2020 Gift Guide for people who housesit or travel full time
The holiday season is upon us! Hunkered down in Tier 3 at Suze’s parents house in Kent, we’ve been making the effort to get into the Christmas spirit by eating copious amounts of mince pies, decorating the family Christmas tree, and snuggling up by the fire with hot chocolate in hand for proper cosy winter evenings. Lately our thoughts have turned to gifting, and we thought it would be useful to share some of our top gift ideas for people who travel full time! Our families have told us countless times that we’re notoriously difficult to buy for, as we don’t have a home of our own to fill with things and we live our lives trying to pack as light as possible! We’ve compiled a gift guide full of inspiration for people like us, who housesit or travel full time.
Some of the products we recommend are ones that we own and love, and some of them are gifts that we would love to find under our tree. We think that all these products are useful, practical gifts that people who travel will actually want! It goes without saying that these are just ideas, nothing has been sponsored here, and of course not everyone will want the same things so if in doubt, ask the recipient (or their partner or a family member – we’re often in cahoots with each others’ families).
While we often dream of escaping to a remote cabin in the woods, we have to admit that gadgets make our life on the road a lot easier. Chris is fairly obsessed with technology and tech-ing out our travel essentials! So of course tech is at the top of our list. You can also check out our dedicated blog post on top tech that we always carry with us, for more in depth details of the specific brands we use!
A portable battery is a very useful bit of kit to have on you when you are travelling, as having a spare power supply means that you don’t have to worry that your devices will run out of battery when out and about. On our travels we use our phones for lots of reasons – taking photos of the amazing sights we see, consulting maps, or maybe we are going on a long hike and want the extra security that we aren’t going to run out of power in the middle of nowhere. We own a portable battery each and would never travel without them!
We are constantly taking photos to capture the incredible experiences we enjoy when we are travelling and housesitting. We want to keep all these memories safe, so while we’re journeying from housesit to housesit we carve out downtime to back up our photos on hard drives so we can make sure we don’t lose the photos of our precious memories.
JOBY Travel Tripod + Remote
Six months into our housesitting adventure we realised that we had a lot of pictures of each other, but very few of us together. When we want to capture a moment of us together with pets, this JOBY tripod is perfect for taking photos wherever we are! Its moveable legs can grip around branches on trees, its magnetic feet have been stuck to lampposts and even a chandelier, and it can easily be posed to stand up on uneven rocky surfaces on hikes we’ve been on. The Bluetooth remote shutter included with the tripod means you can walk away and get that perfect shot without having to fuss with self-timers!
The lenses from Moment have been on our wishlist for a while, and whilst we don’t own these yet we have only heard amazing things about them. We mainly use our digital cameras to take our photos, but sometimes it is more convent to just use our mobile phones. These lenses clip onto your phone and depending on the lens can zoom in on a subject, or expand the field of view.
*splash the cash* Nintendo Switch
Okay, we know that this is a super expensive gift to give, but honestly this is one of most useful gadgets! Sometimes we need to take a break from working and as we both grew up playing with Gameboys, the Nintendo Switch is the perfect console for us as we can play separately or together! We have a Switch each and the pick up and play ability of them means we can play in short bursts – like playing a few rounds of Mario Kart whilst waiting for a flight – or just settling down in the evening to play Zelda or Assassin’s Creed.
Useful Travel Gear
As well as techie gear, there’s a lot of “simple” gear that is very useful to people who are constantly on the road. We do always try to keep the gear we pack as small and minimal as possible, so here’s a few smaller items to inspire you!
Another item that has been on our wishlist for a while. When housesitting we go from house to house and sometimes it is nice to have your own things. Your favourite mug, or a cup to drink from that is bigger than a thimble! Chris loves to drink water from a pint glass and drink tea out of a big mug, but often homeowners don’t have these, so sometimes we like to bring our own for a bit of home comfort.
