Gifts that say 'world traveller'
February 23, 2018 8:20 PM   Subscribe

My brother has saved up enough to take a six-month round the world trip. I'd like to give him a gift pack of stuff for the trip. Things I already have: a lounge access membership, some packing cubes, a travel journal. I'd love to find something more creative, too.

My question is: what sort of things might help someone feel quickly at home, or help them have a good time, in a wide range of places? An ideal item (I know this doesn't exist) would be a card which works on metro transport systems in many cities, so you don't have to fiddle around with finding the right change and working out how much you want to top up. Or a babelfish, although of course these days there is Google translate...

I have seen this previous question, but most of the items suggested are things which would be useful for general travel rather than things which help you navigate lots of different places - if that makes sense. The best item from this list was the MagicJack dongle, so you have a local phone number everywhere, except we are in the UK not the US.
posted by ontheradio to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A SIM card that can be used in many countries at a reasonable price. KeepRoaming and Three UK's SIMs both fit this bill (and I personally use both, they are both better for different things - KR covers a lot more countries - useful if he is going to unusual destinations, but 3UK is a better deal overall). Something like this is essential to making it easy for you to get around and organise things as soon as you land in a new country - and will obviously help with enabling the many apps that will make the other aspects of his trip easier (transport, translation).

An Uber gift card.
posted by ryanbryan at 8:31 PM on February 23, 2018

I gifted myself the Atlas Obscura book and it was some of the best money I've spent. Having it on hand--or on device--while traveling would be amazing.

Is there a hostel membership or something you could give? I remember a membership in Hosteling International being pretty affordable and providing the safety net of a network.

For something that's both creative and would help someone feel at home anywhere, what if you gave a funny small stuffed animal or figurine that he could photograph in different places he visits? That way he'd always have at least that one photograph to plan and take, and sharing those pics would be super fun.

Also re: something creative, I love taking watercolor crayons, a small watercolor notebook, and a couple water brushes (i.e. brushes that have little water tanks when I travel. It's good fun in cafes and hotels or whenever I'm tired of documenting my travels with words.
posted by mermaidcafe at 8:32 PM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

A Power adapter to make sure all the electronics keep working in different countries is super useful. A good portable charger can also be a huge help while traveling.
posted by nalyd at 8:38 PM on February 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

There's something so great about sending and receiving post cards from faraway places in the age of electronic communication. No one has physical address books any more, but it's surprisingly hard to google an address, a lot of the time, without hitting a paywall or a weird identity-investigation deal. You could gather the mailing addresses of his friends and family, write them into the last few pages of the travel journal (or another small notebook) in case he'd actually like to send a few postcards from anywhere-but-here.
posted by velveeta underground at 9:25 PM on February 23, 2018 [11 favorites]

My husband has a leather passport wallet thingie and it's realllly beat up. It's a point of pride with him that it's in such poor shape because it reflects how many trips it's been on.
posted by potrzebie at 9:52 PM on February 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

Connectivity is both useful and allows the person some familiarity:
-Echoing universal power adapter with USB ports
-USB power pack
-point it a small book with dozens of photos in categories - designed for use where one doesn’t know the language
posted by artificialard at 10:09 PM on February 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

We have an icoon dictionary, apparently it exists as an app now, too. It’s tiny and useful when there’s no common language.
posted by meijusa at 12:14 AM on February 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Is it safe to assume he’s doing the on-the-cheap backpacker-style travel? also that he will have a working smartphone? Agree a USB power pack of some kind—something slim or small that’s holds a charge or two to re-up his phone when he’s stuck. And/or:
-a flexible solar panel that attaches to backpack.
-an Airbnb gift card for those times when you really just want a good bed, a hot shower and a place to do your laundry.
-check out Postagram or something like it, which allows you to take a photo, tap on an address, spend a couple bucks, and the company mails a real card of that photo to your contact. You could buy him credit in the app, then make sure he gets the app and fill in some family/friend contact info for him.
-some great jerky and chocolate for the pack.
-an ebook.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 12:56 AM on February 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It may seem small, but an extra long phone charging cord- 6 or 12 feet long so that he can always have his phone charging nearby, no matter where the hotel/hostel/airbnb tries to hide the outlet. I cannot go back to the dinky regular ones now, especially when traveling.
posted by Bibliogeek at 2:16 AM on February 24, 2018 [8 favorites]

