Suggested gifts for bumming around Europe
June 13, 2005 12:00 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine is off to Europe for a month this fall and as she happens to have a birthday between now and then, I figured it would be a good idea to give her presents that might be useful on such a trip. Not having done it myself, though, I'm not sure what would be most useful.

Her itinerary takes her through Amsterdam, Paris, Austria, Italy and the south of France. I'm sure she's got all the usual travel paraphernalia, so I'm looking for something more Eurocentric, but not as dull as, say, a map or Frommer's or something.
posted by Bezbozhnik to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What about a some kind of notebook for recording her journey?

Is there a way to buy stamps from foreign countries here? That would have been really useful on our recent trip.

We used our voltage converter a lot, but that's pretty dull.

What about music from the various places? Or printouts of neat things to do? We had tons of info on where to eat and the touristy things, but some neat places for live music would have been good.

Things for the plane - magazines, word games, a great book?

A good carry on bag and a good bag for holding makeup/toiletries, were pretty essential to our trip.
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:26 PM on June 13, 2005

I'm not sure you're going to find a gift for your friend that is as "eurocentric" as what she is going to find over there herself... isn't that why she's going? ;)

Regards her birthday: do you mean that her birthday will actually be while she is away? When travelling with a friend around europe, I collected small presents from her mother and a couple of her friends before I left, for her to open on her birthday while we were away (she knew nothing of this till her birthday, which was fun, but obviously you would have to give it to her in good faith that she wouldn't open it till her birthday).

I think the best kind of gift for someone going away is something that reminds them of home. Like taking a little piece of home with them. I'm from New Zealand, so friends gave me greenstone and paua to take with me, which was really special.

I'm not christian, but a christian friend of mine gave me a St Christophers necklace (who is supposed to look after travellers), which i thought was very special and never took off while i was travelling.

In terms of more practical things, how is she travelling? If she is backpacking (as I did), there may be small practical things that she hasn't thought of... like how she is going to dry her clothes. I know that you can buy a weird kind of travel washing line, which is two pieces of elastic twisted together. Sounds strange but it works, and it also takes up very little backpack space.

Hope that this sparks something for you...
posted by ancamp at 12:35 PM on June 13, 2005

A good long book for the plane, a mix CD and a journal would be good things. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 12:36 PM on June 13, 2005

I completely agree with dpx.mfx about a makeup/toiletries bag. But in my opinion you should forget a journal, I took one with me, and was too busy *doing* things to worry writing about it! I guess some people would write consistently, but if your friend is one of those people, she probably already has this one covered.
posted by ancamp at 12:40 PM on June 13, 2005

Travellers typically need less stuff to pack and carry. A few exceptions are a great guidebook, and items that replace heavier stuff. Maybe a spare card for the digital camera? If you can find the name of a cafe or restaurant in Paris, you might be able to reserve and pay for a fabulous meal. Or, give her cash, and the requirement that she have a fabulous meal, and send you a postcard all about it.
posted by Mom at 12:48 PM on June 13, 2005

I was once given some packing folders and cubes before I did some extended travelling and liked/used them a lot. I also second, um, Mom's suggestion of a spare memory card for a digital camera and her idea for a great meal. If your friend is travelling on a tight budget, a little bit of luxury like a nice meal (or a night in a nice hotel if they are hostelling it the whole time) will be very appreciated.
posted by Staggering Jack at 1:03 PM on June 13, 2005

How about a whole bunch of postage stamps for countries she will be visiting and a nice pen? I have no idea if it's possible to get postage this way though.
posted by ldenneau at 1:03 PM on June 13, 2005

How about a can of mace? Seriously, might make her feel safer if she's traveling alone, and particularly if she's hitchhiking.
posted by dbarefoot at 1:07 PM on June 13, 2005

notebooks/journals, nice pens, travel alarm...Prepaid FedEx vouchers to send stuff home as she goes?
posted by amberglow at 1:08 PM on June 13, 2005

If you're looking for something fun, I'd suggest a lomo action sampler (there's also a silver and a white version aside from that colorful one). I used it when travelling through greece and got wonderful photos, often even better than with the professional camera. It's light enough to carry around all the time. It's meant to be clicked without even looking through the viewer, so you can hang it round your neck or belt and just click away and you'll get great random shots (4 per each photo, with the movement sequence). Works very nicely in summer daylight. Suprisingly good results for something so cheap. It just takes a bit of practice at the start to get the hang of how you roll back the film once it's full and put in a new one.

