What do you gift a travel lover for Christmas when they can’t travel? This year has been difficult for all of us and for many, Christmas will be a relief. This is just a minor hiccup in the greater scheme of things. Closures and lockdowns are making it difficult to source gifts and making other gifts inappropriate. To help, we’ve rounded up some great ideas for Christmas gifts for travel lovers when they can’t travel.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you use these links to make a purchase at no extra cost to you. You can find more information in our Disclosure Policy.
Current travel restrictions
For many of us, travel this year has been rather limited. Even when I wanted to travel – to Australia for a funeral – the quarantine restrictions and prohibitive cost of flights meant I could not attend.
Many people resorted to road trips during the year as overseas travel was impossible for most.
Like most of Europe, Germany has just entered the next stage of lockdowns. Travel is cancelled, unless it is essential travel, such as essential business or a funeral. Hotels can only rent you a room if your travel falls into one of these essential categories (and we’ve already tested the rule).
Even local travel is curbed. All zoos, museums, sports centres and other cultural locations are closed and have been for over a month. Any shopping trip is basically limited to supermarkets and grocery stores. You can cancel thoughts of a foodie trip too – Restaurants are only allowed to offer take out. And all the Christmas markets are cancelled as well.
Many are also unable to travel home to family for Christmas. Restrictions on the number of adults that can be together in one household will be relaxed a little for three days for Christmas (from 5 to 10), but this is still too few for some families. As a result, many will be celebrating without their family for the first time. Artificial Christmas trees and Christmas ornaments have almost sold out.
So what can you gift a travel lover for Christmas when they can’t travel?
Travel goods going cheap
We’re shared our list of great travel gifts for travellers before. But let’s face it, many of those suggestions are no longer current.
This year, due to the restrictions on travel (and correspondingly lower demand for travel goods), there have been many sales and specials on typical travel goods, such as suitcases. Unless you are going to gift a real high-quality good (such as this wonderful suitcase with wi-fi hotspot and wireless charging built-in), you might want to steer away from goods. Especially as they can’t be used at the moment.
Great Christmas gifts for travel lovers when they can’t travel
With this in mind, let us share our ideas for gifts for travel lovers when they can’t travel. We’ve added both high price and low price gifts and things that you can DIY or buy, depending on your budget and time.
If your travel lover can still travel locally
Many travel lovers have spent most of their holidays and thousands of dollars seeing the world, but have rarely seen much of their own backyard. If your travel lover can’t travel, give them some of the experience of travelling in their own town.
Organise tickets for a local museum or notable site. Something like the National Trust Membership (UK) or an America The Beautiful Pass (US) could be great and offer flexibility and more than one opportunity to see the neighbourhood.
Book a personalized guided tour. Get them a voucher for a local restaurant. Even organise a room at a local hotel. As a bonus, you will be supporting local businesses as well.
If your travel lovers have children, you could even gift them free baby-sitting while they enjoy the experience.
If even local travel is restricted
If your travel lover lives in Germany like us, for example, they will not be able to really go anywhere at the moment. Even visiting local sites is limited as any requiring an entry fee are closed.
You can still get your travel lover a voucher for when they can travel.
Consider a voucher for a museum, tour, show or restaurant somewhere you know they are planning to visit soon.
Or get them a voucher to help them get there, such as an airline or train voucher. If they are planning a trip to Europe, give them some money towards a Eurrail ticket – assuming you don’t just want to buy the ticket for them.
Get or make some travel-themed home goods
Homeware can be a great gift, especially as your travel lovers are having to spend more time at home and less time travelling. So why not gift them something for their home that will remind them of a trip, to inspire their next trip or make their home feel more like a holiday?
- Throw pillow covers with maps of cities they have visited or want to visit. I love these ones by Gooseberry designs – they have most major cities in the US and a number of cities and countries in Europe.
- Vintage-style posters for famous cities – DesignBuddies has more than 100 retro and vintage-style posters.
- Make a simple embroidered canvas with a travel motif.
- A simple scratch off map to mark places they’ve been
- Or a stylish globe can help them plan their next trip
- I love these Homesick candles. Choose a place that they have associations with. I am trying to work out how they would add the scent of a backyard barbie in the Australia candle.
- A cleaning session with a cleaning company – to make their home feel more like a hotel
- Beach towels for their next tropical holiday – they can also be used in the bathroom until then
- DIY coasters of places they’ve been (bonus if you can use their own photos).
Memories of past trips
Many travel lovers spend so much time travelling that they never get around to actually sorting through the photos from their trips. Offer to help them with the sort and hear more about each trip while you do – you can simply gift a voucher for your time.
If you can, get some of their favourite photos together and create a photo gift for them. There are loads of online and local stores that can help.
- Photo books
- Photo collages
- Mugs with photos on them – this one was a hit with my Mother-in-Law for her birthday
- Photo snow globes
- Framed photos for their walls
- Personalized calendars – Peter loved the desk calendar we had made for him for last Christmas
Give the gift of international food
Food and drink make great gifts for travel lovers when they can’t travel.
I am probably in the minority, but I would be very happy to receive a gift voucher for an online ship specializing in UK and US foods (hint, hint).
