You want to know what Christmas means to us? We’ll spare you the details, but our story starts with us crashing through the ice in search of the perfect Christmas tree, takes a left turn somewhere by six dozen spritz cookies, plows right though the Christmas party at our house populated by people we’ve never seen before, and comes to a steaming stop in that snowbank known as What To Buy People Who May Not Have Everything But Are Impossible To Shop For Anyway.
Because of our vocation, many of those people on our list are travelers, and the whole issue of what to buy travelers is vexing because travel at its roots is a highly personal act. Everyone has their comfy things and talismans they use to soothe the sting of being separated from home and hearth.
Still, we have to shop anyway, and here are some of our go-to gifts for our favorite travelers. Because this is such a humungous category, we’ve broken our selections into types, and selected our favorite items from those types.
Finding Your Quiet Place
Our Ariana Arghandewal, in an earlier post right here, recommended Bose’s noise-cancelling headphones, any make or model. As owners of said headphones we agree, while noting that not everyone is in Bose territory quite yet. Aspirational Bosers or those who prefer to keep their Boses safe at home can do just fine with Audio-Technica’s ATH-ANC1 QuietPoint headphones, a smart, low-priced option.
A Matter Of Time
Call us hidebound, but there are many virtues to a travel clock whose only bell is the one that wakes you up. It doesn’t struggle with network connections, it’s easier to see in the middle of the night, and it doesn’t need a USB port to keep running. Remodelista is our favorite spot to go travel-clock shopping, and we have two favorites: the cheap-but-stylish classic from Kikkerland and the expensive-and-stylish classic from Mondaine.
Our Ariana has already commented on the indispensability of a capable phone charger. She opts for the reliable, powerful and bricklike Anker Astro Mini 300mAH. Another good option of about the same weight and dimensions is IOGEAR’s GearPower Ultra Capacity charger. It features two USB ports that are capable of charging a phone and tablet simultaneously, because you know when one goes, the other is sure to follow.
A Good Book
You can get into real trouble here, so it’s best to stick with the classics and match them to your particular traveler. Here’s how that works: Is your traveler an international adventurer? Get them Bruce Chatwin’s What Am I Doing Here. An American traditionalist? Ernie Pyle’s Home Country. A lover of PBS documentaries? Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar is a slam-dunk. An envelope-pushing thrill-seeker? Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air provides just the right amount of not-so-fastness. And if the traveler on your list is Anthony Bourdain, then this.
A Place For Your Head
The ultimate travel pillow that doesn’t make its user look like a nebbish is still waiting to be discovered. In the meantime we can recommend the Wings zip-front hoodie with built-in inflatable travel pillow and eyeshade, but only because we love zip-front hoodies. Otherwise, the Travelrest is a simple, effective headrest that doesn’t make your head look like a cat tower.
Finding Your Way
Sometimes a good book is just what you need to help you get around, and while the idea of a “best travel guide” is highly subjective, we can confidently say that if you’re looking for a great general guide you can’t miss with the Lonely Planet guides. Travelers who are obsessed with history or just want to beat their friends at Trivia Crack might prefer the Blue Guides, while if you want recommendations that are highly personal yet are as reliable as a bullet train, Rick Steves’ guides can’t be beat.
When travel has you stressed out, nothing destresses you faster than slipping into a pair of comfy, warm socks. We’re partial to alpaca yarn for its warmth, durability and just plain cushiness, and My Comfy Socks combine alpaca with a full terry lining for extra comfort. They’re not cheap at $26.95, but your feet are so worth it.
The closest thing to an everything bag we’ve seen is the Wide-Body Explore International from Briggs & Riley. Its short-but-stout design can swallow anything this side of the Watermelon Man and still fit in an overhead bin. And if not a Wide-Body, then a Luggage Box from The UPS Store – the original, shippable, checkable cardboard carryon. Because nothing says “I want you gone immediately” like a Luggage Box.
Given the rapidly deteriorating state of airline food, packing your own is definitely the way to go. But what to bring? We’ll have our own take on this question soon, but in the meantime we can recommend a subscription to Love With Food. For as little as $10/month you get a variety of pre-packaged organic or all-natural snacks shipped to your door every month. Want more options? Get the complete rundown on snack boxes and services from the inimitable Brooke Porter Katz.
And One For The Stocking
AirCare from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection – say it with me – pays you fast when common travel mishaps occur. Well, it does. And with a flat price starting at $34, it’s almost as good as comfy socks at taking the stress out of holiday travel. Almost, but not quite. We’re rather partial to our comfy socks. And we do so want an alpaca for Christmas.