A holiday travel gift guide that doesn’t stink

Ed. Note: This time of year we see lots of gift guides, almost always filled entirely with free products that companies sent editors so that they’d be included in their gift guides.

Since all the stuff people offered to send us was rather lousy, we turned to someone who knows how to pick a good gift, my wife. Her gifting has become legendary, and not just because she once kidnapped me for a Tokyo escape on my 30th birthday (but that’s a pretty good example). She finds little things that others ignore, and pulls a package together in ways you can’t always imagine.

So in a move that combines both nepotism and public service, we turned to her for holiday travel gift guide advice. You last-minute shoppers can direct your thanks to her Twitter account.

–Jason Clampet

You’re making a list and checking it twice. Your peeps love to travel and you want to get them something awesome. But you don’t want to get them a passport holder or a yoga mat holder or anything that they will open and say, “Wow. Thanks… This is… Nice.”

So here is our very discerning pick of the best gifts to get people who love to travel.

Stocking Stuffers

Have a friend who’s totally stressed out. Give her a $9.95 month long subscription to Dave Romanelli’s “Meditate On.” The meditations are short, not overly New Age and full of Dave’s mellow, surfer vibe. Check out the sample, Meditate On Hawaii.

The New York Oyster Map

The New York Oyster Map

Food maps from All You Can Eat Press are limited to New York, but anyone who loves food would appreciate one of these in their stocking. No matter where you live, it’s worth it for the inspiration alone:

We love the:

Many things at Flight 001 are fantastic (even the passport holders we promised not to mention), but we like these little pouches with travel encouragement:

In our house, we can’t keep these En Route notecards in stock:

En Route Notecards

Illustrated En Route notecards.

The Aromatherapy Associates Mini Bath and Shower Oil Collection is great for travel. But it is also great for when no trip is on the agenda and you want to close the bathroom door and pretend like you’re at a Four Seasons.

Each mini vial is good for one shower or bath and the scents are: ontains Relax Light, Relax Deep, De-Stress Mind, De-Stress Muscle, Revive Morning, Revive Evening, Support Breathe, Support Equilibrium, Support Lavender and Peppermint

We especially like to order this from Net-A-Porter and get it wrapped in their beautiful signature black box with the grosgrain ribbon:

The Try the World food boxes send monthly selections from some of our favorite places like Paris and Istanbul. Their special holiday box includes 8 full-size items including Urbani white truffle oil from Italy, authentic Swedish gingerbread thins and Favarger heritage Swiss chocolate. Just the thing for the holidays when people drop by unexpectedly. Oh, do people not drop in unexpectedly at your house? Our bad.

One of our favorite cookbooks this year was Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee. You can nab a signed copy at Gwyneth Paltrow’s website, GOOP for the very low price of$29.95.

Not a fan of the Gwyneth? Understand. But this is signed.

Gifts for Children

storybook-double-sleeping-bag

Let’s Go Adventuring double sleeping bag.

This is by far, above and beyond, our favorite book to give as a present to kids. Around the World with Mouk is the story of a French bear who goes around the world from Greece to Madagascar, from Burkina Faso to Bondi Beach. Mouk’s itinerary is inspiring for both little ones and grown-ups alike, the bear and the author, Bouvant, have both got mad travel game:

Another great book, Kiki and Coco in Paris, and the doll that inspired the book, a collectible, handmade, rag doll by artist Jess Brown. Both are available at Land of Nod:

We love a camper and this Jetaire play tent will be the starting point of dozens of imaginary trips, while a double sleeping bag will carry your little ones from the front porch to the back yard to points beyond. Let’s Go Adventuring? Yes, please, thank you.

Pricey Gifts

An Airline or Cruise Line Gift Card: Jet Blue recently discontinued their gift card service, but Delta has picked up the slack. They do both egift cards and physical gift cards with a fetching photo of a plane on it. Nothing says, “Come see me!” or “I miss you!” or “Go have an awesome adventure” like a gift card that can actually be applied to travel:

We are not ashamed to say that we love a good cruise. Having recently sailed Royal Caribbean’s newest Quantum of the Seas, we would be very happy to get even a $25. gift card from that line. We had the most delicious breakfast at Devinely Decadence, the healthy restaurant by Biggest Loser Chef Devin Alexander.

A Relais & Chateaux gift box.

A Relais & Chateaux gift box.

We loved the roller skating, the rock climbing and all the maxing and relaxing we did in the solarium. And dinner at Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian was as good as some of the best meals we’ve ever had on land.

Royal Caribbean gift cards come in denominations of $25, $50, $100, $250 and $500.

Relais and Chateaux Gift Box: These gift boxes can be used for hotel stays, meals or a combination of both. They are pricey, but so worth it. (Note most of the hotels and restaurants are abroad so do read the fine print about these fine establishments.)

  • The Tasting Celebration Box, 249 Euros is good for a three or four curse dinner and a glass of wine or champagne for two at 196 restaurants around the world (although only one in the U.S., the White Barn Inn).
  • The Romantic Getaway (389 Euros) is good for an overnight stay, a 3 course-dinner for two and breakfast for two at 159 properties around the world.

… And Everything Else

hongkongglobe

A Globee Hong Kong city globe.

Globes can be cliché, these clever mini globes (some are also night lights and savings banks) are not.

For guys, you can’t go wrong with Paul Smith for printed laptop sleeves or the flight bag.

And while the Paul Smith Havana wash bag is supposedly for men, we think it makes a chic clutch for the chicas.

We get it. You love your Kindle. It’s so light. You’ve got a hundred books in your backpack and it’s light as air, yadda yadda yadda. We have two words for you: Juniper Books. They package collections of great books that look as visually stunning on the shelf as they are extraordinary to read.

A custom collection of Hemingway novels.