We always travel with reusable glass water bottles so that we don’t have to buy plastic ones when we’re out and about. Most people these days will already own a water bottle so check before you buy one – if not these can make a great gift for those who like to walk long distances! We’ve found that the majority of cafes and pubs will re-fill your bottle for free too, so you’ll never be without.
Foldable Travel Mat
We love being in the great outdoors, and even better is packing a picnic for a rest stop on a hike or simply to chill in a park or on the beach. This Matador mat is so compact it fits in your palm when folded away, and you can just chuck it in your bag without it taking up much space. It folds out to make a large blanket big enough for at least two, and we find ours so useful that it has seen a lot of the UK with us!
Portable BlueTooth speaker
A portable speaker is the perfect gift for the on-the-go music lover. With a portable speaker you can have music anywhere you are – by the pool, on the beach or at home. These days they are small enough to chuck in a bag but still pack a powerful sound. We’ve got this Wonderboom portable speaker on our Christmas list this year.
We’ve previously written about our love of board games. We always try to bring a few games with us when we travel as we find them the perfect way to chill out in the evening, or to pass a few hours when waiting at airports. We just have to make sure to lose any game pieces while travelling from housesit to housesit!
Here are a few of our favourites that would make the perfect gifts for game-loving travellers:
Carcassonne is a great strategy game for 2 or more players. It looks complicated, but once you know the rules it’s super simple! Players take it in turn to pick tiles blind and place them down to create a board of cities and roads, each of which will score you varying amounts of points. There are opportunities to steal points from other players, and we have a lot of fun infuriating each other when we play this game at housesits!
A quick card game based on one of the biggest board games ever made. We can play a round of Monopoly Deal in about 10 minutes, which makes it a great game to just pick up and play! Its teeny box makes it perfect for those who like to pack light on the road.
Exploding Kittens is another palm-sized game, which is just as quick to play! We first played this game at a housesit in Sweden at the start of the year where we played countless rounds throughout the sit. The game holds the record for the #1 most-backed project on Kickstarter, as well as the #10 most-funded project in Kickstarter history – so you know it’s gonna be good.
Ticket to ride
We recently invested in Ticket to Ride after becoming obsessed with it at a housesit in London, where we spent every evening playing multiple games for the duration of our five day sit. Everyone we talk to that has played it, LOVES it. The box is kind of big for those who travel with a backpack, but its travel-themed premise makes it a favourite for us.
Bananagrams is basically like Scrabble but with a cute design, as it comes in a very handy banana-shaped pouch which makes it perfect for taking on the road. The ceramic tiles are durable, and the small size of the bag makes it easy to chuck into a suitcase without taking up much space at all.
Books are perfect gifts for travellers! They help entertain us whilst on long journeys and inspire us when we’re daydreaming about our next trip. Physical books are great for travel – once the reader is done with the book, they can swap it with another traveller and continue reading more and more without lugging a whole library around with them! If you are feeling extra generous, maybe a Kindle would make a great addition to someone’s collection so that they can carry all their books with them! Some people do prefer physical books over e-books, so make sure you know the person you are buying for.
Some of our favourite books right now are:
The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell
Right now Suze is reading this book all about one woman’s year living in rural Jutland, Denmark, and getting to grips with Danish culture throughout the changing seasons. Her observations are incredibly insightful and we wish there were books like these for every country in the world, as it has massively inspired us for future trips to Denmark!
100 Year old man who climbed out of a window and disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
This book is a funny tale of an elderly Swedish man who escapes from an old peoples’ home just before his 100th birthday party. The story takes you on a journey as he haphazardly evades the law whilst also retelling stories from his life where he travels the world having some pretty big historical encounters along the way. It has also recently been made into a film if that is more your thing!
How to live in a van and travel – Mike Hudson
If the travelling friend you’re buying for has expressed an interest in van life, this book is a fantastic insight into one man’s experiences living life in his self-converted van. While some parts tell tales of his adventures, other chapters read like a manual for van living, and we’ll definitely keep coming back to it for guidance in the future when we hopefully have a van of our own!
