Fantastic Gift Ideas For People On Your List Who Love To Travel

How is you rChristmas/Holiday/End of year shopping coming along? I am mostly done but am flying back to Italy in less than a week so am scrambling to get everything finished before I go. I didn’t do a Black Friday / Cyber Monday shopping post this year because my own inbox was so bombarded with endless Black Friday shopping emails, I just couldn’t face being part of that circus this year.

So what I thought I would do instead is write a post after the event telling you about the MVP items I have used in my travels over the past year. I have traveled more months than I’ve stayed at home in 2023 so have had to use my travel items more than ever. This has really reinforced which things are indispensable and which are just space wasters in the valuable real estate that is my suitcase. Without further ado let’s check them out:

Conair Travel Steamer

best travel steamer for international travel

Small but mighty, this Conair Travel Smart Steamer was a lifesaver this year and is perhaps my favorite travel gadget and top of the most valued list. For more than one reason too. It is nice and powerful for steaming wrinkles out of clothes. I travel for about 8 weeks at a time so I used this to refresh clothes living in my cramped suitcase too. I also like the idea that you can steam pillows or anything else you might be concerned is holding bacteria.

It is quite compact, weighs next to nothing, and doesn’t take up much room in your suitcase. I bought mine at the beginning of the year, it has been on every trip with me, has been used half to death and still keeps chug-a-lugging along. Check it out here on Amazon.com

BaByliss Nano Titanium Professional Hot Air Dryer Brush

best travel hairdryer brush

I use a dryer brush like this at home but it is way too cumbersome to pack for travel. I have an enormous amount of hair so didn’t have particularly high expectations for the small travel sized BaByliss Nano Titanium hot air brush, but it is fantastic! It blows my hair out smooth and the nano titanium part makes drying even my huge head of hair, really quick.

You can see in the image above how smooth it gets my crazy curly hair. This was walking with one of my Glam Italia Tour groups up to Civita di Bagnoregio in October 2023. Left to its own devices my hair looks like a Dollar Store home perm, so being able to blow it out nice and smooth without any drama is a Godsend. Check it out here on Amazon.com

BaByliss Pro Nano Titanium Hair Dryer

best travel hair dryer

If you’re not into the single item hot air brush type hair dryer, the BaByliss Pro Nano Titanium Travel Hair Dryer is incredible. According to Amazon I purchased mine in 2018, so if we take out 2020 covid year when none of us traveled, and exclude 2023 when I used the hot air brush from the same company, this little dynamo has had four years of hard core travel use, and is still going strong. Don’t be put off by how tiny it is – it is really powerful. Also the nano titanium part makes it dry hair more quickly and keeps your hair smooth. Check it out here on amazon.com.

RELATED POST: 9 Fantastic Book Series, All Set In Italy and France

Apple AirTags

I have an Apple AirTag in my suitcase and another in my carryon, and I can’t even tell you how much peace of mind it brings when I’m out and about in the world! Especially with the last two summers being so bad all over the world for lost luggage. It is a relief to board your flight and see your suitcase has boarded it too, and to arrive at the other end and be able to track your suitcase to the luggage carousel.

When I arrived to Rome in May I thought for a horrifying few minutes that my suitcase was lost. I turned on the AirTag and it walked me around the corner to where someone had taken it off the carousel by mistake. This makes the perfect gift for anyone who travels. Even if your suitcase goes to Dubai while you’ve flown to Madrid, your AirTag will locate it for you long before the airlines can. I won’t fly/travel without it. Check out AirTags here on amazon.com

The Paravel Foldable Duffle Bag

This little gem has bailed me out more times than I care to mention! The Paravel Foldable Duffle Bag zips down into itself into the shape and size of an iPad. It weighs nothing and takes up no space in your suitcase. Mine sees daylight when I’ve over-shopped or somehow can’t fit everything back into my suitcase at the end of a trip. (Which basically means I’ve over-shopped.) The bag has a surprisingly large capacity. I roll up loads of clothes and lightweight items using them to fill the Paravel bag, which comes on the plane with me, and fill my suitcase with whatever new things I’ve bought.

It makes a fabulous Plan B and prevents you from needing to buy a second suitcase/checked bag. I bought mine (years ago) in sensible but boring navy, but I wish I had the red one. These bags are really sturdy, can handle a lot of weight, and trust me – you’ll be amazed at how much you can fit in there! Check out the Paravel bags in all their colors here on Amazon.

