Give the gift of travel this Christmas – whether it be an epic journey, a creative retreat or a weekend staycation – and you’re giving so much more than a holiday. You’re helping to create precious memories that will last a lifetime – and outlast a life.
Imagine yourself reclined on that cushioned banquette above engrossed in a novel. Or sitting in a chair gazing out to sea as you sip a glass of white wine while sharing a story with a loved one. Travel, and even the imagination and dreaming and planning of travel, is good for us.
Travel relaxes and reinvigorates us, opens our minds, broadens our experiences, and makes us smarter and more creative. Travel makes us ridiculously happy. So please stick with me for a little bit while I tell you a story. Because when you finish reading you might feel compelled to give the gift of travel this Christmas.
Give the Gift of Travel this Christmas – Give Memories to Last a Lifetime
On his hospital bed, before my dad would die from pancreatic cancer, he told me through tears that one of his biggest regrets had been not seeing more of the world.
Dad had already been living with a death sentence for months, having been given just six to live (although he would survive a year), and he wasn’t coming to terms with it, as the self-help books said he should. When I sat with him, he was recovering from an abandoned operation intended to remove part of his pancreas and other bits, a complicated procedure with risks. But when the doctors opened him up they’d discovered what we’d all dreaded: the cancer had spread too far. It was too late to operate. It was too late for a lot of things.
My mother, distraught, had gone outside to smoke, and dad and I sat there on the bed, holding hands and blubbering, tears continuously streaming down our cheeks. He’d held a lot back until then, not wanting to distress us. But we could never be more distressed than at that moment. So I thought at the time. The pain was unbearable. We didn’t want dad to die. He was still young. Dad didn’t want to die. He wasn’t ready and was never going to be ready, no matter what those stupid self-help books said. Through sobs he shared some regrets. Some trivial, some significant.
They’re right when they say that nobody ever says on their deathbed they regret not having worked more. One of the things dad did regret was that he hadn’t seen more of the world. He was thankful for what he had done – he’d seen a tremendous part of his country, circumnavigating it twice. He was thankful for the trips Terry and I had taken he and mum on. But how he wished he could go again.
Travel had opened his eyes to so much he’d been ignorant of and had made he and mum so happy, he said. I recalled how they’d been when they came to Abu Dhabi, like excited little kids. Through tears, smiles and a few laughs, he recounted random travel memories, including one of my most treasured: devouring chilli crab together in Malaysia like there was no tomorrow, the spicy sauce dripping down our fingers, wrists and arms. Washing it all down with icy cold beers. Those meals were so pleasurable that every time we ate we would forget that each and every one of them would be a last.
One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is travel. Trust me on this. They will appreciate the woollen socks, the garden tools, and the bottle of booze on Christmas Day. But they won’t remember them on their deathbed. What they will recall is that shared meal of beer and chilli crab in Malaysia, the smoky aromas of an evening street food market, the wind whipping up and rain pelting down as we ran for cover, the orange glow of the sunset over Georgetown…
Give the Gift of Travel this Christmas – from Trips of a Lifetime to Old Fashioned Holidays
If you’re going to give the gift of travel that you hope will be cherished forever, make it a meaningful and memorable one. Here are some ideas…
Give the Gift of Travel this Christmas – Give Someone the Trip of a Lifetime
My parents gave me the trip of a lifetime when they dragged my little sister and I around Australia in a caravan for five years. I tried to give them their trips of a lifetime when I brought them to visit Terence and I in Abu Dhabi, and again on the trip to Asia dad had wanted to do before he died.
Your adult child has just finished school or university and is mumbling something about a gap year? Give the gift of travel with an epic round-the-world trip. If you’re in the UK, Stuart at www.roundtheworldflights.com, who organised our 2010 yearlong grand tour, is the RTW flights expert there. I’ll identify RTW experts in other countries for you.
Your spouse has an significant birthday coming up? A lot of women who do our Cambodia creative retreats and culinary tours are celebrating big birthday years – generally a 30th, 40th or 50th. Yet most of them tell us the trip was a gift to themselves! C’mon, guys. (Don’t forget we’re offering 10% if you book and pay for one of our trips by the end of the year (still a few spots left on each) and we have a new cooking-focused food tour and luxury trip designed for philanthropists.)
Food tours are fantastic memory-makers, too – whether you’re sharing delicious family feasts together as we did with dad, you’re cooking and eating with a group of friends that you treasure spending time with, or you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone because you want a trip that transforms you, as many of the people who do our trips are. (Don’t worry, we won’t force you to eat the crickets.)
We’re not the only ones crafting and hosting enriching culinary tours either, obviously. We’ve befriended like-minded people around the world who host small-group trips focused on cuisine and culture that are as immersive as they are fun. And how can you not have fun when you’re eating and drinking with wonderful people? We highly recommend:
Christine Manfield’s Tours
One of our favourite Aussie chefs, cookbook author and travel/food writer, Christine Manfield (the spice queen) – whose food we’ve been savouring since the late 80s and who we recently caught up with here in Cambodia – hosts food and wine trips throughout the year to countries she’s been travelling to for decades, such as India and Bhutan, and other destinations around the world, from South Africa to South America. Details here.
Jane Lawson, cookbook author and food/travel writer hosts tantalising trips to Tokyo and Kyoto with Japanophile husband Gerard Kambeck, where you can savour their “finest findings – from handmade tofu to the most intricate Kaiseki, from freshly cut noodles to sublimely fresh sashimi”. Between them, the couple have 50 years of travel experience in Japan. Friends we have hosted in Cambodia have done Jane and Gerard’s trips and love them. More here.
Silver Compass Tours
Another husband and wife team, Kelly and Paolo Picarazzi cook up delicious journeys, excursions and pop-ups in food and wine regions in Australia and Italy, their home in gorgeous Orange, and Paolo’s birthplace, Ciociaria, an hour from Rome. Paolo is a chef with wine experience and Kelly a tourism industry strategist – what better combo to create a culinary travel experience? These two are joining our travel and food writing and photography retreat in 2018 and we’ll be collaborating on future trips. Details here.
Give the Gift of Travel this Christmas – Give Someone a Holiday
Not everyone can give a trip of a lifetime but good old-fashioned holidays don’t need to be expensive. Some of my fondest childhood travel memories are of simple trips, whether a weekend away or week long – camping with mum and dad, my little sister and old friends who felt like family; caravanning cum fishing trips with my dad and pop; and summer holidays with my nan, great-aunts and cousins in rustic beachside cottages.
Grab your loved-ones and go camping in a national park, hire a caravan in a sleepy coastal town or rent a cottage near a beach or lake. Go local and rent holiday homes direct from owners on sites like Stayz (Australia), Vacation Rentals (USA), Owners Direct (UK), and HomeAway.asia (Asia). Throw a line off a jetty and catch your dinner, do a country drive and buy picnic basket fillers from farm gates, buy bottles of vino from local winery cellar doors, purchase gourmet sausages and salad ingredients from a farmer’s market and head to a beachside park for a barbecue.
Give the Gift of Travel this Christmas – Give Someone a Staycation
Can’t afford the time or expense of a holiday, consider a staycation. The staycation was one of those silly tourism trends we all cringed at, but giving someone a short break in a different part of their city or town to explore like a tourist, while giving back to the local community and small businesses, is actually a really great idea. Staying local doesn’t involve a great deal of time/money yet it provides that much-needed change of scenery. So how do you give someone you care about a staycation as a gift this Christmas?
Well, you can show some love to Grantourismo (we earn a small commission) and scroll down to the end of this post to the booking.com search box and book a hotel for a weekend in the same city or town where your loved-one lives. Book something on a date far off that can be changed (read the small print), so there is flexibility and you can re-book the stay to suit the recipient. Print up the booking confirmation (you can wipe out the price), pop it in a card and you’re set. To make the experience more special, send a hamper or give a picnic basket with a bottle of bubbly, a baguette, and charcuterie and cheeses at the start of their staycation.
Give the Gift of Travel this Christmas – Give Someone a Plan
Not everyone is in a position to give a holiday or staycation, but you could give someone a trip plan. I’m going to tout my own services again as an example, but I offer bespoke trip itineraries for Cambodia and Southeast Asia – essentially, to the places we have lived in and written about over the past two decades. I offer themed itineraries (Savour Siem Reap, Sip Siem Reap, Shop Siem Reap etc) as well as crafting customised trips based on people’s interests, style of travel, time-frame, budget etc and they use that document to make their own bookings.
And I know all the destination experts that I recommend above Jane Lawson, Christine Manfield and Kelly Picarazzi offer similar itinerary services for destinations they know intimately. The beauty of using people like them/us is that we have deep specialist knowledge and a long experience of a place, because we either live or have lived, or travel frequently to the places we focus on. Or, maybe there are places that you know really well, too, that you can create a trip itinerary on for your friend…
Give the Gift of Travel this Christmas – Create Your Own Package
These days, you don’t need to go to a travel agent to buy a holiday package when there are so many options online for pulling together a trip. So why not get creative and curate a range of experiences that you can package together into a holiday for your family or friends? Start by choosing a destination or, even easier, plan a staycation in your loved-one’s place of residence, and write up a programme of activities, based on a fantastic weekend away or holiday your might have had yourself.
Book a hotel first (see our accommodation guides for our suggestions in places around the world), then browse sites such as Viator to book walking tours, cooking classes, street food tours, winery excursions, and tours focused on all sorts of areas, from history and culture to art and architecture. Print up the vouchers and perhaps mark up a map of a self-guided walking tour that you love to do in that place, and pop them in a Christmas card.
It’s not hard to give the gift of travel this Christmas and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. It just takes a little bit of imagination. Join your loved-ones and you can create travel memories together that you’ll treasure forever – long after they discard the socks with holes and forget where they put those gardening shears.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you book with one of our affiliate partners, you won’t pay any more than if you’d booked on their site directly, however, we earn a small commission which supports Grantourismo and the work we do to provide you with inspiration, information and advice.
Are you going to give the gift of travel this Christmas? Do you have any ideas to add to those above?