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AFAR’s Gift Guide for Shopping Small Businesses

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L.A.’s Block Shop textile company celebrates traditional hand-block printing and supports artisan makers in India.

Courtesy of Block Shop

L.A.’s Block Shop textile company celebrates traditional hand-block printing and supports artisan makers in India.

Delight the travel lover in your life—and feel good about your holiday shopping this year—with these 25 gift ideas from small businesses around the world.

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It’s no secret that local shops and other small businesses have suffered greatly in 2020. Coronavirus lockdowns have limited capacity or outright forced nonessential businesses to close entirely, while travel restrictions around the world have cut down on foot traffic from tourists who would typically pop in to buy a souvenir. As we enter lockdown 2.0, consider supporting local makers in your own community or in your favorite destinations abroad instead of heading over to Amazon.

Need some ideas? We’ve gathered 25 travel gifts from some of our favorite small businesses and e-commerce startups from across the globe. Whether you’re looking for ideas that will bring the world to your loved one’s doorstep or items that will make them excited to explore the world once again, we have something for every type of traveler. 

Gifts that bring the world to you

The East Fork mug is available in seven different colors.

The Mug by East Fork

Buy Now: $36, eastfork.com

Travelers who collect locally made ceramics will love these handmade mugs from Asheville’s East Fork, crafted with regionally sourced clay. Run by Alex Matisse, the great-grandson of French artist Henri Matisse, and his wife Connie, East Fork also gives back to its community by supporting various racial equity organizations in western North Carolina through its “Spread Wealth, Shop Seconds” program.

The Rainbow Stripe Beaded Fringe Earrings are just one of a few dozen designs available from Lillie Nell Beadworks.

Beaded Earrings by Lillie Nell Beadworks

Buy Now: from $50, etsy.com

Holly Nolan began Lillie Nell Beadworks—named after her paternal grandmother—as a way to find a connection to her Indigenous heritage. Each set of earrings contains about 1,200 beads and takes two to four hours for Nolan to make in her Minneapolis studio. While Nolan does incorporate traditional Choctaw patterns into some of her designs, she says that because the earrings aren’t considered regalia it is appropriate for people of any background to wear them.

Galaxy Collection by Phillip Ashley Chocolates

Buy Now: $35, phillipashleychocolates.com

Securing a seat on a future Space-X flight out of your budget? Same. But while you’re saving up, let this set of six hand-painted chocolates from Black-owned Phillip Ashley Chocolates in Memphis fill the void. The “Planet Earth” chocolate is filled with walnut liqueur white chocolate ganache, roasted pistachios, and orange blossom honey in a milk chocolate shell, while the “Walk on the Moon” chocolate features wild strawberry caramel and brie flavors.

Bring a bit of art therapy to your next yoga session.

Jackson Pollock Studio Floor Mat by Yoga Zeal

Buy Now: $99, yogazeal.com

Woman-owned and L.A.-based, Yoga Zeal has a limited edition Jackson Pollock yoga mat that will have you dreaming of your next trip to MoMA during your downward dog. These luxurious mats have a soft suede-like top to prevent slipping while you sweat. Better yet? The ecofriendly mats are made with 99 percent natural rubber and 1 percent polyester. Did we mention they’re machine washable, too?

The Manuela Basket is just one of multiple designs available on Mayan Hands.

Manuela Basket by Mayan Hands

Buy Now: $40, mayanhands.com

Made by artisans in Guatemala, the baskets sold on Mayan Hands are all crafted with sustainably sourced longleaf pine needles and pajón, a native wild grass found in the Guatemalan Highlands. While you can certainly use the medium-size Manuela Basket to hold fruit on your dining table, the design is beautiful enough that you might want to hang it on your wall as an art piece.

Gifts for when you’re ready to explore the world again 

The Aviator Carry-On Plus is available in eight colors, including Scuba Navy seen here.

Aviator Carry-On Plus by Paravel

Buy Now: $275, tourparavel.com

Now’s the time to replace that worn-out suitcase with the busted handle with something new and stylish that glides through the airport with ease. Paravel’s carry-ons don’t just look beautiful—they’re also made sustainably with upcycled materials and are completely carbon neutral thanks to a new offset program the small New York–based luggage company launched this fall.

Curie makes hand sanitizer in Grapefruit Cassis, White Tea, and Orange Neroli scents.

Hydrating Hand Sanitizer Trio by Curie

Buy Now: $24 for three two-ounce bottles, curiebod.com 

Launched as a clean, aluminum-free deodorant company in 2018, woman-owned Curie now also makes gel hand sanitizer with hyaluronic acid, prickly pear seed oil, and glycerin to keep hands germ-free and moisturized. This set of hand sanitizers includes three refreshing scents—Grapefruit Cassis, White Tea, and Orange Neroli—and makes a great stocking stuffer. 

