It’s that time.
Thanksgiving has passed and the holidays are coming and a lot of us are thinking about what to give our loved ones.
Personally, I’m mostly an advocate of experiences over things. For Chad’s birthday, I took him on a helicopter ride over Vancouver and made a carrot cake from scratch. For Christmas last year, I took my best friend out for a meal since I was (happily) in her city just after. She, in turn, gave me a gift certificate for a massage.
Those are my favorite kind of gifts because the memories of those experiences live on and on. Plus, since I live out of a bag and have limited space, gifts generally just don’t work out with my lifestyle.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule (if someone wants to buy me an iPad mini to replace my super crappy Kindle, I’ll happily add that to my carry-on). And in case you want to buy something material for your loved ones, here are a few travel and foodie suggestions of things Chad and I use and love ourselves:
Every year I recommend the Sleepypod Air carrier because it’s the one thing Luna truly couldn’t do without.
We’ve been on the road for 4.5 years now and owned two Sleepypod Airs and they have performed spectacularly. I use it for plane flights (and it has fit under every seat, on flights via Delta, Vueling, Air Malta, WOW Air, Spirit, etc…), train journeys (fun fact: in Europe, small dogs inside a carrier often travel free or for a child fare!), and car trips (the carrier is made to strap into a seatbelt, so on particularly perilous drives or in heavy rain, that’s how Luna travels).
The construction of the carrier is sturdy (we’ve had her current one for about two years now and it looks the same as the day we got it), the interior is very cozy (it’s Luna’s safe space, where she retreats anytime she’s feeling anxious or nervous about scary stuff like trucks on garbage day or me singing in the kitchen), and it folds down flat, which makes it easier to transport when she’s not inside (for example, when we were cycling across France and I transported it flattened on my rear bike rack while Luna rode shotgun).
All this to say I still love this carrier over four years in. It’s one of a very very few items that have made it that long. You can read my original rave review here.
While I haven’t gone the full route of packing cubes (which Chad recommends…scroll down for more on that), I do segment my bag using smaller bags. Some of them are tote bags that I’ve picked up along the way (usually for free at events or via tourism organizations that I’ve asked for maps, brochures, and such) and a few of them are bags I bought myself because I just loved the way they looked.
My current favorite, which has been with me since the beginning of my travels, is my little world map clutch, which I use for makeup and non-liquid toiletries.
I don’t see the exact clutch for sale anymore, but here are a few little map bags that look cute in their own right: world map makeup bag, over-the-shoulder map bag, big world map travel duffle, and world map packing cubes.
A Gorgeous Journal
Even if you aren’t planning to journal about your trip, having a small, cute journal to jot down notes or directions or recommendations locals give you along the way is super helpful. I’m currently carrying a little sparkly notebook and the one pictured above was something I found in Spain. Here are a few other really cute options: adventure beckons, molsekine travel, or the blue dragonfly.
A Good Book
Whether you’re a big reader (like me) or just need a good long-day-on-airplanes book, some of my favorite non-fiction (memoir) includes: Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven (a crazy travel memoir), Love With a Chance of Drowning (part travel memoir, part coming-of-age tale), Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (a memoir of eating only locally for a year), and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise (a memoir by a food critic).
For great fictional airplane books, try: The Blind Assassin (which will keep you guessing), Exodus (for the historical fiction-lover), The Enchanted (dark, beautiful, and another to keep you guessing), Poison Study (and the rest of its trilogy, for fantasy and adventure lovers), or Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (for those who love fantasy set in the real world).
Comfortable Clothes that Travel Well
Staying stylish on the road is pretty important to me, as is feeling comfortable and never being held back by my clothes. Currently on my favorites roster is this knee-length pencil skirt. It’s cute, classic, goes with pretty much everything, gives me curves in all the right places, feels comfortable, and doesn’t really wrinkle. I’ve bought something like six of them in the last five years and every time I wear one out, I end up going back to order another.
The other classic I keep ordering over and over is worthington seamless tanks.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t pause to mention my guidebook series. Obviously, I wrote them, so I’m biased. But I wrote them because regular guidebooks were seriously lacking in the stuff I wanted to know, like what are the locals’ favorite places to eat or hike? Which neighborhoods (not specific hotels) should I look at staying in? Where can I get a good photo? And what can I do that’s not on the normal tourist itinerary?
If you or whoever you’re buying for is into the lesser-known, off-the-beaten-track type stuff, check them out.
When I asked Chad if he had anything to add to my stuff-I-love list, this is what he came up with. In fact, he said packing cubes before I even finished the question. He uses Eagle Creek, but says they’re actually a bit more expensive than they should be (based on the quality of fabric and construction), so you can probably find cheaper options that will still be just as nice.
And for worldwide foodies…
Now, the link below isn’t the same brand we used (we found ours at a Canadian market and I couldn’t find it on Amazon), but maple syrup aged in bourbon barrels is one of our favorite Canada foodie finds. Think: a little less sweetness and a little more kick.
Birch syrup was another favorite find up here in Canada. Made from birch trees, much like maple syrup, this syrup is a bit more tart than sweet. It goes well on cheeses and in chocolate chip cookies. I haven’t tried this specific brand, but it’s certified organic, which is always a plus for me.
Fancy French Jams
These are still some of my all-time favorite jams. And it looks like they’re now shipping worldwide! Try the fleur de geranium to sweeten teas (it’s made from geranium flowers) and the strawberry rhubarb for everyday spreading.
A long-time favorite, truffle oil is something I use often on grilled cheese sandwiches (use it instead of butter) and simple pastas. If someone hasn’t tried it yet, Christmas would be a good time.
Any travel or foodie items you love and recommend for people’s Christmas shopping? Leave them in the comments.