Great Gifts for Travelers to Spark that Wanderlust, Check Off that Bucket List, Set Out on a Life-Enhancing Experience

So many ways to give the gift of travel that makes such a bucket-list family experience like a Galapagos Cruise possible, from forming a registry for many to contribute to a fund, to arranging for special experiences along the way, to clothes, gear, photography equipment © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin,Travel Features Syndicate,

What could be a better than giving someone a part of the world, some memorable, life-enhancing, life-changing experience, something from their bucket-list, perhaps? Give the gift of travel.

A gift of travel can be anything from the trip itself (even create a registry so that lots of friends and family can contribute), to pre-arranging some experience or activity to enhance a trip: a dining experience, a spa visit, visits to a museum or attraction, a cooking, baking or jewelry making class; a hot-air balloon ride (champagne!); rock-climbing adventure; walking tour; bike rental.  And what adventure, journey, expedition, voyage or trip doesn’t require some special gear?

You can pre-purchase a city-sightseeing pass that provides admissions to the most popular sights in cities like Prague (, Amsterdam, Berlin, Dresden, Paris (, New York City. Check out Go City, which sells passes in over 30 destinations from major metropolises like London and New York to oceanfront oases like Sydney and Oahu (, 800 887 9103).

A city-sightseeing pass like the Prague Cool Pass which provides admissions to leading museums, attractions and experiences makes a great gift for a traveler © Karen Rubin/

More and more travel companies – hotels and accommodations, cruises, tours, theme parks, sightseeing, spa visits, restaurants and dining, and even transportation companies from airlines to Amtrak to Uber to a Maine Windjammer Cruise – now offer gift cards, e-gift cards or vouchers. And the beauty is you can give the amount that works best for you and they can be spent in the way your giftee wants.

Gift cards can open up doors to travel, or take the sting out of the pinch to a traveler’s, couple’s or family’s wallet. Gift cards can be that extra spark that gets your loved one to finally depart on their bucket-list experience.

Here are some examples:

Sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, is not to be missed. A Xanterra Travel Collection gift card can be used toward a stay at The Oasis in Death Valley © Karen Rubin/

A yacht-style cruise to the Mediterranean. A historic stay at the new Maswik Lodge South in the middle of Grand Canyon National Park. A VBT Bicycling Vacations guided tour to New Zealand. These are but a few of the experiences that can be acquired with Xanterra Travel Collection gift cards toward Xanterra’s operations in Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion, Glacier, and Rocky Mountain National Parks, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Also the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel in Williams, Ariz., The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz., The Oasis at Death Valley in Death Valley Calif., Cedar Creek Lodge in Columbia Falls, Mont., Windstar Cruises, Holiday Vacations, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, and Country Walkers. Xanterra is also affiliated with two Forbes Five-Star Resorts, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, CO and Sea Island on the coast of Georgia. (

Globus family of brands Gift Certificates, redeemable for tours and cruises, come in denominations of $50, $200 & $500. Gift Certificates may be used in conjunction with any promotion offered at time of booking and they are transferable up until time of application of payment to an existing booking.

Tauck Tours eGift Cards, available in any amount, are valid for any Tauck land journey, river or small ship cruise and Tauck Bridges family adventures. They can be redeemed by phone or online at

Contiki also offers a travel gift card that can be used on any Contiki trip; the voucher certificates include a personalized message, can be sent electronically or printed, and does not expire. 866-266 8454.


Historic Hotels of Europe, an exclusive collection of independent and unique hotels, castles, palaces, country houses and other properties handpicked for historic importance, quality and unique story, throughout Europe, offers a gift voucher, valid for five years, in amounts from 50-1500 Euros. [email protected],

Mohonk Mountain House in New York State’s Hudson Valley is a member of Historic Hotels of America, which has a gift-card program © Karen Rubin/

You can purchase gift cards for stays or amenities at Historic Hotels of America (as well as with individual member properties). In addition, Historic Hotels of America has partnered with National Trust Tours, (both are programs of the National Preservation Trust) to promote exciting travel offers and opportunities. When booking a tour, mention Historic Hotels of America and receive three $100 gift certificates for a two-night stay at a Historic Hotel. Also check the individual member historic hotels and resorts.

New England Inns & Resorts Association gift cards can be redeemed at 300 lodging properties all over New England and can be purchased in any amount you choose. The cards never expire.  Make a reservation directly with the property of your choice and let them know you will be using a New England Inns & Resort Gift Card.  Present the card at check-in.

With a Gift Card from Historic Inns of Savannah, choose from six award-winning boutique hotels in Savannah’s famed historic district

Booked on Riad el Yacout, Fez, Morocco. offers gift cards. © Karen Rubin/

Want more choices: gift cards unlock hundreds of thousands of places to stay worldwide, including major hotel chains. The gift cards are available in denominations from $10 up to $2,000 and there are no expiration dates or fees. Also, has a secure gift registry where friends and family can contribute toward a eGift Card – great for honeymoons, babymoons, graduation, or any other group-gifting occasion. What is more, you can trade-in select gift cards (from coffee companies, clothing companies, etc) for Gift Cards.

Just steps away from our campsite at Watkins Glen State Park. You can purchase gift cards for New York State campgrounds © Karen Rubin/

Who knew you could also get a Camping Gift Card to New York State’s Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation sites, providing access to 8,500 campsites, 850 cabins, 135 cottages and 18 golf courses throughout the state. Camping Gift Cards can be used for fees associated with camping walk-ups, golf reservations and greens fees, camping supplies, boat rentals provided by NYS Parks (not for vehicle entrance fee, concessionaires, or Department of Environmental Conservation facilities). Purchase online at for any dollar amount and have no expiration date. They can be used with the NYS camping reservation system (Reserve America,, 800-456-2267).

Royal Caribbean is one of the cruise companies that makes gift cards available, on its own site as well as through © Karen Rubin/

Cruiselines also make it easy to purchase gift cards, and even gift registries so that family and friends can contribute to purchasing the cruise: Norwegian Cruise Line makes it possible to gift onboard credit, wine, gourmet treats, spa visits. Or create a registry so that bunches of family and friends can contribute to a cruise ( Also: Disney Cruise Lines (; Carnival Cruise Lines (; Princess Cruises (; Royal Caribbean (; and Holland America (

You can actually buy e-gift cards for Celebrity Cruises, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, even AirbnB from

Maine Windjammers compete in the Great Schooner Race. The historic sailing vessels offer a full complement of voyages. The Maine Windjammer Association now offers gift certificates that can be used on any of its member vessels © Karen Rubin/

Maine Windjammer Association is now offering gift certificates toward cruises on any of its member vessels. They can be purchased in any amount and don’t expire. (Save 10% on purchases on Dec. 14, use code MWAWind22). They will send a packet of brochures as well. (800-807-9463, [email protected],

Gift of Experience

Give experiences that turn a trip into a wonder that lasts a lifetime.

Gift certificates from can be redeemed for tickets to any Broadway or Off-Broadway show currently playing in New York City (

Drive an exotic car, learn to fly, rock climb, skydive, bungee jump. Virgin Experience lists some 3000 different experiences in 122 regions from 600 “best in class” partners that their gift card can be applied to (bioluminescent kayak adventure in Tomales Bay, CA; drive a stock car on Thompson Speedway, CT; learn to fly in Mesa, AZ. Easy return, no expiration, free exchange (,

A Context Walking tour in Athens, Greece. Give the gift of experience, the gift of learning © Karen Rubin/

Whether retracing the Revolution in Paris, diving into the ecology of Venetian canals, or exploring Kyoto’s teahouses at twilight, Context Travel offers tours with experts who weave history, art, and culture into stories that inspire the inquisitive. Context offers personal walking tours in 60 cities across 6 continents.  Skip the line and off-hours access to popular sites in the world’s cultural and historical capitals. Tours range from half-day to 7-days plus.  Context Travel also offers the “gift of learning” – virtual and in-person sessions with top experts– you can explore the Colosseum with an archaeologist, uncover masterpieces of the Louvre with an art historian, or explore the palaces of Istanbul with an architect — from home, or in person (

TripAdvisor offers gift cards and e-certificates that can be purchased online or over the phone. You can pre-load the card with a set amount of money and then give it as a gift for someone to utilize when making reservations. For more information, visit and chat with a live agent for assistance.

