Category Archives: Guides & Tips

Affordable Holiday Gift Ideas for 2020

Introduction

It’s an annual tradition on many blogs: lists of gift-giving ideas! They’re fun to pull together, can actually be useful to the reader, and are generally a perfect opportunity to insert some affiliate links LOL. I know items #1 and #3 are true for this contribution to a parade of similar posts, and I certainly hope that’s also the case for item #2.

These are all items I’ve personally used over the years. I try to give you a little information about each based on my experience with them.

Gift Ideas for the Traveler

We’re not traveling much right now in late 2020, particularly internationally, but at some point that will change. While we’re waiting to get back on the road or in the air, start planning ahead with some helpful gadgets and resources.

Belkin 3-Outlet Surge Protector with 2 USB Ports

I have one of these surge protectors, and it’s a great option when traveling. Hotel rooms – and airports – never seem to have enough outlets, so having some sort of power strip is essential.

It’s nicely compact for packing coming in at 5″ long, although it will stick out about 2.25″ from the outlet which can add to the challenge if you have to use one that’s behind a piece of furniture. But still one of the best options out there for the purpose.

Buy from Amazon.com

Streetwise Street Map

Yes, we all use our phones for directions, but I am a great believer in having a backup plan. I’ve been using Streetwise maps for years and will continue to do so. They are very compact, sturdy, and offer exceptional detail for the size.

Each of these maps folds – accordion style – to 4″ wide x 8.5″ high. The unfolded size can vary by the city. For example, my London map (one of the largest) unfolds to 32″ x 8.5″ while Baltimore is 19″ x 8.5″. But they’re very easy to use without completely opening them up: you can sort of flip through the panels while keeping it mostly closed for discreet reference.

The maps themselves are highly detailed with street names, key landmarks, parks, transit, and other important highlights. A street index is also included. Depending on the city, you might also get a transit map (think London’s Tube), a close-up view of a highlight area with even more detail (for example, Downtown Los Angeles), or an airport map.

The publisher has also offered “Artwise” versions in the past for certain cities that focus on museums and other arts organizations. As you might expect, these tend to be for locations such as London, Chicago, Florence, and New York City. Amazon still has a few of them, albeit at inflated prices.

The printing is high quality, and I’ve been impressed with how much they fit into the space in such a clear manner. Each of these maps is printed on sturdy stock and is laminated on both sides for long life. I have several that I’ve used for well over 10 years without any problems.

The biggest drawbacks with these maps are

  • While the coverage is worldwide, they’re limited to larger cities. There’s also a few specialized transit versions such as for the Paris Metro, New York/New Jersey transit, and European rail.
  • Inventory – whether on Amazon or at brick-and-mortar shops – varies a LOT. You can see the current offerings at the company’s web site (interestingly, it appears it’s been recently purchased by Michelin), but they don’t sell direct to consumers. You can use the provided ISBNs to hunt for the latest versions at your preferred retailer.
  • The print can be small, especially on the street name labels.

Buy from Amazon.com

Pimsleur Language Courses

I genuinely believe it’s good manners to try and learn a few things in the language of the country you’re visiting. Even if it’s as basic as hello, thank you, and, of course, where is the toilet.

For comfort in speaking and predictable acquisition of basic language skills, I have had great success with Pimsleur products. The method operates on a system of listening, response, and repetition in 30-minute sessions. You build up day by day listening to and mimicking native speakers. These are oral courses – there are no reading or writing components for most languages.

They have a wide range available, including English for native speakers of several different languages. I’ve tried a variety – including German, Japanese, French, and Korean – to gain some confidence in basic interactions during my travels.

The big plus for me has been the speaking practice, which has always been my weakness when studying languages. I find I have to speak out loud to get my brain around the feel of a new language, and that’s something tools such as Duolingo do not really offer.

Amazon mostly offers Pimsleur courses on CD from what I’ve seen. Depending on the language, you might find them packaged with various numbers of lessons, from 16 to 30.

I will also note that you can get Pimsleur products on iTunes. You can usually buy a single lesson as good way to see if the method works for you.

Buy from Amazon.com

Ideas for the Skincare Aficionado

Gua Sha Tool

After seeing one too many YouTube videos on the topic, I finally gave in and purchased some gua sha tools to try out the technique. I’m not ready to ascribe to all the anti-aging claims some practitioners tout, but it’s very relaxing as part of a nighttime routine and has helped with some puffiness.

There’s approximately a zillion options out there given the popularity of it, but this is one that I’ve been using. This tool has a classic shape perfect for facial gua sha, feels good in my hand, and is smoothly finished.

Buy from Amazon.com

Innisfree Jeju Orchid Eye Cream

I first purchased this in Seoul on a trip a few years ago. Happily, I discovered I could get it in the States courtesy of the booming Korean skincare trend!

I love this product: it’s hydrating but not oily or heavy. I have found it to be an excellent everyday eye cream as it absorbs quickly. Perfect for the dry winter months.

Buy from Amazon.com

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Facial Cleanser

This gentle facial cleanser is an excellent option for anyone with dry or sensitive skin. I have used it as my 2nd cleanse product (after makeup removal) as part of my evening routine.

I would describe this cleanser as a creamy liquid, and it comes in a pump bottle. In my experience, a single pump is usually plenty per use, so it can offer excellent value. A bottle can easily last several months.

It’s free of soap, sulfates, and fragrance. My skin has definitely become more sensitive as I’ve grown older, and this cleanser has never irritated it at all. The ingredients include some key ceramides and niacinamides.

Buy from Amazon.com

Closing

I hope I’ve given you a few ideas to explore. Remember: you don’t have to spend enormous amounts of money to get that perfect gift. Sometimes it just takes some thought and creativity.

Affordable gift giving ideas for 2020 - beauty and travel.