In a couple of weeks I’ll be turning 25!
This is the first year in a long time that I don’t have anything planned for my birthday at all; I imagine I’ll organise something last-minute, as has become the norm for all of my plans lately. Last year, James and I went to New Plymouth in New Zealand for the weekend while we were living in Wellington, and spent the weekend hiking in Mount Egmont National Park.
The question of birthday presents is always a difficult one. No matter how much they say they don’t want any gifts, you always feel inclined to buy your loved-ones something for their special day. My mum asked me the other day what I’d like for my birthday, and I replied with “not stuff“. But that leaves her in a tricky situation: what do you buy for someone who is rarely around, or who has a limit on how much weight they can check in at the airport?
Well, I’ve had a long, hard think about the best gifts for travelers: the things that are useful to me and to others who travel often.
I decided against including any clothes in this post, as if they are going to places like Asia or South America, they can pick things up for so cheap over there. For example, I bought a huge, thick pashmina in India for the equivalent of £3 – and I’ve worn it almost every day since! It’s a great blanket, scarf or pillow. Unless they will be camping or hiking, they probably won’t need things like a waterproof jacket, sleeping bag or hiking boots.
This isn’t going to be a post about cute travel-themed jewellery or travel candles (does anyone actually use those?) Remember, every item they take with them is more weight to carry – so make sure you buy gifts that are going to help not hinder their travels – and remember that a physical gift isn’t the only option!
This is a post about items that I have personally used (and loved!) while travelling, or items I wouldn’t mind lugging around on my back on my future travels. Here’s my take on the best gifts for travelers.
Anyone who, like me, works online or runs a travel blog, will be more than pleased if electronics appear under the wrapping paper!
This is the number one essential for anyone interested in photography or wanting to record their travels while abroad. For the amateur photographer, a decent smartphone works wonders. I’m currently using an Apple iPhone 6s and while the camera isn’t perfect, it’s certainly not bad! I got the 64gb version so I won’t run out of storage space any time soon!
For people looking for a decent compact camera, I recommend the Sony HX60 or the slightly more pricey Sony A5000. Both are great on the auto setting and have the opportunity there to use more ‘fancy’ settings. Every photo taken in New Zealand on this blog was taken using my Sony HX60, and my sister has got the A5000 which I love because it has a selfie screen!
James and I invested in a DSLR earlier this year and I’m so glad we did. If you’re looking for much better quality, and the option to do so much more with a camera, it’s so worth the money. We went for the Canon 80D with an 80-135mm lens.
I’ve had my current MacBook Pro for over five years; it’s seen me through my degree and travelled to the other side of the world with me – but it’s starting to slow down (and the memory is full. Annoying!)
As they say, “once you go Mac you never go back”, and while there are a few things about Macs that annoy me (ahem: not being able to cut and paste on Finder, the stupid Photos programme that pops up whenever I put an SD card in it, etc) I love using Airdrop, Notes, and FaceTime.
Although lighter, an Air wouldn’t quite cut the amount of photo/ video editing I do, so it’s the Pro on my list.
I bought my GoPro at the end of last year but don’t feel I use it as much as I should do. The wifi function to connect it to my phone never seems to work, so I’d really love a GoPro Remote to be able to snap away anytime.
External Hard Drives
I’m meticulous about backing everything up and I have increasing amounts of photos. Plus I never delete ANYTHING (hence Macbook running out of memory) so I need lot of space to keep everything safe. I use one by Transcend which has everything on it and I leave this at home while I’m away. I take my Toshiba one with me on trips. Both are 1TB in size.
Toshiba Canvio Basics 1TB Portable External Hard Drive || Transcend 1TB Shock Resistant Portable Hard Drive
An absolute must for anyone who travels a lot is sturdy, practical luggage that will LAST. I’m not really a suitcase person; I much prefer being able to put all my gear on my back and carry it with me. It’s more secure in countries with a high crime rate – I mean, you can’t really get it off me that easily – whereas anyone could grab your suitcase when you stop to take a photo or check your map. And there’s something empowering about having your world on your back!
