The holidays are here, and you are no doubt asking yourself, “What kind of holiday gifts am I going to get my traveling friends and family?”
Here’s the thing: In today’s world of nomads and downsizers, gift giving is getting complicated. We still enjoy the simple act of giving someone a present – and of getting a gift, as well. The problem is that many people are actively reducing the amount of stuff in their homes and lives. It can be a challenge to find just the right gift while honoring, if not helping, their drive to declutter.
Updated for 2021!
The Un-Gift Holiday Gift Guide
Our annual gift guide is here to help! We’re calling it the Holiday Un-Gift Guide because, while still gifting our traveling friends and family, we’re not adding to a pile of presents. Instead, we’re rounding up gifts that can help our travelers go farther, go easier, or just plain go! No wrapping, no shipping, just giving. It’s a minimalist win-win Christmas!
Side Bonus: Minimalist gifts such as these are also great for last minute shoppers. (Like our Rob, despite his best intentions.)
The Holiday Gift of Entertainment
Once upon a time, we loved getting new books and movies for Christmas. As we traveled more and more frequently, we realized that it was impractical to bring our DVD collection (and impossible to bring those old VHS tapes – yes, we’re that old!). Though inconvenient, we continued to lug around our beloved bulky, heavy books.
Slowly but surely, PDAs evolved into tablets and smartphones that grant access to more books, movies, and music than we ever imagined, without packing anything more than our phone and a few cables. While a digital subscription may seem like the obvious gift, any traveler or downsizer would appreciate the thought, and not having to lay out the cash themselves.
- iTunes is the king of the hill here. Conveniently, you can pick up an iTunes gift card just about anywhere if you really want something to stuff in their stocking. You can also send the gift of iTunes electronically, with a few caveats. By the way, this works with iBooks and the App Store, too.
- Let’s say there’s an Android user on your gift list. (No really, it happens!) Google Play lets you gift music subscriptions and books. Although not as ubiquitous as iTunes gift cards, you can also find physical Google Play gift cards, which can be used to pay for movies, music, games, and books.
- Amazon Prime is coming on strong in the entertainment field. As part of Prime, members have access to Prime Video to stream thousands of titles, and Prime Music with two million songs. Prime Reading lets members “borrow” books and magazines, including some with Audible narration. Members also have access to Audible Channels, though that’s not as complete as a separate subscription to Audibles. Finally, Prime also includes Prime Photos, which has unlimited secure photo storage. You can either send the gift of Prime membership (for which you will be endlessly thanked), or an environmentally-friendly Amazon e-Gift Card.
- Also @ Amazon: Not sure Amazon Prime is the answer? Though often overlooked, you can gift subscriptions to Amazon entertainment services individually. For example, put 70-million songs at your giftee’s fingertips with Amazon Music Unlimited at $9.99/mo. For the video buff, how about a year of movies, shows, and original content from Amazon Prime Video at $8.99/mo. And for your bookworm, nothing beats a year of Kindle Unlimited for just over $80. In most cases, you get more access by subscribing individually than you would with Prime.
- Spotify is one of the best loved and most popular streaming music services, with both a vanilla and Premium version. If you have a Spotify fan on your gift list, you can give them an upgrade to Spotify Premium (ranging from $4.99 to $14.99/year). Here’s how to do that. (Note: You will have to log in via Facebook or your Spotify account.) You can choose to have a physical Spotify gift card delivered, or do a solid for the environment and have their gift emailed.
- We can’t talk about entertainment without mentioning the king of streaming movies and shows, Netflix. Even if your giftee already has a Netflix subscription, an e-Gift Card is the way to go. They can apply the balance to a new or existing Netflix account, and you both can chill.
The Holiday Gift of a Hotel
Hotels can take a big bite out of a travel budget. Branded gift cards (think Marriott, for example) are handy, but there is the limit of only being usable at that brand. Instead, we like gift cards from Hotels.com that can be used pretty much anywhere. They’re easy to give, and shipping won’t break the bank.
Side Note: If you find yourself with a few unwanted gift cards after Christmas, you can trade them in for a Hotels.com gift card! They don’t transfer dollar-for-dollar, but it may be more useful than a card for a store you never visit.
Though not a hotel, AirBNB is a hugely popular source for accommodations, whether traveling solo or as a family, longterm or just for a weekend. We have loved our AirBNB stays around the world, and have more information just below…because now it’s more than just a place to lay your head!
The Holiday Gift of Experiences
So you’ve a Millennial on your gift list. Surveys and stories tell us repeatedly that this age group prefers experiences over objects. Oddly, as we get further from being Millennial-aged ourselves, we’re the same. The gift of an experience also fits well for nomads and downsizers who don’t have room for more stuff, but would enjoy more memories.
So…how does one give an experience?
- Tinggly is our favorite purveyor of experiences because they package it as a gift. The idea is simple: You purchase a gift box, they choose an experience. There are literally hundreds of experiences to choose from, but the beauty is that you don’t have to choose for them. You just have to pick a gift box; there are a variety available at price points as low as FREE! You read that right: The World’s Best Free Experiences is a great trip starter. Other options start at $89, including themed experiences, such as Super Woman, Fun Together, or Dream Wedding. Something for everyone, is what we’re saying.
- We love the idea of gifting someone someplace to stay on their travels, but Airbnb has gone one better: they now offer curated experiences around the world. The idea is much the same as their accommodations: Local people host you, and you get to live like a local. Prices are as varied as the experiences: Surfing in Bali for $9, to flight lessons over Los Angeles for $125, and pretty much anything in-between. Once again, you don’t have to choose for them; just send them an Airbnb gift card, and they can spend it on any experience or accommodation they choose.
The Holiday Gift of Airport Luxury
Perhaps the worst tactical mistake we ever made while traveling was checking into an airport First Class lounge. Once you’ve breathed that rarified air, spending time in the terminal is just passé.
Of course, flying First Class to get that lounge access is an expensive proposition, even if you’re paying with points. Another way in is by using independent airport lounges. More and more airports are seeing lounges operated by people besides the airlines and, while still not cheap, getting in can be much easier.
Priority Pass is our favorite, with more than 1,000 lounges around the world. Just flash your pass, and you’re in! Have a snack. Have a drink. In some locations, you can have a spa day!
There are various membership options, starting at $99 (then $27 per visit) up to $399 for all you can lounge. (In all cases, accompanying guests are $27.) You can save 10% on a Priority Pass Membership using our link.
Note: Be aware that, when you sign your loved one up for a membership, you’ll need to enter their shipping information because they do send out physical membership cards.
Isn’t the Un-Gift Impersonal?
The debate rages on: Christmas gifts are meant to be personal expressions, and a gift card is so impersonal. We can see how that might be true. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to get something vague that someone might use.
On the other hand, sometimes a gift card is the perfect gift. It lets the receiver know that you’ve considered their lifestyle choice, whether that’s downsizing to a tiny house, living out of a suitcase, or somewhere in-between. It shows that you’ve considered their needs, and chosen something they can actually use.
We hope you’ve gotten some gift ideas here that you can use. Whether as a gift or for yourself, we’ll leave that up to you. Either way, Happy Gifting!