By Carla Bragagnini | Outpost Travel Media
As the world faced unprecedented health challenges this year, the aftermath for travel meant cancelled plans, flights, and vacations on a large-scale. In the grand scheme of things, it made sense to act for the greater good, though it came at a cost: personal disappointments and frustrations, and major setbacks for the tourism industry. Travel gifts us hope, and we all need it after this bah-humbug of a year.
So, without further ado, here is a 2020 gift-giving guide, divided into three travel sections—past, present and future—written with a Christmas Carol holiday twist.
From the Ghost of Travel Past
TRAVEL PHOTO BOOKS/PRODUCTS
This year taught us to be grateful for what we have and what we have experienced. You can gift a traveller some of their favourite travel photos (from social media or a trip you shared together), printed on just about anything—mugs, calendars, travel books, and more—to create a highly personalized and thoughtful gift. Many retailers are running seasonal sales and still within holiday deadlines; so, if you’re not in lockdown where in you are, you can try your local photo lab—for example, in Canada check London Drugs, Blacks, or Staples.
Many people save mementos from trips—ticket stubs, postcards, boarding passes, and the like. Shadow boxes and clothesline photo frames encourage travellers to beautify their homes with travel memories (since we are spending so much time there anyway). Santa came early and gifted me this scratch map.
Scratching off countries I’ve visited was highly satisfying, and I got to relive some of my best travel memories. Once the map is customized, it can be displayed as a daily reminder of past adventures and those yet to come.
It may be a little late to get something customized in time for the holidays. But you can put in the order and get an image of it printed for the day of—and it will build anticipation for when the gift arrives. Etsy is the place to go for customized gifts. Some ideas include: personalized jewellery of a road trip or place, coordinates keychain for a special location or a custom travel map of a memorable trip.
From the Ghost of Travel Present
ONLINE TRAVEL EXPERIENCES
A few years ago, Airbnb Experiences launched, allowing visitors to take locally-led classes abroad (back when we did things offline). Fast-forward to 2020, where experiences are now online, and hosts send you a tool and/or ingredient list before each class. With a solid WiFi connection, you are on your way to an immersive travel experience, from the comfort of home. It’s not possible to buy a class for another person, but you can buy a spot for yourself and that person to share the experience. Prices start at $7 per person.
Some of the great class ideas: making street tacos with a chef live from Mexico City, a group pasta class in Italy alongside five(!) Italian grandmothers, learning Moroccan history and culture from a local, insight into Japanese culture through origami, and a coffee tour in Colombia. Bonus points if you book an experience to make up for a trip someone missed out on this year or a trip they are planning.
TourHQ is a similar idea, but rather than a class, you’re connected with a tour guide live via smartphone, and provided an interactive tour of a place of interest. The platform, made up of 35,000 guides all over the world, switched to virtual tours during the pandemic, to keep its guides working. Most tours last about an hour and start at $13 per screen, or special group rates for as many as 10 screens, for a shared Zoom travel party.
Some highlights you can gift: exploring the Pyramids of Giza with a guide in Cairo, the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, walking through the hidden alleys of Venice, visiting the archaeological wonders of Petra, a foodie nightmarket tour in Taipei, and so much more.
Personally, I’m thinking of gifting myself a hike up Mt. Eden in Auckland after I missed out on travelling to New Zealand this year.
SHOWS & MUSICALS
Watching live shows is a way to immerse yourself culturally on a trip. So, if someone missed out on, say, visiting New York City this year, you can buy them a one-month ($8.99 US) or one-year subscription to watch shows like Cats, Fame, Macbeth, and Billy Elliot online via the Netflix of Broadway: BroadwayHD.
The Metropolitan Opera is also offering online performances (with a gift option), starting at $20 US per show. You can transport your loved ones to Berlin with a one-month gift subscription to the Berlin Philharmonic (for about €19.90). And just in time for the holidays, the Moscow Russian Ballet is streaming their classic performance of The Nutcracker ($24.99 US). The show will be available from December 19 to 29, 2020.
FOOD SAMPLER BOXES
One of the best ways to travel is through your tastebuds, and there are sampler boxes you can order with products from around the world. You can gift travel through hot sauces (featuring spiciness from Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, to name a few), tea varieties (from Morocco, India, Japan, among others) or coffee beans (from places like Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala—a one-time gift or a monthly subscription). If on-time shipping is not available, you can always print out the gift receipt.