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While you’re shopping, pick up a new deodorant for yourself: For every five deodorants sold on curiebod.com, Curie donates one stick to Simply the Basics, a San Francisco–based nonprofit that provides homeless people with basic hygiene products.

In addition to Midnight Camo, seen here, these travel pouches are available in two other colorways.

The Vanity Set by Rothy’s

Buy Now: $135, rothys.com

With around 500 employees, Rothy’s is one of the larger businesses on this list. But this San Francisco–based ecofriendly shoe (and now luggage) company owns and operates its own factory in Dongguan, China, to guarantee its manufacturing process is sustainable and its employees earn a living wage. Rothy’s makes everything from laptop cases to weekender bags now, but organized travelers will love receiving its set of two travel pouches—one small, one large—knit with the same recycled marine plastic material as its popular flats and tennis shoes.

At 1.7 ounces, this sunscreen is also TSA-friendly for future travels.

Resting Beach Face SPF30 Sunscreen Serum by Everyday Humans

Buy Now: $24, everyday-humans.com

For those who love a good pun as much as they love skincare, Resting Beach Face SPF30 is a great stocking stuffer for anyone planning on being in the sun this winter. Made in Australia without parabens or sulphates, this sunscreen is invisible on all skin tones and includes hyaluronic acid for an extra dose of moisture—crucial in the dry winter months.

The Out of Office Pet Carrier comes in five colors, including the camouflage and magenta combination seen here.

Out of Office Pet Carrier by Roverlund

Buy Now: $150, roverlund.com

This durable yet stylish soft-sided pet carrier can function as a car seat during socially distanced road trips—and is also airline compliant for when you and your fur child are ready to fly again. Once you arrive at your destination, the shoulder strap converts to a leash and the bag can be used as a mobile pet bed. Suitable for both dogs and cats, the small version fits animals up to 6 pounds, while the large is best for animals up to 25 pounds.

Gifts that make travel (and life in general) less stressful

If there’s no local bookshop in your neighborhood, shop through Bookshop.org, which gives proceeds back to indie bookstores.

Goodbye Phone, Hello World by Paul Greenberg 

Buy Now: $17, bookshop.org

Know someone who needs a break from doomscrolling? (I can picture everyone out there nodding their heads yes.) The latest from AFAR contributor Paul Greenberg, Goodbye Phone, Hello World (Chronicle Books, 2020) provides 65 device-free activities that will help you and your loved ones disconnect from technology and find joy through nature, art, food, sleep, music, romance, laughter . . . and books.

This sleek vaporizer is available in four colors: Quartz, Slate, Jade, and Gold, seen here.

Series X Vaporizer by Omura

Buy Now: $100, omuracbd.com

The newly launched Omura Series X vaporizer is great for those who live in a state that has legalized marijuana or are seeking calm through CBD. Unlike other vape pens that use processed oil cartridges, the Series X uses proprietary Flowersticks (available in sativa, indica, hybrid, or CBD) that don’t include any trim or chemical additives. Its innovative heat-not-burn technology delivers precise doses, as well as a smokeless and odorless experience. 

The Trtl Travel Pillow comes in seven colors, including the original gray seen here.

Trtl Travel Pillow

Buy Now: $30, trtltravel.com

Take the discomfort out of sleeping on long flights or drives with this AFAR-approved travel pillow. It may just look like a soft fleece scarf, but inside the Trtl Travel Pillow is a slim neck-support frame that holds your head in place while sleeping upright. Available in seven different colors, the Trtl is also machine washable so you don’t have to worry about germs either.

Collagen-Infused Lip Masks by KNC Beauty

Buy Now: $25 for five, kncbeauty.com

Whether you use them at home this winter or tuck them into your dopp kit for a postflight treatment in the future, these lip masks ward off chapped lips and create instant spa vibes. Each mask is infused with glycerin, collagen, bitter cherry extract, hyaluronic acid, rose flower oil, and vitamin E.

Rico is just one of many scents available at Vela Negra.

Rico Travel Candle by Vela Negra

Buy Now: $20, thevelanegra.com

Dealing with another stressful WFH day? Transport yourself to the Caribbean instantly with a little bit of aromatherapy. Vela Negra founder Aisha Cort draws on her Afro Cuban and Guyanese heritage to inspire the scents in her candle line. The Rico candle smells like wild cassis, rhubarb, and sweet jasmine, with top notes of almond, cocoa, and vanilla. Handmade in Washington, D.C. with 100 percent vegan coconut soy wax and wooden wicks, these candles are also available in larger 10- and 20-ounce sizes, but the 4-ounce travel candle is a great stocking stuffer and can be used on future trips.

Gifts to make the outdoors cozier this winter

Stay safe and warm this winter outdoors.

NanoLoft Takibi Blanket by Rumpl x Snowpeak

Buy Now: $299, rumpl.com

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Takibi means bonfire in Japanese, an apt name for this fire-resistant blanket designed in partnership with Portland-based Rumpl and Snow Peak, Japan’s leading outdoor design brand. Made with Rumpl’s proprietary 100 percent postconsumer recycled NanoLoft insulation and Snow Peak’s fire-resistant ripstop Takibi material, this blanket is just as functional around a campfire in the backcountry as it is at your backyard firepit this winter. It easily folds up via carrying straps, and unfurls to a full 50 x 70 inches (but remains lightweight). Bonus: It comes with a cape-clip so you can wear it around your shoulders hands-free.

Cashmere Scarf by Cuyana

Buy Now: $145, cuyana.com

An oversized scarf is essential for surviving socially distanced activities outdoors this winter. Cuyana’s luxurious version is made in an Italian factory that has specialized in cashmere scarves since 1981 (so they know what they’re doing). In addition to being ultra-soft and cozy, this scarf is also Oeko-Tex certified, which means that no hazardous substances were used to make the material.

The tie-dye beanie is also available in a golden yellow color.

Parks Tie Dye Beanie by Parks Project

Buy Now: $40, parksproject.us 

Parks Project’s organically dyed Parks Tie Dye Beanie makes a cozy campside essential that’s also stylish enough for everyday use. Best yet: This gift gives back. Each purchase of a Parks Tie Dye Beanie funds one kid’s visit to a national park through the Open OutDoors for Kids Program

Just say no to instant coffee.

Geo Pour Over Coffee by Treeline Coffee Roasters

Buy Now: $18 for a 12-pack, treelinecoffee.com

Suffer through instant coffee on any camping trips or cabin getaways this summer? Enter the GEO, from Bozeman, Montana’s Treeline Coffee Roasters. These single-serving pour overs are packed with high-quality single-origin coffee and are ready to brew: All you need is a mug and boiling water—no filters or other contraptions necessary.

This beanie is available in 13 colors, including the forest green seen here.

Rutherford Beanie by Sh*t That I Knit

Buy Now: $125, shitthatiknit.com

Hand-knit in Peru with 100 percent Peruvian merino wool, this sportie winter beanie is available in 13 different colors and comes with a detachable faux fur pom-pom.

Mens Leather Winter Gloves by Manitobah Mukluks

Buy Now: $35, manitobah.com

Made by Canada’s Indigenous-owned Manitobah Mukluks, these goatskin leather gloves will keep hands warm this winter thanks to a cozy fleece lining and thermal foam insulation.

Gifts for the littlest travelers

In addition to the cobalt blue here, this blanket is also available in cream.

Bertie Baby Blanket by Block Shop

Buy Now: $148, blockshoptextiles.com 

Founded by two artist sisters in 2013, L.A.-based Block Shop celebrates and supports traditional Indian hand-block printing. Woven by hand with organic cotton by WomenWeave in Maheshwar, India, these baby blankets also can double as a picnic blanket or throw on your sofa for those without children.

Teach kids about sustainability with this solar powered flashlight.

Portable Solar Lamp by Little Sun

Buy Now: $26, goodeeworld.com; thegrommet.com

Designed by artist Olafur Eliasson, this portable flower-shaped solar lamp can be used as a nightlight indoors or worn around the neck as a flashlight outdoors. For each lamp sold, one is donated to Little Sun’s partners in rural Africa, who are working to bring solar energy to those living without electricity. One of hundreds of environmentally minded products sold on Goodee, a socially conscious online marketplace, this solar lamp comes with a personal stamp of approval from cofounder Byron Peart’s nine-year old niece who says she loves using it to read in bed at night.

Gifts to keep your hands busy in lockdown 2.0

Knitting is a great activity to take up during lockdown.

Udon Blanket Knitting Kit by We Are Knitters

Buy Now: $125, weareknitters.com

Since it looks like we’ll be spending a lot of this winter indoors again, this DIY blanket kit from Spain’s We Are Knitters will keep your crafty friends busy (and cozy once they complete the project). Rated “easy” for beginning knitters, this kit comes with everything you’ll need to make one blanket, including five skeins of Peruvian wool, two wooden knitting needles, the pattern, and a small knitter’s needle to finish the project.

Get the pattern to make this Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther doll for just $1.

Black Change Makers craft patterns

Buy Now: $1 each, lovecrafts.com

If you’d rather DIY your gift instead of buying a toy from a shop, consider downloading one of these 12 PDF craft patterns. Each of the 12 projects honors Black change makers: You can make a sewn doll of Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther or a crochet doll of Michelle Obama, for example. All profits from these downloads go toward the racial equity organizations BIPOC in Fiber and Social Justice Sewing Academy

Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication.

>> Next: 14 Travel Gifts That Made Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2020

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