Quirky travel gift ideas
The 40 coolest, funniest and most unusual presents for travellers
The 40 coolest, funniest and most unusual presents for travellers
We travellers can be tricky beggars to buy for. You always need to think of presents that are small, light, packable, practical, preferably multi-purpose…and yet also original and surprising, innovative, exciting…perhaps even life saving. So no pressure then. To lend a hand, we’ve handpicked 40 cool, funny or unusual travel gadgets, books, stocking fillers and other presents for all budgets. And if you have any more quirky suggestions for the list, get in touch. We want to make it to 100 by next Christmas!
Pictured above, Christmas globe baubles sold by Natural Collection.
Where have these sunglasses been all our travelling life? In Q’s secret gadget store, probably. How many times have you longed to hit record when something amazing happens before you’ve time to grab your camera. Or wanted to capture intimate local scenes without scaring or narking off participants? These sunglasses have a 1.3 megapixel pinhole video camera to let you do just that. Not to mention an MP3 player for chilling on the beach, or listening to audio guides. You can order the glasses through iwantoneofthose.com for £99.99.
We love seeing peoples’ “been-there maps.” You know the ones, hung proudly on the wall, with pins marking all the different countries and cities that the owner has boldly gone to. Well, now there’s no need to prick yourself or lose pins down the back of the radiator every time you go somewhere new. The My Scratch Map has a scratchcard-style layer of gold foil that you can rub off each time you’ve covered more ground. It’s available to order from notonthehighstreet.com or iwantoneofthose.com.
It’s one of the universal truths of travel: shoes are a pain to pack. But Redfoot Shoes use a patented split-sole technology allowing their range of unusually light and very comfy footwear to fold neatly away in cases or backpacks. Choose from a range of pretty pumps, sandals, travel loafers and even foldable rainboots. They cost £28-100, depending on the style.
From a sorry tale of being locked in a Dutch toilet to getting naked and beaten with branches in Mexico (supposedly for pleasure). The offbeat tales of travel gone wrong in this Lonely Planet book would fit very well on Quirky Guide. Instead, it’s the work of writers from Yes-Man Danny Wallace to travel writer extraordinaire Tim Cahill. The stories are short and sweet, perfect for dipping into on the road. You’ll find it at Amazon.co.uk or direct from Lonely Planet for £7.99.
Anyone staying in hostel dorms, catching a few winks on the train or prone to missing your stop on the coach will appreciate this silent alarm-watch that buzzes you awake without disturbing any of your fellow travellers. Find out more on their website, where the watch is available for £175.
Mrs Quirky Guide bought these lovely little customised map cufflinks for Mr Quirky Guide recently. It’s a lovely and unusual way to remember key trips or places close to your heart. Be it your first solo trip, your wedding or honeymoon, your hometown, where you had a brush with death or discovered the meaning of life…you name it. They can be ordered through notonthehighstreet.com, with several price ranges to choose from, £22-52.
It may be ugly as sin, but this bulky jacket could save you a fortune on short-haul luggage charges. The Rufus Roo can hold as much baggage as a good-sized backpack, so fill it up, heft it on and you can sidestep all those little niggly charges for checking in bags. At least until the airlines change their rules again! It’s available from Amazon.co.uk or direct from Rufus Roo for £19.95.
Want to capture your bungee, parachute or ski jump hands free? Or any other extreme sport you’re drawn to? This is precisely the thing you want: a kit with all the straps and clips you could possibly need to anchor a mini Muvi camcorder to your body, helmet, bike or pretty much wherever. It’s available through iwantoneofthose.com for £19.99.
No matter if you aren’t travelling to the coffee plantations of Colombia or Indonesia. You can still be assured of an outstanding cup of your legally addictive stimulant. The nifty little Handpresso lets you brew up a perfect espresso anywhere – on the beach, in the jungle, up a mountain… you get the idea. It’s small, light and oh-so packable, and the set comes with cups, flask and even napkins. How very civilised! You can order it through iwantoneofthose.com for £99.99.
Immortalise your adventures in a specially named and nicely put together journal, with an optional silly message on front and back. There are a few kinds on the market, including this one available through notonthehighstreet.com for £10.
