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Her Top 10 Bon Voyage Gifts


Susan Miles

Journeywoman Susan Miles from Melbourne, Australia is a communication specialist and freelance travel writer. Her articles and photography on destinations as diverse as Cambodia, Japan, Guam, Fiji and South Korea, have traveled as much as she has appearing in such publications as The Toronto Star & Globe and Mail (Canada), The St Petersburg Times, Transitions Abroad (US) and The Dominion Post (New Zealand). In this article she uses her expertise combined with her travel "know how" to create a Top 10 list of interesting and inexpensive presents for the traveling woman.

ED. NOTE: Readers, do you have an interesting item you'd like to suggest as well? Please send an email to: and put the words "travel gift" in the subject line. We'll be happy to add your thoughts at the close of the article. Thanks everybody!

It's pleasing to see that with all the advances of modern travel, the mere act of getting on a plane and traveling somewhere new is still an event to be celebrated. I am fortunate that however often I have journeyed, I'm still the grateful recipient of travel gifts from friends and family. But I've also shared in their dilemma of trying to choose a suitable farewell gift for someone about to head off on their own adventure. So next time you wish to celebrate a loved one's big adventure, here are some of my ideas for gifts that will be both useful and treasured without breaking the bank.

Inexpensive gifts...

Don't think you have to spend big just to give a thoughtful gift. The following suggestions will cost you between $5.00 to $10.00.

Magazines -- Anyone who has ever got on the plane with the good intentions of reading a lengthy novel will tell you that it just never happens. Magazines are much more welcomed for two reasons. They're easier to read and easier to ditch when you're done. What is your traveler's favorite hobby? I can guarantee from trolling the magazine aisles if there is a hobby or interest, there is a matching magazine. A fool proof choice of publications? Be sure to include a current travel magazine.

Second hand books -- I don't usually like the idea of giving used books, but for a traveler they offer a no angst when they've finished reading them. With a new book, you feel obliged to keep it, however with a secondhand book I can swap, give or just toss.

A pocket calculator -- Whether it's to keep track of your travel budget, work out the exchange rate or use it as a haggling tool, this is always a godsend for any traveler.

Luggage locks and a key ring -- I always need new sets because I always lose the little keys. Give a pack of these and a decent size keyring and your traveler will think of you fondly everytime there's an opening or closing to be done.


Gifts to make yourself...

Are you a whiz on the PC and printer? How about putting your technical skills to good use and produce a set of personal business cards for your traveler. Rather than print their full contact details, put just their name and email address. This makes swapping contact details with new acquaintances both easy and safe.

A quick trip around the aisles at your local drugstore and you can make a handy little Flight Survival Kit. Include, aspirin, ear plugs, lollipops (to relieve air pressure on landing), mouthwash, breath mints, hand-wipes and a pen (I always forget to pack a pen!) in a colorful cosmetic purse or bag.

A compilation disc of your traveler's favorite music is always a hit. A few dollars for a blank disc and a walk through your music collection will soon locate a personal Top 10 Hits to entertain your traveler on the road.


For the overseas adventurer...

The first thing I think of when I plan a trip overseas is "duty free". How about a gift voucher from the airport's duty free store to allow your adventurer the fun of choosing a discounted item as they leave or on their return?

Local currency -- This doesn't have to be a lot, but it's so much nicer arriving at your destination with some small notes of the local currency for snacks, taxi, bus etc. You're saving your traveler the dreaded line up at the currency exchange booth when they arrive after a long flight.

Prepaid phone cards, (just confirm that the provider you choose is suited to the destination country).


The personal touch...

Have you been to the destination yourself? Everyone loves to give you their recommendations, but it's wonderful when they take the time to write down the details for you to slip in your diary. Grab a few pages from their filofax and write down the names, addresses, contact details of the "must sees" or go high tech and download their palmpilot with the information.

A waiting card or letter at your traveler's destination hotel or a waiting email on their remote email address is so welcoming. Don't wait for them to be the first to write.


The safe bet...

These gifts are a safe bet when you simply have run out of ideas.

Camera memory cards -- You'll need the name and model of the camera but after that you can pop into any Walmart or your favorite photography equipement shop and choose the cards that suit your budget and their camera.

Bookstore voucher -- Allow your traveler to choose a travel guide, trashy novel, a travel journal or even maps.

A camping store/luggage store voucher -- No matter how many trips I take, there is always something from these stores I need, whether it's a power converter, a backpack, fanny bag, suitbag or just the latest travel gadget that catches my eye.

A compact umbrella -- choose one that has an aluminum spine and handle. This type is more expensive to buy than all the others but it's so light and compact, a traveling woman almost forgets she's carrying it.


More thoughts on gift-giving...

The perfect $2.00 gift -- Go to the foodwrap section of the supermarket and pick up a box of assorted size zip lock bags. They are perfect to keep your luggage in order and saves the time consuming "luggage dig" everytime you are trying to find an item in your suitcase.

Gifts to avoid -- I was given the most beautiful and I suspect expensive gift by my work colleagues before I left for this latest trip. It was a stylish glass and stainless steel coffee plunger. It is carefully wrapped and stowed away in my cupboard at home. It has all the characteristics of a bad present, it's heavy, it's breakable, it's expensive (I'd feel so guilty if it got lost or broken) and it's an awkward shape.

Ideal gifts no longer -- With improved standards of security at our airports and terminals now, it's important that we all play our part, even gift givers. This we can do by not giving such items as swiss army knives, pocket-size scissors, or mini screwdrivers (often sold as part of spectacle cleaning kits).

My favorite gift -- My 7 year old niece gets the prize for the best travel gift I've ever got. She recently gave me a set of Six Glitter Gel Pens. I can use them to write or draw, jazz up a boring aerogramme letter, amuse the restless kid in the plane seat behind me and best of all, these fabulous pens write at any angle.


The gift to touch her heart...

This may sound a little sappy, but for everyone who has ever packed their bags and headed off to explore, there is a certain level of anxiety and stress that comes with leaving the comfort of home for the unknown. Send your traveler off with your love, your best wishes and most definitely your encouragement.

My friend Michael emailed me with these words just before I left for my current year long adventure “I am so proud of you, you are doing what we all dream of doing, rather than conform to what we are expected to do.” I felt so empowered by these words, and remember them whenever I am faced with a new challenge on my travels.


She'll love a journeywoman luggage tag...

Treat your mama, granny, sis or best pal to one of these sassy luggage tags. They're so eye-catching they'll easily stand out from all the rest on trains, planes, boats and buses. Made from durable plastic, these tags are supersized, fireproof and waterproof. They're bright 'Journeywoman orange' and fabulous fun. Snap one on to any suitcase -- it will be spotted instantly. Wear one on a backpack -- other members of the JW network will wave and say hello. A great way to make new travel friends! Specially priced at three tags for $US21.00. Take a peek at:

Do you love to shop when you travel? Check out these archived links:

Really Good Shopping in Rome

Creative Gift Shopping in Sydney

She Goes Gift Shopping in Paris

Cheap shopping in New York





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