It’s that time of year: gift guide season for the bloggers! In years past, our work was easy: we got to recommend goodies gift cards, luggage, and travel accessories. Some of us even recommended our personal favorites: the cameras we use on the road, our favorite gear and clothes, and other travel essentials. But sending a gift card or new suitcase the recipient can’t use for an indeterminate amount of time feels off, right? That’s where travel-inspired gifts come in. They can help those travelers you love to feel connected to the world even though we’re not traveling like we used to.
Travelers are notorious for valuing “experiences” over “things.” Normally, that’s a great thing. But this year, it’s tricky to gift experiences when we’re supposed to be staying home to help with a public health crisis. How do you give someone a gift they’ll love without risking their health or others’?
That’s why I decided to put on my thinking cap and come up with great travel non-experiences (read: things/products) that are valuable too. We’ve all learned to bring our love of the big wide world into our homes this year through virtual tours; these travel-inspired gifts are perfect for making home feel ever more globally-connected.
1. Map Glasses & More
We all travel in different ways and to experience different things. But we can all agree that trying local food and drink is core to the experience of a culture, right? This is one of the areas I find most lacking in my life without travel – the chance to taste new things.
As a substitute, Well Told Design has gorgeous glasses and other drinkware that you can use to harken back to favorite destinations. They’re perfect as travel-inspired gifts – to yourself or for others whose favorite destinations you know.
They have a number of different drinking-related products. This includes pint glasses (example: London), rocks glasses (example: Seattle in gold leaf), carafes (example: San Francisco), wine glasses and stemless wine glasses too. Design options include cities (both domestic and international), states, islands, airports, and topographies.
They also have designs for Occasion – Graduation, Wedding, etc. – and by interest – Sports & Outdoors, Astronomy, History, etc. Full stop: I challenge you to not find something that works as a classy, travel-or-other-interest-inspired gift from Well Told Design.
Well Told Design was kind enough to send me two London rocks glasses (and a celestial carafe noting our wedding, which I included in my Space Tourism Guide gift guide for space tourists!) which all immediately became part of our on-boat cocktail tray setup.
Bonus: If you really want to treat your favorite traveler this holiday season, gift them a glass like this along with the local spirit or drink. (For example, Heritage Distilling’s Brown Sugar Bourbon is perfect for Seattle, I love Sidetrack Distillery’s Nocino for taking me back to Croatia, and Pimm’s is a natural fit for London!)
2. Cork Globe
There are a lot of maps and globes out there for tracking your travels; I myself have one of those ultra-popular scratch maps. I’ve recommended these cork globes in past gift guides – and I think this is a great year to recommend them again.
Buy the globe and several colors of pushpins for the traveler you love. They can use one color for past travels, another for bucket list destinations, and other colors for any system of travel remembering or planning they choose. The globe then becomes more than a globe: it’s a sphere full of memories and dreams!
3. Homesick Candles
Homesick Candles are a great idea in theory: make candles that smell like places you love and miss. Perfect for times like now when we can’t go smell the cherry blossoms and fresh sushi in Japan or the distinctive but lovely old smell of the London Tube.
I purchased a few Homesick Candles to try them out (Seattle & Alaska), and unfortunately, I don’t think they’re super accurate in terms of correctly capturing the smells of specific destinations. (You can read my full Homesick Candles review, which includes commentary from some blogger friends and non-blogger friends too.) If you choose to go with a location candle as a gift, be sure to read the Top/Middle/Bottom notes and seek out reviews on Amazon if there are any – to see how accurate the scent is!
Nevertheless, the idea is still good! They can be great travel-inspired gifts for someone who’s okay with it not smelling perfect to remind them of Home or a destination they love. They also have a few travel-related candles that might work better if you’re worried about not getting the smell right: Road Trip, Beach Cottage, Ski Trip, and Summer Camp are all good options in that category.
4. A DIY Tiki Starter Kit
At the beginning of lockdown in March, everyone started new hobbies. People were growing green onions, baking sourdough bread, or making Dalgona Whipped Coffee. (Whatever that is!)
Me? I started learning about and mixing Tiki cocktails!
Tiki is incredibly cool: it incorporates a number of cultures: Hawaiian, Polynesian, East Asian, Caribbean, and even Californian (where Tiki was born!) – as well as generally nautical design.
Think about it: when you step into a Tiki bar (back when that was allowed!), you feel like you’ve been transported to another part of the world!
This is the only gift I’m suggesting which is not a single product; it could be a really fun gift for someone who loves to travel (and also enjoys drinking), and you want to get several gifts for. Here’s a “Tiki starter kit” to get them started exploring the world of Tiki – and recreating it at home:
- Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki – Written by the team of SF’s famous Smugglers Cove Bar, this is an excellent primer for Tiki Culture
- Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails – A brilliant cocktail book
- Nautical Fishing Floats String Lights and/or Brown Tiki Mask String Lights – To set the mood
- Crystal Cocktail Mixing Glass – A necessary addition for anyone making Tiki cocktails
- Stainless Steel Cocktail Spoon and Stainless Steel 4-Prong Bar Strainer – Other important tools for making Tiki drinks
- Set of 4 Tiki Mugs – I looked at a lot of Tiki mug sets and these were the ones I settled on; they cover a variety of Tiki styles!
