We made our lists. We checked them twice. We know who’s been naughty, who’s been nice. We’re all packed and headed home, our suitcases bursting with gifts for family, friends, and basically everyone we know. We say “basically” because, well… there’s always that one person who — we realize as our cab pulls in to drop us off at Arrivals — we just straight-up forgot.
Now, it’s not that we don’t love this person. Of course we love this person. This person is great. This person could be our best friend from high school who may or may not flake on the vague happy hour plans we made, but in case she doesn’t, we need to have a gift. This person could be our parents’ neighbor, who we only remember once a year when we return home, but when we do remember, we think, “Aww, Mrs. Pearson. She’s always been so kind.” This person could be our mailman, our dad’s boss, our second cousin thrice-removed, our sister. In the end, it doesn’t matter who this person is: we love them. We momentarily forgot them, but we love them. It's OK; it happens to the best of us.
When we’re short on time as well as being short on gifts, options are limited. Enter: the Airport. In America, even in the larger hubs, airport shopping is hardly what we’d call ideal. Big chain stores. Tacky knick-knacks. Cheaply made city souvenirs. (Traveling through European or Asian airports? That’s a different story. Your airport shopping is awesome, and you don’t need our help.) Finding the perfect gift in these circumstances is hard, but not impossible. With that in mind, here are a few ideas that might help last-minute shoppers disguise the fact we picked a gift up during a layover.
1. For the Bookworm
Airport booksellers are notorious for stocking only mass-market romances and thrillers (think James Patterson, Danielle Steel, Dan Brown, and the like), although some airpots with larger bookstores have slightly better selections. Regardless, no airport bookstore is Amazon or even Barnes & Noble. That can make things tricky. You could always go with Dan Brown’s new Origin, because there is literally zero chance you won’t be able to find it, no matter which airport you find yourself traveling through. Or, you could cross your fingers and hope to stumble across one of the year’s best books, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. It’s just new, popular, and Reese Witherspoon-approved enough that we imagine even the smaller stores will be carrying it. Trust us: It’s so good, you’ll want to read it yourself on the plane. (We think that’s great idea, to be honest. Just don’t doggy-ear any pages, and no one will be the wiser.)
2. For the Beauty Product Enthusiast
Most airports will have at least one beauty store: Aveda, Kiehl’s, The Body Shop, or Sephora if you’re lucky. Nice lotions, creams, and soaps are almost always an acceptable, if impersonal, gift. It’s hard to go wrong at Kiehl’s, which sells exclusively quality products. (We’ve tried everything from their hand creams to their facial scrubs to their Midnight Recovery serums, and they’re all wonderful.) If your airport has a Sephora, perhaps seek out something (maybe the Stunna Lip Paint?) from Rihanna’s relatively new Fenty Beauty line, because it’s currently the hottest beauty brand on the planet.
3. For the Person With Working Nostrils
Many U.S. airports have a Lush, purveyors of deliciously-scented bath and beauty products, but even those that don’t likely sell bath products elsewhere. Lush remains the crème de la crème in this particular area, and their bath bombs will always be crowd-pleasers. If you can’t find a Lush, surely you can find some kind of good-smelling substitute: a jar of bath salts or a fancy Glassybaby candle, perhaps? Again, none of these suggestions scream “originality,” but at the end of a long day, who doesn’t love a relaxing bath or a $225 candle set?
4. For the Person You’re Willing to Take a Risk For
The next level up for lovers of great-smelling gifts? Perfume and colognes. Selecting a scent is a highly personal task, and we don’t necessarily recommend doing so unless you really know the recipient. That said, nearly every large airport in the country will have a selection of perfumes and colognes.
Even better: a bottle of perfume never feels like it’s a gift that came from the airport. A scent always feels like a luxury, especially if it comes stamped with the name of a high-end designer whose actual clothing we could never afford. So a scent is an option, but a risky one. If you’re set on the idea, we like Stella by Stella McCartney for the ladies and Tom Ford’s Noir Extreme for the gents.
5. For that Person Who Is Just Impossible to Shop For
Brookstone is one of those stores that, in theory, should have something for everyone, but in actuality exists to serve practically no one. It’s full of overthought, overpriced gadgets that most people would never consider buying for themselves (a perk in this case). In a way, a present from Brookstone is the quintessential “airport gift,” because it is also the quintessential “mall gift,” and what is an airport but a mall that sometimes strip-searches its patrons? Still, what a Brookstone purchase lacks in creative thought, it makes up for in price tag impressiveness. The recipient of nearly anything purchased at a Brookstone might think, “Huh, this doesn’t really speak to me as a person, but it looks like it cost a lot of money. I must really be loved!” So with that in mind, may we recommend these Cat Ear Headphones, because, really, who doesn’t wanna be Ariana Grande?
6. For the Foodie
Every airport in the world sells some kind of comestible that could, in theory, be purchased as gift. The bigger the airport, the better the options, but the fact is that for most of us, genuinely good food gifts are hard to come by. (Again, this is a U.S.-specific problem.) It’s not like a sleeve of Lifesavers or a sagging bag of Wendy’s will do the trick (though you know both would keep, at least). Instead, look for something local, like a quality box of chocolates in a decorative tin. (Absolutely no See’s!) Skip the smoked meats, condiments, and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory altogether. Just be careful: if you’re traveling, say, from New York to California with a layover in Seattle, a jar of huckleberry jam from Made in Washington is a dead “airport gift” giveaway. Or, honestly, just go with a Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich. Again: It’ll keep.
7. For the Drinker
Honestly, when it comes to can’t-go-wrong last-minute gifts, alcohol is probably your best bet. There are few people in this world who won’t appreciate a bottle of something, and if you happen to know their booze of choice, it will come across as thoughtful.
8. For the Person You Want to Impress for Some Reason
If you forgot to buy a gift for someone, chances are you’re not looking to spend a ton of money on them. That’s fine; everyone knows it’s the thought that counts, even if the thought is “I forgot about you and now have to buy something at an airport.” But if, for whatever reason, you’re looking to drop some dollars, sure, head to TUMI or Coach and pick out a nice wallet, purse, or briefcase. A $900 suitcase? Sure, you do you! You’re so generous!
9. For the Person Who Doesn’t Care if You Bought Their Gifts at the Airport
Maybe you want this person to know you got their gift at an airport? Maybe this person loves all airport wares? Maybe you’re just passive aggressive like that? Well, we can work with that. Start with a selection of fashion and gossip magazines, grab a bag of trail mix, throw in a tin of Altoids. If you’re feeling generous, search out a shot glass with the name of the city you’re in etched onto the front. Lastly, don’t forget the liter-sized bottle of Smartwater. For an extra festive touch, leave it all in the plastic bag provided to you by Hudson News, and present directly to your loved one. Merry Christmas from literally any airport in the country!
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