This month, the U.K. government implemented an overhaul of its official travel rules, making jetting off even easier for anyone fully vaccinated. Aside from the flurry of flight bookings, it’s time to become re-familiar with the irks of travel: passengers who recline all the way back on short-haul flights, middle seats, and trying to squish your bulging suitcase into those tiny size checkers.
Which is why travel gifts that are super-practical are usually the most well received, like things that make flying long-haul less arduous and getting through security slightly smoother (though adding a little bit of glamour into the mix never hurts either). Below, we’ve listed gift ideas from eight frequent fliers — including ardent solo travellers, an outdoorsy hiker, and a mum well-versed in taking a toddler abroad — guaranteed to help your travelling friends get on with the best part of going away: making other people jealous.
Best in-flight accessories
Water bottles proved a top gift pick from the travel experts we spoke to. This one from Moon is favoured by Claudia Montano, who runs the travel blog Perfectly Claudia. “On many many occasions has my metal Moon water bottle come in handy,” she says, “as not only does it keep your water cool in hot locations, but it keeps your tea warm in cold ones.” Because of the durable stainless-steel bottle’s insulating properties, Montano uses it as a soup flask too for a good lunch on the go in colder locations. “It also happily slots into the pockets of most backpacks, or in any suitcase, and they replant five trees for every bottle purchased.”
“I wouldn’t be without a travel water bottle,” adds Apryl Yap, a travel and lifestyle digital creator, as it “helps you to do your bit to stay sustainable while travelling.” Her favourite bottle comes from Home Colours, and has a collapsible silicone style “that means it can stay compact when not in use, or I can expand it to fill it with water at any water station.” As well as being both space-saving and eco-friendly, the Stojo bottle comes in loads of pretty pastel colours and has a leak-proof seal.
Abena Kusi, who runs the solo travel-focused channel Travelling Tuesdays, loves this fully customisable bottle from Bag de Vie’s. She thinks that it’s “a really thoughtful gift.” It helps that the see-through carton is beautiful to look at too: “It’s the perfect Pinterest aesthetic. Real Love Island, sipping-water-in-the-villa vibes.”
“These W&P Carry On Cocktail Kits are such a fun and unique gift for anyone who travels frequently and likes a drink,” says Becky Vandijk, the founder of We Are Travel Girls, which runs affordable luxury group trips for women. “As a nervous flyer myself, being able to create a craft cocktail onboard is a great way to distract myself and make the flight time go a little quicker.” The kits, which each make three drinks, are definitely a step up from a beer or wine — the Moscow Mule kit, for instance, contains ginger syrup, lime juice, bitters, cocktail picks, and even a linen coaster. Note: The alcohol isn’t included, so the right spirit will need to be requested from the airplane drinks trolley.
“Getting some shut-eye on the plane is always top of my priorities, so an eye mask is a must,” says Rosie Providence, a travel content creator. She loves the delicately embroidered velvet eye masks from Elizabeth Scarlett, which are “so soft, completely shut out the light, and look incredibly pretty.” The masks also come in a fantastic range of colours like forest green, cobalt, and mustard; smell of soothing lavender; and are made out of high-quality, long-wearing fabrics.
“Keeping a toddler entertained on a flight should be classed as an Olympic sport, in my opinion,” says travelling mum Chloe Sowter. She swears by Toddler Choice’s Original Busy Toddler Board, a sensory board loaded with zippers, buckles, buttons, and elastics that’s “a game changer for a bit of please-sit-stillness.” It’s made from felted wool, so will get through airport security no problem. Sowter also recommends “wrapping new toys like this in some brown parcel paper to make it all a bit more exciting”.
“You may not be sitting in first class, but you definitely want to feel like you are,” says Kusi, who loves this passport cover from Skinny Dip. It “preserves the passport of whoever you give it to for a long time” — which is useful given that you might not be able to travel with a passport that’s damaged — and may even help them “manifest” their way to first class by sending subliminal messages to the airline desk staff.
The correlation between a nice passport cover and feeling fancy while travelling came up multiple times: “There’s nothing more pleasing than having a perfectly decorated passport for an ‘I’m at an airport, where are you?’ Insta moment,” says Sowter. She loves the passport cover from Aspinal of London in warm grey, which is made from premium, long-lasting saffiano leather and suede, has a slip pocket and a grosgrain ribbon page marker, and “looks very good with a glass of Champagne on the side.”
“A travel wallet is essential while travelling to keep all your documents in one place,” says Yap, “and this one from is super stylish.” Aspinal of London’s wallet is made out of beautiful saffiano leather, has a compartment for currency, and “comes with removable labelled dividers to separate and organise your important bits.” “I never leave for travels without a document holder,” adds Montano, “as I’m the kind of traveller who likes to print things just in case the apps aren’t working on the day. It’s also a super-easy way to locate a pen or travel-insurance details when you need them.”
This incredibly sophisticated-looking steamer is essential for keeping your clothes wrinkle-free on trips, says Vandijk: “After travelling with this steamer once, I knew I could never look back. I no longer have to head out in crinkled dresses or try to adapt my hair straightener into an iron on the road (yes, I have done that).” There are cheaper steamers out there, but this one is truly a premium product, heating up in a swift 25 seconds and weighing just 590 grams. It’s designed to spread its steam evenly, making creases disappear in one swipe.
“Most of us will snap away on our phones while travelling and get some really good shots, but there is nothing quite like a film camera,” says Emma Raeburn Anderson, a Glasgow-based photographer. “There are expensive ones you can invest in from the likes of Canon or Pentax, but this retro reusable film camera looks absolutely adorable, and largely does the same job despite being much cheaper.” The 35mm reusable camera comes with a carry bag, has a built-in flash, and takes both black-and-white and colour film.
Keen hiker Lindy Montgomery, who documents her travels with her daughter and partner, says that this backpack from Decathlon is her must-have travel item. “I had envy after a friend brought this along on a recent trip — it really is the bag for everything.” As well as a built-in cool bag at the base, which is “perfect for keeping those mountain summit picnics cold,” there are handy pockets for easy-to-reach water bottles — “especially good when you’ve little ones” — and space for a hands-free CamelBak hydration pack. “There are also outside loops for walking poles, or a camera tripod for photography lovers, and I love that you can store your phone in the arm straps, so it’s right to hand.”
“Packing cubes are great gifts for notorious overpackers,” says Providence, “and the Antler ones are both durable and available in the cutest colours.” The set comes with six cubes to help separate out clothes and toiletries — “they really let you pack everything neatly and see what you may have over packed” — and make it easy “to keep things like dirty undies separate at the end of your trip.”
Sowter is also in favour of giving packing cubes: “As a list-making, plan-it-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life holiday maker, I find organising my luggage using these packing squares soothes my soul.” This set has more compact sizes, making them great for things like chargers. Sowter’s top tip is to “keep your adaptors and other assorted things you only use for holidays packed all year round in one of these” so you can “just grab it and chuck it in your case” when you need it.
This makeup bag is “one of the best inventions of recent years,” says Providence. “It saves so much time on holiday as you’re able to lay your beauty favourites out in the exact same format you packed it in.” The bag has a 52cm diameter when laid out, an interior zipper pocket, eight elastic brush holders, and two large exterior pockets fastened by velcro to keep everything in one place. “Plus the lemon version just screams holiday vibes.”
Toiletries and beauty
“Satin and silk is so much kinder to our hair, especially coarse hair like waves, curls and coils,” says Raeburn Anderson, so this sleep turban is a great gift for anyone who cares about their hair and wants to look after it when they travel. “We don’t always have as much time for our hair routines when we are away, so this helps reduce frizz and is kind to hair with minimal effort.” It also keeps curls intact overnight, meaning your pal will spend less time styling and more time sightseeing.
Vandijk loves this Fujifilm mini photo printer, which she calls “the perfect way to create and share memories during your travels.” It connects directly with your smartphone over Bluetooth, meaning you can turn the pictures you take on your phone into film prints. You can also print directly from Instagram and Facebook accounts, and each print only takes 12 seconds. It’s also really small, “so it’s easy to throw into your handbag and take out with you.”
“A powerbank is a no-brainer as a travel gift,” says Yap. She recommends this one from Anker for its ultra-high capacity — it gives more than five charges for an iPhone XS — and its high-tech charging system that optimises the charge depending on the type of device being used. It’s also got twin USB ports, as well as both USB-C and Micro USB input ports.
“There is something therapeutic about ditching your phone, even for five minutes, and putting pen to paper,” says Raeburn Anderson, who rates this travel journal from the Gift Studio Company. “Having a place to log your travels, as well as add photos, tickets and receipts, will give you a one-stop place for your memories.” You can personalise it with the names of your giftees, and inside there’s a destinations list to tick off places as you visit them, moodboards, planning sections with detailed itinerary and packing lists, and a place for memories too.
A travel first-aid kit is “something that always gets overlooked,” says Montano, “but when you scrape your leg on a rock in the middle of a Thai jungle, with no medical care for miles and miles, you’ll be thankful you brought a tiny first-aid kit to clean it up and save yourself from infection.” Even on less-remote trips, it’s incredibly useful for dealing with things like blisters or minor accidents. The traveller kit is expressly designed for trips abroad, but LifeSystem “have a variety of great options, so you can pick out a first-aid kit to best suit your needs” says Montano. The best thing about all of them, though, is that there’s always additional room in the bags for anything extra that you’d like to add — “I always like to put in some Rennie and re-hydration tablets too.”
Amidst all the practicality, there should still be room for a little glamour. “Nothing says you’re going on holiday like a monochrome tracksuit outfit for the airport,” says Kusi, who rates this milk-white set from designers Seventh. “It’s the right level of comfort needed for those last-minute dashes and in-flight naps, but decked with big square sunglasses and some sneakers, you have the mysterious-celebrity look on lock too.”
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