Spafinder, a compendium of resorts, wellness centers and day spas, makes it easy to purchase giftcards.  Take 25% off $200+ with promo code VIP25; get $20 off $80,

Theme parks can be a very, very pricey vacation for families. Gift cards can enhance the experience. Disney’s gift cards can be used for “practically” all things Disney – theme park tickets, resort stays, merchandise, dining and experiences at Disney destinations.

There are any number of adult fantasy camps to satisfy, well, every fantasy. If you can fantasize it, there is likely a fantasy camp to realize it.

Want to play baseball like a major leaguer? There are baseball fantasy camps with teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Atlanta Braves (  Basketball: 76ers Fantasy Camp is the inaugural team in the NBA’s first and only fantasy camp of its kind (Aug. 25-27, 2023, Hockey (Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp, Apr 30-May 4, 2023, ),

Also: Broadway theater (Broadway Fantasy Camp,, Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, an interactive musical event that takes place in various locations worldwide involving various Rock Stars on various dates.(

Space Camp, an educational camp in Huntsville, Alabama, on the grounds of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center museum near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. It provides residential and educational programs for children and adults on themes such as space exploration, aviation and robotics (

For many, being able to participate in major science research is also a fantasy. Earthwatch makes it possible to support research that responds to global challenges – from climate change to human-wildlife coexistence to sustainability – while engaging local communities, and offers more than 40 field research expeditions around the world, with opportunities for teens and adults and no prior experience needed (

Ski Heavenly. So many kinds of gifts to enhance a ski holiday, from lift ticket to rental to lesson to dining experience to gear © Karen Rubin/

For the skier/snowboarder, consider purchasing lift tickets, lessons, rentals, perhaps even a multi-day, regional or local pass (,,, Get Ski Tickets is an online marketplace where skiers/riders have access to purchase date-specific discounted lift tickets, lessons, rentals, group lift tickets and season passes., 970-233-7040, [email protected]. They also sell gift certificates (

Getting There

The Delta Gift Card is redeemable for any Delta Air Lines flight worldwide and for any Delta Vacations package that includes airfare, delivered to inbox or mailbox. No expiration date. With the purchase of $250 or more on Delta Gift Cards, get a $20 Starbucks eGift.

Gift a getaway of a portion of it with Southwest Airlines gift card © Karen Rubin/

Gift a getaway or a portion of it with Southwest Airlines gift card. Personalize the gift card and send by e-card or by mail. No expiration date, fully transferrable. Only usable for passenger travel on Southwest (

Prefer riding the rails to boarding flights? Amtrak gift cards are available from $25 to $250 for booking a train journey anywhere in the US and select destinations in Canada. Redeem for travel online, in the app, by phone or in staffed stations; never expires. (May not be used for onboard purchases.)

Memberships Have Benefits

Gifting family memberships in a favorite museum, zoo, aquarium, preserve, historic site or attraction gives a sense of “ownership” and encourages multiple or multi-day visits as well as giving access to benefits – from special access to events and openings, discounts and promotions, magazines. Every visit is like traveling to some exotic place.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. Use your gift-giving to support important institutions, encourage visits © Karen Rubin/

Support important institutions – with gift memberships or unique gifts – from the American Museum of Natural History (members enjoy free admission, special access and previews of new exhibitions, and discounts on purchases with member ID (get $20 off membership with code MEM22,; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chicago Museum of Art, any and every important museum, hall of fame, science center, attraction, zoo such as the Wildlife Conservation Society ( or the Palm Beach Zoo ( Also check out the memberships and gift possibilities at (, Also consider gifting some of the really special programs available, like Zookeeper for a Day at Busch Gardens (

Also, Sierra Club (produces an excellent catalog of trips,; Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (also check out the trail shop for gear like jerseys, trail guides and such,, Parks & Trails NY (starts taking reservations for the annual Cycle the Erie eight-day, 400-mile supported biking/camping trip in January, Also Audubon Society; Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation; World Wildlife Federation. Among the benefits are marvelous magazines, as well as discounts, access to trips and events, gift items.