But it does not need to be a voucher for a store. You can easily purchase a gift basket or make one up at your supermarket. But think outside the
Put together a gift basket from a place your travel lover wants to visit or loves visiting. Sort of like my gift voucher, but you already choose what to put in the basket.
Gift the ingredients for a specific international recipe or meal (add the recipe too!).
Buy a subscription box for something ‘international’. The way, you travel lover will get something once a month. I have seen great subscription boxes (showcasing international goods) for wine, beer, coffee, tea, chocolate and cheese or even salami. One of our favourite chocolatiers in Brussels sells gift boxes with chocolates made from cocoa beans from different places.
If you have a well-stocked local supplier, you could even make up your own subscription box, where you select the bottle or goods for each month and hand deliver them.
Something to read
Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.Anna Quindlen
Books help us travel, even when we otherwise can’t. This makes books great gifts for travel lovers when they can’t travel. So why not buy your travel lover a book?
- You might consider a coffee table book, such as The Lonely Planet Travel Book.
- Or a guidebook for somewhere your travel lover wants to go.
- For fiction, gift books about far away places or some great beach reading for the next vacation.
- Consider a subscription to a travel magazine, such as Condé Nast Traveler or Travel + Leisure.
- Perhaps a cookbook for somewhere they loved or want to visit? I know I would have difficulty trying to choose just one (I had 10 go in my basket while trying to find a good suggestion). I may just end up with a fun one or a cookbook that you can add some of your favourite family recipes.
- Or what about a Kindle or other e-reader? Bonus: For travel lovers who like to pack light, it is much easier to travel with a Kindle than a bunch of printed books. If they already have a Kindle, get a cover!
Give a gift that will improve your travel lover’s skills (so that they will be even more ready to travel when they can)
Downtime (i.e. time when you’re not travelling) is a good time to improve your skills. Why not gift your travel lovers a course to help them improve a skill that will benefit them when they can travel again?
Are they planning a trip to a country where they speak another language? How about a language course? You can find online courses for most languages with rosettastone.
Or how about a photography course? There are loads of photography courses available online. Or you could ask a local photographer if they do one-on-one coaching.
You might also want to consider gifting your travel lovers some photography goods that they can use when they can travel again.
- Camera filters for better photos. Throw in something like a fisheye lens for some fun shots.
- A tripod that works with your camera or phone. Make sure it folds up to a good size for travelling.
- A portable photo printer, like the HP Sprocket that prints photos straight from your mobile phone.
- Go all out and get a drone. There are some good mid-value ones available now. Restrictions will mean your travel lovers have enough time to practice using it before they can travel again.
What about little travel lovers?
What do you gift little travel lovers when they can’t travel? We had to ask ourselves the same thing.
How about membership or annual tickets for their favourite museum or zoo? COVID forced closures mean It’s been a while since we visited our favourite zoo. We’d also love to book a zoo ‘experience’ for Miss M, but they are not on at the moment either.
Does your little travel lover have a camera? Miss M has this one and loves it (and happily plays the games on it when we’re on a road trip). When she is a little older, we will get her a better one, something like this camera perhaps.
Books are always a good choice and there is such a variety available, depending on their reading level. There are also kids’ Kindles that come preloaded with some popular books.
Or what about a subscription box for kids? There are Japanese candy and snack subscription boxes, for example. Or what about a mystery subscription box? Each month kids have to solve a mystery in a different location. Everything they need to do so is in the box.
For younger travel lovers there’s a Little Passports Early Explorers subscription box. For slightly older kids, try the Little Passports World Edition. Or perhaps even a kids’ cooking subscription box that looks at a different country and cuisine each month.
A kit for safe travels
Finally, any travel at the moment needs to be safe. Why not make up a safe travels kit for your travel lovers for when they can travel again (whether locally or further afield)?
Start with our basic first aid kit and adapt. Add some face masks, additional hand sanitizer and wipes, for example. And a journal to keep track of where they visited, shopped, ate etc in case any contacts need to be traced.
Travel-themed Christmas ornaments
Why not make or buy a Christmas ornament for your travel lovers? We love collecting Christmas ornaments from each place we visit.
With so many travel and other restrictions, may travel lovers find themselves spending Christmas at home for the first time, perhaps ever. A travel-themed Christmas ornament would find pride of place on your travel lover’s tree.
There are lots of ornament options that would be perfect gifts for travel lovers when they can’t travel.
Alternatively, if you know a place or experience that has special meaning for your travel lovers, you could make or buy an ornament related to place or experience. Be creative.
- Did that go on a fabulous champagne or cheese tasting tour in France? Get a champagne bottle or piece of camembert ornament. Or you could make one out of a mini bottle and create a personalized champagne label for it.
- Did they have a fantastic time in Italy? Get or make an ornament for a city like Venice, or perhaps a cannoli, cappuccino or other Italian food ornament?
- Or buy some plain disks or ornaments and paint them with an image of an inspiriting location. Etsy has some great ornaments to buy or use for inspiration if you are planning to make one for a more obscure place.
The ultimate 2020 gift guide – great gift ideas for travel lovers that still work when they can’t travel
A travel lover who can’t travel at the moment. In most cases, this makes finding the perfect gift for them a little more difficult. We hope our ultimate gift guide has given you some ideas and helped you find the right gifts for your travel lovers.
Happy holidays – even if you can’t travel this year.