Gift ideas, travel edition
February 12, 2018 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Partner and I are taking an exciting vacation together soon. His birthday is shortly before our trip and I think it would be fun and sweet to base his gifts around our travel plans, but I'm hitting a wall on the specifics.

Basically, I'd love to come up with a small selection of gifts that say, "Hey, I'm really excited to go on this trip with you! I know it'll be awesome, but here are some things that will hopefully make it even MORE awesome." I've been reading a lot of gift guides for travelers, but most of the stuff tends toward the overly practical and impersonal (outlet adapters!) or the downright goofy (a scarf you can shove your passport into for some reason!). I'm aiming for the sweet spot between thoughtful and useful.

Details: We've traveled together before but this will be our longest/most involved trip (we live in the US, going to Europe for a week). We aren't planning anything wild and will be staying in regular old hotels/Air Bnbs, though moving around a fair amount. We'll likely stick to carry-ons, so packing space will be a little tight. There's nothing about this trip that will require specialty gear/clothing, and he doesn't need actual luggage. Our flights will be around 6-7 hours. Assume we're covered on activities and plans related to our specific destinations.

Partner is creative and aesthetically inclined (dresses well, hates clutter, doesn't own a ton of stuff but what he does own is high quality). His vibe is kinda design-y and minimalist, I suppose. He loves music and podcasts and books (probably in that order) but doesn't own an e-reader. He is also medium scared of flying.

Here are my ideas so far:

- One of those fancy merino wool/wool blend t-shirts that you can supposedly wear 75 times and wash in a sink and whatever without smelling like the inside of an armpit (we aren't doing hardcore hiking or anything but something with some re-wearability might be nice)

- An audiobook of something particularly engaging and/or funny, for maximum airplane fear distraction

- A nice version of one of those portable phone charger thingies (he takes lots of photos and we'll be using his phone for battery-sucking stuff like maps because his works abroad and mine does not)

- A fun two-person game (maybe a card game?) that we could play in our down time

- A street map of the main city we're visiting with the stuff we plan to do/our hotels/restaurant ideas marked on it

- ????

I know this is sort of an impossible question in some ways, but I'm hoping that someone will see it and be like, "Hey, I'm a lovable artsy hipster man in my 30s who just went on an international trip! Here's everything I brought with me!" I'm open to any and all suggestions, and would also love recommendations for specific versions of the ideas above.
posted by catoclock to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
how about tickets/reservations for ‚something’ during your trip, that is not yet on the itinerary?
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:54 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]

The powerbank idea is good. One unsung feature of powerbanks is that they tend to charge much faster than (generic) wall chargers. Mine is some offbrand import and it charges my Android phone at least 1% per minute. Mine holds about three phones' worth of full charge (13500mAh) and you can get larger ones. They take longer to charge from the wall, but I just plug mine in and the charge passes through to my phone while the powerbank charges as well. Then it's full when I leave my apartment and throw it in my backpack.

There are different quick-charge standards for Android and iPhones, so some shopping can fine-tune your choice, but in general I'm a big fan of powerbanks.
posted by rhizome at 1:55 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]

Packing cubes? Mine are from Eagle Creek and I love them. Dare I say, life-changing!
posted by bluebird at 2:14 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]

My favorite two player game currently is Lost Cities, which is played with a five suited deck. Small and portable.

Bananagrams also makes a good travel game. Or a waterproof standard deck of cards; there are some that can go through the dishwasher.
posted by triscuit at 2:16 PM on February 12

A couple of times my partner has given me the gift of an experience for while we're travelling (e.g. a cooking class or a ticket to a show.) They were amazing gifts!
posted by Cheese Monster at 2:25 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]

Along the lines of the fancy travel shirt, maybe a pair of Bluffworks pants? They pack super easily, don't wrinkle, dry quickly, have some hidden zipped pockets for money or passport, and are super-versatile. I love mine.
posted by AgentRocket at 2:26 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]

Are you going to France? A Saint James Fisherman's Sweater or Breton shirt are classics, have a European look and travel well.

Silk sleeping liners are handy if you're doubtful about where you're sleeping and make a nice gift for backpacking.
posted by frumiousb at 2:41 PM on February 12

This place has nice-looking travel accessories like adapters, neck pillows, containers, passport wallets, etc. I have some of their little inside-luggage zip-up organizer bags, but haven’t used them yet. A brand I have used, and love, is Eagle Creek; their “Pack-It” system will change your life (when you travel). *On preview, seconding bluebird’s recommendation.

Here’s the charging brick I would recommend. Does exactly what it should. High capacity, also.

