The unsexy but practical gifts to give the travel-lover in your life


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

After two Christmases where it made little sense to buy your nearest and dearest any faint reminder of the world beyond New Zealand’s borders, travel gifts (nay, necessities) should be rightly placed back on wish-lists.

The wanderlusters and the jetsetters could be thought of as hard to buy for, perhaps – we crave travel over ‘stuff’ and more frequently visit airfare websites than Amazon or TradeMe – but we’re actually very easily pleased for two reasons.

Firstly, we spend a higher proportion of our incomes on the experiential, rather than the material, so that leaves the door wide open to you to re-acquaint us with the finest gadgets and travel tech.

* Sorry Kiwis, there’s no competing with the cold, dark and snowy Christmas 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 going all-in?

Secondly, and this is probably more likely, is that even if we have enjoyed the added extras, creature comforts and latest travel tech, it was likely lost, stolen or abandoned on the floor of some nondescript B&B, hostel or train carriage.

With all the rushed packing and unpacking, there’s a risk you’ll be without your newfound ‘cant-be-without’ item. And so, I present, a festive-but-year-round gift guide for the travel lovers, AKA my Christmas list.

Travel nowadays cannot be separated from tech.


Travel nowadays cannot be separated from tech.

Mega-adaptors and power banks

Very boring, unsexy lifesavers. How many times has that final 2% of your battery saved your bacon? Despite any notions or spontaneous, off-the-grid wanderlusting, travel nowadays cannot be separated from tech. And that tech needs batteries, cables and plugs that fit local requirements.

Frequent travellers and backpackers will do well to choose the brick-like multi-country adaptor, which contorts to offer plug options for North America, Continental Europe, the UK and Ireland as well as Southeast Asia and Japan. Likewise, the trusty USB cord adaptor clip-ons means your brick can connect up 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 receiver of this gift will look demonstrably naff when they’re dozing at airports, train terminals, planes and boring exhibits and mall visits. But they will also be well-rested, while others fade with jet-lag.

Part-neckbrace, part-turtleneck, part support structure in crushed velvet, the turtle pillow basically straps you in and supports your head so you can doze off in transit without doing that weird knee-jerk jolt of a collapsed head every two minutes.

Bags within bags

Packing cubes can be a life-saver for both checked and carry-on luggage. If you’re going carry-on only, they are invaluable. On longer trips they can help divide clean and dirty clothes. When packing, these zip-up, soft-shell cubes can be divided by their contents, labelled and stacked to make packing easier – and never again will you seethe over an exploded shampoo bottle through your paperback, battery pack or holiday purchases.

Lounge pass subscriptions

The spluttering restart of airline travel in 2022 was marred by mass cancellations, crew shortages and very lengthy delays. So making the case for airport lounge access cards is fairly easy.

While airline status lounges reward loyalty and airfare spend, you can waltz into similar oases with the flash of a card. The Air NZ Lounge is all well and good until you go beyond the airline’s lounge network or, gasp, choose another carrier. Companies like Priority Pass and Lounge Club offer pre-paid membership packages and don’t care who’s issued you the airfare, with most lounges offering free food, beverages, wi-fi, showers and, most importantly, space.

Apple AirTag's allows you to track the location of your bag using an iPhone.


Apple AirTag’s allows you to track the location of your bag using an iPhone.

Baggage trackers

Those same delays and cancellations also mean there’s been a busy few months for baggage handlers and an above-average number of lost luggage issues. Big names, such as Apple AirTag, Tracki and Tile get the headlines and have their own synced apps, but there are many cheaper options too that can use GPS and Bluetooth to help you get reunited with your stuff quicker and can mean fewer expensive and tedious calls to airlines.

When in doubt, vouchers

Why hit up the Boxing Day sales with your haul of Christmas gift vouchers when you can go online to websites such as Airbnb, Flight Centre, House of Travel and major hotel companies like Accor to book a 2023 escape thanks, in part, to your savvy shopping Santa. And not a rammed shopping centre car park in sight.

Chances are, your frequent flyer family member or friend is already started on their next adventure and perhaps is already sitting on some Covid-era travel credits, so will gratefully receive all top-ups and will be thinking of you when they enjoy a Singapore Sling at the Raffles, after-hours museum visit or sea-view room upgrade.

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