The Jisulife Handheld Mini Fan

portable travel fan

We just had the two hottest summers on record in southern Europe and this handheld mini fan was a lifesaver! It’s super small and slips into your handbag needing almost no space, so is really convenient when you’re out sightseeing all day and don’t want to carry around a single extra thing. It is also surprisingly powerful and holds a charge for a really long time. I charged mine in May before heading to Italy and made it through a really hot few weeks without needing to recharge it. (It has a USB port, so no nuisance batteries to deal with). They come in multiple colors and at under $15 these make great stocking stuffers too. Check them out here on Amazon.com

Bagsmart Electronic Organizer Case

best electronics case for travel

These electronic organizer cases also cost under $15 and make great stocking stuffers. To be fair I thought mine was pretty ugly when I got it and wasn’t sure I’d use it, but I have used it to death! It’s a perfect compact size and is nice and slim, so doesn’t take up room in your carryon or handbag. (You should always keep all your chargers etc with you when you fly – don’t put them in a checked bag in case you need them.) Normally I would opt for something sleek and black but I have left sleek and black on planes and trains before, so opt instead for eyesore pink or any other color I will see and not leave behind. I like format of the pouches and zippered sections on this organizer. See it here on Amazon.com

Kindle Paperwhite

I was late to the party when it came to buying a Kindle. For years I read everything on the Kindle App on my iPad and it wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I finally bought a Kindle Paperwhite. Now I don’t know how I ever lived without it!

amazon prime day sale kindle

This is the travelers absolute best friend. Mine can hold somewhere between 5000 and 8000 books (!) and I don’t even have one of the souped-up models. I love that the Kindle is so slim and lightweight, so can slip into your handbag. They have low-light abilities, so you can be reading and not be blasting light into the eyeballs on the person trying to sleep next to you on the plane. I also love that I can be anywhere and still read, not needing a reading light. Again, I got mine in a color (sage green) rather than black, because I didn’t want to leave it behind on a plane or a train. There are a variety of different models and colors available. Check out Kindles here on Amazon.com

Audible Gift Subscription

This is kind of cool and is great for travelers. Audible is Amazon’s audio book service. They have gift subscriptions, so your travelers (or anyone else in your life) can enjoy listening to audiobooks courtesy of you. Statistics show that audio books are the fastest growing sector of the book market, and that readers/book lovers consume vastly more content when they can listen to books rather than have to find time to sit down and read. Personally, I am a voracious reader, but I love listening to audio books while doing housework, cooking, driving, doing things that prevent me from sitting down and reading. Check out Audible Subscriptions on amazon here.

Merino Base Layers

This really does have to be one of the best travel hacks around! I swear by merino base layers when I travel. In the summer I wear a merino cami under whatever I’m wearing to fly in, in the winter I wear a long sleeved merino t-shirt styled base layer. I also have several J Crew merino crew neck sweaters.

merino wool base layer

What makes merino so brilliant for the traveler in your life is this wool is super fine like a t-shirt weight. It’s non-itchy so even those of us who can’t normally wear wool (me!) can have this next to our skin. Merino is moisture wicking, so if you perspire it wicks it away from your skin. It’s also temperature regulating, so will keep you comfortable in temperatures from below zero up to about 75 degrees Fahrenheit/20 degrees Celsius, making it ideal when you are traveling from a cold climate to a warm one. It also is really helpful when you are moving from freezing cold outside into warm buildings/museums/homes/shops. And you don’t have to struggle with multiple heavy layers of clothing.

merino wool base layer

Merino is smell resistant, so you can go multiple wears without having to launder it, and it packs down super small so is ideal for travel. Winter travelers already know how cumbersome it is to pack thick sweaters when you travel! I buy Icebreaker Merino (see their store on Amazon here) but there are multiple other brands selling high quality merino products on Amazon too. In the photo above I’m wearing a black J Crew merino sweater in Rome when a very unexpected cold snap hit.

My Glam Italia How To Travel Italy Books

Best Florence Travel Guide Book

If you know anyone thinking about traveling to Italy, or anyone who already loves Italy, please think about gifting them my Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy books! All four books are best sellers and are popular worldwide. Rather than send people into the overwhelming tourist crowds like most travel guides do, my books show the reader loads of different, equally amazing and often more exciting places to visit. Most of the places I talk about are just down the street from where the crowds are, yet have very few if any other people there. There is so much more to see and do in these big Italian cities than just hang out where the tour buses go, and I want you to see these incredible places! All four books are designed to take a good trip to Italy and make it the best trip of your life.

Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy teaches you how to plan and execute your best trip ever. It is full of fantastic information, tips, tricks and ideas. Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome will make you fall in love with the Eternal City and show you endless places the tour bus crowds don’t know about. Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Florence gives you insider secrets to places you’ve never heard of before, and tells you intriguing stories about some of the places you have heard of! This book will change the way you explore and discover the most beautiful Renaissance city in the world.

Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Venice is an absolute game changer. It will take you away from the tourist crowds, show you incredible sights you’d never heard of before, and will make you fall hopelessly in love with the most unique city on earth!

Do you belong to my newsletter? Join the thousands of people around the world who belong to my monthly newsletter and discover incredible places in Italy to add to your travel itinerary! Most of these places are well off the main tourist radar but all of them are fabulous. Join the newsletter here.

