Jan Vašek/Pixabay

Each of the gift cards comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. Here’s the rundown.

Looking to give the gift of travel to someone? Travel gift cards and gift certificates can make for a generous present for anyone who wants to wander the world but has a tight budget. However, not all cards are equal. Below is some information that can help you understand the differences between the types of travel gifts and how to find the right one for your situation.

Keep in mind, travel cards provide the gift of experience. That’s why they’re so great.

As you consider if you want to give a travel gift card or certificate, keep in mind that one of the reasons they work so well is that rather than giving someone a gift that might ultimately wind up on a shelf or in their closet, you’re giving an experience. It is something that they’ll remember and could even help them change their life or think about the world differently.

This insight can help you decide what kind of gift card to buy for someone. Consider what you know about the person, including skills that they’re looking to become more proficient in, an adventure they’ve already wanted to try, or a luxury aspect of a vacation that they wouldn’t splurge on for themselves.

Types of travel gift cards and gift certificates

A little creativity can go a long way when deciding what kind of gift card to give. It personalizes your gift and makes it more thoughtful.

As you start to consider how to help someone who wants to travel, it is useful to think about all of the types of travel cards that can support their goals to explore. There are almost as many kinds of gift cards and gift certificates as there are aspects to the travel experience overall.

What are some of the kinds of certificates you’ll find? There are gift certificates to hotels and Airbnb options, certificates to cruise lines and all-inclusive resorts, and gift certificates for use on many different airlines. It can also be a gift certificate to a specific excursion like an amusement park or a performance, a gift card to a restaurant in the traveler’s itinerary, or a gift card to an outdoor adventure (think rafting, skiing or skydiving).

If you decide to get more creative, you can also find gift cards to a class that provides a deeper immersion into the culture of the place you’re visiting, or a gift like a car rental gift certificate or Uber/Lyft certificate that will help with ground transportation. Lastly, it is also possible to find gift cards that offer the recipient a choice in how they want to use it. There are travelers websites that provide a host of items ranging from packing items and things that will make your trip easier, to books or other kinds of travel planning services.

The pros and cons of different types of travel gifts

Given the range of ways that you can give someone the gift of travel, its not surprising that each one has its own pros and cons to be considered. Generally speaking, there are some things that you’ll want to pay attention to as you’re making your choice. For starters, read the fine print so that you can be sure to understand if there are any fees associated with your gift and if there’s an expiration date. You’ll also need to see if there are any card restrictions – such as dates like holidays when the card can’t be used.

On a positive note, there is a range of things to look for in a card that helps make your gift more welcomed and useful for the recipient. Consider how flexible the nature of the card is. If people can choose from a range of products, restaurants, flight times, accommodations, transportation options or travel experiences, it is more likely to help them.

Other ways to use travel gift cards

Werner Heiber/Pixabay

In addition to purchasing a travel gift card as a present for someone, the cards can come in handy in a lot of other ways. The right kind of gift card can be purchased as a unique part of an employee incentive program to encourage more productivity or as a thank you for someone on staff who has gone above and beyond.

If you plan to purchase a card as an employee incentive, things can get tricky. Since you may not know exactly who is going to use the card, it is important to keep the card either general (think airfare or a certificate for a general restaurant) or for a website with a range of products the user can choose from.

Gift cards or gift certificates can also be purchased by nonprofits as part of a fundraiser to be auctioned off or included as a prize in a raffle. Keep in mind that when purchasing a certificate or gift card for nonprofit use, there may be tax breaks connected to the purchase and guidelines about how exactly they can be used.

A deeper dive – Related reading from the 101: