Literary Traveler’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide: Shopping during a Pandemic

By Jaclyn Tilks

Holiday shopping can be stressful enough, but adding a pandemic into the mix adds a whole new level of detail to consider.  Longer shipping times, shortages and earlier shipping cut-off dates are little holiday treasures gifted to us in the time of COVID-19.  Some of us are also feeling extra pressure to make this holiday special in lieu of the year that has passed.

So we’re hoping that this pandemic-inspired holiday gift guide will lift the weight off your already heavy shoulders and provide ideas for the Literary Traveler in your life.  After all, who doesn’t need a little literary magic added to their holidays this year?

Candles that smell like your favorite story: Book Scents Candles 

Book Scented Candles Gift Box
Book Scented Candles’ “Girls Night In Gift Box”

Photo credit: Book Scents Candles website

Have you ever imagined what Jamie from Outlander smells like?  Or the inside of Ravenclaw House?  With these book-scented candles, you can find out.  While considering your favorite aromas, you can peruse the series of YouTube videos featuring their unique products on their website.  Besides candles, this woman-owned business offers linen spray, shaving cream, beard oil and other book-scented items.  They also offer gift sets with both a book and its corresponding candle, all wrapped up in a lovely box presentation. 

Right now, they have flat rate shipping available on all items: a $5 shipping rate if you spend under $20 and an $8 shipping rate for orders over $20. See website for details.


Book subscription that supports black writers: Call Number

Call Number Subscription Box
“Hidden Lives” Call Number Subscription Box

Photo Credit: Call Number website

Call Number describes itself as “a library-inspired book subscription box that celebrates contemporary Black literature and authors of the African Diaspora”.  One of the many things that people are learning from the Black Lives Matter movement this year is that listening, reading and educating ourselves on the experiences of underrepresented groups is critical to making future strides toward equity in this country.  This black-owned business is a passion project for Purdue librarian Jamillah R. Gabriel.  Every quarter, Jamillah and her team curate a box with a book along with a few bookish items that pertain to that box’s book and theme. 

The different subscription box options start as low as $23/month and go up to $156/month, depending on your interests.  You can also purchase past boxes on the site that you might have missed before joining.


Personalized map for past and future trips: Conquest Maps

Conquest Map Modern Slate Option
Conquest Map Modern Slate Option

Photo Credit: Conquest Maps website

Quarantine is a great time to reflect upon great travel memories of the past and start dreaming about future adventures.  Conquest Maps allows you to personalize your home décor map and their high quality prints are mounted by hand on an environmentally-friendly cork board.  Included in the package are two different colored pin sets to differentiate between where you’ve gone and where you’re going. 

Free shipping is available in the continental United States if you spend $99 or more. See website for details.


International snack subscription: Universal Yums

Universal Yums Subscription Box
Universal Yums Subscription Box

Photo Credit: Universal Yums website

While this gift may not be book-themed, it will definitely take the edge off of the wanderlust of some of the travelers on your Christmas list.  With Universal Yums, each month you receive a delivery of snacks from a different country plus a booklet with trivia and games.  This means that you can travel from home using your five senses, while learning about a new locale.  What a special treat that will keep giving throughout the year!

This subscription service offers free shipping in the USA and has three options: $13.75 per box for 6+ snacks, $22.92 for 12+ snacks and $35.75 for 20+ snacks per box. See website for details.


Gift cards for future stays

Apartment listed on Airbnb
Apartment listed on Airbnb

Photo Credit:  Airbnb website

Some travelers have opted to stay home during the majority of 2020, while others have traveled locally or perhaps by car rather than by plane.  That’s why gift cards are a good choice for whatever the Literary Traveler in your life has decided to do this year.  The old standbys like AirBnb and VRBO are good options, but don’t forget about some of the smaller, local players, like a Bed and Breakfast or an Inn that your loved one might have missed out on this year.  Using your dollars this way not only gives your loved one permission to start dreaming of their next adventure, but it also helps to ensure that those smaller places will still be open when the time of COVID-19 is over.


Gifts from your local bookstore

Book Scented Candles Gift Box
Northshire Bookstore Manchester, VT

Photo credit: Trip Advisor website

Similar to supporting your favorite local vacation spots via gift card, consider spending your holiday dollars at your favorite local bookstores to help keep their business strong during this challenging time.  You can purchase more than just books, too.  From booked-themed merchandise to clothing, gifts, candy and toys, keep your local bookstores in mind for some of the other items on your list.  Some places even offer free wrapping, which is a real Christmas miracle for those with little ones at home. Some of the more well-established spots are also offering high quality virtual events so a gift card could be a great stocking stuffer, if the options overwhelm.  Keep an eye on final shipping dates, if your bookstore of choice is not close to home. If the holidays end up sneaking up on you, keep in mind that many stores also offer curbside pick-up. 

Here are a few of our favorites in the Boston area and beyond:

Jaclyn Tilks is a writer, teacher and marketing professional in the Greater Boston area. She is a Contributing Writer and Editor at Literary Traveler.  Her poetry has appeared in Wilderness House Literary Review. She was the recipient of a scholarship to attend the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and was a representative poet at the Boston Intercollegiate Festival. You can follow her recent adventures at her blog and on Instagram @familyfoodvalues.



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