Now that the holidays are here, I’m constantly seeing articles with gift ideas for every type of individual under the sun, including a ton targeting travelers.
I’m adding my own top 15 gift ideas for travelers to the mix, but here’s the catch–I’m not getting paid or pitched to promote any of these. These are all things I have asked for over the years and that I currently own and use. I’ve organized them into the categories I would use to define myself: a practical traveler, a sentimental traveler, and when I’m not out traveling, an armchair traveler.
For the traveler who is looking for useful items to take on the road.
- Plugfones. I know everyone goes crazy for the latest Bose headphones each year, but Brian introduced me to these a few years ago and I love them. They are actually designed for use in noisy work environments to help protect your ears, but beyond their noise-canceling capabilities they have the added benefit of great sound quality. And for travelers, they are flexible and pack up into a space no bigger than your Apple earbuds! Not glamorous, but super practical.
- Monopoly Travel Messenger Bag. I am on my second one of these bags–I am obsessed with it and use it all the time. It is the perfect size, the messenger format makes it hands-free, it has tons of perfectly situated pockets, and the fabric is durable. My only complaint is that the stitching and zipper of my first bag broke after significant use, and their return/exchange policy is only good for 30 days after purchase. I tried several other bags and ultimately purchased this one again!
- Water Bottle. A few years ago we switched to using these Contega Autoseal Corland water bottles for everyday use, and we haven’t looked back. Brian and I both use them at work and keep them on our night stands to quench late-night thirst, and more recently we’ve been taking them with us when we travel. I cannot in good conscience purchase bottled water–it’s also cheaper to keep refilling these on the road. I have to admit, I’d rather have one that’s smaller (I don’t need 24 oz at a time unless we’re hiking, and we have different gear for that), but otherwise this is a pretty perfect container. Brian especially likes the clip, which he uses to hang it on the seat back during flights, and we both like that these self seal vs. having a twist off or flip top that can get lost or that you have to maneuver to actually get a drink.
- Rechargeable USB. I’ll admit that as we pursue more adventurous hiking expeditions I’ll likely switch to an external battery charger that is solar-powered or that offers a few more recharges, but for now we love the Mophie Powerstations we got for Christmas a few years ago. Brian has a smaller cylindrical charger as well, but these are nice because they are light and flat. They are easy to slip into a purse or backpack pocket, and they will charge a cell phone multiple times over. Super handy when you’re in an older plane or train that doesn’t have nearby outlets.
- Scrubba Wash Bag. While we’ve had a limited number of occasions for using it to date, the times we have taken the Scrubba bag with us on a trip it has worked exactly as expected. We use it for socks and underwear primarily–super easy to follow the instructions for adding water and soap, giving them a good scrub, and then hanging the items up to dry. It doesn’t take up much room, we don’t have to take nearly as much clothing on our trips, and it’s simple and convenient enough to handle quickly in the hotel bathroom.
For the traveler who likes to reminisce about and relive past journeys.
- Scratch Off Maps. These are currently en vogue and I’ll tell you why—because they are amazing! My friend got me this one of the world for my birthday, but they come in every shape, size and geography depending on whether your traveler is sticking to a certain country, state, etc. I loved thinking about my travels as I scratched off each country I’ve visited, and I look forward to updating it as I complete each new adventure.
- Traveler Collective. I started my collection last year after finding this company on Pinterest and adding the clip and a few three-letter rings to my Christmas list. In addition to carrying the clip of travel memories, I saw some fun ideas about putting the rings on a necklace chain, etc. to keep them with you. It’s a fun and different way to catalog places you’ve been.
- Journals. Even in the era of blogging, some of us still like to document our adventures on paper. I have journals from all of my major trips in my nightstand, and I pull them out occasionally to reference something we did. And then I get sucked back into the adventure and end up spending more time reading and reliving the trip than I anticipated! One recent journal I got as a gift that I really like is this leather one from Barnes and Noble. The leather cover lets is lay flat, which is really helpful when you’re trying to write on a plane, train, etc.