I absolutely love my Osprey pack and wouldn’t change it for the world – I got it just before James and I moved to New Zealand and since then it has climbed mountains with me, walked the lengths of beaches, and has been thrown into the back of many buses and tuk tuks. One of the clips broke when it got stuck in an airport baggage belt so I contacted Osprey who sent me replacement parts absolutely free of charge. I really cannot recommend them enough. They have so many packs in a huge range of colours, I found it hard to choose the one I liked best!
My current daypack isn’t quite as user-friendly as I’d like. I love that it’s got a hip strap and a compartment for my laptop, but it’s not overly comfortable (perhaps I have weird shoulders?) I recently came across this Eagle Creek Afar Backpack and can’t get over how great it looks! It’s got a chest strap and hip strap (perfect for hikes) and it’s got a hidden pocket UNDER the straps for your laptop – ain’t nobody stealin’ that!!
Travel Gear and Accessories
One of the most essential gifts for travelers – this is something I got for Christmas this year after years of not owning one! I’ve only had my current passport for two years but it’s in really bad condition after being lugged around as my ID in New Zealand (they don’t accept overseas drivers licenses unfortunately!)
Did you know that airlines have the right to turn you away from your flight if your passport isn’t in good condition? The gold emblem is quickly fading off mine so I knew I needed to get a cover asap.
On our recent trip to Sri Lanka, James and I were drinking a HUGE amount of water every day, which meant we were going through plastic bottles like crazy. Not only is plastic absolutely devastating to the environment, it’s actually unsafe to drink from plastic bottles, especially if they’ve been in the sun, as the toxins from the plastic leak into the water.
Save yourself the worry (and save the planet!) by investing in a water bottle that comes with a filter, keeping out all the nasty bacteria and stopping loads of plastic going to waste. This is the one I’ve got my eye on at the moment:
I love lined notebooks so I can record everything about my experiences abroad. As a blogger, I make a note of details that I’ll include in my future posts, like the costs of street food and the numbers of buses I’ve taken. But I also use my notebook to write about the places I go to: what they look like, how they smell, the feeling I get from them, funny encounters with locals – all sorts! Most of my journals are a mix of drawings, bullet points and illegible writing from long bus journeys. You can get some really lovely journals with specific sections to help you record your experiences and itinerary, but I find a simple notebook does the job!
Mum got me an amazing travel towel for Christmas and it was a godsend in Sri Lanka. It’s a full sized towel but folds up really small. A lot of travel towels seem to dry really quickly without actually drying your body. Not this one! It does both very well and you can use it on the beach too! Plus it comes in loads of colours (my sister has the orange one and James the blue!)
Even if you are not taking a suitcase with you, always take a lock. I don’t ever recommend locking a backpack as it makes potential robbers think you’ve got something valuable in there. However, most hostels have lockers where you can store your valuables, if not your whole rucksack. Luggage storage places often supply a locker but not a lock, so be prepared and take your own. Don’t get a flimsy lock that can be broken with pliers (like mine was!), or one of those cheap gold ones that any old key will unlock. Get a sturdy combination padlock, they’re cheap on Amazon and will give you piece of mind when you leave your luggage somewhere!
When I’m embarking on big trips, travel insurance is something that sets me back quite a bit – but it’s an absolute necessity for me. I feel similarly towards travel insurance as I do towards my contact lenses… one of those things I wish I didn’t have to buy, but just can’t get out of it! I don’t like to scrimp on insurance as I learnt the hard way when I was robbed in Cambodia that it really does pay to choose a good provider. So I always choose World Nomads!
Tickets & experiences
My current wish-list is mainly plane-tickets to just about everywhere, but tickets to attractions and sights are always a great idea for a gift. Memories are so much more important than things, so why not help your loved ones make those memories?
- If your daughter is moving to New Zealand and has always wanted to do a skydive, why not buy her the ticket for it?
- If your bestie is really into animals, what about a day out in an animal sanctuary?
- If your boyfriend is really into food, find a local cookery class.
All of these experiences are something they won’t ever forget, and once they are back home, they can display the photos of it around their house!
Is there anything on this list of gifts for travelers that I’ve missed? If you travel often, what’s on your wish list?
Thanks for reading and happy travels!
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