cover image by Hert Niks on unsplash
1. Insulated travel mug
Whether travelling by train, coach or car, there is always great comfort to be found in a hot drink. So get sorted with an insulated travel mug. This one by Life Venture has a secure screw-on lid so you can tuck it into your bag and not worry about leaks. Flasks also keep cold drinks cool, for those cheeky Christmas cocktails!
Where to buy? Outdoor shops such as Ellis Brigham tend to have the sturdiest examples.
2. Slipper socks, neck pillow and eye mask
The sign of being fully committed to a long journey is taking your shoes off and slipping on some wool socks. On an overnight journey, a neck pillow and an eye mask are also handy, ensuring a restful night and a refreshed arrival.
Where to buy? Available just about everywhere, but why not make your own? Patterns and tutorials are easy to find online.
Be the envy of your party with a pair of binoculars! Whether spotting wildlife from a cliff top or a ferry deck, or reading signs in the distance when your train has stopped for no obvious reason, binoculars are the mark of a serious traveller. No sooner will they be out of your bag, everyone will want to have a look.
Where to buy? You can buy from the RSPB or Jessops, or go even more low-carbon and get your vintage bins on Etsy or Ebay.
4. Rail map of Europe
We are all getting used to using apps to plan our travel, but they leave out the most interesting bits: the in-between places! A rail map of Europe would inspire daydreams until it’s time to travel again.
Where to buy? Stanfords has a fantastic range of rail maps, including this one.
5. Travel novel
On winter evenings, there’s nothing nicer than armchair travel with a truly excellent book. You can often learn more about a place than you would if you’d been there. We came up with some recommendations here.
Where to buy? All good bookshops and charity shops.
6. Portable games
If you are travelling by train, coach or ferry, games that keep everyone talking and engaged are a fantastic way to pass the time. You don’t want to be hunting for dropped pieces under the seat, so how about these Pencil and Paper Games from Usborne, also great for doodling in the margins.
Where to buy? All good bookshops. You can search for a bookshop local to you here.
7. Voucher for a local experience
‘The end of our all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.’ (TS Eliot)
Instead of travelling to enjoy someone else’s special local place, why not find out what’s special about your own with a voucher for a local experience? From dinner at a trendy new restaurant to behind-the-scenes tours or a wildlife walk, we bet there are lots of local experiences you haven’t tried and that would help you get to know your own place a little better.
Where to buy? This gift needs to be local to you, but, for example, you could try local museums and theatres, wildlife trusts, music venues, farms, restaurants and pubs.
A guidebook to a city or national park can inspire adventures near and far. How about a European city break, or a UK Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty? Guidebooks provide a beautiful way to dream about future travels, or just to find out about the world, even if the guidebook ultimately stays on the shelf.
Where to buy? Try the guidebooks selection at Stanfords.
9. Membership pass
Do you value experiences more than things? How about joining an organisation that protects the natural world? A year’s membership of the National Trust or National Trust for Scotland (which can be cheaper and gives free entry to National Trust properties in the rest of the UK too) would make a great gift.
10. Virtual travel experience
Now you can travel without going anywhere at all! Since Covid confined most of us to our sofas, Virtual Reality trips have taken off. Be transported to places from coral reefs to the Great Wall of China, the Antarctic ice shelves to the Rocky Mountains, all without any flight emissions.
Headsets can be expensive, but there are plenty of free experiences on YouTube.