The holiday season can be so much fun! But all of the once-a-year merry-making — gift shopping, cookie baking, family visiting, cocktail raising — can seriously cut into reading time.
To make your holiday shopping less time-consuming and more fun, we’ve hunted down the best gifts for people who love to jet off to new locales almost as much as they love to stay home with a good book. You might also find something you want to add to your wish list!
We’ve selected cool stuff from both big retailers and indie makers, so keep an eye on shipping times. Some of the links are affiliate links, which means we make a small commission when you buy; thank you in advance for supporting our work.
Far-flung and favorite destinations stay near and dear to the heart with these shiny pendants. Playful, glamorous, and so charming! Luggage tags are available in both sterling silver and 14k gold vermeil. The passport designs, inspired by real stamps, are available for 200+ countries. Both offer optional neck chains, keychains, and engraving. Jet Set Candy Luggage Tag Pendant, $68-98; Jet Set Candy Passport Stamp Charm, $48
This literary sweatshirt is made from super-soft fleece-lined jersey, so it’s warm and cozy, unlike Cathy’s ghost knocking on the window. It’s the perfect fashion statement for a day on the couch with a favorite book or a nighttime visit to a long-lost love. This bouclé applique declares readerly devotion to Emily Brontë’s epic novel, but Dickens’ Great Expectations and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are also available. All the sweatshirts come in sizes S to XL. Joanie Clothing, $43
If you’re not a Scottish local, you can still enjoy a bit of Edinburgh’s Typewronger Books in your life. The shop offers a custom book subscription service with volumes selected by the owner Tom, based on the readers’ preferences. Books can ship in the UK, Europe, and overseas, and each package includes a personal letter, bookmarks, and an origami-animal reading buddy. Typewronger also offers shipping of individual books anywhere in the world, as well as custom gift boxes and gift certificates. Book mail is the best mail! Typewronger Books, $220-$270
Do you remember the sheer bliss of going to the library and grabbing everything you wanted from the shelves? And then you’d take your tall stack of treasures to the check-out desk where the librarian stamped them, one by one, with their due dates?! Show your love for the library with this super-cute retro design Tshirt. Available in black or gray, and in men’s and women’s T and sweatshirt styles. Out of Print, $30
Lockets are a magical, romantic way to carry daydreams and memories with us everywhere we go, and this handmade globe locket stole our hearts. It features the Eastern hemisphere on one side, and the Western on the other — with two spots reserved inside for favorite photos. It’s available with a variety of chain lengths in both silver and gold finishes. Etsy, $47.06
This fragrance — made in small batches in Jersey City — has a warm, woody, slightly sweet smell that works for men and women. Inspired by the scent of a novel published in 1927, it’s a book-lovers’ dream blend, combining English Novel, Russian & Moroccan Leather Bindings, Worn Cloth, and a hint of Wood Polish. Available in various sizes of perfume, eau de perfume, and home spray. CB I Hate Perfume, $20-$100
Designed for men but wearable by anyone, this bracelet is a wristful of reminders that the whole world is out there, waiting for us. Handmade from sterling silver ball chain, it comes in three sizes, and it’s adjustable: That cute little airplane acts as the clasp — so clever! So chic. Etsy, $135
Robin Sloan is the author of books we love, including Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough. He and his wife also farm an olive grove! They’re the geniuses behind luscious olive oil known as Fat Gold, and they’re on a mission to ‘de-commodify extra virgin olive oil and elevate its place in American food culture.’ A gift subscription is a 500ml tin shipped four times per year. Fat Gold Olive Oil, $169
Erin Morgenstern’s fantastical novel The Night Circus is one of our all-time favorites, and we cannot resist this umbrella that looks like it jumped out of the pages of the book. Great for dancing in the rain, strolling in the sun, or sneaking into a magical circus when it rolls into town. Amazon, $26
As much as we adore the fancy umbrella above, when we travel, we like to travel light. This purse- and pocket-sized umbrella is wind-resistant, ultra-light, and opens up to full-size coverage — and it weights just 7 ounces. Available in 24 colors and patterns, so there’s one to coordinate with every rain slicker! Amazon, $15
This is like a box of Strong Sense of Place with home delivery. Each gift box celebrates a destination somewhere in the world and includes a book or two, plus other appropriate goodies: pasta from Italy, hand-woven baskets from Kenya, Parisian jam and crepes, and Japanese Green Tea. The company was started by two book-loving sisters — we love that! — who work with local artists and small makers around the world to deliver the sights, tastes, and smells of foreign lands. Single month and subscription options are available. Bibliophilic Excursions, $39.99
Yes, yes… we all type now. But there’s nothing quite as satisfying as holding a good pen in hand to write down some stuff. We’ve got two options, at opposite ends of the spectrum. To be fancy, we recommend this LAMY Studio Fountain Pen. It’s a work of art, no? The matte and glossy finishes are so elegant, and it comes with an ink cartridge so the recipient can begin writing immediately. Goulet Pen Co., $79.20
For the person who loves lots of choice, consider this JetPens Fine Tip Gel Pen Sampler. It features 10 fine tip gel pens — the best for crisp, precise writing — including capped pens, retractables, and even one that’s erasable. Nerdy pen fun! JetPens, $25
Edward Gorey’s pen-and-ink illustrations — accompanied by his cockeyed text — make him the master of irresistibly cute black humor. The Fantod Pack, his version of tarot, forecasts devilish predicaments like loss of hair, thwarted ambitions, and shriveling. The deck comes with an instruction booklet to help interpret the cards. We predict that your favorite Goth will love this gift. Amazon, $9.95
In 1997, Gorey designed the sets and costumes for a revival of Dracula on Broadway. He was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Scenic Design and won the Tony Best Costume Design. This die-cut Toy Theater includes stage sets, characters, and furniture to recreate the theatrical magic in miniature. It comes in a nifty cigar-box style package and includes assembly instructions so it can be set up for storytelling in no time. Amazon, $25
There’s never a bad time to be snuggly, and this super-soft fleece blanket is a cute way to stay warm in the air, aboard a train, or on the couch. It’s available in three sizes, including the standard airline blanket size. This is perfect for someone going on a trip or dreaming about the journeys of the future. Airportag, $40-$90
With this handmade wooden world map, they can stick a pin in the places they’ve been and the destinations they’ve yet to visit. It attaches to the wall with special sticky tape (provided with map), and it’s available in eight colors and four sizes, so it will fit into any space and decor. Bonus! The map also comes with little wooden boats, planes, and a compass. So cute. For double cuteness, be sure to get the white airplane push pins, too. Etsy, $148
There are a lot of literary prints out there, but these striking black-and-white graphics are our favorites. The artists of ObviousState choose less familiar but very evocative quotes, then bring the essence of the words to life with simple lines and shapes. The art measures 11x14 inches and is printed on archival paper. Etsy, $25
All hail, word nerds! This cooperative word game is great for two to six players. It’s ideal for the holidays when you just don’t need the drama of competition, but still want to have fun with words. The object of the game is to identify the letters of the alphabet you’ve been dealt — without looking at them — and to help the other players identify theirs. Playing this game feels like you’re all working together to solve a grand word problem: thinking and fun, all in one. Amazon, $27.50
We’ve both gifted these pajamas to each other in the past: Mel has Royal Stewart Tartan, and David has Black Watch Plaid. They are the BEST pajamas in the universe. Soft with no scratchy bits, roomy without being boxy, warm without causing a meltdown, and super-cute, even after many, many washings. These are the perfect PJs for reading, eating snacks, watching movies, planning adventures, and opening gifts. They’re available in lots of color combos and a wide variety of sizes; we are 100% here for that inclusiveness. L.L. Bean Women’s, $59.99-69.95; L.L. Bean Men’s, $69.95
We love our e-readers for travel because we can take ALL THE BOOKS, and we also adore beautiful volumes made to be treasured at home. The Folio Society publishes deluxe editions with new covers and illustrations, with are paid to paper quality, typeface, and binding. These are keepsakes that are meant to last. The title selection is wide-ranging and includes the standard classics you’d expect, as well as modern classics like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and The Princess Bride, children’s books, and limited editions. The Folio Society, prices start around $60
Let them wrap their favorite city around their finger with a skyline ring — or buy them four so they can wear them like international brass-knuckles. These delightfully detailed, handmade rings are available for any city in the world (!) and can be crafted from solid 925 sterling silver, 18k gold, or rose gold. There’s also an option to engrave a secret message inside! Etsy, $23 or Amazon, $28
A non-comprehensive list of times when noise-cancelling earplugs are very welcome: when trying to read and others won’t stop talking, when the neighbors’ party goes past midnight, when the baby on the plane has an endless supply of crying energy, when the hotel window (which provides a killer view) lets in the night noise, when introversion is at an all-time high and the world must be blocked out right now. These soft earplugs work great, and they come with a handy case, too. Amazon, $19.99
A non-comprehensive list of times when a smooth, cool, silk sleep mask is very welcome: when the person in the window seat on a redeye/trans-ocean flight keeps the window shade open, when the hotel room window is sans blackout curtains, when the nightlight needs to stay on because of a scary book, but sleep still needs to happen, when it’s time to really sink into meditation, when the wine was flowing and morning came too soon. This 100% silk mask feels luxe and looks chic, too. Amazon, $9.98
Japanese Haiku is a delicate and beautiful art form. At its best, it celebrates nature with simplicity and precision.
When you’re doing a project in 6th-grade English class, however, it might go something like this: Silent koalas. In the eucalyptus trees. One of nature’s toys.
The poems in this calendar are much, much better than that — and the earth-toned illustrations are soothing and elegant. Amazon, $9
This nifty bookmark identifies a unique spot in the world while it marks the all-important stopping point in a book. These handmade leather bookmarks can be adorned with the coordinates of so many special places: your dream destination, where you and the recipient met, the place where their heart feels most at home. It can be decorated with an optional tassel, too. Etsy, $17
Happy socks = happy feet! These bright-colored socks are available for every airport in the world, so you can pick out the perfect pair for your favorite traveler. Choose their dream destination, their home airport, or a pair for every stop on the itinerary. They’re available in three sizes and are constructed to be comfy enough for the flight and durable enough for walking tours. Airportag, $19.90
So posh! This passport cover and luggage tag set is made from fine-grain black leather and stamped in gold with the motto that makes us want to jump out of bed in the morning: ADVENTURE AWAITS. And with every sale of the set, a school bag is provided to a Cambodian child in need through the charity United World Schools. Details of the donation are included with the gift so you can share the good news with the giftee. Wolf & Badger, $46
We wish every rectangular object could be disguised as a book, so we freaked out when we saw these passport covers that look like a miniature leather-bound volume from a secret library. They’re made by hand from leather that’s embossed with intricate retro designs and are available in five colors. Etsy, $22.99
If you want to give a gift that gives back, you might be interested in PEN. Founded in 1922, PEN America is part of the PEN International network, an organization devoted to ensuring that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literature of others. Membership in PEN supports this mission and contributes to advocacy, grants and fellowships, a writers’ emergency fund, and so much more. PEN America, $50
Put a few of these downloadable bingo cards in your favorite peoples’ stockings! They’re great for getting oriented to the iconic characteristics and sights of a new city — and are also perfectly frameable to bring that city home. Artist Sarah-Lambert Cook has painted these friendly watercolor illustrations for Amsterdam, London, San Francisco, Paris, Morocco, and Venice. Etsy, $3.50
These notecards are so ridiculously cute, we feel like you probably don’t need us to make their case. Here’s what you need to know: The 30 notecards in each set are reproductions of the original cards used in the Library of Congress. The cards are enclosed in a keepsake box that’s a replica of the original card catalog, and there are five tabbed dividers to help organize the whole schlemiel. Pro tip: Buy multiples and stack ‘em up. New York Public Library, $19.95
The Monikers game is mostly about laughing with friends and family, and that’s why we love it. It’s kind of hard to explain but easy to play; this video can help with that. The goal is to describe famous names from literature, entertainment, and history so that your playing partners can identify them. But! There are three rounds of play, and by the last round, words are forbidden. That’s right: no talking! The descriptions of the famous people may only be conveyed through gestures, charades, and mouth noises. Game play gets increasingly more silly as time goes on, and it is brilliant. Amazon, $29
Candles are an easy way to make an unfamiliar hotel room feel cozy and homey. These lidded, tin travel candles are perfect for tucking into an overnight bag or suitcase. Not for nothing, they’re nice to burn at home, too. This Old Books-scented candle is handmade, has a burn time of 50-60 hours, and combines the singular scent of old books, aged magazines, historical documents, and wooden bookshelves. Etsy, $15.45
This Tarot Deck-scented candle is aflame with romance and mystery! With notes of incense, Turkish rose, and the woody, waxen aroma of pencil shavings, it’s the ideal illumination for reading a moody book and sipping a cup of tea. Catbird, $14
This is the trip of our dreams, and while it’s probably not going on our shopping lists anytime soon, it’s fun to imagine. Starting and ending in London, this cruise spans an epic 245 days. Along the way, it will visit six continents, 53 countries, 112 of the world’s most beautiful and cosmopolitan cities, and charming smaller points of call. There are overnight stays in 22 different destinations, as well as relaxing days at sea so passengers can chill in the snow grotto — or read in the library that includes a curated selection of books and so many chairs and couches and nooks to cozy up with a book. Viking Cruises, starts at $83,000
Top image courtesy of Denise Johnson.
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