25 Actually Useful Travel Gifts

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If you like clever and useful travel items and want to pass those along to someone you love, this is the list for you. Unlike 99% of the travel gift guides I’ve read, it comes packed with gifts that travelers can actually use (read: not scratch-off maps or necklaces with pendants shaped like the traveler’s home state). If you want to receive all the “this is so useful!” points in gratitude this holiday season, rest assured this is the list for you. I’ve added a handy little price guide so whether your budget is a lot or a little, there is something here for you!

 

1) Packing cubes: $ – $$

If your favorite traveler doesn’t have these, now is the perfect time give the gift of organization. If you’re not familiar with them, packing cubes are essentially little fabric zippered drawers that you put in your travel bag to organize clothes and various accoutrements. They are the #1 travel accessory that I believe everyone should have. When I got mine, I was still skeptical…until I used them. They make packing, finding things in your bag, and getting dressed about 1000000x easier.

Now that these are more popular, there are about a gazillion choices available, so I’ll just list my favorites (lightweight, tough, water resistant and a bit more spendy), some neat upgrades, a budget option, and a link to packing cube shopping land. One tip: make sure to either get a set or a few different sizes; just like drawers, you’ll want some for smaller things like socks and underwear, a medium size for shirts, and a larger size for pants and jackets.

2) A Kindle (and case): $$ – $$$

If your favorite traveler is a reader, there is no better gift than a Kindle. Yes, it’s not the same as a real paper book. But when you realize that you can bring about 50 books in a tiny package and buy more as you go and it has a backlit screen for night reading and a super long battery life….it starts to get really exciting. Give the gift of books on the road this holiday season with a Kindle. There are a couple different versions and the price difference essentially comes down to this: if you don’t want ads (they call them special offers) to display on the sleep screen, it’s going to cost more. You can also elect to get a cellular card (also costs more), which means that you can download books nearly anywhere in the world without a wifi connection. I got this in my first Kindle and found that I barely used it, so I don’t recommend spending the extra money. Additionally, if you want a super cheap version, Amazon is always having sales on their Kindle Fire. HOWEVER, this is a tablet, meaning the screen is just like any other screen in your life. The point of all the other Kindles is that they have a special screen that is easier on your eyes and is meant to resemble a book, so it can be read even in the sun. So if you can afford it, that’s the far better option (listed below):

Basic Kindle: $$

  • Comes with and without ads ($20 difference)
  • Black or white casing
  • Wifi connectivity
  • Audible

Kindle Paperwhite: $$

  • Comes with and without ads ($15 difference)
  • Black casing
  • Wifi connectivity, option for cellular connectivity (+$53)
  • Audible
  • Higher resolution screen
  • More storage (starts at 8 GB, goes to 32 GB (+$20))
  • Waterproof!

Kindle Oasis: $$$

Basically the Cadillac of Kindles.

 

Don’t forget to also include a book!

 

3) Water bottle $

Give the gift of hydration with a water bottle that will last your traveler a lifetime. With this super classy water bottle (I love mine!), you can get free water refills across the US, save a ton of money, and save a ton of plastic! Win-win-win.

 

4) Airbnb gift card $ – $$$

You know what’s super awesome? Free accommodation! This season, grab an Airbnb gift card to give your favorite traveler the gift of free stays (or unique experiences) in neat places. If you or said traveler are not already signed up with Airbnb, use my referral code to get $40 off your first stay!

 

5) Airline miles/ticket $ – $$$

Get your traveler (or soon to be traveler) out there with the gift of airline miles or a ticket from your favorite airline!

 

6) Steripen water filter $$

Turns out, the tap water in a lot of countries outside the US is not safe to drink. Stay safe and giardia-free on the next camping trip or travel adventure with the super easy to use, USB rechargeable Steripen. I own the earlier version that takes batteries and used it all over SE Asia and while camping with zero issues.

 

7) Deuter ACT Trail 28 L backpack $$

One of the best small-sized travel backpacks out there. Great support, cute bag, free raincover, and the best part is that you can open it from the top AND from the front!

 

8) Toiletry bottles/3-11 bag $

Okay, this one basically has no sexy to it. But! These are very useful items for transporting just enough toiletry items for a trip. If you want to add a nice touch, fill one (or more) of the bottles with your gift recepient’s favorite lotion.

 

9) Luggage/dog tags $

For a simple but very useful gift, select and print a classy dog tag for your traveler to attach to their bag with their address and phone number. Not only do these beat the paper ones, they are super durable, super customizable, and super cheap to make. This great company offers a lot of different designs that are super nice-looking.

 

10) Silk eye mask $

Useful for sleeping on the plane, in new places, and in places where the sun may not go down when you’d like it to (ahem, Alaska). I have this one and love it. Though cheap, this is an invaluable part of a traveler’s kit.

 

11) Pashmina scarf $

These large, warm, and versatile scarves come in every color and pattern under the sun. They are useful not only as a scarf, but as a shawl and an impromptu airplane blanket. They are also quite nice for dressing up any outfit, and an accessory that many travelers (this one included!) swear by. If you know someone who gets cold on planes, this is the gift for them!