When I’m travelling, I love visiting local grocery stores, observing product packaging, and buying different snacks for a little tasting tour. That’s the idea behind two snack-sample boxes: Universal Yums and Munchpak. Both boxes send mystery snacks from around the world (you can send it as a one-time gift). They come with a travel guide and information about the places the snacks are from. Prices start at $16.95 US plus shipping.
TRAVEL SUBSCRIPTION BOXES
The Wordy Traveler is a quarterly travel book subscription box. This month’s theme is Italy (next is Japan), and it includes Italian-themed books, Italian coffee, a tower of Pisa charm, and more. Prices start at $50 US, plus shipping. GlobeIn is a subscription box that features 3 to 5 ethically-sourced home goods from artisans in places like Thailand, Ghana and Morocco.
A one-time gift is $40, with monthly and yearly options available (includes free shipping). Try the World is a food subscription delivery box with snacks, ingredients and drinks from around the world. There is no option to send as a gift in Canada—but if your giftee is in a location where they do deliver, you can input that recipient’s shipping information instead. Prices start at $39 US per box, plus shipping (it is a monthly subscription, but you can cancel anytime).
Without needing to go far, you can book a local adventure for someone. If they’re hoping to do a climbing trip abroad next year or beyond, you can gift them a climbing gym pass, for example (for when it’s safe, of course—which it will be at some point in 2021 as the COVID-19 vaccines roll out). Other ideas include a visit to a local spa, regional winery, dog-sledding tour, indoor skydiving, or hot-air balloon ride (always keeping in mind local restrictions). With the overall global climate it’s wise to look into cancellation and date-change options.
Words have a way of transporting us to a far-off places. Luckily, in this time of non-travel, there are books that inspire a sense of adventure: Into the Wild, Touching the Void, Walking the Amazon, The Alchemist, Into Thin Air, Shantaram, The Kite Runner, Eat Pray Love, World Travel: An Irreverent Guide—and anything by Bill Bryson.
You can gift a travel colouring book (which also helps with destressing during lockdown), a cookbook on a favourite world cuisine, or better yet, an international cookbook with recipes from all over, or a subscription (digital/print) to their favourite travel magazine. The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to support local independent shops as well.
From the Ghost of Travel Future
A travel guide is a classic gift, and for good reason. Perhaps the destination of the guide you gift can be the one your giftee missed out on, or a place they’re hoping to visit. As writer Michael Fraiman mentioned on Outpost last week, planning future trips has been scientifically-proven to improve our well-being—so gift away.
Gifting gear can be quite specific, depending on preferred activities and travel style of the person in question. You can gift activity-specific gear, like a hand strengthener, hangboard or carabiners for rock climbers; or camping gear—a camping hammock, camping cookware or pocket chainsaw, for example.
For outdoor gear ideas, check stores like MEC, Decathlon or Atmosphere (offline or online), or travel-specific retailers like TravelSmarts, Canada Luggage Depot, and Jet Setter, offering free and expedited shipping on larger orders. Some gear that inspires the thought of a (hopefully!) travel-filled 2021 include: a travel jacket, personal water filter, solar battery power bank, sling camera bag, travel towel, foldable daypack, electronics organizer, smartphone photography kit, rechargeable USB batteries, GPS navigator for hiking, or a travel wallet—all which may still be able to get to you before Christmas, and perfect for next year’s travels.
For a simple gift, a beautiful pen and travel journal go a long way. Moleskine’s travel journal is useful for planning and taking travel notes. It has detachable packing lists, budget sections, and plenty of space to jot down impressions. Maybe a blank page (and a blank slate!) is what we all really need after this year.
Gift cards are flexible options for travel lovers. Air Canada, WestJet and Via Rail offer them, as well as restaurants and hotels, and MEC and Atmosphere for gear. The best part is it just takes a few clicks, and you receive the e-card instantly.
And to wrap it up—here is how you can wrap it up! You can use an old boarding pass as a gift tag and vintage maps to package the perfect gift for the traveller in your life. Because holiday packaging has an environmental footprint, it’s also a great way to go green.
But if you’re anything like me, I bet you’re looking forward to using boarding passes and maps for more than just wrapping presents next year. And on that note, let’s end with what might just be the most relevant travel gift this year. Wishing you a safe and healthy holiday season!