sarong. When I get home, I have a wonderful souvenir.

If you’re buying for someone departing on a trip, any department store will have a wide assortment and price range of pashminas or scarves. Just be sure it’s a dark color, to hide dirt and stains, and that it’s made of soft, preferably natural-fibers, so it won’t absorb odors as readily. The item should be able to withstand sink-washing.

Multi-purpose beauty products
Regardless of gender, everyone loves multi-purpose travel products: more room for souvenirs! I like Josie Maran Argan Oil, which can be used as a lightweight, yet rich, face or body moisturizer, or to condition hair (use just a few drops for soft, gleaming strands). Rosebud salve comes in cute, vintagey tins, smells lovely, and soothes everything from dry lips and cracked heels to flyaways. Many top make-up brands produce multi-use products: I crave Korres Cheek Butter, which is also gorgeous on lips (all available at Sephora).

Lush makes luxe bar soaps that work on body and hair, but perhaps the kindest gift for the female adventure traveler? Inexpensive fragrance that does double duty as perfume and clothes/room freshener. I never leave home without Demeter’s Gin & Tonic Cologne Spray.

[Photo Credit: jurvetson]

BYO-Spa – June Jacobs luxe beauty products for travelers

You can only buy certain products in that “Travel Items” aisle in the drugstore, and they’re not the best ones. Isn’t it time that a decent spa company came out with a line of luxurious, skin-friendly products you can get safely through TSA?

June Jacobs, known for rich, protective botanical products infused with antioxidants and anti-aging agents, has released a Flight Friendly Skin Care collection, consisting of a Face Travel Kit ($100), Body Travel Kit ($95) and Intensive Age Defying Travel Kit ($165). Those prices may seem steep, but for small versions of so many great products, you’ll find it’s actually a deal. And, unlike those drugstore products, June Jacobs’ products contain no parabens, preservatives, synthetic dyes or sulfates.

The Face Travel Kit, pictured above, contains the following elegant, crave-worthy potions:

  • Creamy Cranberry Cleanser
  • Pore Refining Oatmeal Scrub
  • Aroma Mineral Mist
  • Advanced Cell Repair Serum
  • Skin Amour Day Shield SPF 15
  • Ultra Light Citrus Moisturizer
  • Cooling Cucumber Eye Gel
  • Lip Renewal

One splurge on this package, and you’re likely to be more beautiful when you travel than when you’re home. Fortunately, these are all just mini versions of products available in full sizes from Even if you’re not traveling, dipping into one of these kits is a cost-effective way to try out the June Jacobs line.

Thank you, June Jacobs, for recognizing that luxury beauty consumers also tend to be travelers.

[Photo by Annie Scott.]

MyChelle Dermaceuticals – A whole travel-sized skincare regimen!

Mychelle Dermaceuticals is a natural skincare and mineral makeup line with a full collection of travel-sized beauty products!

When you’re traveling is when your skin needs the rejuvenation of minerals and antioxidant rich natural products the most. Mychelle Dermaceuticals has entire skincare regimens in convenient travel packages for:

… each containing a host of goodies, including free samples and a plastic zipper bag for your TSA pleasure on sale for under $24.99 (click the above to see the sale prices).

I tried the Normal Skin regimen, and highly recommend the Fruit Enzyme Cleanser. If you’re traveling somewhere hot and sunny, the SPF 28 Sun Shield Moisturizer is a perfect choice, as is the Perfect C Serum (a great topical treatment for sunburned skin). You could totally throw one of these All In Ones in your carry-on or suitcase with the intent to pamper yourself and rescue your travel-stressed skin at the hotel.

I also tried some of the Mychelle Dermaceuticals mineral makeup while I was at it — the Cream Foundation in Porcelain, Blush Stick in Peony (love this color), Eye Shimmer in Champagne, and Lip Gloss in Garnet.

Click through the gallery to see all the products up close and in person, and visit Mychelle Dermaceuticals to purchase from their seriously comprehensive travel beauty line!

Pretty Fly – Tiny travel beauty fixes

Pretty Fly makes a pack of single-serving beauty products you can use as the plane descends to wake yourself up and counteract some of the damage that flying can do to your skin and hair. The products are all natural, and created for a growing market: women travelers.

According to Pretty Fly, women travelers take almost 50% of the business trips in the U.S., and they also make 70% of travel decisions.

On their slim, no-problem-at-TSA package, no thicker than a magazine (see gallery for the front and side views), Pretty Fly has printed “S.O.S.” defined as “Single-servings Of Sanity.” I wasn’t sure how much a beauty product would make me more sane, but then I smelled the Refreshing Lemon Zest Lotion. Its citrusy-sweet, lively scent would totally open my eyes as the plane descended. And it’s even good for your hands, with everything from aloe to fatty acids listed in the ingredients. The other products have similarly beneficial natural extracts and scents. Each pack includes Renewing Orange Blossom Soap, Restoring Grapefruit Dry Shampoo, Replenishing Lime Lip Balm, and Refreshing Lemon Zest Lotion.

I tried out a Pretty Fly pack — “a natural high at 30,000 feet” — in the closest thing to an airplane I could think of: a small New York City apartment after a long day. Click through to see the products in action and how they fared, and visit to purchase a few packs for yourself or your stressed out coworkers!

Travel beauty – A refreshing facial spray by Evian

Not all travel beauty accessories are lame. Case in point: Evian Brumisateur facial spray.

Yes, we know Evian spells “naïve” backwards, but Brumisateur only spells “ruetasimurb,” and that doesn’t mean anything.

What does it do? Well, the mist is very refreshing, for starters, but it actually tones and moisturizes the skin — reportedly increasing skin hydration by 16%. Not only that, it doesn’t mess with your makeup, if you’re into that kind of thing.

This is perfect for jet-setting, train-riding, or just plain old hot weather. Celebrity fans of Evian Brumisateur include Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, Jude Law, Eva Longoria, Will Smith, and Uma Therman.

You can purchase Evian Brumisateur in three sizes for $5.50 to $26.50 here on Amazon before your next trip — but frankly, I’m quite pleased with what it does for me right here at my desk.