It’s that time of year again when we update our popular list of the best gifts for travelers to help you find the ideal travel presents for the globetrotters in your life.
As nomads for the past ten years, we know what travelers really need. These travel gift ideas include practical items that your loved one will actually use on the road. Many of them help travelers pack lighter or even travel carry-on only, like we do.
It has been a challenging time for travel, so this year I’ve added some new items that are useful for local travel such as camping or road trips, as well as some fun ways to explore the world at home.
Whether you are looking for inexpensive, small travel gifts or an extravagant splurge, you’ll find ideas for all budgets.
Black Friday Sales: There are currently some excellent discounts at Bluffworks (up to 50% off stylish travel clothes), Tortuga (up to 30% off backpacks—this is the first time they’ve had a sale), Aviator (30% off comfy jeans) and Atlas Coffee Club (up to $55 off). See my recommendations below.
Click on the links below to skip ahead to your gift budget or scroll down to read the whole article.
If there’s one thing we all need this year, it’s a range of masks to stay safe when we’re out and about.
These travel-themed masks by NanniesAtticShop make mask-wearing more fun with designs featuring London, Paris, Route 66, passports, maps, and licence plates. Adult and child sizes are available.
It’s made from super soft New Zealand merino wool and is easy to use—just tear off a chunk and place it under your sock in any area where you begin to feel rubbing.
We haven’t had a blister since using it, even on our five-day Queen Charlotte Track hike. It makes a lightweight gift for active people or anyone struggling with sore feet.
This gift set features five travel-sized skincare products made from natural ingredients.
This was one of the most useful travel gifts we received before heading off on the road, but it’s just as enjoyable at home.
Every carry-on traveler needs toiletry bottles under 100ml/3oz that meet with airline regulations and can be taken on planes. They allow you to pack your favorite product without having to carry a large container. These bottles are leak-proof and have wide openings.
Normal water bottles take up too much space when they’re empty, so foldable water bottles are a better option. We love the Vapur Element Bottle as it’s lightweight, can be flattened or rolled when empty, has a flip top cap, and can be clipped to a bag.
They fit in your pocket and take the stress out of long travel days as you don’t end up without access to Google Maps when trying to find your hotel.
This one from Poweradd is tiny and comes in a variety of colors.
You can take as many of these on the plane as you like, and they usually save space and weight and last longer than liquid versions. This Honey House Naturals Bee Bar gets excellent reviews and leaves your skin silky smooth.
A travel coffee mug is a must for every traveler who is concerned about the millions of disposable coffee cups that end up in landfill every day.
They are also really useful on road trips, especially in remote areas where there might not be places to stop for a drink (Simon used one often in Iceland and Namibia).
The Contigo Autoseal West Loop mug is leak and spill proof (you can shove it in your bag) and keeps drinks hot for 5 hours. It comes in many colors and sizes.
We often self-cater while traveling and these have been fantastic for wrapping up leftover food, covering bowls, and packing sandwiches for day trips.
They are a sustainable alternative to plastic wrap and make simple but beautiful presents for travelers or anyone who cares about reducing plastic waste.
Another solid toiletry product to get around airline restrictions and avoid leaks. Shampoo bars work as shampoo and soap, last ages, and are vegan and eco-friendly (no plastic bottles or harmful chemicals).
They make fantastic small and inexpensive gifts for people who travel.
I’ve used Lush shampoo bars for years and they are available in Lush shops around the world.
I’ve also tried Ethique solid shampoo bars which are just as good and smell less intense. Their hair sampler with three small shampoos and two conditioners is a perfect travel gift.
Although that’s not us these days, we use ours for the beach, picnics, and sweaty yoga classes. They are light, compact, and quick-drying.
This Youphoria travel towel on Amazon comes in a range of sizes and colors and has excellent reviews.
Alternatively, the Eccosophy travel beach towel is more expensive and a little heavier than the large Youphoria, but it comes in many beautiful patterns.
You can also buy a solid men’s cologne in a travel-friendly tin.
My book, The Carry-On Traveller (available in paperback and Kindle formats), is ideal for anyone who overpacks. The book will teach them not only how to lighten their load, but how to pack everything they need into a single carry-on-size bag.
The strategies can be applied to any trip, whether they are traveling for a week or a year, to hot or cold climates, alone or with kids.
We tried a variety of backpacks and the best value is the inexpensive Gonex Ultralight Travel Backpack. It’s compact, light, durable, and surprisingly roomy.
If you have a larger budget, the packable daypack we now travel with is the Tortuga Setout Daypack, which is a little bulkier but more comfortable to carry.
Packable tote bags make good gifts for travelers as they are tiny and always comes in handy for shopping and beach trips. ChicoBag has a range of beautiful designs and their bags hold up to 40 pounds (18kg) of shopping.
Classic Moleskine notebooks are the ones we return to again and again for their high quality. The hard covers make it easy to write without a table.
You can choose from many colors and limited edition designs. I have a cherry blossom themed one Simon bought me in Japan and I love this Harry Potter design.
A travel plug adapter is essential for every traveler to allow them to use different plugs around the world. A USB version is best—this one from Epicka has four USB ports allowing you to charge multiple devices at once.
Merino wool Buffs are lightweight, tiny, and multi-purpose and make ideal gifts for travel lovers. They are super soft and work as a scarf, hat, headband, bandana, or to protect your face from dust in the desert.
I regretted not bringing one to Iceland where strong winds make other scarves impractical.
It has two zipped pockets for storing valuables (one under each arm), and I find it more comfortable than a money belt. The pockets aren’t entirely hidden so it’s best to wear it under another shirt.
They also make t-shirts, leggings, and underwear with hidden pockets. A really handy gift for any travel lover.
This infinity travel scarf with hidden pocket is another excellent way of concealing your valuables or being able to go out without a purse. It’s made from a soft fabric, comes in a range of colors, and the pocket is big enough for an iPhone and passport.
The Bluffworks Threshold t-shirt is both of our new favourite shirt. It feels as soft as cotton but has the performance of a technical shirt—moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and wrinkle-resistant.
It also has impressive odour-resistance and can be worn for multiple days without smelling. Even after a year of constant wear, our t-shirts still look great and have maintained their shape and color.
The Threshold t-shirt is available for men and women in a range of colors in crew, v-neck and long sleeve styles.
An international snack box is a fun gift for travelling at home. With a gift subscription, Universal Yums will send your loved one unique sweet and savoury snacks from a different country each month plus a guidebook with trivia and games to learn about the food and culture of the featured destination.
It’s a perfect travel gift for families and foodies.
You can choose from three box sizes and sign up from one to 12 months, starting from just $17 (three months from $48). Shipping is free within the US and they can ship to the UK, Canada, Australia, and Israel for a small fee.
They prevent slippage when doing yoga on any surface and provide support for the wrists. They are so small and light that it’s easy to take them anywhere. I recommend the lighter SkinThin version.
Simon won’t travel without it—it has saved him from awful instant on many occasions. This new travel version is even more compact than the original, comes with its own mug, and is great for camping. A unique travel gift.
The best toiletry bags are light yet durable, have a few pockets for organization, and a hanger for when there’s nowhere to put it. The Sea to Summit TravellingLight Hanging Toiletry Bag meets all these criteria, and we manage to fit a surprising amount in the small sized bag.
Every experienced traveler we know adores packing cubes. They are the secret to traveling carry-on only as they allow you to fit more clothes into your luggage by squeezing them into a smaller package. They also keep things organized and easy to find in your bag.
I love the ultralight Eagle Creek Specter compression packing cubes.
Simon uses Peak Design packing cubes, which are a little heavier, but he appreciates the stylish design and separate compartments for clean and dirty clothes.
Highly recommended for anyone who travels!
A coffee club subscription is another great way to travel at home for coffee lovers. You can purchase gift subscriptions from 3 months ($60) or more and each month the recipient receives a pack of freshly roasted single-origin coffee from a different country from Papua New Guinea to Peru, Burundi to Brazil.
The package also includes a postcard from the destination, country information, flavour notes, and brewing tips. Shipping is available to the US and Canada.