How To Plan A Really Amazing Trip To Italy

Villa Rufolo, Ravello

After the world being locked down for most of 2020, it now looks like international travel may finally be back on the horizon. Now that the vaccines have arrived along with the imminent arrival of the Common Pass, the world may just be ready to open back up. If you are anything like me then you too are more than ready to fly the friendly skies again!

Travel May Look Different

I am expecting travel to look different as we move forward with reopening the world. The mass tourism model has been so destructive to everything from ecosystems to local economies. Not only do I want mass tourism to be curbed, I also think that post pandemic people will be hestitant to take big bus tours, and leary of spending time floating around on giant petri dishes with 4000+ other cruise ship voyagers.

My hope is that more travelers will opt for small group travel, either with small tours or venturing out on their own

Research

While we wait for travel to reopen this is the perfect time to do some research for your trip.

Beyond the usual travel guide books I recommend watching movies set in Italy, reading books set in Italy, listening to podcasts about travel in Italy.

My Amazon storefront has a list of movies set in Italy to watch as well as a list called Books To Inspire Wanderlust, which is full of fantastic books set in Italy that I personally have used to help plan trips.

Podcasts

Check out episode 53 of the Untold Italy podcast where I talk about tips and tricks for planning a trip to Italy.

I just did an episode of the Untold Italy Podcast that was all about how to plan your trip. In the episode host Katy Clarke and I give you fantastic tips for how to put your dream trip together – (remember your most perfect trip won’t be the same as mine or as the person down the street’s perfect trip. The trick is to build the trip of a lifetime for you.) Then we also go over mistakes that we have each made. I learned everything the hard way, which gives me the perfect experience to guide you away from mistakes and keep you on track to do it all the easy way.

The podcast episode is fabulous and I’m really proud of it. You can listen to it here: Untold Italy Episode 53, How To Plan Your Trip.

How To Plan An Amazing Trip To Italy

Here are 9 important tips to consider when planning your trip, whether it’s your first time or whether you’ve already been to Italy multiple times.

1. What Type Of Trip Do You Want?

It seems obvious but oddly enough most people are so busy checking off bucket list sites that they don’t stop to think about what type of trip they really want.

Do you want to lie on the beach and swim in the Mediterranean? Do you want to have a relaxing couple of weeks staying in a villa in Umbria or Tuscany, driving around and exploring little towns and villages and wineries?

Do you want to visit as many Roman ruins as possible? Or maybe you are more interested in Etruscan ruins? Or shopping? Whatever it is that really lights you up and that would make this your absolute trip of a lifetime, that’s what we have to set about planning – rather than squeezing a twenty swim in between two big tourist stops.

2. What Type Of Traveler Are You?

This one is about being realistic. If you are a frequent international traveler the way you approach this will be different than if you are venturing overseas for the first time. If you are new to travel some things such as driving in a foreign country may be overwhelming. If you are a frequent traveler many things may be too touristy for you or you may want to get further off the beaten path.

The key is to design a trip that meets your needs and expectations. For example I would hate a trip that was staying in hotels every night – I prefer vacation rental apartments and villas. But the next person might hate that and prefer to be in hotels every night. No one is right or wrong, it’s just about finding th perfect style of travel for you.

3. Make A long List of Cities And Towns

As you research – watch movies set in Italy, read books set in Italy, listen to podcasts about Italy travel and read the posts of travel bloggers, make a long list of everywhere that sounds interesting or that you might like to visit. Ideally you will make a really long list.

4. Follow Travel Bloggers

I particularly like following travel bloggers as it is easy to find ones that do your type of travel. For example bloggers that travel with their kids, bloggers who backpack around the world, bloggers who like fashion inspired travel, foodie travel bloggers – basically whatever you personally are interested in. If you are a woman traveling on her own you will find solo female travel bloggers great resources and incredibly helpful. It doesn’t seem to matter how far you want to niche down, there are travel bloggers who not only do your type of travel but speak in a voice that makes sense to you.

I also find bloggers who specialize in towns and regions I’m interested in. In the podcast I talk about doing some research on Turin and googling travel bloggers, Turin as a starting point.

The two best ways to find travel bloggers are Google and Pinterest. I use Pinterest all the time. It is a giant search engine that speeds everything up by being a visual medium too. At a glance you can tell whether a place is for you or not. Most travel bloggers have a consistent presence on Pinterest. You can follow them and not only get quick access to their posts, but also they will be saving pins from other likeminded bloggers who are going to help flesh out your trip.

Not sure where to start with Pinterest? My Pinterest account is @Corinnamakeup. I have board set up for multiple different cities and regions in Italy as well as the rest of the world. You’ll not only find pins that link back to all of my travel blog posts, but also to those of other travel bloggers. Check it out here.