Atomic Habits – James Clear
Chris read Atomic Habits during lockdown and it has helped him stick to some habits that he has been wanting to get into for a long time. The book goes over some fundamentals on how to create the right habits and how to stick with them – which is a fantastic way to create some stability if you’re constantly travelling around.
It can be really hard buying physical items for travellers, as for the most part we are constantly trying to minimise the things that we have to pack on our travels. There’s a stigma around buying gift cards over actual gifts, but we love them! It helps us to buy things for ourselves that we know we really need.
Hospitality gift cards
We are always on the look out for new experiences, and new places to stay, so we find it really useful to receive gift cards that we can use whilst on our travels. Depending on how the person you are buying for travels there are different stays that you can contribute to. AirBnB, hotels.com and booking.com all offer gift cards that would be perfect to treat your travelling friends to a bit of luxury for a few nights. Personally we prefer quirky stays and have, in the past, received gift cards for Canopy and Stars, who have all sorts of cabins, treehouses and other amazing spaces for a more extraordinary stay. There are also plenty of independent places where you can buy gift vouchers, and especially after a year that hit the hospitality industry hard it is great to support these small businesses. We can 100% recommend Round The Woods after helping out on their glampsite in Norfolk earlier this year. Check out their website to purchase gift cards for stays in their luxury yurts, or their brand new roundhouse, situated in 20 acres of peaceful Norfolk countryside.
We recently bought a gift card for the fastest zip line in the UK, which we can’t wait to try out! There are many other similar experiences that you can buy for adrenaline junkie travellers – be creative and get them something they’ll remember!
In October this year we rented a campervan through QuirkyCampers. Their site is packed with campers available to hire all over the UK and beyond. We had an incredible week driving around the Lake District and Scotland with Homer Roamer, and thoroughly recommend it for people who love going on a bit of an adventure.
Outdoor clothing can be expensive – especially from a good quality brand. A gift card to put towards a new fleece or some new walking shoes is a fantastic idea for anyone who needs to update their wardrobe! Chris is always appreciative when he receives gift cards for Cotswolds Outdoors as they have a wide range of clothing and outdoor equipment.
A word of warning: Make sure that the company you’re buying from is stable and unlikely to go bust. We have recently seen the difficulty of using gift cards when companies have gone under – so make a sensible choice!
Membership for websites and apps
Along the same line as gift cards, you can also look into buying membership or subscriptions to useful websites and apps.
Here are some of the websites we recommended subscriptions for!
National Trust Membership
We are truly indebted to Suze’s parents for gifting us lifetime National Trust membership – it has been invaluable for us and travelling around the UK has been made so much more enjoyable for having it. Membership gives us access to 100s of properties around the UK and many more parklands and coastlines. It also allows us to park at National Trust car parks free of charge – perfect for a short walk with a dog while housesitting.
OS Maps Subscriptions
When we are in the UK, we use OS Maps to find and plan walking routes. It’s great for finding both short routes for walkies with a dog, as well as more complicated routes for a longer hike in the mountains. The app also uses your GPS to find your location so you always know where you are (as long as you have signal!). It also saves accumulating lots of paper maps – as we travel all over the UK the amount of paper would soon add up!
This one is obvious for us! We having been members of TrustedHousesitters for three years now and membership to the website has been the catalyst for our full time life on the road. If you love travel and animals then TrustedHousesitters is the perfect way to get around while looking after pets at the same time!
If you know someone whose travels have been interrupted by Covid this year, stuck at home but would love to take care of a dog, then BorrowMyDoggy is another fantastic website that we recommend signing up to. There are thousands of dogs all over the UK that need walkies or a bit of socialist with other people when their owners can’t take them out, and Borrow My Doggy easily connects those looking to care for dogs with owners who need an extra pair of hands. Check out our review of Borrow My Doggy, and our post answering frequently asked questions we’ve received about using the site.