This might be a travel gift you are tempted to treat yourself to!
This manual stainless steel grinder is surprisingly compact (our friend even takes it hiking), high-quality (it’s made in Japan), and easy to use and clean.
It’s the ideal gift for any coffee lover for camping, road trips, travel, or even just to use at home.
Most days you’ll find Simon wearing his Bluffworks Departure Jeans (even during lockdown when everyone else was in leggings or sweatpants). They are ultra comfortable and soft with just enough stretch, as practical for travel as for wearing at home—he’s worn then on hikes and long flights.
Although they look like regular denim jeans, they have hidden pockets to keep valuables secure and are lightweight and moisture-wicking.
Simon’s favorite shorts are Billabong Submersibles, which can be worn as regular shorts or for swimming. They look smart and are lightweight and quick-drying. Multi-purpose items are brilliant for packing light!
Typically dress shirts wrinkle easily, but Bluffworks has designed the perfect travel shirt. Simon has the Zenith shirt which is so much more practical for travel and can be dressed up or down.
It’s wrinkle-free, soft, comfortable, and anti-microbial so you can wear it for multiple days without it smelling.
After over a year of near constant wear, I’m still obsessed with my Allbirds Wool Runners. They are the softest, cosiest shoes I’ve ever worn and are light enough to pack easily.
They feel as comfy as slippers as they are made from superfine merino wool that’s ultra soft, temperature-regulating, and moisture-wicking.
All the materials used are eco-friendly and sustainable.
I wear mine without socks most of the time, but they still keep my feet warm on chilly winter mornings.
Allbirds shoes are available for men and women in a range of colors. If you’re not sure what size and style your loved one would like, you can buy a gift card instead.
Allbirds offers free shipping and returns in many countries including the US, UK and Canada.
They have a brilliant return policy where you can return them within 30 days (or until January 15th for gifts) if you don’t like them, even if you’ve worn them outside! This makes for a risk-free gift. My Allbirds review has more details.
My Tieks ballet flats (see below) have been my favourite flats for seven years, but this year I discovered a more affordable contender—the Allbirds Tree Breezers.
My shoe collection is slowly being taken over by Allbirds, so it’s no surprise that their flats are just as comfy as their other shoes. They feel amazing on my feet!
Breezers are made of a knit fabric from eucalyptus trees with a cosy wool insole, come in lots of colors, and are machine washable. As with all Allbirds, they are eco-friendly and have a 30-day free trial.
These Marmot jackets pack down into their own pockets so they are easy to throw into your backpack for a hike, but they come with more features than most packable rain jackets. They have hoods, pit zips for breathability, and a good degree of waterproofing. They also look fairly stylish and come in lots of fun colors (as well as neutrals).
This year Simon switched from one large Tortuga Setout Backpack to a carry-on suitcase plus smaller Tortuga Setout Laptop Backpack.
He loves this new laptop bag, which has all the features he appreciates from the larger backpack—stylish design, lots of organisation, multiple padded pockets for electronics, and a surprising amount of space. It also slides onto the handles of a suitcase so you don’t have to carry it.
The versatile Setout works well as a weekend bag, personal item on flights, or an everyday bag for taking your laptop to work or a cafe.
My favourite travel jeans. They are super soft and stretchy and comfortable enough to wear on a plane. They also have huge front pockets (so unusual in women’s wear) and two hidden zipper pockets in the back. See my post on the best travel pants for women for a more detailed review.
Aviator makes jeans for women and men in a few styles. Simon hasn’t tried them yet as he loves the Bluffworks travel jeans (see above).
I couldn’t live without my Kindle Paperwhite and last year I treated myself to the new waterproof version (yay for reading in the pool and bath!). These are brilliant gifts for people who travel or any book lover.
Simon upgraded his look a few years ago with the Bluffworks Gramercy Travel Blazer. It’s made from a soft lightweight fabric that’s wrinkle-free, so you can pack it inside your luggage without messing it up.
It’s also machine washable, quick-drying, and has tons of pockets that are perfect for carrying your valuables (and especially useful on travel days).
