What Does a Road Traveler Want for Christmas?
Gift shopping for campers or full-time travelers can be tough because they have limited storage space and are constantly changing environments. It’s also hard to know what they’d actually use, since many already have a routine with their own setup.
Those are great reasons to consider a virtual gift for your van dwelling or road traveling friend. A gift that won’t end up in the trash or sit unused in a dusty corner of a van!
I collected these virtual van life gift ideas from my own experience on the road. There was a time and place where I either wished I’d had one of the below gifts, or was really grateful I already did.
Note: This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links
Best Van Life Gift Cards
1. Hotel.com or AirBnB Gift Card
You may think a lodging gift card sounds like the opposite of what a van lifer would want–after all, they travel around with their home!
But any road traveler will agree that sometimes, there’s nothing better than a big bed with fresh linens and a hot shower. It’s hard to justify spending money on hotel or AirBnB accommodations. But a hotel or AirBnB room feels that much more luxurious when you’re used to a small, crowded living space. Help your nomadic friend make that justification 🙂
Also, from my experience, it’s hard to find good camp spots that feel safe in big cities. I usually resort to camping in hotel parking lots. Oftentimes, road travelers want to spend a few days exploring a new city. This is a great time to have a gift card to use at a hotel or AirBnB.
2. Harvest Hosts Gift Card
Here’s a different type of lodging gift card–camping at vineyards, breweries, farms and more! Harvest Hosts is a rapidly growing organization that’s becoming popular in the van life community.
An annual membership is just $99 (although they’re running a 20% off holiday discount) and provides free camp spots at safe and beautiful locations across the country. Sometimes using apps to find free boondocking spots doesn’t cut it, especially closer to the east coast. It’s an extremely convenient resource when you’re new to an area and can’t find a good camp spot.
Plus, it feels good to help support local farms, wineries and breweries (and make new friends, and probably eat and drink really well!).
3. Lyft or Uber Gift Cards
A Lyft or Uber gift card can be very handy at unexpected times. Maybe your van breaks down. Or you want to run into town without risking losing your camp spot. Or, you want to explore the downtown of a crowded city but it doesn’t have any parking.
For example, when I was exploring Las Vegas, I would’ve loved having a gift card to Lyft or Uber. Parking along the strip was impossible, so I left my van in a Planet Fitness on the outskirts of the strip and then just took a Lyft.
Whatever the reason, it’s really nice to have a backup ride ready to go at any time. For van dwellers, it’s usually not as simple as turning on your engine and driving away. If we want to relocate, we have to secure all belongings, properly lock up and do our full “get ready to drive” routines. But having a quick ride into town could save us a lot of hassle at times.
4. Calm App Gift Card
It’s no secret that mental health can be an ongoing struggle for many van dwellers. While solo time out in nature can do wonders for healing the mind, sometimes extra guidance is deeply needed.
The Calm App is a wonderful app designed for anything from helping you fall asleep through bedtime stories or calming sleep sounds, to meditating or relaxing with guided breathing exercises.
As someone who has been diagnosed with “generalized anxiety” (I mean, who doesn’t have anxiety at times?) I’ve found this app to be exactly as advertised…calming. I’ve had moments where I’m perfectly calm out in the desert, then out of nowhere a wave of anxiety sweeps over me.
Being able to plug into a calming, guided session of deep breathing helps bring down those stress levels ASAP. And pair it with a golden desert sunset? Now that’s just heaven.
5. Audible App Gift Card
Audio books are perfect for long caravan drives or meal-prepping times. Audible is
an excellent audio books app. Some people still prefer a good old-fashioned book over the audio version, but I find myself fully engaged in–and actually finishing–so many more books through audio.
Whether you’re traveling solo or with a partner, it makes for a great entertainment option.
6. Laundry Care Gift Card
Dealing with laundry on the road can be a big pain in the butt. Many laundromats have their own “laundry card” you must purchase in order to use their machines. This means you waste money on buying a laundry card, then adding money to it so you can actually do your laundry. And guess what? If you put too much money on your card and don’t end up using it all, it may never get used since that card may be for a laundromat you won’t return to.