If you have a fairly generous budget, these noise canceling headphones make long flights so much more pleasant. Plus, you guys can use them all the time at home.

Check out the brand Smartwool at REI (or elsewhere). They have just the techy wool-blend shirts you’re talking about. And stylish jackets, and perfect socks. Get yourself a little something, too!

Also look at Ex Officio underwear; it’s the only underwear I pack when I travel.
posted by theperfectcrime at 2:41 PM on February 12

Seconding the idea of getting tickets to something (theater, ballet, opera, cool rock band he's into, etc.) That would be memorable, unique, enjoyable for you both, and something to look forward to of you get planning fatigue on vacay, aaand it isn't somehting you have to pack or will contribute clutter. Plus, what hip man in his 30s wouldn't love to say he saw the opera in Rome or the theater in London?
posted by stillmoving at 2:49 PM on February 12

I am a happy but very casual board gamer, and my husband is about 900% less enthusiastic than I am. Friends opened a tabletop gaming cafe recently and he was nice enough to go with me to check it out. We played Schotten Totten, and both enjoyed it, which must actually mean it's great. It's a card game, about the size of a thick paperback, and it's a German game (even better if Germany is on your itinerary.)
posted by DarlingBri at 3:05 PM on February 12

I love my mini Quiddler. It's an easy and quick word game that also doesn't weigh anything. I raved about it when a friend of mine got one, then my bf went and got one for me. I carry it in my purse now all the time.
posted by monologish at 3:28 PM on February 12

Thirding packing cubes. Before I got a set, I wouldn't have thought they'd make such a difference, and yet. Especially useful if you're packing light on the way out because you expect you might buy something while away and need to fit it in your carry-on (which I'm very guilty of), because they mean that even if your suitcase is half empty, your stuff won't be knocking about it and getting all wrinkled.

Also yes to the powerbank idea.
posted by sailoreagle at 3:51 PM on February 12

Maybe a thin journal, so that he can sketch and write during the trip? Possibly too much, but maybe a mini set of colored pencils too. And something nice for the airplane-- little snacks or treats can be fun.

An e-reader can be nice, but the most distracting thing is to watch movies on the flight. If you've already got somewhat noise-blocking earbuds, that should do it. (There's usually a pretty wide movie selection on international flights.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:55 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]

When I travel transatlantic I make myself a little care package. A treat for every hour in the air. I think I got the idea from a thread about how to keep babies entertained on flights, but basically everyone is a toddler in mid-air, right?

So you could make him one of those for both of you - a snack per hour, a game or two (even just a deck of cards), a nice refillable water bottle, a playlist downloaded to Spotify, a thin paperback or artsy magazine to flick through. The cards and book can be left at an airbnb once you get bored of them.

This breaks up the monotony of sitting down for seven hours + limits the amount of terrible plane food you'll have to eat - and I would find this a really touching reminder that you'd thought about the time we were going to spend together enough to think about my comfort. Plus, consumable gifts are always safe for people who don't need lots of 'stuff'.
posted by citands at 5:39 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]

A good novel set in one of the cities you are going to visit. You'l almost certainly be able to find a mystery for many cities, but you can probably find something very good for wherever you are going. Europe has some lit.
posted by Gotanda at 5:46 AM on February 13

I very highly recommend investing in some good wool clothing, especially if you plan to travel a lot. So, this might be a good time to start building up your partner's travel wardrobe. Icebreaker shirts and Darn Tough socks are my favorite brands of merino wool, but there are lots of options. I typically take 2 pairs of Darn Tough socks and 2 merino wool t-shirts when I travel. They dry really fast, so I just wash them in the sink or while I am showering and they're ready to pack by the next day. And I second the Ex-Officio underwear suggestion (though that's a even more utilitarian gift than socks and t-shirts!), and Eagle Creek packing cubes!
posted by GoldenEel at 9:31 AM on February 13

Does your partner like to journal? One of my favorite pre-trip rituals involves my Midori Traveler's Notebook. I make my own refill inserts, and when I have a big trip coming up I make a special custom insert to write in while I'm travelling. For example, I traveled to Iceland and Ireland last year, so I made a special notebook insert based on the theme of the trip (A Song of Ice and Ire), and decorated the cover with pictures from George RR Martin's books.

While I travel, I collect ticket stubs and other ephemera and glue them into the notebook, alongside my thoughts and reflections about each day.

You could give your partner the leather cover and either make some themed inserts for him, or let him make some himself. This website has tutorials on how to make your own inserts.
posted by GoldenEel at 9:45 AM on February 13

I am a nervous flier and a good pair of headphones help.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 6:35 AM on February 14

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