The unsexy yet practical gifts for the travel lover in your life

Josh Martin is a London-based journalist who writes on business and travel topics.

After two Christmases in which there was little point in buying your loved one a faint reminder of the world beyond New Zealand’s borders, travel gifts (nay, necessities) should rightly be put back on the wish list.

The hikers and the jet-setters might be considered hard to buy — we crave trips for “stuff” and visit airfare sites more often than Amazon or TradeMe — but we’re actually very easily satisfied for two reasons.

First, we spend a higher proportion of our income on the experience than on the materials, leaving the door wide open for you to reintroduce us to the best gadgets and travel technologies.

*Sorry Kiwis, there’s no competition for the cold, dark, and snowy Christmases of the northern hemisphere
* I can’t think of anything worse than living in an airport
* Too exclusive for all-inclusive: Why are Kiwis and our hotels and resorts allergic to all-inclusive?

Second, and probably more likely, even if we’ve enjoyed the extra touches, comforts, and latest travel technology, it’s likely lost, stolen, or left on the floor of a nondescript B&B, hostel, or train compartment.

With all the hasty packing and unpacking, there’s a risk that you’ll have to give up your newfound must-have item. And so I present a festive but year-round gift guide for travel lovers, aka my Christmas list.

Traveling can no longer be separated from technology these days.


Traveling can no longer be separated from technology these days.

Mega adapters and power banks

Very boring, unsexy life savers. How many times has that last 2% of your battery saved your bacon? Despite all ideas or spontaneous, unconventional wanderlust, nowadays travel can no longer be separated from technology. And this technology needs batteries, cables and plugs that meet local requirements.

Frequent travelers and backpackers will do well to choose the brick-like multi-country adapter, which skews to offer plug options for North America, continental Europe, the UK and Ireland, as well as Southeast Asia and Japan. Likewise, the reliable USB cable adapter clips ensure your Brick can be connected to charge a variety of smartphone brands, cameras, speakers and other devices. A Christmas stocking filler for the well-stamped passport holder in your life.

turtle pillow

Yes, the recipient of this gift is proven to look naughty while dozing off at airports, train stations, airplanes and boring exhibitions and shopping malls. But they will also be rested while others fade with jet lag.

Part neck support, part turtleneck, part crushed velvet support structure, the tortoise pillow basically straps you in and supports your head so you can nod off on the go without doing that weird jerky jerky of a collapsed head every two minutes.

Pockets in Pockets

Packing cubes can be a lifesaver for both checked and carry-on luggage. If you only carry carry-on luggage, they are invaluable. On longer trips, they can help separate clean and dirty clothes. When packing, the zippered softshell cubes can be divided by content, labeled and stacked to make packing easier – and never again will an exploded shampoo bottle seethe through your pocketbook, battery pack or holiday shopping.

Lounge Pass Subscriptions

The stuttering restart of air travel in 2022 has been marred by mass cancellations, crew shortages and very long delays. So, lobbying for airport lounge access cards is pretty easy.

While airline status lounges reward loyalty and flight spending, the flash of a card lets you stroll into similar oases. The Air NZ lounge is all well and good until you venture beyond the airline’s lounge network or, catch your breath, choose another airline. Companies like Priority Pass and Lounge Club offer prepaid membership packages and don’t care who issued you the fare as most lounges offer free food, drinks, WiFi, showers and most importantly, space.

Apple AirTag lets you track your bag's location with an iPhone.


Apple AirTag lets you track your bag’s location with an iPhone.

Baggage Tracker

The same delays and cancellations also mean there have been a busy few months for the baggage handlers and an above-average number of lost baggage problems. Big names like Apple AirTag, Tracki and Tile are making headlines and have their own synced apps, but there are plenty of cheaper options that can use GPS and Bluetooth to help you get back together with your stuff faster, and can do less expensive and boring mean calls to airlines.

If in doubt, vouchers

Why go into the Christmas sale with your stash of Christmas gift vouchers when you can go online to sites like Airbnb, Flight Centre, House of Travel and big hotel companies like Accor to book a 2023 getaway, thanks in part to your Santa shopping skill. And not a rammed mall parking lot in sight.

Chances are your frequent flyer family member or friend has already embarked on their next adventure and may already be sitting on some Covid-era travel credits, so will gratefully receive any top-ups and think of you as they enjoy a Singapore Sling at Raffles , after hours museum visit or room upgrade with sea view.

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