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Top 10 Last-Minute Gifts for Your Favorite Traveler

by Julie Schwietert Dec 22, 2007

Looking for a last minute-gift for your favorite traveler? Consider one of these:

10. Airline Gift Certificates:

Travel is increasingly expensive, and most of us who live a nomadic lifestyle appreciate all the help we can get with chipping away at our travel costs.

Many airlines now offer travel gift certificates, ranging as low as $10 to as much as $1,000. For travel on lower-cost carriers, even small gifts can make an appreciable difference, especially for a traveler on a shoestring budget. Bonus: Most of the cards never expire.

Here are a few gift cards available online: Jet Blue; Southwest; American.

9. Airline Lounge Membership or Guest Pass

This is a great and often overlooked gift for the long-haul traveler. Airline lounges aren’t frequented by budget travelers, who might be particularly apt to appreciate the luxurious amenity of this gift.

Lounges vary in their services, but typically offer drinks, internet use, a relatively calm place to relax between flights; some even showers.

One-day passes are offered for as low as $25, while memberships typically run in the range of several hundred dollars. American, Continental, and Delta all offer one-day passes.

8. Gift Cards for Airport Shops:

The world’s airports tend to offer the same host of shops, and a traveler in transit might sigh in relief as he or she pulls your thoughtful gift card out to pay for a purchase. In the US, typical airport shops and services include The Body Shop, Brookstone, InMotion Pictures, and Tumi/a>.

If you know your friend’s frequent departure airport, visit the airport’s restaurant and shop listing online to get an idea of what’s available.

7. Maps

What’s your friend’s next big trip? Buy a couple of maps—one of the country and one of the city, perhaps—that will help them get the lay of the land. If your friend has a specific travel interest—such as biking or hiking—search for specialty maps that reflect that interest.

A couple of good online map stores include: The Map Store (you can even pay by paypal!), Wildernet.

6. Books

What’s your friend’s dream destination or big trip for 2008? Skip the guidebooks and dig a bit deeper to find some books that will tell the reader a bit more about the place.

Here are some great reads for a couple of places I’ve visited in the past year that really enhanced my experience once I was there:

Cuba: Lynnette Chiang’s The Handsomest Man in Cuba, a travelogue about an Australian woman’s adventures cycling around Cuba (a bonus in this book is an awesome reference and resource section in the back), Chiang not only captures the spirit of Cuban people—for better and for worse—but she also conveyed astute observations about politics and culture that were spot on.

Mexico: The Mexico Reader, edited by Gilbert Joseph, is a crash course in Mexican history, politics, and society—and it manages to remain fascinating (there’s also a whole series of Readers from Duke University Press, including Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, and Peru).

New York: The Not For Tourists’ (NFT) Guide. Enough said.

5. A “Stir the Senses” Gift Pack

No matter where your favorite traveler is headed, the food awaiting him or her at the destination will have their unique flavor. Get your friend psyched for the journey by putting together a basket or box full of small goodies that are emblematic of the trip.

Ethiopia? Berbere spice mix (you can find a recipe online and make it yourself or you can order it—and any other variety of spices–online).

China? Tea buds (tightly woven buds that morph into flowers when immersed in hot water).

Japan? Sake! Be creative!

4. Journals

Many travelers enjoy journaling or having a book in which they can slip ticket stubs, restaurant coasters, phone numbers or e-mails of friends met on the road, airline tickets, and other memorabilia. Journals range from the functional to the fancy, but a good and reliable brand is Moleskine, which makes functional, sturdy journals in a variety of styles and sizes.

3. The Ultimate Carry-On Bag

Finding the best carry-on bag is tough, but I finally did it! Baggallini makes a wide variety of bags that are perfect for travel (my personal favorite is what I consider the perfect carry-on—the Hamptons Bagg). This bag constantly amazes me with how spacious it is, but a bonus is that it is tear and water-resistant… it can take a beating.

2. Electronics Storage Kit

Help your favorite traveler get organized… find the perfect kit for cables, cords, chargers, and battery packs for phones, cameras, and laptops… and while you’re at it, throw in a universal adapter kit.

1. A Welcome Home Basket

Those of us who spend lots of time on the road, in the air, or on the sea may still have a physical address we call home, and when we get there, we often find we’re missing some basic staples and supplies that keep life organized.

Postage stamps (for all those bills that piled up!), an IOU for a dinner, or a bottle of wine helps ease the transition back to life in a fixed location.

If you’re particularly crafty or technically inclined, you may offer your skills to create memories from your friends’ photos—a CD or DVD of their trip, a photo album or scrapbook, or customized postage stamps that capture a particularly great image of the place they’ve left behind.

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