I have two Road Warrior travel adapters and I wish I had more. They take up very little space and can be configured for all kinds of sockets.
posted by marguerite at 2:52 AM on February 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Depends on your brother's travel/planning style and itinerary, but some ideas:

  • Apps. Of course they shouldn't distract from the actual IRL experience, and there's a plethora of free travel apps, but here are some paid ones that could be useful gifts for multiple destinations:
    • TripLingo, a voice and image translator with a phrase book, and offline dictionary in multiple languages that also includes local emergency numbers and culture notes. Free with basic access to all features in every language; premium subscription for all content.
    • point it or Icoon (as mentioned above) picture dictionary app.
    • CityMaps2Go Pro for worldwide offline maps , local content discovery, and trip planning.
    • Spotted by Locals for city guides with up-to-date local picks and offline maps at $3.99 each.
    • AccuWeather Platinum (no ads) for hyper-local minute forecasts worldwide.
    • Unit converter app that can calculate between currencies and measurements, including clothing sizes.
  • Transit passes, depending on destinations. Sadly no world metro card, but for example an Interrail Pass or an Amtrak Pass in the US could be worth it. Air alliance passes (round-the-world fares) may also apply, but definitely consider the math.
  • Multi-museum passes for select major cities, such as Paris, NYC, or Florence, if he will be able to make good use of it. Likewise, a National Parks pass for the US. iVenture Card and Go City Cards also have passes for different metros.
  • Flexible, travel-friendly gift cards. Also not on that list: Viator or Vayable for personal tours and unique experiences. Skype credit. Similarly, a prepaid currency card, especially if he doesn't have a travel credit card with no foreign transaction fee.
  • Help with research and information gathering, e.g. download relevant Wikivoyage or articles or other trip guides for offline reading, compile a list of national dishes and local delicacies to try or small souvenirs to buy, put together a Google Doc of how public transportation works by city.
  • A hard drive or Google Drive / Dropbox folder of or subscription to an online library or streaming service, with a list of recommendations for (e/audio)books, music, and films related to his destinations.
  • Travel coloring book plus colored pencils and sharpener for those long plane and train rides.
  • Scratch travel map to record locations reached on the go. Also in journal form. Or he can log where he's been in the (paid) Fog of World or Footprint app.
  • Prompts for the travel journal, such as questions, themed lists (e.g. reviews of weird snacks acquired through grocery store tourism), or challenges ideas. You could even make travel bingo cards if he appreciates gamification. Accessories such as travel-themed stickers or different-colored pens if he likes that kind of stuff.
  • A deck of playing cards with a PDF of card games around the world.
  • Tickets to local events or classes he would like.
  • Small items from the UK such as postcards or individually wrapped hard candies for when he feels homesick or for him to give to new friends along the way.
  • If you have this kind of relationship, personal notes for him to open and read at certain stops, with fun facts , quotations, idioms or interesting/untranslatable words, or commentary (whether from your own memories or impressions from pop culture) as an intro to each new place. Could also be for specific points in time, like month 3, and refer to things you know will be happening back at home around then.
Happy travels to your bro!
posted by eyeball at 2:56 AM on February 24, 2018 [7 favorites]

When visiting relatives in India, I often wish I had those packets of paper soap (just add water). A lot of the public restrooms there don't offer soap.

Depending on the type of traveling he'll be doing, a portable water purification system. It's a bummer to have to live out of purchased water bottles in countries where you can't drink (or brush your teeth with) the tap water.

Again, depending on the type of travel - a loofah or a Japanese washcloth. Baths in some countries are a bucket you fill with hot water so you can basically give yourself a sponge bath. No overhead shower. A washcloth makes this much easier, esp those Japanese ones that dry quickly.
posted by aquamvidam at 4:27 AM on February 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

On a 6 month trip, stuff that is not exactly what he wants will be left in a hostel's share shelf. Ounces matter and pounds are right out. When I went on a similar trip, people gave me stuff because they were excited and it was a small way to participate. Give him cash. While he's traveling, read and comment on his blog, send him texts with jokes and news, send a weekly digital digest of what's going illustrated with photos.

If he has a loose itinerary, send paper & stamp mail to Post Restante with pictures. Physical mail is awesome to get on a long trip.
posted by theora55 at 5:31 AM on February 24, 2018 [8 favorites]

I'd ask him what he already has first. You normally shed stuff you don't need pretty quickly in an extended travel situation.

I'd go for just offering 2 months into his trip or so to get him a nice hotel to stay at, one which might have food from home. No matter what people say about not being homesick, everyone I've met while traveling (and myself included) loved having little treats from home every once in a while.
posted by astapasta24 at 6:14 AM on February 24, 2018 [8 favorites]

Best answer: As someone who's been on a long trip, I can confirm that too much stuff is a problem, and depending on his mode of transportation, the limit is reached very fast. But there is one piece of stuff that I would almost universally recommend because it really is small and incredibly useful; it's the Point It image dictionary as mentioned above.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:46 AM on February 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

A passport pouch that hangs around his neck. I was sad when I retired one that was handmade by a friend. Do suggest he make it visible when going thru customs... mine earned me a pat-down in a back room of SFO.
posted by tinker at 8:24 AM on February 24, 2018

Have him photocopy passport, birth cert. license, any other IDs, credit cards, tickets, etc, on *both* sides, then email a copy to you. If he is robbed, having somebody able to fax stuff can be super-helpful.
posted by theora55 at 8:59 AM on February 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

Best answer: When anyone in our family travels afar, I produce what is now known as "the booklet". It is a small booklet printed on A5 paper (5.83" X 8.27"), duplexed, and folded in half. In this booklet I put all the useful information required, such as physical addresses of family friends for postcards, key itinerary/travel dates, exchange rates, addresses of local embassies, passport details, list of "things to do" and any manner of other things that are appropriate to the trip. Typically the booklet is 8 or 12 pages (2 or 3 physical sheets of paper). As well as having a physical copy I also make a pdf version which I put on our phones, iCloud, Dropbox or whatever. The charm of this is that a) it is personal. It takes a bit of time to produce and is as much an act of love as anything, and b) it is great a memory for the years ahead.
posted by vac2003 at 11:29 AM on February 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

A copy of Dr Seuss Oh, The Places You Will Go!
posted by cholly at 1:55 PM on February 24, 2018

This is more the previous thread than this one, but Prana Brion pants. You can wear them rock climbing, to a restaurant and in light rain. They hand wash easily, dry overnight and are ultra comfortable. Not great for ultra hot or extremely cold weather, but great for everything in between.
posted by cnc at 3:06 PM on February 24, 2018

A leatherman or similar multitool can be tremendously useful if he doesn't have one already.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 7:37 PM on February 24, 2018

Best answer: Nthing he needs less stuff. He does, however, need stuff that helps him take care of the few things that merit bringing all over the place. I'm assuming he's bringing clothes - if so, don't overpack (for a trip like this I'd bring no more than 3-5 days worth of clothes, including the ones on my back). For the clothes he does bring, they need washing. Washing machines aren't always available and sink laundy sucks.

So get him a Scrubba Wash Bag. All he needs is some water and soap. Doubles as a dry bag. Weighs barely anything and hardly takes up any space. I swear by mine when traveling.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 9:52 PM on February 24, 2018

He's going to spend a lot of time traveling and waiting in transportation hubs. How about an MP3 Player pre-loaded with music he likes? That way he wouldn't always have to rely on his phone and worry about using up data, wearing down the battery, or finding wi-fi. A little Bluetooth speaker for hanging out in the hostel might be welcome too.
posted by Leontine at 8:39 PM on February 25, 2018

Response by poster: Lots of great answers, thank you so much! I have marked a few as 'best' but honestly they have all given me ideas to think about.
posted by ontheradio at 4:43 AM on February 26, 2018

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