This is the most innovative and unusual travel book we’ve seen for a long while. A visual exploration of travel facts, figures and trivia, How to Land a Jumbo Jet was just released in October 2011 by Lonely Planet. It’s filled with fascinating infographics from serious topics such as relative national pride around the world, to silly ones such as cups of tea drunk a day vs life satisfaction. Read more or buy it on Amazon.co.uk for a discount on the RRP £9.99.
This chair is decorated with a decoupage map of your choosing. So now you can park your backside on a favourite desert island or high mountaintop all year round. The chairs are made by Bombus for £345. Orders can go through notonthehighstreet.com.
Fear of flying is no laughing matter, but we can’t resist the quirky appeal of buying something called a hypnostick to put you in an airborne trance. It sounds like an illusionist’s wand or baton for knocking worried fliers out. In fact, it is an MP3 player that’s pre-loaded with leading UK hypnotherapist Tim Smale’s Fearless Flying self-hypnosis programme. Visit the website for more information.
If John Cleese and Richard Briers call a book funny, who are we to argue? This travelogue is a laugh-out-loud account of Ben Hatch’s attempt to write a guidebook to Britain with wife and two under fours in tow. The perfect gift for travellers adjusting to travel with tots, or anyone wanting a warts and all account of how travel bibles get written. It’s available at a discounted rate from here.
A handy reminder of how to avoid hippo attacks, build an igloo or emergency land an aeroplane… and all printed with retro illustrations on your pack of tissues. Also useful if you have a cold. Buy them here for £1.95.
OK, this is more of a transport geek’s present than a travel gift as such. But train, plane and automobile fans will adore gifts from TMB Artmetal, which transforms scrap metal from the most famous historic machines into gifts. Their cufflink range incorporates original metal from the first Bluebird, the Flying Scotsman, Concorde, and the oldest airworthy Spitfire in existence. The cufflinks cost upwards of £195.
What? Surely socks make the least-quirky present imaginable? But these cute little Bugsox are of value to anyone with itchy feet to avoid…um, getting even itchier feet. Developed by travel health specialists, the socks repel insects and guard against those creepy crawlies that are most attracted to the feet, ankles and lower leg: mosquitos and ticks among them. Socks are seamless, wick moisture away from the skin and are made from naturally anti-bacterial bamboo yarn. The Travel Health Store is the place to order from, and they cost £14.
It doesn’t get much more packable than this sleek little gadget for music on the go: A 5mm deep card-sized travel speaker that fits right in your wallet. It connects to any device with USB drive input or 3.5mm earphone jack, and has a battery life of around five hours. Sound quality is remarkable given its size. It’s available for order at AHA Life for US$75.
We love this new bag for its quirky teardrop shape, but it has a far more useful reason for its shape that just looking cool. A doctor and chiropractor teamed up to develop the bag, which curves with the spine to make heavy loads seem lighter. Weight is also distributed asymmetrically along its whole length so it doesn’t put strain on any one place. We’ve tried the bag out, and it’s ideal as hand luggage or travel day bag. Find out more on their website. Bags start at £36.
A woman after our own heart! You might have come across Zöe Dawes’ popular blog, the Quirky Traveller. Zöe has published a travel journal, which combines space for your own observations with a wealth of quirky quotes, and encouragement to look at the world with different eyes. Available through 2QT or Amazon.
Ok, this pocket-sized DVD writer and high-definition Blu-ray player isn’t the quirkiest item on our list, but it is a very nifty little travel gadget to entertain you on interminable bus journeys, to back up photos or create video DVDs from your hotel bed. It’s powered by USB cable, and weighs just 350g (about half the weight of an iPad). You can order it here for around £110.
This rather, um, enlightening book could suit an innocent gap year traveller in need of a little education into the hygiene habits of the big wide world. Amongst many other surprising things, it explains why pigs clean toilets in India, why Panama has toilets on stilts and why South Africa has fields of toilets! It’s available from the Present Finder or Amazon for around £6.95.
Snigger if you will, but the last thing a girl needs on her romantic getaway is a squashed bra and unravelling lace undies in her suitcase. That’s why Murphy and Page have come to the rescue of all city-break seductresses with the quirky Lingerie Pod, which can keep up to three D cup bras immaculate throughout the journey. It’s available through notonthehighstreet.com for £40.
Water bottles can be a pain in the neck for travellers – essential but often bulky, and sometimes leaky. This nifty little Anti-Bottle is a foldable, reusable, washable, freezable and clippable alternative to metal clangers or flimsy plastic affairs. It stands upright when full, and rolls up neatly when empty. It’s available from the Present Finder for £9.99.