A custom collection of Hemingway novels.

More than ever, we travel via our plate. Gift the gourmand in your life with the World Spice Gift set. An amazing cookbook and 13 custom blended spices to whip it all up. Need convincing, check out this sneak peek recipe.

Veronica Chambers is the author of over 20 books for adults, young adults, and children, including the James Beard-award winning “Yes, Chef” and the memoir “Mama’s Girl.” She focuses on gifts at Gifty McGifty. 

Travel Links We Like for 12/12

We don’t like to think that collecting links to stories we liked this week is lazy blogging, we like to think it helps justify all the online reading we did while we were meant to be working on something else. We also like to think it will help you discover something you’ll like too.

So here’s our soon-to-be weekly roundup of Travel Links We Like.

Notable Travel Books of 2014, by Andrew McCarthy
McCarthy begins his roundup with the admission that travel writing is complicated these days: “in our Google Maps world, even once sleepy places like poor Provence have become hackneyed and played out.” He still manages to find five titles — three titles about exploring the world and two compilations of stories — to recommend. There are some familiar names in the roundup, including Gadling contributor Pico Iyer and former features editor Don George, who wrote and edited, respectively, two of the titles. Head down to your favorite independent bookstore and stuff your loved ones’ stockings with them.

Quantum of the Seas: The First Cruise Ship Built Specifically for Selfies, by Paul Brady
For a two-day cruise to nowhere, the Quantum of the Seas sailing out of New York in mid-November produced a surprising amount of good stories. From Scott Mayerowitz’ doubtful look at his prospects for finding joy on a mega-ship to the Verge’s video segment about the boat’s tech perks, this wasn’t your typical boat packed with freeloading hacks. Into the good pool jumps CNT’s Brady, who looks at the boat in context of the social media sharing trend that Royal Caribbean hopes the boat’s extensive tech will encourage amongst its passengers.

image1

An #cockpitview image uploaded to Instagram.

Have emotional support animals gone too far?, by Heather Poole
Everyone’s favorite literary flight attendant (with the exception of some grumpy avgeeks) has some measured thoughts about the many bogus emotional support animals airlines are being forced to deal with with a rising frequency. She tells tales (sorry) of roosters, pot-bellied pigs, and five first-class Spuds MacKenzies, as well as allergic passengers and miniature ponies. Short story: Flying is a zoo these days.

By the way, the answer to the question posed in the title is most certainly “Yes.”

The pilots of Instagram: beautiful views from the cockpit, violating rules of the air, by David Yanofsky
Quartz alerts us to a problem we didn’t know we had: Pilots that like Instagram as much as we do. The site monitored pilot-friendly hashtags on the social media network for six months to highlight the frequent snapping and uploading of pictures from cockpits, done largely when pilots are not permitted to snap pictures. The rules pilots operate under appear to be anachronistic at times — cameras are OK, but cameraphones in airplane mode are not — so there does appear to be a compelling reason to get some updated rules out there that can cut out distractions.

The top destinations of 2015: A new approach to listicles

Robert Reid is one of my favorite travel experts in print or in person, even if he rarely manages to ever stay true to the title of his “76-Second Travel Show.”

Last year he wrote a story for our big sister site Skift about the trends driving different publications’ picks for their respective 2014 top destinations lists. It boiled down to three main angles:

The most popular pick for editors is a place linked to a specific event, anniversary or news-related topic, like the World Cup or the 100th anniversary of WWI (almost half of the total). Next are secondary destinations that appear overdue for a shout-out (over a quarter of the total, including destinations like Nicaragua’s Little Corn Islands, or Puglia, Italy).

Last is almost destination-agnostic, lists of new hotel sites or tours to plan a trip around (25% of the picks, including all of AFAR’s list).

Yesterday he posted his pre-emptive list of top destinations for 2015 — but not really. Instead of a the typical smattering of unexpected locales, under-appreciated gems, and revarnished classics, Reid instead explained a more interesting approach to helping others figure out the top destination that may be just right for them.

Watch below for his three pieces of advice.

Top 10 destinations for expats in 2014

The list of popular expat destinations has long included Northern Europe and Switzerland, known for their happiness, famed healthcare programs, and exceptional quality of life.

These countries still retain some of the top spots, but this year the top expat destination belongs to a country in the opposite hemisphere: Ecuador.

The 2014 InterNations Expat Insider survey states that this South American country is becoming a hub for expats looking to take advantage of the financial benefits they can reap there.

Ecuador came in first on the personal finance and cost of living indexes, and it also ranks the highest of all surveyed countries for ease of making friends. About 82% of expats also said they find it easy to settle down and feel at home in Ecuador. The country also ranks first for personal happiness, and 42% of expats living there say the plan to stay “possibly forever.”

Rank Country
1 Ecuador
2 Luxembourg
3 Mexico
4 Switzerland
5 U.S.
6 Singapore
7 Spain
8 Philippines
9 Australia
10 Hong Kong

The top expat nationalities and countries of origin are the U.S. and UK, but English is not the official language for half of the top ten most popular countries for expats. And four of the top five have official languages other than English. Expats feel this is one downturn to living in Ecuador, for example, where a third of them said it’s difficult to live there without speaking Spanish. Still, another third said learning the language was easy, and English is still prevalent in most of the top countries where English isn’t the official language.

Ecuador is followed by Luxembourg, Mexico, Switzerland, and the U.S, with Luxembourg and Switzerland ranking high for quality of life and working abroad. Mexico ranks highest for ease of settling in, and the percentage of expats wanting to stay there forever at 44% is even higher than Ecuador. Roughly one in three people also said their relocation to Mexico is work-related.

For American expats, the top three countries they move to are Germany, Italy and China, and one-third of them are working, with 47% working in a manager-type role.