 

12) Turkish towel $

Far superior to those microfiber towels, Turkish towels are light, easily packable, and made of cotton. They can be used as a towel, beach blanket, shawl, beach cover up, and a scarf. And they are getting increasingly trendy in homes as regular bath towels too!

 

13) Chrysalis chardi $$

Ethically made in Canada, this piece of clothing is the darling of female travel bloggers everywhere. Essentially, it’s a very nice piece of fabric with strategically placed buttons so you can wear it 8 different ways: as a dress (3 ways), scarf (and headscarf), shawl, shirt, coverup (2 ways). Being able to wear it multiple ways means your favorite traveler has to bring less clothing overall. Less clothing, lighter bag, more freedom!

 

14) Stylish Convertible Tote Bag/Backpack $$

If you’re looking to get your traveler a super stylish tote/carry on/travel bag that is made by a responsible company and is super versatile, look no further than the United by Blue convertible tote bag. It goes from being a great-looking tote bag that can be used every day for work to converting to a backpack so it can go wherever your traveler goes. At 25 liters, it has enough room to transport a 13″ laptop and enough little pockets to organize all your pens and do-dads. It even has water bottle pockets on each side!

If you want more colors, Fjallraven also makes a very similar tote/backpack (it’s 10 liters though). Both of these are great options for packable daypacks as well!

 

15) Menstrual cup $

If the female traveler in your life does not already have one those these, I have two words to say about them: Life. Changing. They make periods so much cheaper and easier – no more worrying about buying menstrual products in a new country!

 

16) Plug adapter $

The electrical prongs in others countries are different, so grab your traveler an all-in one (and USB hub) plug converter that works anywhere in the world!

 

17) Power bank $

There is nothing worse than staring at that dying battery symbol in a foreign country when you really, really need your phone to work right now. Prevent this situation by gifting a power bank. They come in a variety of capacities (how many times they can charge your phone), but one of the most useful ones I’ve seen is a plug + power bank. You plug it into the wall and it charges itself while it also charges your USB-powered electronics. Win-win.

If you’re looking for a super tiny (and cheaper) version for those one-time emergency phone charges, grab this tiny lipstick-sized Anker power bank.

And for those gift-receivers that you know will forget to charge their power banks and will need to use them to charge a phone up to 7 times, grab this ultra-high capacity power bank.

 

18) Plant watering stakes $

For the plant and travel-lover in your world, ensure that their plants don’t kick the bucket while they are gone on their two-week trip with these terracotta plant watering stakes. I use them for my high-water requirement plants while I travel. Just put the stake in the plant pot, fill a wine bottle, invert, and put the opening of the wine bottle into the stake. The plant waters itself!

 

19) Buff $

Another fabric item with a million uses, the buff comes in a million colors and can be used as a scarf, headscarf, headband, hat, and face cover, to name a few. I also love my wool version, which is an easy-to-pack but very warm scarf in the winter.

 

20) Lush gift card $ – $$

Lush cosmetics makes a solid version of nearly every toiletry that exists. This means less of a mess in the travel bag and that these toiletries don’t contribute to the TSA liquid allotment. They have everything from bath bombs to shampoo bars to cosmetics to solid toothpaste (called toothy tabs – how cute!) and mouthwash. Give a gift card to your favorite traveler for them to spoil themselves!

 

21) Merino wool clothing $$ – $$$

Though definitely not on the cheap end, merino wool is the perfect clothing material for travelers. It’s light, not itchy, is climate adaptive (warm when it needs to be, cool when it needs to be), dries fast, and best of all – resists being stinky! This means you can wear the same neutral shirt for a whole trip if you want to. The major brands that make it are Icebreaker, Smartwool, and Ibex. A good place to start is with a basic t-shirt (go one size up on this one).

 

22) Packable day pack $

Every traveler needs a great bag to bring with them. But they also need a separate daypack for days out and about so they can bring only what they need for that day.

Here are a few options:

23) Chico bags $

Tote bags are useful in nearly any situation – carrying things to the beach, sorting your dirty laundry, as a day pack. Chico bags fit in your palm when in their carrying bag and can easily be thrown in your travel bag. One of the things they are best at is acting as grocery bags – in most of Europe you have to bring your own bag or pay to purchase one. Chico bags are one of those things that just find a way to be useful everywhere – not just for travel.

 

 

24) Bamboo cutlery set/spork $

Eating out and on the plane, creates so much plastic cutlery. That immediately goes into a landfill after being used. Or on to the side of the road. Or in the ocean. Give the gift of a reduced footprint by purchasing a super stylish bamboo cutlery set (with chopsticks, straw, and cleaning brush!) or titanium spork (my personal favorite!).

 

25) Stylish travel rain coat $$

Being from the Pacific Northwest, I basically don’t go anywhere without a rain jacket. If you want a super portable, stylish (I’ve gotten many compliments on mine!) and lightweight rain jacket for the traveler in your life, you can’t go wrong with the Outdoor Research Helium Traveler jacket. It even covers your bum and stuffs into its own pocket!

 

Happy Holidays!

 

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