20 Ways to Give the Gift of Travel (Even to Homebodies)

November 21, 2016

Day 3 of our 30 Days of Thoughtful Giving, day trip and staycation ideas to give as gifts.

Travel, that great reminder that the world is big and diverse and wonderful, is one of the greatest gifts you can give. And you don't necessarily have to go far or spend a fortune to give it: Creating the feeling of "getting away from it all," even for a night or an afternoon or a weekend, is enough to reset even your most stressed-out loved ones.

Photo by James Ransom

Consider what part of travel your giftee likes the most but doesn't often get to enjoy—cooking without worrying about groceries? falling asleep under the stars? embracing the "getting there" part of an expedition, without having to handle booking?—and then surprise them with a small token that will signal an adventure is afoot. (A playlist counts!) Here are 20 gift-ready excursion ideas for all levels of adventurousness and all budgets for you to choose from.

Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • For the giftee who's too busy or up-in-air to make plans for (or anyone who loves to plan), give travel points (one of my favorite presents ever from my dad). Then they'll get to choose the dates and the destination, and you won't have to spend a fortune on flights or change fees.
  • Book an Airbnb in a majestic setting you can drive to—our country is beautiful! just pick your head up!—and arrange for groceries to be sitting on the counter when you and your giftee arrive. (If your host can't be there to receive them for you, the stoop works too.) Make dinner, snuggle all night, never worry about making a grocery run.
  • Find and secure accommodations for a weekend road trip (one in a town halfway there, another at the final destination), but don't plan anything else. Getting lost and finding your way together will be half the fun, but you won't have to worry about booking a last-minute room. Variation: Reserve a rental car for the weekend as the gift, and see where it takes you.
  • Make a reservation for dinner at an exciting restaurant that's one town away, and arrange for a driver to take you there and get you both home (so you can have wine!). Or upgrade the whole deal by finding a hotel room to stay in for just the night after dinner.
  • Plan a staycation: Use a discount booking app, like Hotels Tonight, to find an inexpensive but fancy-feeling hotel room in your own city and arrange for a babysitter. It'll feel like a vacation, but without the hassle of getting to the airport.
  • Wrap up a new enamel pot—or a camping tent!—as the present itself, and plan out an excursion for the next weekend (or whenever it's warm enough) as part two.
  • Ask your giftee to set aside an afternoon, then surprise them with a picnic basket full of goodies to take to the nearest park. Throw in a frisbee while you're at it.
  • Book the least expensive flight you can find to a warm, sunny beach in the dead of winter—it won't matter where you and your friend go, so long as there's vitamin D (and umbrella-garnished cocktails) to be soaked up instead of snow.
  • For a significant other, plan a trip for the two of you to see his or her family as a gift. (It's hard to get home enough, and you're a saint for making it happen.) Or reverse it: Plan for the family to come visit you two. Just be sure to find them a hotel room as part of the gift.
  • If you've got kids (or nieces and nephews who can sleep over), pitch a tent in the back yard and sleep out there under the stars one night. They'll love the "adventure," and you won't have to ever get in the car.
  • Make a playlist depending on the mood, excursion type, or destination of any trip you're planning—and then hand it over (or, okay, email it) to announce the surprise.
  • Have your favorite babysitter plan to show up unexpectedly, ready to hunker down for the night. Then you two hit the town (even if it's just to drive around and see all the holiday lights).
  • Select a hiking trail nearby, and have two backpacks ready to go with snacks (or a new fancy water bottle, or a guidebook to local trails, or new hiking boots—depending on your budget) as part of the present.
  • Iterate on the pub crawl: Plan a tour of some local wineries, or breweries, or museums, or antique shops, or whatever category of destination your giftee might desire. If there's drinking to be done, get a driver as the gift.
  • For the very stressed out, book a yoga retreat—and let them know with a new robe or a yoga mat.
  • Rent bikes (or give your person an actual bike, if you're up for the expense) and map out a long cruise with plenty of snack-centric pit stops to break them in together.
  • For the train-lover in your life (adult or child!), give a train ticket as a gift. Bring books, snacks, or cards to play while you're en route, and then book a few nights' stay wherever you're going. Or if you're coastal, do the same thing for a destination that requires a ferry ride.
  • Go canoeing! Rent one, pack the fixins' for a campfire dinner (and wine or whiskey, your choice), then set out to a remote island with a good tent and a pack of matches. Even just a night will feel like a full-on adventure.
  • If you live in a bigger city, organize an afternoon's worth of activities in a neighborhood you don't often get to see. Or, book an evening restaurant tour in that area: One place for appetizers and cocktails, another for entrees, and a third for dessert.
  • Arrange for a house swap using a secure website like Home Exchange; while you might have to fork over a small sign up fee depending on the service, the idea is that you won't have to pay for the accommodations (you'll just need to be willing to let the family you're displacing stay in yours!).

What's the best travel gift you've ever received? Tell us in the comments.

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Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.

1 Comment

Olivia B. November 21, 2016
As someone who barely leaves their neighborhood these days, I love this one:

"If you live in a bigger city, organize an afternoon's worth of activities in a neighborhood you don't often get to see. Or, book an evening restaurant tour in that area: One place for appetizers and cocktails, another for entrees, and a third for dessert."

Baby steps, baby steps.