While some may think the excitement of traveling stems from visiting new countries and immersing yourself in foreign culture, you can find the same thrill exploring your own country. As a child, my mother would pack us in the car and we’d take off to remote mountaintops, deserts and beach towns. While my sister would stay in the car as much as possible, headphones tight over her ears to tune us out, I accompanied my mom to every historical roadside sign, shimmering river and visitor center. (Don’t worry; my sister grew out of it.)
These trips fueled my love for travel, but especially for seeing the beauty in your own backyard. You don’t have to go far to experience new cultures and scenery—or to find great gifts for those who love to travel the United States.
For kids that love both learning and traveling, this is the perfect road trip distraction. Each state has its own spread complete with a map, a list of roadside attractions, cool things to do, state facts and traffic laws. As you travel from state to state, have your little one read the facts and attractions out loud to encourage both literacy and wanderlust. Reading about your destination will amp up excitement and give all of you some extra knowledge before you arrive. In the back of the book, a section called Car Trip Fun provides road trip activities to further entertain kiddos.
While we certainly love presents under the tree, giving the gift of experience can be even more unforgettable. If you plan to travel to New York City in the near future (or happen to live there!) consider taking one of the exciting On Location Tours. This award-winning company specializes in bringing small and large groups though some of the city’s best TV and movie set locations, including ones for the Sopranos, Gossip Girl and Seinfeld. Any TV or movie buff would go wild over one of these special NYC adventures. During the winter season there are tours revolving around the beautiful city Christmas lights and holiday movie hotspots too. There’s some private tour options as well in Boston and Washington D.C. The best part is they offer gift certificates that perfectly fit into stockings for a great holiday surprise.
My. Husband. Is. Obsessed. For real. This nifty all-in-one hammock is ideal for the outdoorsmen in your life. It comes in a compact—like really small—little bag than can easily fit into a hiking pack and won’t weigh you down when you are traveling by foot, and it’s truly a one-stop-shop. You’ve got your hammock, rain cover and bug cover so you can tackle whatever is coming your way at those national parks you like so much. The fabric is high-quality, so it’s quite likely that is is the only piece of gear you’ll ever need. BONUS: it fits two people, so go for a romantic overnight with your special someone in the wilderness. Better yet, send him and the little one and stay home alone to drink wine.
It doesn’t get much better than comfy, cozy reminders of our favorite places. These unique handcrafted pillows, featuring different states in the U.S., use vibrant thread to detail the state’s most prominent cities and depictions of some of their famous landmarks. When you’re at home missing life on the road, or even your home state, these pillows are a perfect reminder of the places you love. Kids will love cozying up on them in the living room, but you can also take them with you on long trips for added comfort in the car.
When you’re always on the go, it just makes sense to eat out often. This picnic tote makes it a whole lot easier for you the family to enjoy healthy meals outside the house without spending a significant amount of money at restaurants. Whether you are out for a hike, a concert in the park or a day at the beach, this tote has (almost) all you need for a nice meal. The main pocket is insulated so food will stay fresh and cool and has a barrier for beverages (take some wine along!). The sides fold down to reveal a set of two plates, glasses, fabric napkins and utensils as well as a small cutting board, a cheese knife and a corkscrew. Grab some plastic plates and utensils for the kids, slip them inside and you’ll be ready to chow down anywhere!
Traveling kids love to keep track of the places they’ve been. The red, white and blue foil design—complete with stars and stripes—gives way to a colorful world filled with accurate geographic details. While your child will already be thinking of all the places they want to venture next, this map will give them a visual for their adventures, past and present.
If you’ve ever been out on the trail with kids, you know that it ain’t easy. This one is hungry. That one has got to pee. ARE WE THERE YET? One of the toughest things when you’re hiking or camping with kids is packing enough water. There often isn’t enough room in your pack for all the water bottles and Goldfish crackers that your littles require. Problem solved when you grab a Grayl water purifier for your next trip…. simply use the local supply instead of packing the plastic variety! You can keep all of the kiddos hydrated and there will be room to spare for PB & J’s. This purifier is easy to use, and it’s an essential asset if you are a world traveler as well. Choose between three different filters depending on how you like to travel.
If you’re staying at a hotel or cabin with a freezer, the Zoku Instant Ice Cream Maker is a must. Stick the bowl in the freezer as soon as you arrive then head out for a day of fun. When you return, whip out the bowl and your ingredients (it comes with a few recipes so you’ll know what to bring) to create ice cream in about ten minutes. For a healthier option, try frozen yogurt instead. This is a fun alternative to spending money on dessert; kids will love creating their own flavors and stirring the mixture themselves. These handy bowls are perfect for an individual serving so kids don’t overeat and they come in six different colors—grab a different color for each member of the family so you can make it an after-dinner family affair.
While gift giving should be fun, sometimes practical gifts are the most important of all. Families that spend a lot of time outdoors or on the road should definitely be safer rather than sorry. Hiking through the desert or the mountains can produce little booboos—but then again, so can running at a nearby park. No matter where you go, stay safe with this road trip first aid kit from AAA. It has everything you need for medical emergencies and otherwise. In addition to bandages, tweezers and antiseptic pads, it comes with a carabineer and a whistle in case you encounter any treacherous situations.
Instead of playing the license plate game, try your luck at surviving a zombie apocalypse. The Zombie Road Trip game is the perfect way to transform your backseat into a thrilling adventure as you scramble to find a cure for the undead. As you maneuver your way across the board, roll the dice to collect ammunition and survival cards. It’s recommended for ages 12 and older, but have older kids help little ones so they can be included too. It will definitely pass the time faster than I-Spy ever did.
This product is something traveling families never knew they were missing. For foodies who love to cook on the go, there’s nothing better than PLANT’s Mobile Foodie Survival Kit. The pocket sized kit is filled with 13 different seasonings, from basil and garlic to oregano and sea salt. These moisture-resistant containers screw together to form one long canister and the seasonings are all organic so you can be sure you’re providing your family with only the best.
While Polaroids are fun to mess around with, Lomography’s instant camera is much, much more. The brown and beige exterior gives it a retro feel, but its technology is definitely not retro. Just like a DSLR, you can control the aperture, the shutter speed and the flash, allowing mini photogs to get creative with their images. Whether you’re exploring small towns or big cities, experiment with long (or multiple!) exposures, night photography or light painting. Kids will especially love adding effects to their photos with the colored gel filters and—let’s face it—although you can see digital photos right away, they don’t have the same appeal as instant film. Kids and teens will also love the 18 tips cards that come in the kit; each has a photo on the front with a different photographic technique that is described on the back. Each card also lists the exact camera settings used for the picture so children can imitate it if they aren’t camera experts.
All USA travelers need a good camera to capture their adventures across the country. To enter to win a Lomo’Instant Sanremo of your own, visit our giveaways page before November 23. And don’t forget to check out our other gift guides for your traveling family members!