It’s that time of year already, I can’t believe it’s only a few weeks until Thanksgiving and then suddenly it’s Christmas! The older I get, the harder it becomes to shop for others for Christmas and no doubt, the more impossible my family and friends find it to buy something for me.
I usually say things like, “I don’t need anything,” or just ask for a few small things that I have been needing, but haven’t actually bought for myself. But we all have those family members who won’t hear any of it. They don’t want to get you something you need, they want to get you something that you want. Or maybe your spouse wants to surprise you something with that item that you’ve been eyeing, but they have no idea what that item actually is, so they need hints.
If you’ve got an Eternal Expat in your life or a travel lover who spends more money on flights than they do on new clothes or sneakers, this list should help you surprise them with something unique and fun, while still also being pretty useful for their on-the-go lifestyle.
1. Donate to a Global Giving Page
When I was a kid, my grandma always used to donate money to a charity in our names and while at first, I must admit, I wasn’t on board with the no presents thing, I realized what a wonderful thing it was when I was older. I certainly didn’t need any more toys or itchy sweaters and it made me realize as a child that there are so many people who really need things, things that I’ve never had to think twice about having. This is always my go-to for gifts for all of the kids in my life. I try to find a charity that I think will resonate with the person or their parents and it’s something I always appreciate getting as a gift.
Global Giving is one of my favorite sites because there are charities for absolutely everything in countries all over the world, so you can find a charity or organization in a country that your traveler loves. Keep your eyes peeled around Giving Tuesday (the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving) when the site often matches your donation.
2. GoPro Hero 7
I love a good photography gadget as much as the next traveler. The new GoPro is pretty incredible. It’s way out of my price range for what I spend on people for Christmas, but perhaps you can pool together to get this for the traveler in your life or maybe you’ve saved up to buy this for yourself for Christmas instead (we’ve all done it, there’s no shame).
I’ve tried the knock-off brands of GoPro, a NoPro as I call it, and they just don’t compare. The picture quality of the GoPro is fantastic, the videos are always clear and crisp, and you can’t beat the size. It fits in any carry-on bag and you never have to worry about it getting wet. If you have an adventurous traveler in your life who loves to capture their trips on camera, this is one of the best on the market.
The latest version is AMAZING for videos. It has this stabilizer that means that even people with shakey hands like me can make unshakey videos!
3. New Lenses
I love spending hours researching different lenses for my Nikon D3300. I recently purchased the 35mm lens and it has transformed my photography. I love the way I can get that perfect bokeh (the blur behind a person or coffee cup). I love how much more crisp my images are. I’ve got a long list of lenses that I’d love to invest in for the future. I may have been hinting to my boyfriend about a certain 10-20mm lens that would be perfect for street photography.
4. A Subscription to the Adobe Cloud Suite
Okay, last photography item. Seriously though, we travel addicts LOVE our photos. This is a great gift that costs just over $100 and gives you an entire suite of software for a year. I recently invested in it and have been using Lightroom non-stop. I’m in love with how much better it makes my photos look and you can even add the app to your phone to perfect your Instagram photos.
4. A New Backpack
This is controversial to some. Many people are very particular about their backpacks, but I love ALL backpacks (and handbags and canvas bags). I’ve been eying up this baby for a while and may have even hinted to my parents that it would make a GREAT Christmas present. If you know someone who has been planning a backpacking trip, this is such a kind gift to give, but just be sure that you know which one they want to what size they’re hoping to travel with.
5. Travel-Themed Apparel
Now this can be anything. You know those cool mugs you can buy at the airport with a city’s name on it? I love those. Easy to pack and I drink a lot of coffee, so you can never have too many mugs. There are so many great companies out there designing cool travel-themed apparel.
If you or your loved ones are mad about France, check out the Oui in France store where you can buy baguette t-shirts and I heart France tote bags. Foodie travelers will adore the map prints from Legal Nomads online store. They are a really unique way to spice up a room and you can choose from tons of different countries. There’s even one for Mexico!
I also love these New York makeup bags from Pamela Barsky. Some of them are not travel related at all, but are just hilarious. She also makes funny luggage tags. Have I mentioned that as a traveler you can never have enough bags? How about winter goodies? My friend Kate, a traveler and fellow expat knits them by hand in the color of your choice. Check out her Etsy page!
