It’s that time of year again; I’m not entirely sure how but it is. 2017’s blogging schedule may have been somewhat inconsistent but it seems like only yesterday that I was packing for my first adventure of the year, a brief but long overdue February return to the motherland that saw me attend the most epic wedding I have ever been to (including my own!)
In the aftermath of the Christmas festivities and falling right in the centre of birthday month, I vividly recall feeling a little overly plump to be sporting a slinky evening gown for the wedding functions. Yet somehow, the months have rolled on in the tumultuous way they always seem to and I find myself here, on a particularly frosty November night, distracting myself with trashy TV, whilst I endeavour to complete the self-enforced task of compiling this year’s travel gift guide.
This one’s for all those live-for-the-moment, travel-mad jetsetters in your life. And as per my previous travel gift ideas post, all of these items/experiences have been tried and tested by yours truly and most of them are gifts that other people have rather thoughtfully given to me for previous birthdays, Christmases etc. There are no affiliate links in this post so I won’t be making any dough if you pinch these ideas. My goal today is simply to share the love, hopefully making it that little bit easier for those of you of you tearing your hair out for original travel gift ideas. Just call me travel Santa.
If, however. the overly commercialised, billion-dollar industry that is Christmas shopping ain’t your scene, then feel free to ignore my gift guide and do what Pumpkin and I are doing instead – we have scooted off to the other side of the world just before the mayhem starts so that we can live in blissful ignorance of the Christmas shopping chit-chat engulfing the high streets and avert our eyes from the archetypal English drizzle engulfing the atmosphere.
Sorry Ma and Pa, BFF and colleagues, this year, you’re all getting duty-free M&Ms (fear not though, we’ll treat you to those cute tins with the big grinning M&M, perched garishly on top.)
My 2017 Travel Gift Guide
Mother dear is as un-materialistic as they get and when it comes to gifts for her, practicality and usefulness trump all. Give her a lidded saucepan over an overpriced reed diffuser any day and anything you give her that doesn’t strictly fall within the realms of “necessity” soon gets reclassified as clutter.
When I first spotted this notepad of pack lists earlier this year, Mum was the first person I thought of, as this gift is all about the useful factor, (although as the most zealous traveller in our family clan, I may have helped myself to a good few sheets from the pad.)
Those of you better versed in British English than American English may need to overlook the band-aid/panty hose terminology but once you’ve mastered the translations, you’ll soon find all your essentials and peripherals mentioned on this list, neatly categorised into travel aids, basics, footwear etc.
It might not be the costliest of gifts but for me, as a frequent globetrotter, they have been invaluable. I am always the person who forgets something when travelling and Pumpkin will tell you of the hours we have spent making detours in foreign countries in search of hair brushes, toothbrushes or black eye liner pencils but since I pinched these lists, that tally has fallen to zero!
Suitcase Pendant with Lip Balm
From practical to pretty (and actually, still quite practical)
Also highly functional but concealed within a nugget of feminine charm & originality is this pendant-come-lip-balm from independent designer, Andrea Garland, who designs these charming pieces of neck candy, completely apt for every travel-loving chica in town. Since I was first given this last year, I now find myself arriving at London airports several times a year with a bulky wheely suitcase in my hand and a teeny tiny suitcase around my neck.
When my lips dry up, as they inevitably do with aeroplane ventilation, sunny climates and, let’s face it, with the stealth of conversation (often one-sided) that I find myself having, then all I need to do is unclip the case and help myself to my portable pouch of lush, hydrating lip balm.
And if travel pendants put the swing in your step and have you feeling like you’re on a new adventure each time you drape them around your neck, be sure to have a glimpse back to the sparkly mini flip-flop in my 2015 gift guide.
Hello Kitty Instax Polaroid Camera
One of the reasons I love to explore the world around me is to collect memories and moments over material items and just like my Mumma will choose a kitchen utensil over a pampering gift, I will happily choose a week-long escape abroad over a Chanel or Mulberry or whatever handbag the cool kids are sporting these days.
I can’t really think of a better way of capturing the informal vibe of a moment than snapping and immortalising it in print right there and then. Whilst the photos on an Instax polaroid may not be quite up to Insta standard (well mine aren’t anyway), they do capture memories in an instant, like nothing else can and they come with their own retro charm that is simply inimitable with other modalities of lens.
