The Altitude Guide to Holiday Shopping

We look beyond coffee mugs and key chains to find one-of-a-kind gifts you can pick up on your trips for your whole holiday list.

This holiday season, do double duty and get your shopping done on the go. By picking up the ultimate souvenirs on your travels, you’ll skip those last-minute store lineups and boost the wow factor of your presents.

Three great cities, three great types of gifts

While in London…

Stationery is a great practical gift because it doesn’t take up much room in your luggage, and you can also mix and match colours to create a distinctive set. A third of London designer Lizzie Evans’ SMUG is devoted to stationery. The store features simple yet beautiful objects that are either made or curated by Evans. For the store’s holiday season, designer Esme Winter worked with a professional marbler to create a line of boxes, tags and wrapping papers that are awash in vibrant patterns. It’s the ideal way to wrap a gift from the new series of affordable leather bags, which resemble envelopes, by London’s M. Hulot.

While in Amsterdam…

Thinking of Holland is the place where expats shop when looking for items to bring back home. It’s also where Dutch professionals pick up business gifts for trips abroad. Among the store’s impressive offerings is a range of fine printed scarves and pocket squares by Barentsz Urban Fabric, each decorated with an illustrated map of the city’s streets and canals. Take it up a notch and purchase a pair of handmade silver cufflinks. Designer Seroj de Graaf drew every historic building along the Herengracht canal from number 1 to 77 in detail, and they can be found in miniature on these cufflinks.

Photo: “I Scrubs” by Jacob A. Riis (1891-1892), Museum of the City of New York

While in New York…

Museum shops are great places for gifts, and the American Museum of Natural History Gift Shop has inspiring and educational toys for children of all ages. The shop also sells sustainable toys, including stuffed likenesses of endangered species (like the red fox or snow leopard). For older kids, there are unique science kits that range from dig-it-out excavations to make-your-own volcanoes. For adults, the Museum of the City of New York has sleek jewellery created by local designers and also sells museum prints of photographs, maps and city drawings created over the past 100 years.

Some tips to keep in mind

Great souvenirs have a soul, and they tell a story about the place you’ve visited. Gifts with a historical or cultural connection allow you to share what you’ve experienced. If you’re stuck, Pinterest really is a great place to get local ideas. Also, resist the offer to have your purchases wrapped in-store. Although normally a timesaver, it only causes hassles once you arrive at customs.