Gift of Travel: The Gift That Keeps on Givingby Laurie Wilson /
The gift of travel is popular, not just for honeymoons, but for every occasion—or no occasion. Here are some ideas and tips.
“I had a client who did a consult call with me a few weeks before Christmas, and we went through the personalities of all of her family and friends she wanted to gift travel to, and we designed a trip with a gift certificate for each one,” says Kaleigh Kirkpatrick, luxury travel advisor and founder of The Shameless Tourist (affiliated with Avenue Two Travel) in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I was able to tell her exactly where I thought she should send her loved ones, she trusted me, we put it together in a pretty certificate (I used Canva to make something pretty) and we framed them and she wrapped them up for each.”
- The client’s daughter and daughter's fiancée love nature and the outdoors, wellness, and hiking, says Kirkpatrick, so the gift was a three-night stay at Blackberry Mountain in Walland, Tennessee, with airfare and activities included.
- The client’s son, who is single, was gifted a trip for two to Andaz Costa Rica Resort to surf, fish, and enjoy the Pura Vida lifestyle.
- And for the client’s best friend and significant other, they both love the nightlife, and great food, and are big into Old Hollywood glamour, says Kirkpatrick. And the client also wanted to send them somewhere they’d never been—the gift—four nights at Eden Rock St Barths with airfare and a Moke rental.
“For many years I've been an advocate for giving travel as a gift,” says Connie Spindler, communications specialist, the Maryland Office of Tourism. “One year, I gave my mother-in-law a beach bag stuffed with a paperback romance, suntan lotion, and a beach towel along with a certificate for a two-night stay at a beachfront hotel in Ocean City, Maryland. She was delighted.”
It’s no surprise, then, that last year the Maryland Office of Tourism compiled a list of suggested travel gifts called, “Give the Gift of Maryland.”
“It contains items in all price ranges, for multiple interests and abilities, and for many ages,” says Spindler. “Examples include tickets for a rail-bike excursion in Western Maryland, guided lighthouse tours on the Chesapeake Bay, annual state park passes (with reduced park admission and discounted concession items), ghost tour tickets, dirt track car racing admissions, dining gift certificates and many more ideas.”
And, when is Italy never a good idea—a lovely gift that never gets regifted. “I have had several clients purchase tours as gifts for their spouses, as well as parents for their kids as special college graduation gifts,” says Francesca Montillo, travel planner and tour leader of week-long tours to Italy.
“When I know it’s a gift, I always make sure that the giver is assured that the dates will work, as well as giving them as many details about the trip as possible, to make sure the recipient will enjoy the experience,” says Montillo. She says some clients choose to give the gift upon purchase, so the recipient has plenty of time to prepare, while others gift the tours a lot closer to departure.
“I think when gifting travel, the giver really has to know the recipient well, know that they will surely enjoy the experience, and also make sure it’s something the recipient would want to do,” says Montillo.
“Something that we have received is an increasing number of requests for is gift packages,” says Mike Peddie of Secret Scotland.
The company specializes in detailed travel guides for planning self-drive trips around Scotland and customized tour plans.
Peddie recalls one recent client who gifted, for a birthday, a tour based on a bucket list of experiences and places their spouse wished to visit, and presented the itinerary with an accompanying bagpiper who introduced the gift.
Gift cards and gift certificates
“The best way to gift someone a travel experience would be to purchase a travel gift card,” says Laura Condrut, spokesperson for Contiki, a group travel company for 18-to-35 year-olds. “This makes for a great birthday, anniversary or Christmas present, saves you time and allows your loved one the freedom to book a trip based on their own preferred destination, travel style, and dates.”
Contiki features a designated gifting link on its website. “The process is very simple,” says Condrut, “all you need to do is complete the form on the page, select the preferred amount and someone from our team will get in touch shortly to complete payment. The gift card will be sent by e-mail as an eGift voucher and can be used for any Contiki trip.”
Of course, she says, there's also the option of purchasing a trip directly. “However, this makes things more challenging, as you will need to know exactly where,
when and how they'd like to travel.”
Backroads, a travel company that runs biking, hiking, walking, multi-adventure, and family trips globally, is another idea. “We have a very robust gift certificate program with many people giving the gift of travel for honeymoon trips, anniversaries, holiday gifts, and as gifts in general,” says Liz Einbinder, spokesperson. “Our gift certificates can be set up for any monetary amount and used on any of our trips.”
Disney and Universal
And, gifting travel doesn’t have to mean travel to an exotic, far-flung destination.
“Some people are surprised to learn that travel agents book trips that don't include air travel,” says Annette Johnson of Build A Better Mouse Trip.
“I lead a team of travel agents specializing in Orlando theme park vacations and can tell you that Disney vacations get gifted a lot,” says Johnson. She’s also seen an uptick in gifting Universal Orlando trips since the addition of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Sometimes the gifted trips include the giver and other times not, says Johnson. Especially popular, she says: grandparents gifting trips to their adult children and grandchildren, parents gifting honeymoons, and, even parents and grandparents with critical illnesses sometimes designate funds for loved ones to use for a Disney trip.
“We had one very sweet lady who had cancer and she had hoped to take her children and grandchildren on a trip to Disney World with her but she passed away before that could happen,” says Johnson. “She made them promise to still take the trip so we moved the dates forward and they did go the next summer.”
Johnson also says she’s also had situations where a parent or grandparent has given their children or grandchildren money to take a Disney trip after they passed away. Or they have indicated that they wanted part of the life insurance or estate to go towards a Disney trip.
“On the other end of things,” says Johnson, “we’ve had siblings and parents gift a Disney trip to a critically ill loved one. This can take some coordination based on their physical needs but Disney has a lot of accessibility features and resources that can be helpful.”
While Disney and Universal Orlando room-and-ticket package gifts are an easy way to go, gifting can get tricky, since dining plans are put on hold, if the gift giver wants to cover dining costs, says Johnson.
“Disney had dining plans that could be purchased as part of a vacation package,” says Johnson. “These provided a certain number of table service and quick-service meals as well as snack credits. It made it easy for the gift giver to cover dining when gifting travel.”
But when Disney reopened post-COVID, they had to socially distance themselves in the restaurants and staffing has continued to be a challenge, she says. For example, Narcoossee’s restaurant at the Grand Floridian is reopening on April 1st but 1900 Park Fare, at the same resort, still has not reopened and some restaurants are still not serving all of the meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) that they served prior to COVID. Universal Orlando is experiencing similar issues, says Johnson.
“This has made it tough to get dining reservations, especially character meals,” says Johnson. “This is where a good travel agent, especially one that specializes in a particular type of travel or destination, can come in handy. We are able to help calculate dining costs or costs for special experiences like building a light saber or a princess makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.”
Johnson suggests clients gift cash or Disney and Universal gift cards to cover the estimated cost of meals.
Gifting peace of mind
“It’s not uncommon to gift travel medical insurance to a loved one planning to travel internationally,” says Becky Hart of Seven Corners Travel Insurance. “We see it frequently with people in the United States who buy visitor insurance for non-resident family members visiting them in the U.S., or with parents who want to make sure their child has health protection when traveling to another country.”
Travel medical insurance can cover emergency medical expenses if you get sick or hurt while traveling internationally, something domestic health insurance often doesn’t do, she says. “By giving someone travel medical insurance, it not only provides valuable protection to the traveler but also priceless peace of mind for the giver back home.”