- Shutterfly Giftcard. Whether you’re an amateur photographer with a nice camera or an Instagram wonder who prefers using your cell phone, Shutterfly can help you bring your travel photos to life. I put every Shutterfly coupon and gift card I receive to good use, curating photographic memories of my travels in the form of photo albums and prints, photo books and more. I love Shutterfly because your account and photo storage is free and you can work on projects at your own pace—saving them mid-project and coming back to them later.
- Calendars. I have been surprised and touched to receive calendars that someone picked for me featuring a place I have just visited or one that the person knows I plan on visiting next. This is such a simple gift idea, but for those of us reminiscing about our last trip or dreaming about our next adventure, it’s a thoughtful nod to our wanderlust that we can enjoy all year.
For the traveler who spends time dreaming of travel from the comfort of home.
- Reading Materials. While travel guides are useful leading up to a trip, I find inspiration for what that trip will be from other sources—namely magazines and books. One of my favorite magazines is National Geographic Traveler. I’ve read a number of travel-related magazines and some are so out of touch with (my) reality that I don’t find them useful or inspiring. National Geographic profiles achievable destinations accompanied by the storytelling and dynamic imagery of their other publications. I also love travel-themed books that offer new perspectives on travel—some recent favorites I’ve been gifted include Novel Destinations, Fly Solo and Travel as a Political Act.
- Home Décor. If you can’t be on an adventure, it’s sometimes nice to surround yourself with things that remind you of the wild world outside. Our home is filled with things I’ve purchased while traveling as well as items that make me feel like I’m somewhere exotic. Recent gifts I have on display include these throw pillows, some city and state dish towels, and this wall art.
- Bucket List/52 Lists. My mom bought me a bucket list journal a little while ago and I’ve already got it half filled with ideas, many of which are related to travel. This year I’ve asked for Moorea Seal’s 52 Lists, which make you think about and create lists on all kinds of topics—some, again, related to travel. I love filling empty pages with ideas!
- Jewelry. I love buying unique scarfs and jewelry on our trips because I can think back to those experiences every time I wear them. I also love the jewelry I’ve been given that makes me think about traveling, like this compass necklace and this wanderlust bracelet. A great site that I use for exotic jewelry as well as other home goods is Novica by National Geographic. This fair trade site enables people in developing countries to sell their handmade items with the support of National Geographic’s stamp of approval and network.
- Try the World. My mother-in-law bought me a year-long subscription to Try the World last year, and I have recommended it to several people since. This service sends the recipient a box in the mail at a pre-determined frequency filled with food items from different countries—one country per box. In addition to the items, each box has a beautifully designed information card with details about each product and recipes for using the items in your box! We love to cook and try new food so this was an absolutely perfect gift that I both anticipated and used throughout the year. Here are some posts showing what I received in a few of my boxes that featured food items from Sweden, Thailand, Portugal, Brazil and Morocco.
Bonus: Stocking Stuffer Ideas
- Luggage Tags. Etsy is your friend on this one. You can find a luggage tag to suit anyone’s travel or non-travel interests, from literature, to Star Wars, to sports. While necessary for checked bags, carry-on luggage often ends up gate checked as well so it’s important to have each of your bags labeled. And you know the tag will inevitably disappear at some point in your travels. One of my favorites is a set like this my friend gifted us at our wedding shower.
- Passport Cover. You can also find these multiple places online in a variety of designs. I love this leather antique map one I got for Christmas a couple of years ago. It helps me tell mine apart from Brian’s when we travel, and it keeps my passport cover protected. The only downside is that some customs agent make you remove the cover so they can run your passport.
- eReader Gift Cards. I will never be convinced that eReaders will replace old-fashioned books, but I do have to admit that eReaders are much more travel friendly. I am constantly adding books to my Kindle Paperwhite and taking it with me everywhere–on my commute, on weekend adventures, and when we travel abroad. I’ve applied an Amazon card or two to reloading my device with new literature for the road.
What are your favorite traveler-friendly products? If there are other items you use and enjoy, please let me know in the comments!