I’ve seen plenty of other folks writing their ‘things travelers will love’ posts for the holiday season. Yes, I’ve even written one myself. There are some things you shouldn’t buy your traveler for one reason or another. I’ll explain why, then offer you another option.
A new computer
Wow – shots fired from the start! It’s one thing to offer them money towards a computer, but they really need to purchase this for themselves. Why? Unless you know them and what they need the computer for very well, you’ll likely be getting the wrong brand, specs, or even the wrong OS. Someone editing videos will need a workhorse; someone just wanting to save on space may want a netbook.
What to get instead? It’s going to depend on what your traveler actually needs. Do they actually need a brand new computer, and can you accompany them to the shop to pick something up? Would it be better to send them the cash to let them buy it themselves.
Scratch-off maps, paper maps, or globes of the world…
Yes, these are cute, and some travelers may like having a cool reminder of where they’ve been. Maps have to be unfolded / unrolled and packed, unfortunately, and the wear and tear makes these fragile maps hard to recommend.
The globes of any size, by the way, are out. They’re just bulky. Sorry. I know your heart’s in the right place, but these are far better for folks that might be tracking where their traveler has been.
What to get instead? How about a fabric map of the world? It can still be displayed on the walls of your choice, but can be hung up and packed without as much wear and tear. Heavy-duty time? This fabric map (sold by the yard) is made from linen.
Luggage or ‘Smart Luggage’
What I said about computers? Same thing here. This sort of purchase needs to be made based on your needs, your budget, etc. Also, shipping can be a pain in the butt.
As for ‘smart luggage’ (think bags that feature an external battery, GPS trackers, or other gizmos) are bad ideas as well. Between news that airlines are banning bags with a non-removable battery and the price being quite a bit more
CD’s, DVD’s, or other physical media
DVD’s are region-coded, meaning that DVD you bought in the US (probably) won’t work in that European hostel. (Yes, there are region-free DVD players, and most DVD players can have their region changed a limited number of times, but it’s a pain to do.) As for CD’s, fewer computers even have CD drives. Sorry, but the days of physical media are slowly fading away for most travelers.
What to get instead? A Chromecast, Roku stick, or Amazon Fire TV stick. These connect to the HDMI port on the back of most modern TV’s Alternatively, a USB stick with lots of space (say, 64GB or larger) can hold plenty of movies and music.
Hardcover / paper books
They don’t need batteries and there’s a wonderful selection to be found around the world. To be sure, not every book has an electronic version, and plenty of travelers consider books a good use of their limited space. Once it’s read and enjoyed, however, it’s taking up space.
What to get instead? E-books have the magical ability to be ‘shipped’ anywhere almost instantly and enjoyed without extra weight or space. Whether your traveler has a specific device like a Kindle reader or a multi-use device like a Fire tablet, e-books go wherever they do easily.
‘Worldwide’ SIM cards
These sound like great deals on paper. Save money from roaming on your ‘home’ SIM card by picking up a SIM that’ll just work in many countries around the world. The catch is often how much those pre-paid megabytes cost — WorldSim charges $0.20 US per megabyte of data in Thailand, as one example, and data in other countries cost more.
What to get instead? In the vast majority of countries, a local SIM card, purchased at an airport or local shop, is a far better bet. The free Prepaid Data Sim Card Wikia is an invaluable tool for learning about what packages and companies are available.
Anything large, heavy, bulky, or fragile
When you’re living out of a suitcase or backpack, all your stuff’s gotta fit. Even with packing cubes, compression bags, and that classic ‘just stuff everything in’, anything large, heavy, bulky, or fragile makes that job harder.
What to get instead? Think small, light, simple, and durable. Beyond any specific thing, just keep it in mind as you’re perusing your favorite stores or sites.
Any subscription box or ‘thing-of-the-month’ packages
I love the notion behind subscription boxes. I love the variety they can offer. I even researched starting one back in the day. For nomads that have an ever-changing address, however, they’re not a good fit. If your traveler is of the expat persuasion and/or are staying somewhere for most of the year, then great. If not, those packages will have a higher chance of not being received.
What to get instead? One of the above things that fits your budget and their interests or needs.
What did I miss? Comments are open.
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