We all need to take care of ourselves and these two apps have awesome features to help you meditate and focus on the present. Calm has an amazing collection of Sleep Stories to help you drift off to sleep – if dropping off to the sound of Matthew McConaughey or Harry Styles sounds dreamy, then you need this app! Headspace has tonnes of breathing and meditation lessons to help calm anxious minds, and has been a lifesaver on the road for Suze, who struggles with anxiety.
Keeping fit on the road can be challenging, especially if like us your environment changes all the time! DownDog has some amazing yoga classes that help to stretch, and its accompanying 7 Minute Workout app helps you move your body without overdoing it!
We’ve been through iTunes, Apple Music, NowTV and Amazon Prime, and have wholeheartedly settled on Netflix and Spotify as our entertainment platforms of choice. We share a Netflix account, which is full of gripping documentaries and excellent new films and TV series, which we can enjoy at any housesit we complete. Our Family account on Spotify makes sharing music a breeze – perfect for making a road trip playlist!
We are always looking to expand our knowledge, and one of the many benefits to living on the road is having the time to learn more and educate ourselves. We’ve previously enjoyed taking writing courses to help improve our blog, photography lessons to help us capture our adventures, and a handful of self-help courses to better understand ourselves and the way we work. This summer we tried out a few months of SkillShare which is absolutely packed with courses on every subject imaginable! For those who love to learn on the go, it’s the perfect gift.
Money to put towards an adventure
If the person you are buying for is planning a trip, you can always give them money towards something. We know a lot of people don’t like giving money as a gift as it seems impersonal, but if you stipulate that it goes towards a specific thing, it will be greatly received and make for a truly thoughtful gift! Maybe the person you are buying for is heading on a trip around Iceland – you could give them money towards a meal at a nice restaurant in Reykjavík, or a relaxing soak in the world famous Blue Lagoon.
Even though we’re constantly on the move, we still like to eat and drink! It’s also rare for us to treat ourselves in our every day life, as we’re often thinking about the sustainability of our full time housesitting lifestyle. Some yummy chocolates or a few bottles of our favourite beer will go down a treat!
We absolute adore the chocolate from Hotel Chocolat, and we even took a detour on our way home from a housesit to stop off at the Hotel Chocolat Factory store to score some discounted chocolates! In our life pre-housesitting, Suze worked as an assistant at a location in London, then Brighton, so a taste of their chocolate is always a welcome reminder of those days where we gorged on endless amounts of it for free!
After a long day of travelling we love some R+R and Lush make an incredible range of the best bath bombs to help us unwind! They also sell some of the most eco-friendly cosmetics on the market – another bonus to treating ourselves! For people who travel internationally, their range of shampoo bars and soaps are the perfect way to cut down on plastic bottles going into suitcases!
We are truly British in that we just love a cuppa! Whittards have a beautiful range of tea, hot chocolate and coffee that all come in travel-friendly sized packaging. For winter housesits, we just can’t be without a couple of flavours of their luxury hot chocolate – we recommend the salted caramel or creme brûlée!
A handmade decoration
Lastly, a little self-promotion! You can purchase a custom felt decoration, handsewn by Suze from her Etsy shop! She makes lots of cute felt decorations and accessories, as well as personalised heart-shaped decorations, and has recently launched a new bone-shaped Christmas tree ornament for dog owners! These are entirely hand-stitched with the name of your pooch – the perfect gift for dog lovers!
If you’re REALLY stuck for what to buy your travelling friend.. just ask! More often that not they’ll have something in mind that, for whatever reason, they haven’t committed to purchasing yet. It makes things easy for you, it’s better for the recipient and let’s face it – it’s more environmentally-friendly to purchase only things that somebody actually wants instead of panic buying anything!
We hope you’ve found some inspiration in our 2020 gift guide for full time travellers! Is there anything you think we’ve missed? What are you hoping for this year? Chat with us in the comments below or head to our Instagram – we’d love to hear from you!