Give the gift of clean laundry! The Laundry Care gift card can be used at all Laundry Care laundromats across the country. You can rest assured knowing that if you’re visiting one of these, you won’t need to buy a new card or have to figure out a new laundromat system.
7. Bouncie Device & App
The Bouncie app comes with a device that discreetly plugsinto your vehicle’s OBD2 (on-board diagnostic’s port) and tracks your vehicle’s GPS coordinates for $5/month. It’s a great safety measure should you ever get lost, separated from your vehicle, or worse–have your vehicle stolen.
Install the Bouncie app on your phone so you can track coordinates and review the history (going years back!) of where you’ve driven. This has been a great tool when trying to map out everywhere I’ve been and estimate my total gas costs. It was also really helpful when I spent a full day at a coffee shop, only to leave and not remember where I parked! I hopped on the app to locate my van.
The most important reason I have Bouncie, though, is so my family members can track my whereabouts at any given moment. I’m constantly on the move and my schedule is very unpredictable so it’s near impossible to text or call them about my new locations every time. It gives all of us peace of mind.
8. MosaLingua Gift Card
Why not learn a new language while on the road? MosaLingua offers audio language lessons in all sorts of languages. It’s a great way to stimulate the mind on long drives or perhaps help you prep for an international trip.
9. AllTrails Gift Subscription
AllTrails is a super robust app for sharing trail guides, hiking trails and camping spots. I was using AllTrails before even living in the van to scope out hiking trails.
This app is super handy for road travelers looking for new places to hike and explore. My favorite part is reading recent reviews that share trail conditions, level of foot traffic, trash, and overall experience.
10. National Parks Pass
Checking out national parks is like a rite of passage for road travelers. Help them save potentially hundreds on entrance fees with the national parks pass! An annual pass costs just $80 (entrance into the Grand Canyon is $30 alone–let that sink in).
With 63 national parks across the US, you’re looking at over $1,500 in park fees. Especially after increased foot traffic due to COVID-19, many parks have increased their fees, making this pass extra helpful.
11. Hulu or Netflix Gift Cards
There’s a good chance your van dwelling friend already has a subscription to one of these streaming services–but if not, it’s worth considering. Sitting in your van watching shows on a rainy afternoon can be just as fulfilling as hiking around in the outdoors.
Both Netflix and Hulu offer the capability to download shows over Wi-Fi. I’ve downloaded movies and shows while connected to Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or gym. It’s nice watching them later from my van, knowing I’m not sucking up loads of cellphone data.
12. Jiffy Lube Gift Card
The great thing about Jiffy Lube is that it’s everywhere! Sometimes you need a quick oil change, tire rotation, or a (hopefully) small tune-up. You can stop through just about any big city and know you’ll have access to a Jiffy Lube.
13. Lowe's Gift Card
Similar to Jiffy Lube, Lowe’s stores are located across the country and are convenient stops for tools or van build supplies. I’d recommend a Lowe’s gift card over, say an Autozone gift card for a couple of reasons:
- Autobody shops like Autozone can be very hit or miss in terms of having the tools you need for your specific camper van. They mostly specialize in mainstream rigs, so I’ve often come up empty-handed there.
- Lowe’s has lots of supplies that will be helpful for the build aspect of your van (rather than the automative aspect). Especially if something in your build breaks, Lowe’s is more likely to have the right supplies.
14. Whole Foods Gift Card
A good ‘ol fashioned gift card to a grocery store is sure to get used! Groceries are one of the toughest parts of van life to keep up with. Extremely limited fridge or cooler space means frequent, small grocery trips or only buying non-refrigerated foods.
Whole Foods is a great option because it has an impressive selection of pre-made foods and organic options. It can accommodate those of us on a less “traditional” diet.
Just about all of these gift cards can be emailed virtually, so no need to worry about snail mailing these! Unless you’re lucky enough to be seeing your van dwelling friend this holiday season, just slip it into their stocking!