Smithsonian Institution, not only has an excellent store and catalog of expeditionary trips, (, but I treasure the Smithsonian Magazine, which also provides membership benefits, access to gifts; subscribe to the magazine and get gift subscriptions to share with someone else,

Not able to visit? Many of the great museums, iconic institutions and organizations offer some of the most interesting, innovative and creative items in their gift shops and you can support their mission by shopping online or through catalogs (check out holiday specials, discounts). It can be the way you bring home a NASA astronaut’s outfit from Kennedy Space Center but it’s way better to be there in person (

Travel Gear

A four-day/three-night trek to Machu Picchu is a great reason to buy all sorts of special gear, from headlamps to wicking wardrobe to power bank to extra batteries for cameras.

Also appreciated – the gear, special clothing (wick), camera stuff, that a trip (expedition, voyage, journey) entails, but the traveler may feel guilty about purchasing or simply tapped out.

There are clothes, jackets and specialized gear and equipment for every interest and style of travel imaginable: camping, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, tennis, fishing, outdoor stuff. Among our favorites (especially when you catch sales and closeouts): REI (top trending gifts, gifts by activity, by price,;, 800-426-4840) LL Bean, 888-610-2326,; Sun & Ski,, 866-786-3869 (gift cards available,; gift guide by price); Eastern Mountain Sports, 888-463-6367,; Tennis Express (gift guide online,, Bass Pro; Patagonia (; Paragon Sports ( And of course, luggage – one great site (Save 15%, 888-958-4424).

Great stocking stuffer and you would be amazed at how important good socks are to a great travel experience ! My kids loved the Bombas socks I sent them one year – Merino wool all-season, everyday socks; hiking, skiing socks. Bombas socks, t-shirts, underwear, come with a promise to donate a pair for every pair purchased, and now, a specially designed donation clothing item for every Bombas clothing item purchased – so far 75 million items donated. (Get 20% off, Also, Darn Tough which offers Made in America socks for just about every purpose – hiking, running, endurance, skiing, biking, hunting, work and lifestyle – that come with a lifetime guarantee and the benefits of Merino wool (no odor; when hot, it wicks away moisture, when cold, it keeps you warm) (

With limits on luggage, it’s great to have clothes that travel well and do multiple duty. This holiday, give her a custom-made piece, created just for her, from two photos. You can gift custom tailored ankle and straight leg pants, “the essential black dress” and the snap jacket from Red Thread (they come with a lifetime fit guarantee). Save 30% on  gift cards. 775-384-9681, [email protected].

So fun to have the shock-proof, waterproof Olympus Tough TG-6 Digital Camera to snap this photo snorkeling in the Galapagos © Karen Rubin/

What trip doesn’t involve photos! Yes, everyone has their cell phones, but phones don’t do for safaris, kayaking, biking, wildlife, sports etc. (though there are lens kits for cell phones which would make great gifts). There are endless opportunities on a photographer’s wishlist, from compact point-and-shoot cameras (the shock-proof, waterproof Olympus Tough TG-6 Digital Camera, with 25-100mm zoom lens, macro feature is fabulous for active travelers), memory cards, to backpacks to lenses, lighting, etc. B&H consistently has best inventory, prices and holiday specials, efficient delivery, excellent customer service, delivery and return policies,, 800-606-6969212-444-6615).

A subscription to a travel magazine like Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler ( is also a great gift to inspire and inform. National Geographic, the premier magazine to inspire wanderlust, offers a gift subscription starting at $39, that includes 12 monthly issues, plus the Pictures of the Year issue, access to the digital archive going back to 1888 and ad-free mobile app. There is also a National Geo Kids edition. (


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