6. A Kindle
This sort of gift in invaluable for travelers that love to read. I bought mine a few years ago just before I moved to Korea and I have never looked back (and I was one of those people who waxed poetic about the smell of books). If you know someone in your life is about to embark on a trip to countries that don’t speak English, they will adore a Kindle. They can read no matter where they are and get new books as soon as they reconnect to Wi-Fi.
7. Rainbow Sandals
Everyone has those travel shoes that they swear by. For me, that’s Rainbow flip-flops. They are leather, they have amazing arch support, and they are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned. My mom buys Luke and I a new pair almost every Christmas because she knows how much we love them and how much we wear them (basically every day when you live in Mexico).
What traveler doesn’t need another notebook? I use mine for writing down the itinerary, for things I want to see in cities I’m visiting, for addresses to the hostel that I think I might want to stay in or that I’ll need for immigration paperwork. I use notebooks to keep a travel journal because I’m old-school like that. I use it to stick random pieces of paper and receipts in that I think I might one day put into a scrapbook. My absolute favorites are Moleskins. They’re nicer than your average book and they hold up well against the battering of travel and don’t get all crinkled up when you inevitably get them wet. I also really like these thicker notebooks and always bring a few of these little ones for keeping my budget.
9. Universal Converters
It doesn’t matter how many of these I start my trip with, I always come home with the same one black converter that is almost falling apart, but somehow still works. These are a necessity if you’re traveling to a country that has different plugs and if you’re a constant expat, you’ll need them because you bought your camera in Korea, but now need to charge the battery in Mexico. You can literally never have enough universal converters. It means you only have to have one piece that takes you to every country instead of a million little plugs somewhere at the bottom of your backpack and well, you can find the North America plug, but that’s not that helpful since you’re in Asia.
10. Travel Towel Set
This travel towel was the best thing I ever bought for my trip through South East Asia. They’re really compact, they dry in an instant, even in super humid places where nothing dries. They’re easy to clean and they don’t hold a smell if they have been damp. I traveled around Australia and New Zealand with a classic cotton towel and I was constantly draping it over my backpack or pulling it out, still wet, after a day of traveling. It was a nightmare. Travel towels are a life saver and gifting a pack that comes with a shower towel and a face towel is a practical and helpful gift.
11. Wireless Headphones
I have been daydreaming about wireless headphones for YEARS. You know when you get on the bus and you’re all excited about listening to a podcast or putting your music on only to spend another 15 minutes trying to untangle your headphones from all of the other wires in your bag? (maybe that’s just me being unorganized?). Wireless headphones are perfect because you don’t have to mess around with wrapping the cord around your phone or keeping your valuables on show when you’re on a bus or train. I love this YYQ pair because it has a magnet in the earbuds so when you’re not wearing them they stick together. They’re also noise canceling and they fit into your ear without hurting like iPhone headphones do.
12. Waterproof Bags
If you know someone who loves spending time by the beach, goes on diving trips, or heads out on boats whenever they can, chances are they’d absolutely love a waterproof bag. It’s exactly the sort of thing that you know would make your life 1,000 times easier, but never actually buy for yourself. AKA, the perfect gift.
Buy a waterproof bag here. – this one also comes with a waterproof phone case which is nice for days by the beach.
13. Travel Insurance
If there’s a traveler in your life that’s about to go on a trip, making sure they have travel insurance is not only incredibly helpful, but very thoughtful. Travel insurance is so, so important, especially for those that are heading off the beaten path. It’s something most people don’t bother with, but I personally believe is a must when you travel. I always get myself a World Nomads insurance policy before heading off anywhere. It’s a great price and they’re very clear about what they do and do not cover. I also like that it covers your stuff like laptops and cameras.
14. Packing Cubes
I only recently acquired a few packing cubes (and actually they were a gift!) after years of travel and I am not exaggerating when I say that they are game changers when it comes to making packing and unpacking easier. They are especially handy because Luke and I usually just share one bag when we travel together.
Packing cubes have meant that we can keep our stuff (especially dirty clothes) separate. I usually pack his things in one large packing cube, mine in one, and then I bring an empty one with us to put both of our dirty clothes in there. It also means that once you get home it’s super easy to just take the bag of dirty clothes straight to the washing machine.
15. Cookbooks From Countries They Love (Digital Versions are Best)
Who doesn’t love a good cookbook? I love learning to cook the food that I’ve eaten in other countries. Recently I’ve been obsessed with trying different Thai and Malaysian dishes and it brings me right back to those steaming hot nights with a Chiang beer in one hand and chopsticks full of noodles in the other hand.
What’s on your Christmas list this year?
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