Let's be real: The best gift is a free trip to somewhere.
Most gift guides contain awful suggestions like pashmina scarves—it keeps you warm on the plane!—and Rolodex watches to keep track of multiple time zones so we aren't even going to pretend this guide will solve all of life's (travel) problems. And, if you're going to go the scarf route, why not get the coolest things around that money can buy?
Hilariously, sometimes the most kitschy things like a portable spice rack have the most fascinating, unexpected uses (vacation rentals) and it ends up making our annual gift guide. But a lot of the time, we go OK, I can't justify this purchase for any real, practical purpose, but DAMN, is it cool.
The holidays are buying people things they would never buy for themselves. Right? Right??
(Our editorial policy applies here: we only cover products we have direct hands-on experience unless noted. The only thing we haven't played around with is the Balloon Pin House, which is backordered.)
Fujifilm Instax Mini 26
There's nothing even remotely “travel” about this one. But the real purpose of traveling is being present.
Polaroid-type cameras have been making a huge comeback in recent years for its retro flair, but the thing that's really appealing about this gift is that there is no endless posturing, no curated Instagrams, airbrushed selfies, or shameless Facebook teasing. It's about capturing the moment (even if it's an ugly photo cause the film is not cheap). Besides, there is something nice about giving one away... Sometimes the most special memories aren't the ones on record.
The only downside is that the film isn't the cheapest but with some deal-sleuthing it's possible to get it down to around 50 cents/photo.
For a site called Map Happy, you'd think we'd cover maps more often. Nope.
There's no more unique path that a personal journey and there's no better way to capture it than the Luckies of London Scratch Map. Instead of revealing the lottery numbers, it reveals the world! (I hate myself already for writing that.) The best thing thing about this gift is, despite how well-traveled a person may be, it shows how much further you still have to go.
The Carry on Cocktail Kit
Drunkards, rejoice. This is the crème de la crème of extremely cool: expensive, impractical, bourgeois. In other words, it's got the perfect makings for a hipster on the road. Is this the perfect accompaniment for that business-class flight to Tokyo? (Shinjuku, I am ready.) Having these cocktail recipes for onboard might be helpful too.
Clive Roddy's Balloon Pin House
UK-based designer Clive Roddy's Balloon Pin House is clearly inspired by the spirited Pixar film Up and a bunch of paperweights he had lying around his desk. It's also why this gift is the best.
Be the envy of the office or plan world domination. There's absolutely no rhyme or reason why I'd ever shell out £25 for a bunch of pins but uh, that's exactly what I'm going to do because I'm not a woodworker. It is so popular that its backordered until January 9th, but maybe hey, that's how you know you got to jump on it while it's hot.
Resistance is futile.