It looks fantastic and can be worn with everything—it was ideal for spring in Italy and Paris.
Now is a great time to buy as it’s 50% off!
Buy on the Bluffworks website.
Our favorite purchase last year was our AirPods. These wireless headphones are brilliant—it’s liberating being free of the tangle of wires.
I love them for running and yoga videos, they are super comfortable (I forget I’m wearing them), and the battery lasts for ages. I can even steal Simon’s phone to wander off and take photos while he continues to listen to podcasts.
This year Simon upgraded to the AirPods Pro and is in awe of the noise cancellation and spatial audio which creates theatre-like surround-sound.
My absolute favorite ballet flats for travel! They are comfortable, durable, pack up small, and come in many gorgeous designs (I love my Silver Lake Vegan Tieks).
They are pricey so are ideal for gifts—treat someone you love! Tieks has a free exchange policy if they don’t fit. Read my honest Tieks review for more information.
After spending a decade traveling full-time with a backpack, I made a major change last year and switched to a carry-on suitcase instead.
The transition was made so much easier because of the Away Everywhere Bag. It’s a personal item that fits under an airplane seat but is ultra roomy with lots of pockets including one for a laptop.
Best of all, it slides over suitcase handles so you don’t need to carry it. It works perfectly with the Away Bigger Carry-On—the combination is the maximum you can get away with taking on a plane.
It’s also ideal as a small overnight bag—I’ve used it for a few weekend side trips.
I have the nylon bag in Asphalt (grey), but there are a variety of colors in leather, nylon, and limited edition fabrics.
I originally thought Away luggage was a social media fad (their suitcases are all over Instagram), but after doing a lot of research, it was the best carry-on-sized suitcase I found.
I have the Bigger Carry-On which is the maximum size you can take on a plane (for stricter airlines you might want the smaller Carry-On). I can fit a huge amount in with the two-sided design and compression pad.
The four spinner wheels make it so easy to push alongside you. Other features are a built-in phone charger and laundry bag.
It looks stylish and comes in an array of colors—I have Coast (light blue) which I love.
Away luggage makes an ideal travel gift because Away offers an exceptional returns policy—you can try any of their items for up to 100 days and if you don’t like it, return it for a refund.
There’s also a lifetime guarantee for defects and free delivery to many countries including the US and UK.
They are essential for us as we regularly travel between hot and cold climates and a bulky jacket is impractical.
I love the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody made from synthetic down with a durable water repellent finish so it even works in light rain.
Our largest purchase this year was an inflatable stand up paddleboard! No, it doesn’t fit into our carry-on, but as we’re unexpectedly in New Zealand for longer than planned and have a car, we decided it would be a fun way to experience the sea, lakes, and rivers of this outdoorsy country.
Inflatable paddleboards and kayaks have become more popular in many places this year as we’re forced to explore closer to home, so it would make a wonderful gift for anyone who loves to be on the water. Unlike regular paddleboards, the inflatable kind packs down into a large bag and is easy to transport in the trunk of a car (perfect for road trips).
We were surprised by how firm the board is once inflated—you’d never know it was full of air. It comes with everything you need including a pump, repair kit, paddle, and leash. The only additional item needed by maritime law in many places is a life jacket.
Travel books are perfect inspiration for both experienced and armchair travelers and are especially important when travel is limited.
For more gift ideas for travel lovers, see these posts about my favorite books:
I’ve also written about the best novels and non-fiction books to read before (or after) a visit to the following destinations:
Digital Gifts for Travelers
The best gifts for travelers won’t take up any space in their luggage. Buy them a gift card for one of these:
- Find What Feels Good Yoga with Adriene – My absolute favorite online yoga classes which have enabled me to practice anywhere in the world.
- Airbnb – Rooms and apartments around the world. Our preferred way to travel especially now when we want to keep our distance from others.
- Netflix – Stream TV and films.
- Backblaze – Unlimited cloud backup to keep data secure.
Do you have any other gift ideas for travelers? Leave a comment and let us know.
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This post was originally published in November 2016 and was last updated in November 2020.
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