Best Travel Gifts for the Holidays

Give without busting your budget

Young couple traveling to Germany on vacation GettyImages-698094750

Research shows that experiences satisfy far longer than things. So if you really want to make an impression this holiday season, don’t give stuff—give travel. These three tips will help you navigate in the right direction toward the ideal gifts for travelers on your holiday shopping list.

Buy a Travel-Themed Gift Card

Most major airlines and hotel companies offer gift cards or certificates, but for a more personal touch, consider tour operators that specialize in themes. For example, active types might appreciate a gift card from a tour operator such as Butterfield & Robinson or Backroads that organizes cycling, hiking, and walking trips around the world. Tauck offers small-ship and river cruises for those seeking a more intimate cruise experience. Some travel agencies, such as Andavo and Regency (members of the Virtuoso luxury travel network) and Liberty Travel, sell gift certificates and provide professional booking assistance.

Go to Consumer Reports’ 2018 Holiday Central for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more.

Keep Your Miles to Yourself

Transferring frequent-flyer miles can be a costly gift but not a great value. United Airlines, for instance, charges $7.50 for every 500 miles transferred, plus a $30 processing fee, which comes to $480 to gift 30,000 miles—only enough for a domestic round-trip flight.

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Hotel programs make it easier to use points as gifts for travelers and don’t charge hefty fees, says Zach Honig, editor in chief of But some cap the amount: Marriott, for example, won’t let you transfer more than 50,000 per year, which would cover one to six nights depending on the property.

Give a Safety Net

You can make sure the globe­trotters in your life are prepared for a medical emergency abroad with MedjetAssist, a medical transport program for travelers. You can buy an annual membership ($270 for an individual or $395 for a family) or cover as little as a week ($99 or $195). Unlike basic travel medical insurance, which usually covers transportation to the closest hospital that can provide adequate care, MedjetAssist will take you from almost anywhere in the world to the hospital of your choice in your home country. All that’s required is that you’ve been admitted to a hospital and are 150 miles or more from home. There are no limits on ­total medical transport expenses. (A more restrictive membership is available for people ages 75 to 85.)

Editor’s Note: A version of this article also appeared in the December 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Donna Rosato

As a journalist on the special projects team at Consumer Reports, I investigate issues that affect consumers' health, finances, privacy, and safety. My particular focus is on helping people untangle problems with medical bills, cover steep healthcare costs, finance the skyrocketing cost of college, and manage student debt. I was previously a writer at Money magazine, wrote for The New York Times and was a business reporter at USA Today. If you have a tip, follow me on  Twitter (@RosatoDonna).