It's Swiss, but you can buy it on Amazon US for even less than it retails in Europe (grr! but lucky for you if you're in the US).

(I agree with ancamp though, you shouldn't try to get her something "euro" at all costs seen as she'll be buying stuff there herself).
posted by funambulist at 1:18 PM on June 13, 2005

Is she backpacking? Can she cook? You could put together a nice travel-sized spice/ oil kit, along w/ a plastic plate and cutlery.

Travel towels are also a great investment. They're smaller than regular ones (less fluffy), they dry quickly, and they're not usually the sort of think a backpacker buys for herself (check out LLBean, REI, or your outdoor outfitter of choice).

If she's the type to call home, phone cards are also lovely, but make sure that there are local numbers for all the countries she'll be traveling in.

Otherwise, dinner in a nice resteraunt is a great idea, as are tickets to see shows (circus, musicals, concerts, etc).
posted by asnowballschance at 1:37 PM on June 13, 2005

The thing I needed most on my recent trip was band-aids. Lots of walking, lots of blisters. They had them there though, so I don't know how great a gift it would make.
posted by willnot at 2:06 PM on June 13, 2005

A travel document holder? This is the classic but you can get cheap ones for under £50
posted by blag at 2:22 PM on June 13, 2005

If she's checking her luggage when flying (and I'm not sure if you'll be able to find this out), a Swiss army knife is very very useful, especially when eating out of supermarkets as opposed to restaurants. You can use it to make sandwiches, open tins, open bottles of wine, etc. They're also quite small, compact, and durable. Be sure to get one with a corkscrew and a tiny pair of scissors!
posted by lumiere at 2:37 PM on June 13, 2005

Magazines/novel, a remote email account (that is if she does not have one), a clock that has different time zones.
posted by Chimp at 7:14 PM on June 13, 2005

I lived in Japan for a year and when I left (to travel in Russia and eastern Europe for 3 months) my vice principal gave me a big square bit of nice cloth--called a furoshiki, traditionally used for carrying bundles of things; now mostly used for wrapping box lunches. It was great for wrapping my book & journal & travel guide in so the pages wouldn't get bent up in my pack, doubles as a little handbag, and might also be useful depending on how she packs her clothes. There are all kinds ways to tie them, depending on what you're carrying and whether it's for looks (as in a wedding present) or utility--here's instructions for tying one to carry a watermelon.
posted by soviet sleepover at 10:09 PM on June 13, 2005

I was in Germany and Italy several years ago and we really found the Rick Steve's books helpful. Good advice on where to stay & things like "if you only have a few hours, go see this & skip that" Here's his website address. I didn't know he had one & now I'll have to go look too.
(sorry I haven't figured out how to do links)
Check it out, it looks useful & he'll send you a free newsletter if you ask as well.
posted by BoscosMom at 12:33 AM on June 14, 2005

Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable if she's planning to travel by rail. Has most significant rail journeys across all of Europe.
posted by biffa at 4:38 AM on June 14, 2005

Echoing BoscosMom on the Rick Steves' books, and Staggering Jack on the Eagle Creek packing gear (I *live* by the stuff when travelling.)

Insert "Travel Light" rant here. As the snarkier flight attendants say, "If you can't carry it, it's not a carry on." Light weight is *everything*, esp. when you're constantly moving about a country. A good travel pack would be a huge gift (but would A) cost about $200, and B) require that she be available to be try on a few -- a poorly fitting pack is a nightmare.)

But onto the question:

One great conversation starter -- even if you don't really speak the language, is postcards from home. I had a lovely time passing around, and later handing out, Chicago Postcards in southern Germany. A few drunken slogans on the back, and you've left something real behind -- a good memory.

A killer thing to do is to have you and a bunch of her other friends sign a bunch of local cards, leaving a great deal of space. Then, she can collect signatures as she goes, and hand some out. At the end of the trip, she'll have this one card with signatures of all the people in the world who know here, even for a moment.

Thirty years ago, she'll have forgotten the museum and the creepy guy on the train, but that postcard will be priceless.
posted by eriko at 4:44 AM on June 14, 2005

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