Christmas gifts for travelin’ folk

Over the past few years, I’ve asked friends and family not to get us much of anything as Christmas gifts.  We had the excuse of living in a 30-foot Airstream, where space was at a premium, so for the most part everyone understood.  We asked for edible gifts, if people felt a gift was necessary, and small lightweight things that would be useful in our traveling life.  This tended to stymie people, so the volume of things we received dropped to a bare minimum (except to Emma).

In reality, our intention was to keep our lives simple and our overhead low.  While we enjoy giving and receiving as much as anyone, it just wasn’t part of our lifestyle.  Now that we are in a house, the excuse of limited space has gone away, and so we find ourselves back on the slippery slope toward a commodity-filled holiday.

But we still don’t want much.  I asked Santa for a 120-volt air compressor because the 12-volt one I carry around is pretty anemic at filling our trailer tires to 65 psi.  I also asked for a Garmin GPS to replace the absolutely awful “Navigon” GPS that we got free (with a set of four Continental tires).   We tried the Navigon for a few weeks but decided we’d rather be lost than keep fighting with it.  Fortunately, I’ve been good this year, so I think I’ll get what I asked for.

Eleanor wants a couple of kitchen tools and some clothes.  She’s keeping her favorite clothing in the Airstream for travel, and so all she has in the house are the clothes she really doesn’t like.  (You can see where her priorities are.) Santa has sent her off to go shopping for clothes today, with the only stipulation being that she has to spend 99.9% less than Sarah Palin.

Emma has written a charming letter to Santa asking for various art supplies, which she will get. A few other surprises are coming her way, too.

Even though we have a house, we still try to act as if we might go back to full-timing at any moment, at least when it comes to acquiring things.  For example, DVDs are always stripped from their cases and put into multi-disc sleeves so they take up less space and are easily portable.  Before we bought a Christmas tree this week, we figured out how we would dispose of it on the 27th so we could hit the road on the 28th.  It’s all about retaining our mobility, but the added benefit is that this practice also keeps our “house overhead” low.

Because we still plan to travel, and many of you do too, I’m going to bring back a feature that I wrote last year on the Tour of America blog:  Gifts for full-timers and frequent travelers.  If you’re wondering what to get for that crazy nomad in your life, check this list.

The basic premise is that people who travel a lot via RV live in small spaces, and they need to travel light.  So the ideal gift is very useful, lightweight, small, and requires no maintenance. Even better are consumable gifts. Here are a few things your traveling friends might love:

  • Gift cards to places that RV’ers frequent: Camping World, Cracker Barrel, Wal-Mart, Home Depot. Or, if you prefer, get a gift card for services RV’ers commonly use: fuel or other travels needs, or cell phone.  Just be sure that you check the fine print on gift cards, to make sure they don’t expire and don’t have “maintenance fees”.  You could also get a KOA Value Kard Rewards (good for a 10% discount at over 450 campgrounds)
  • Entertainment: CDs, DVDs, Netflix gift subscriptions, or for that digitally-savvy traveler an iTunes gift card.  (Yes, you can receive Netflix on the road if you use mail forwarding.)
  • A National Parks Pass, or for someone with children, an ASTC museum Passport. Both are great money-savers and valid nationwide.
  • If you have an in-person visit, consider a nice rosemary bush as a miniature Christmas tree.
  • Food. You just can’t go wrong there unless you ship them a giant crate of pineapples. Food is great because it doesn’t take up space for long. Homemade goodies like popcorn treats are especially appreciated, at least by us. Or if you want something themed, you could get Silver Joe’s coffee, or Happy Camper wine.
  • Photos. Most RV’s I see have photos mounted on the walls somewhere to remind them of the people they plan to visit.  A gift certificate for photo printing and mounting might be just the thing.
  • A cool Airstream shirt, sweatshirt, hat, poster, slippers, or a set of aluminum tumblers from the Airstream Life store (shameless plug #1)
  • A subscription to Airstream Life. (Shameless plug #2) If you don’t like them that much, get them a subscription to Trailer Life instead.
  • A useful book that might inspire some new travel, like this book about camping in America’s Southwest.

Any other gift ideas?  Post ‘em as a comment.  Thanks!

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine