There’s nothing more challenging than buying a gift for someone who says they already have too much—whether the person in question is a Marie Kondo convert or a globe-trotting nomad who travels impossibly light. Thankfully, there’s one present that’s guaranteed not to weigh anyone down: The gift of travel.
Interestingly, despite all manner of new-fangled ways to book flights and plan trips, there is not yet a great way to book a flight on behalf of another person. Perhaps that’s a good thing. There is a certain etiquette to giving the gift of travel. You don’t want to plan too much of the recipient’s future trip or itinerary—what if, for example, their schedule makes it impossible to take certain days off? Nor do you want to assume too much about how, or where, they like to rest their head when they’re on the road.
But there are a few ways that you can help your loved ones set out on an adventure. A few ground rules: Don’t give a gift if it means the recipient will have to spend a bunch of money to use it. In other words, a night at the Ritz Paris is generous, but not if it means your grandson has to book a previously unplanned flight to France on his own dime. However, if you know your brother is headed Amsterdam, taking care of the first two nights of his accommodation is a different story. Second, don’t gift for your travel tastes, but rather for the recipient’s. While the idea of a night in a hostel may horrify you (it needn’t, by the way), your cousin who’s planning to backpack through Europe may be delighted by a couple free nights in a bunk bed.
With these guidelines in mind, here are some of the best ways to give the gift of travel.
Airbnb gift cards
Versatile and suited to any budget or taste, an Airbnb gift card is a good fit for all the travelers on your list, from those who would be fine sleeping in a room in a shared house to ones for whom only well-lit lofts will do. The cards can be purchased online or via retailers in the US (starting at $25) and added to an Airbnb user’s account easily to use for future trips. (Unfortunately, these gift cards are currently only available for purchase inside the US, and can only be redeemed by Airbnb users with a US payment method.)
Gift time in an airport lounge
For the frequent flier, nothing is more essential than lounge access. The app LoungeBuddy allows you to give your traveler the gift of lounge access at hundreds of airports, where they can sip pre-flight prosecco and charge their laptop away from the masses. Amounts start at $25 (probably enough for one lounge stay, but not at a mega-busy airport, where lounges tend to be a touch more expensive) and go up to $250, which would be plenty for several pre-flight sessions.
Gift your points
Have a ton of points via your credit card, airline, or alliance membership? Gift them. Most programs allow you to transfer your points, provided your recipient also has an account, and points give flexibility and a range of options and potential itineraries. Points can be used to book flights and hotels, depending on the type. However, as is always the case in the points and miles world, read the fine print to make sure there are no associated fees or penalties for doing so.
Gift an airline gift card
While booking someone’s flight may be impractical, giving them a gift card to an airline that operates in their area makes perfect sense. Among the airlines that offer them are Southwest, American Airlines, Ryanair, and Norwegian Air. (If your recipient in lives or is headed to Europe, Eurostar also offers them.) Again, read the fine print for expiration dates and other associated terms and conditions, because airlines usually have them.
Gift a pre-paid travel card
If you want to give the recipient total freedom to plan the trip of their dreams, then you can’t go wrong with a prepaid travel card like ones offered by Travelex, which can be loaded to ten different currencies and used at ATMs, hotels, restaurants. They are versatile and safer than handing over cash or a check.
This post was updated to reflect the fact that Airbnb gift cards are only available in the US.