It’s that time of year again. Almost-but-not quite-Christmas. Time to panic and be completely clueless when suddenly everyone’s asking you what you want. But never fear! A quick Google and you’ll be faced with hundreds of lists just like (but obviously not as good as) this one.  I’ve tried to come up with things that you’d actually be happy to unwrap on Christmas Day (I mean sleeping bag liners are really great and useful but probably I’d struggle to work up real enthusiasm if that’s what I was opening on Christmas). So read on for my top Christmas gifts for 2015 – in no particular order!

For the 2016 Gap Year Gift Guide, head here!


The trouble with Christmas when you’re a student traveller is that it’s usually a very long way away from when you’ll actually be going travelling. It might seem daft to ask for sandals in a month when your toes would probably freeze off if you wore them outside, but trust me, you’ll appreciate them come summer. They’re so practical and versatile; they’ll do well for the beach or for sightseeing, they’re comfy and they’re also classic and will never really go out of fashion. Ideal!

You can get them from various different places – have a look on Amazon, Asos, Schuh, or Office to see who’s got the best price. I personally prefer the classic two-strap brown suede versions but there are loads to choose from.

Film camera

Most students will already own some kind of camera – whether it be an iPhone or a DSLR or a point-and-shoot digital one. But for something a bit different, a film camera is a genuinely worthy investment. It can also be great to get some physical photos to remind you of a trip or an event. For travelling it’s good because you are likely to be much less precious about a mechanical rather than digital piece of equipment, and film cameras are going to be less of a target than hefty and expensive looking Nikon or Canon cameras.

For someone who isn’t that clued up on photography, I’d really recommend going for a Pentax – they’re fairly easy to use and yield really good results. Have a look on eBay; expect to spend around £50 for a decent one. The Pentax ME Super is the one that I would recommend looking for.

Just to demonstrate how good they are, below are some images shot using a Pentax (and OK the photographer for the first set was my very talented artist friend Peony – but the second set are shot by another friend who usually runs in the opposite direction from art).


Cheeky plug: check out Peony’s etsy site here!


You may laugh, but bumbags are SO practical for all occasions – be it a summer backpacking around South America or a night out in a questionable club (no more losing your keys when they slip out of your bra/shoe!). They’ve somehow turned into a fashion item in the past couple of years, so have a look out for some unique ones in your local vintage shop – I am personally a big fan of the retro 80s multi-coloured ones, but they will usually have some plain and practical ones as well. But if you fancy something a bit more out there, Beksies Boutique do some amazing ‘luxury’ ones which I am currently lusting after – check out this funky patterned one:

geometric beksies boutique bumbag

image from

Portable speakers

Speakers are one of those items that come in handy in a lot of situations. A hostel room, a long-distance coach (if your fellow passengers are very tolerant), or when you’re getting ready to go out somewhere – you can’t go wrong if you’ve got the option of music. When you’re travelling, though, it’s definitely something that you can only afford to take with you if they’re compact and durable. So here are a few that I’ve scouted out as being the best on the market (i.e. good value, practical size to take on a trip, but without compromising on sound too much for when you’re at home!):

Firstly the Betron portable pop up speaker. It’s at the budget end of the market at only around £12.99 (Amazon price), and it’s perfectly pocket sized. Works with Bluetooth or an audio cable and can connect to any brand of phone or iPod you care to name. Comes in loads of different colours and dead easy to use.

Seondly, JBL Go rechargable bluetooth speakers. One of the lightest good-quality speakers out there, I think these actually look pretty cool and they’re also not too expensive coming in at about £25. They get a pretty good review on the Gadget Show blog and is featured in their list of the best bluetooth speakers to take to festivals – always something worth paying attention to!

Last but not least, at the more pricey end you’ve got the creative Muvo mini wireless speakers – slightly bigger than the other two, but also gives out better sound. It’s weather resistant and fairly durable, but does come in at an RRP of £49.99. Have a look on either Amazon or for a slightly better deal.

Sarong or scarf

A large scarf or sarong can be used for so many different things, so it’s the perfect Christmas gift. Until you go travelling it can serve as a cool throw for your bed or a cover for your chest of drawers, you can use it as a scarf to wrap up in winter or a beach cover up in summer. And when you’re travelling they are the perfect multi-use item, whether you need to cover your head in a temple or your shoulders in a church; if you need a long skirt or as a picnic blanket – seriously, number 1 crucial item for backpacking. The only slight problem is that the best value you’re going to get is probably in another country… but until then, why not make do with this one from Wheels On Fire Design, listed on Etsy?

Travel towel

Microfibre towels have got to be one of the best inventions for travel. Quick drying and compact, they take up a lot less room in your luggage than a regular towel, but they’re also perfect for uni as well. No more waiting three days for your towel to dry in your cold, damp student house – hooray!

You can get them in all kinds of colours and patterns – I really like the sunset one from Gap Year Travel Store.


Scratch map

One of the best ways to keep track of your trips is a scratch map. It’s cool to see where you’ve been, and to suss out where you’re going to go next! If you’ve never seen one before, it’s basically a world map with a foil overlay, which you can scratch off when you’ve been to that country. There are loads of different types that you can get now, so definitely have a browse online.

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When it comes to e-readers, you can’t beat a Kindle. And while on the one hand I will always prefer the feel of a proper book, Kindles are just the only sensible choice for when you’re going on a trip and you need to save on space. Plus, books are heavy. Maybe take one real book with you to swap in hostels, and the rest just download on your Kindle.

I think the Paperwhite is best – it’s the most book-like, anyway – but it depends whether you want it just for books or whether you would find it useful to have a tablet as well. You can get them all on Amazon (obviously) but it’s also worth having a look on eBay because you can quite reliably get second hand ones there.

If you’ve already got a Kindle, something else worth looking into is getting a cool case for it. has some awesome designs and there’s loads to choose from – but they are a bit pricey so definitely a good thing to get for Christmas. I really like the designs from Omid Scheybani – and they’re appropriate to this blog as well because they’re all travel-based!



And that’s it! Those are my top recommendations for this year’s Christmas list. I hope they have been helpful, to mums and students and travellers everywhere.

Happy shopping!