The Perfect-for-Travelers Gift Guide! Part One
We're not hinting, but we'd love almost everything on this list.
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Christmas or holiday shopping can be a trying experience. What do you get the person who doesn’t need anything more?
It’s even worse when buying for travelers like Brent and me — nomads, expats, and people who spend a lot of time on the road. What do you get the person who doesn’t have room for anything more?
A lot of our friends are nomads and travelers too, so we feel your pain.
But don’t despair! There are plenty of things travelers need and love — even if some of these “things” aren’t necessarily physical items.
Check out these ideas:
Nomading isn’t easy on luggage. We’re constantly packing and unpacking — and maybe overpacking on occasion. Then we’re literally dragging our luggage all over the world.
And that doesn’t even take into account baggage handlers at airports and on trains and buses.
We used to have suitcases which we both tore through in less than two years. This year, we switched over to…backpacks! Specifically, the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack.
They’re as solid as they come, designed for frequent packing and unpacking — and really rough handling. At $220 a pop, we think they’re a bargain.
And for daily outings, we use the Cotopaxi Batac 16L Backpack ($60). Important fact: Cotopaxi produces their goods in an environmentally and human-rights-responsible ways.
What about folks who prefer more traditional luggage? How about the Mother Lode Carry-On Rolling Duffel ($99)?
A female nomad friend also recommends the Baggallini Avenue Tote Bag ($74), as a more stylish yet practical option to a daily backpack.
And since most every traveler has to worry about not exceeding baggage weight limits, consider throwing in a Etekcity Handheld Luggage Scale ($12)!
Lenovo IdeaPad 5 $829
What puts the “digital” in “digital nomad”? A laptop, of course. Brent recently upgraded to the Lenovo IdeaPad 5 and has been delighted with its speed, weight, and especially its battery, which lasts up to ten hours on a single charge. And don’t forget the Roost Laptop Stand! ($90)
Nintendo Switch $329
Just because we’re nomads doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy gaming — especially with friends and family. Consider the Nintendo Switch gaming console, which is small enough to carry.
Another option? Oculus Rift 2 $299. This is considerably bigger than the Nintendo Switch, but one nomad friend swears it’s worth the extra weight, because the Rift “is a gym, movie theater, casino, golf course, paintball arena, ping pong table in a box and the best portable gaming console ever devised. It can turn a studio apartment into a palace.” I’m convinced! I just added it to my wishlist.
Pixel 6 Pro $899
Pixel 6 $599
Pixel 5a $449
I’ve never particularly cared about having the latest or most stylish phone. I’m much more interested in a phone’s affordability, reliability, and especially its camera.
For our first year as nomads, I had an old iPhone. But I wanted something better for taking pictures, and my research led me to the Google Pixel line of phones. I’m currently on my second Pixel, the Pixel 4a, and I find the camera to mostly be outstanding. Full disclosure: it does great at night, but in other low light situations, it’s less good.
Since it’s a Google product, it comes with unlimited photo storage, which is a big plus when you take as many pics as I do — don’t even ask. I’ve been recommending Pixels for years and happily do so now. And, no, Google hasn’t yet given me a free phone. Hint hint!
Note: The Pixel 6 Pro, which came out in October, is Google’s first foray into the high-end market and carries a $899 price tag. That’s way more than the $349 for my Pixel 4a, which Google no longer makes. But given how much I like the Pixel line, I’ll gladly pay the premium the next time I upgrade.
I’ve been taking pictures strictly with my smartphone since we started traveling, but I’ve been thinking seriously about upgrading to a proper camera. I checked with Dave Edwards, who writes Geezer Abroad, since he’d recently done a deep dive into this very topic.
Dave’s research convinced him to go with the Panasonic LUMIX FZ300, and I’m very inclined to agree as it ticks all my boxes. It’s a SLR, uses a 12.1 Megapixel high sensitivity MOS sensor, and therefore has great resolution, is splash-proof, dust-proof, has image stabilization and more. (I’ve already put it in our Amazon cart in hopes that Brent takes the hint!)
Yes, yes, paper books smell good and are often beautifully bound. They also weigh a frickin’ ton! I’ve yet to meet a long-term traveler who didn’t have an ereader. And if the object of your gift-buying already has a Kindle, how about some Kindle Credit or an Audible subscription?
Once the pandemic began, Brent and I immediately stopped going to the gym. Instead, we switched to doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) which we can do outdoors almost anywhere. But we’ve also integrated resistance bands into our workout, to keep up our upper body strength. Throw in the Amble jump rope for $9, and you’ve got yourself a pretty damned great workout.
Loud co-working places are not productive co-working places for me, so I would be delighted with these noise cancellation headphones, that also have great sound quality for music podcasts, and those necessary but annoying Zoom calls.
If those Jabra headphones are too pricey, then maybe the AirPod Pros will be a bit more palatable. They still have decent noise cancellation capabilities, are decent for video calls, and are much more portable.
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Did you really think we weren’t going to suggest ourselves as a great gift option?
THE KITCHEN BASICS
Looking for some cheaper gifts — or stocking stuffers? One thing every long-term traveler quickly learns is that rental or Airbnb kitchens are not always well-stocked.
So consider giving items like the True Jetsetter wine opener ($10); the AeroPress Go Portable Travel Coffee Press ($32) or the Kuissential SlickDrip Coffee Brewer ($13); the very travel-friendly NexTrend Garlic Twister ($21); the OXO Swivel Veggie Peeler ($11); Flexible Plastic Cutting Boards ($6); and since so many Airbnbs have knives duller than your Uncle Bob, we recommend the SHARPAL 101N 6-In-1 Pocket Knife Sharpener ($10).
Like a lot of folks, we’re trying to do more for the environment, so how about Swedish Dishcloths ($19), which are much more eco-friendly than paper towels. We should all be reducing our plastic usage, so try the Hiware 12-Pack Reusable Stainless Steel Metal Straws ($6). Another way to reduce plastic use is to switch to the S'well Stainless Steel Water Bottle, which keeps liquids cold and hot ($29); or the Super Sparrow Sports Water Bottle ($18), which is BPA-free and has a convenient carrying strap.
(Note: many digital nomads like to travel super lightly, sometimes with only carry-on luggage. So these items are probably best for long-term travelers who travel more slowly with more baggage. Probably more emotional baggage too, but we can’t help with that.)
Would you like to give a truly environmentally-friendly gift? Then how about the Ocean Clean-Up Sunglasses? They’re not cheap, at $228, but what you’re really giving your nomadic loved one is a donation to the Ocean Clean-Up Project, which is working to reduce the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Not only are these stylish sunglasses made entirely from recycled plastic, but also 100% of the proceeds go back to removing plastic from the patch, which means each pair sold reduces the garbage patch by a size of up to twenty-four football fields.
Not bad, if you ask me!
Here are some other small, portable items that your long-term traveler might love to find in their stocking.
For convenience, there’s the Popup Laundry Hamper ($18). For a little additional security for your room, how about the Portable Door Lock for Travel ($15). And speaking of security, ever since our apartment in Bulgaria caught on fire with nary a smoke detector in sight, we’ve carried the 3 Pack Fire Alarms Smoke Detector ($29) with us.
Even after four years, I still end up either throwing away half used bottles of shampoo for fear they will leak, or taking them and having them leak anyway. (Hey, I never said I was especially smart!) But with the 4 in 1 CHIVENIDO Travel Dispenser Bottle set ($16), I can take shampoo, lotion, conditioner, and laundry detergent in a compact leak-proof container. Did I mention it’s TSA compliant?
That’s it for now. Go here for Part Two of our gift-giving guide, which includes clothing, footwear, and books!