But perhaps the only thing cooler than gifting someone an Instax polaroid is gifting them a Hello Kitty Instax polaroid, complete with Hello Kitty case. Indeed, it is every bit as unapologetically pink and girly as it sounds with the camera shaped like pretty Miss Kitty and even a case to match the design.
The first cartridge of film even came with its own Hello Kitty headers and if you recall how much I loved visiting the Hello Kitty Café last year in Seoul, you will realise just how much I am in my element when I walk around with this.
The camera adjusts for different light backgrounds and can even be used on selfie mode for all the millenials fretting about this and if you love a splash of colour to your snaps, for an additional price, you can purchase colour close up lenses for filtered effects. Make no mistake, the humble Polaroid has never been so versatile.
Pumpkin may think it is only me and a bunch of Japanese teenage girls that enjoy being seen with such accessories but until I see an age prohibition label telling me I am too old to enjoy it, I shall parade it around it with pride, whist he hides away in embarrassment 10 feet behind me….
“I’ll tell you what, how about we get one colour of pin for all the countries you’ve been to, another one for all the countries I’ve been to and a third colour for all the places we’ve been to together?” My suggestion to Pumpkin about how we decorate the plainly coloured cork globe my family gifted him was met with about as much enthusiasm as his suggestion to me that we spend all our Saturday afternoons watching the Premier League on TV.
“No,” he replied. “It’s my globe.”
“How about we at least get some pretty floral or sparkly pins at least to spruce it up a bit,” I pleaded.
It was to fall on deaf ears, however, when four days later, a packet of quite possibly the most ordinary looking pins in the world (the kind of pins that seemed retro even when I was at school back in the 90s) arrived home in his pocket, ready to pierce the globe like a phlebotomist on a short-staffed shift.
Want a 3D display to boast all the destinations you’ve explored, then the cork globe might be just the ticket. Just don’t expect it to go shimmering away with any unnecessary jazz if you, like I, share a home with a grumpy Pumpkin.
As you can see from the globe, South America is looking a little neglected and in an attempt to redress the balance, we are very much hoping to show it some love in the next year.
The observant among you may also spot evidence of his road trip in India that took place shortly after I met him, where he found himself traversing the country from Kerala to Sikkim (a LOT of ground for those of you unfamiliar with India) in a tuk tuk – it’s a story for another day and even I will say that it is reams more eventful and entertaining than any of my travel tales here.
A Travel Photo Shoot
You know those impossible-to-buy-for friends in your lives, be they nit-pickers who end up exchanging just about everything they get, the ones who seem to already own everything or simply the ones you have known your entire life, for whom your catalogue of ideas and gift inspiration is drawing ever thinner?
For those people, I no longer bothering trawling through pages of websites in search of an original gift. Instead, this select group are usually the lucky recipients of experience gifts and the bigger the occasion, the better the experience I will seek out. My family have increasingly resorted to this tactic for us as well, well aware we don’t value expensive material goods and so far, we’ve been treated to date night dinners in our home city, theatre shows, London experiences and even excursions abroad during our travels.
And one of the most original experiences of them all has to be a travel photo shoot (assuming your loved one isn’t horribly camera-shy but even then, these photographers are utter pros when it comes to putting their clients at ease.) Alternatively, there’s nothing to stop you treating yourself to this if you ave no upcoming occasions to use as an excuse.
We did a shoot like this for the first and only time so far in possibly the dreamiest European island of them all – Santorini. Contrary to popular assumptions, you do not need to be engaged or at your own wedding in order to have a photographer capture your most treasured travel moments but as these shoots can come in quite costly, this is the kind of gift you might consider giving only on the most important celebrations (or only to your absolute faves!) If you’re new to this concept and want to know more, get the inside scoop on our Santorini photo shoot from last year.
Travel Gift Boxes
But of course, if all else fails and it was too much of a palaver to put any thought into what to hand over to the travel-lover in your life, you could of course take the cheat’s way out and invest in some thoughtful packaging instead. That way, when they get their duty-free M&Ms and free hotel pen you’ve thrown in for good measure, at least they can’t be too miffed, once they see the time and effort you have made to box it up in this world map, suitcase-style gift box.
For those of you who love a festive feast, there’s plenty more where that came from in these previous Christmas posts, including my Fairytale of New York at Christmas, a tour of the Christmas Markets in Austria & Germany, the dazzling Christmas lights in Singapore and a festive weekend in Bruges.
Have you got any other recommendations for travel-themed gifts?