Listen to music while snorkelling in the sea, drifting in the pool or indeed during your morning shower with one of these waterproof babies – a great gift for anyone who can’t go without music, wherever they are. The Speedo Aquabeat v2.0 MP3 player is a great model, available in both 4GB and 8GB with a water resistance of up to three metres, radio and stopwatch. It’s available here for £100.
Yeah, yeah. It’s a great gadget for spies – but even more useful for travellers. This fabulous watch has a pinhole video camera (1280x 960 resolution), which also takes stills and audio recordings. So you can record local life without all the ‘what-the-hell-are-you-doing-sticking-that-camera-in-my-face’ expressions. It is also waterproof up to 30 metres, so even the fishes aren’t safe. You can buy it here for £89.99
No more muddling up your luggage with somebody else at the airport. These brightly coloured tags will make sure of that. They’re available to order from Bright and Bold.
One of the funniest travel guides by one of the funniest travel writers ever, Peter Moore. The title comes from a sign he once saw on a toilet door in China, and which sums up his travel philosophy, and ours: expect the unexpected! Amazon sell it here.
Love camping, but not having to get out of your nice cosy sleeping bag in order to stretch and have a cuppa in the morning? Or being bundled up like a cocoon so you can hardly move in the first place? These toasty warm sleeping bags, shaped to fit arms and legs, solve both problems. They’re available through iwantoneofthose.com for £89.99.
Skiers, hikers and cold-weather campers can’t fail to love you for thinking of these toasty little foot warmers. The only drawback to them is the bulky battery pod at the top, which can be uncomfortable under some clothing or if you slip over on the ice. They’re available here for £17.99.
Scorpions on a stick, ant bottoms, chicken’s knees and partially digested coffee beans are just some of the delicacies in this no-holds-barred book of global eating habits. Only recommended for those with iron stomachs. Read more on the Lonely Planet website or Amazon.co.uk, where the book can be bought for RRP £5.99.
How better to relax and forget that you’re even on an airplane, than to cut out the incessant ambient noise? The noise-cancelling technology used in these headphones was actually developed for pilots, and now beneits their passengers as well. There are lots of different makes, including ear buds for as little as £10, but you can’t get better than the QuietComfort 15 headphones, available here for £270.
No more opening up your travel washbag to find the shampoo bottle has leaked everywhere. No more having to lug around big bottles or pouring them into fiddly little containers. And if you pack shampoo in your hand luggage, no more worrying about liquid regulations. These little sheets of paper shampoo will lather up into a perfectly usable shampoo in seconds, even with seawater. It costs £2.99 from here. Paper soap and body wash are also available.
Going somewhere subzero? Don’t want to have to pack extra boots in case of ice? These spiky little grips will fit snugly around your footwear to prevent falls, and hardly take up any space in your luggage. They cost £9.99 from the IcyGrip website.
Airports are something to be endured, not enjoyed. Right? Well, this new gift voucher scheme begs to differ. You can now treat the traveller in your life to entry into one of the growing number of No.1 Lounges in southeast England: that is, luxury spaces with games, spas, bedrooms, complimentary treats, wi-fi and runway views. Vouchers cost £20-30, and the £30 spa voucher includes a 25-minute treatment. More details are available on their website.
These gorgeous cuddly toys double as travel pillows. There’s a whole range to choose from, but we love Luno the Owl best. She costs £26 from notonthehighstreet.com.
Unexpected things happen in the most unexpected places. That’s a truth every traveller knows – and something that we at Quirky Guide live for. This collection of tales from Lonely Planet illustrates the point beautifully, with adventures, revelations and experiences that changed the whole landscape for their writers: moments as diverse as finding Pol Pot’s toilet to surviving a Vietnamese bus crash. It costs RRP £7.99, but you can buy it at a reduced rate here.
You never know where your next power socket will be on the road, so a back-up charger for your gadgets is a must. There are loads to choose from, from solar-powered Power Monkeys to the new Duracell 5-hour Portable Charger, which not only holds five hours worth of power but also charges your dying phone at the same time as your camera. Perfect to call for rescue from a mountaintop, watch a movie till the helicopter arrives and snap photos of any passing yetis while you’re at it. It’s available here for £40.