- Bamboo Paper Straws – For sippin’ without killin’ Mother Earth!
These were all items I bought when I started making Tiki drinks at home. I know they’re perfect for anyone interested in the world of Tiki!
5. Custom Viewmaster
I’m pretty sure the offical name is trademarked… But this “Reel Viewer” is the exact same idea as the old-school Viewmasters we all used to know and love. Best of all, this one is customizable!
Choose 14 of your gift recipient’s favorite travel photos (or photos of you traveling together!) and make a custom “Reel Viewer” for them to use when the nostalgia for past travel is especially strong.
(This is a great gift for non-travelers too – all you need are the photos the recipient will most enjoy seeing!)
6. Travel Pillows & Towels
I love adding pops of color to my living space; it’s something Mr. V and I have learned to balance as he prefers more modern, neutral tones. But we both agreed that to add dish towels for each of the states we have called home together to our wedding registry. We received the California one and I love seeing it on our oven door!
You can get these hand-embroidered dish towels for both cities (18 across the U.S.) and states (all 50). They’re screen printed with a small amount of hand-embroidery to add some global design and color to your kitchen.
There are also hand-embroidered pillows if you’d prefer to add those color pops in your living space! These designs are fully embroidered, making them a work of art as much as a pillow to cozy up into. The pillows are available for 25 U.S. cities plus Paris (what about London???) and all 50 U.S. states. (The designers also have other styles too, which you can see by clicking the button.)
7. Mova Globe World Map
When decorating, there are some cool globes to choose from. It’s hard to know which one any traveler will love the most. But if you haven’t browsed the World Maps of MOVA Globes, you might find the perfect one there.
As their name suggests, MOVA Globes move. Powered by solar energy, these globes have perpetual motion – they’re a beautiful, dynamic piece of art for any desk, shelf, or mantle. If I can make a suggestion, the Black & Silver World Map is a striking option; I received the Black & Silver Constellations Globe as a Christmas gift two years ago and love it.
8. Anywhere Travel Guide & Everyday Adventures
Being stuck at home doesn’t have to mean we close our hearts and eyes to the wonders of the world. Too often we treat our hometowns like places that aren’t worth exploring! Help fix that with these two travel-inspired gifts.
The Anywhere Travel Guide includes 75 interactive prompts designed to make any travel experience more immersive – but it also works close to home! Examples include “buy coffee for a stranger,” “find the highest point of this city, go there, enjoy the view,” and “choose the longest route today.”
If your favorite traveler is more of a book person, Lonely Planet’s Everyday Adventures is a perfect gift. The book contains 50 prompts and instructions for “new ways to explore your hometown” (it obviously works in any city). They include “urban foraging,” “literary jaunt,” and “traveler’s roulette.”
Best of all, both of these travel-inspired gifts are re-usable. Your gift recipient can use them to make being stuck at home a bit more interesting and use them once travel is allowed again.
9. Cross-Stitch Passport Cover
Speaking of lockdown hobbies (mentioned above in the Tiki section), a lot of people picked up non-food activities to try or master this year. Knitting, sewing, and cross-stitching all had a comeback as we prepared for the apocalypse and complete collapse of all supply chains… (Dramatic, much?)
This Cros-Stitch Passport Holder is perfect for someone who loves those kinds of hobbies. They can stitch a heart on their home country and use the map/template to mark countries visited (and bucket list countries in a different thread!).
Then, whenever they are able to travel internationally again, they’ll be able to look back fondly on this weird time when we couldn’t.
10. Around the World City Radio
If you’re looking for a gift for someone who’s missing the whole world, this retro radio receiver is the one for them. It’s pre-programmed to access radio stations in 18 cities around the globe – from Athens to Tokyo.
They can set the Around the World City Radio to the nine cities they love or want to visit. Or, they can reprogram it on occasion to tune into life in other parts of the world. (Do you think it’s translated as “Covid-19” when radio announcers talk about the state of the world? Or “Covid-neunzehn” and “Covid-dix-neuf?”)
Bonus: The Essential Travel Wellness Kit
If the traveler you’re shopping for has to travel for some reason (or chooses to anyway), this is a good bonus gift option that shows them how much you care – with minimal judgment…
The Essential Travel Wellness Kit includes a number of products to make the previously-annoying, now-truly-unpleasant travel process better:
- A spray to help with sleeplessness on overnight flights (me)
- A pill to help with on-flight bloating (also me)
- A pill to help hangover recovery (me on any trip to London), and
- Two immunity-boosting serums (me, and the rest of the world)
No matter your comfort level with travel right now, these travel-inspired gifts will work to show those travelers you love that you still support your passion while we’re all staying home.
Which of these travel-inspired gifts will you be giving this year? Which one do you want? Let me know in the comments!
Special thanks to Well Told Design for sending me their product to try; I had already decided to include them prior to our partnership. I was not compensated in any way for the other gifts I recommended.