5. Look On A Map, Refine Your List

Once you have a big long list of cities, towns and villages that you would like to visit, its time to plot them out on a map and see what is feasible for this trip and what needs to be shelved for another trip.

I recommend staying at least 3 nights in any place. Constantly packing up, checking out, getting to the next town and checking in to your next accommodation is exhausting and chews up too much precious vacation time. For a 12 day trip I will try to stay overnight in only 3 places, using them as home bases from which to do day trips to some of the other towns and cities I want to visit.

When you block things out on a map you get a better idea of which places can be in this trip and you can avoid wasting precious vacation time by doubling back on yourself.

6. Plan Your Transport

As you refine the list of cities, towns and villages for your trip you also need to start researching your transport methods. You may want to rent a car or use the trains or do a combination of the two. Trains in Italy are fantastic, inexpensive and very easy to use. The high speed trains are game changers when it comes to accessing cities that would otherwise take hours to get to.

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

For example, Florence to Venice is only two and a half hours on the high speed train. Florence to Rome is an hour and a half. If Rome is your home base you can buzz up to Florence for a day trip one day and another day whip down to Naples, which is an hour and 15 minutes by high speed train.

The intercity trains and local regional trains also open up all kinds of options for you. Using Rome as our example again you can take a day trip to Orvieto in around 2 hours and you can take a day trip from Rome to Ostia Antica in 30 minutes by train. To get a better idea about day trips by train check out this post: Day Trips From Rome by Train and this post: Day Trips From Florence by Train.

Another way to get from one city to another or to do day trips either to places the trains don’t go, or just to be out driving through the countryside is to hire a driver. Professional drivers in Italy are NCC licensed. It is really important thaat you only hire an NCC driver and not someone’s cousin Bob who needs some cash. This post tells you what you need to know before hiring a driver in Italy.

Because all professionally licensed drivers in Italy belong to NCC they can help you get a driver somewhere else. For example if I am going to Piemonte, where I don’t know anyone, but I want a driver to pick me up at the train and take me to a winery, I can ask my Florence/Tuscany driver and he gets me the contacts I need. (I actually do this all the time.)

When planning your transport look at all the options. Sometimes the bus has a more direct and expeditious route, other times the train or a driver will. Flix bus has really nice coach style buses that are super comfortable to travel in and the tickets cost next to nothing. I took a Flix bus from Genoa to Florence. It was a really nice, modern luxury coach and it only cost 20 euros.

7. Make Lists Of Things To Do In Each Place

Now that you know which towns and cities you will be visiting, and how you will get around, you need to make a list of things to do in each place. In the podcast I talk about how I make a list of 20 to 50 things in each town but only plan on doing a maximum of 10. (For a day trip)

This way if the thing you planned on seeing is closed that day or if something goes wrong, you have other options up your sleeve. Things seldom go 100% as planned, so it’s a good idea to have some alternatives planned.

8. Be Mentally Flexible

If you’ve read my international best seller Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) you will already be familiar with my travel philosophy that if Plan A goes sideways, Plan B is invariably 1000 times better anyway.

The trick to a completely fantastic trip is to be mentally flexible. If the thing you had planned on doing doesn’t work out you are bound to find that Plan B far exceeds anything you had imagined. This happens to me all the time. Over decades of international travel I have had so many absolutely incredible experiences that came my way because what I originally planned didn’t work out. From a missed train to Caserta to a Venice day trip being cancelled due to torrential rain, to a (local) friend winding up in hospital the night before we were supposed to go to Naples, to many, many other unexpected twists to my travel plans, every time something hasn’t worked out, whatever I did instead turned out to be amazing.

The key is to relax, don’t get stressed out and above all be mentally flexible.

The 25 – 75 Split

When you are planning your trip and looking at all the amazing things to do in any given city or town, plan on spending 25% of your time at the big ticket tourist sites and 75% of your time at the lesser known locations.

Most tourists just hit the same spots, which are invariably overcrowded. In every city there are masses of other things to see and do that are equally amazing but are off the tour bus radar. My books are all about the other things to do (you can see my books on Amazon here). Another great resource is Pinterest. Just search for “unusual things to do in” (fill in the city) or “other things to do in” (fill in the city) and you will find all kinds of fun and fabulous things to see and do that take you away from the tourist crowds.

You don’t want to miss the most famous sites but you also don’t want them to be the only things you see.

Want more guidance on Italy trip planning? My newsletter tells you about secret towns you may want to visit, foods and wines you need to try (and which regions they’re from), festivals you won’t want to miss, and much more! It only comes out twice each month so you don’t need to worry about getting endless emails from me! Join the thousands of newsletter members who love getting the inside scoop here.

Images used in this post are by Keith and Melissa Photography taken during a 2019 Glam Italia Tour