47 Useful Gift Ideas for Carry-On Travellers

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After seven years of tropical winters, last year we had our first Christmas back in England. And it was glorious—Christmas tree decorating, gingerbread house making, carols, markets, mulled wine, mince pies, and huge meals with family and friends. We even enjoyed the cold as it was such a novelty!

This year we’re going back again and are already excited about the festive season. I have updated our popular list of gifts for travellers to help you find the best travel presents for the globetrotters in your life.

All these useful travel gifts help travellers pack lighter. Maybe you’re buying for someone who packs carry-on only like we do or perhaps you’d like to encourage your loved one to take a little less on their next trip. These great gifts for travellers are things we use and love ourselves or have been recommended to us by experienced nomads.

Click on the links below to skip ahead to your gift budget or scroll down to read the whole article.



Combination Luggage Lock

A tiny, practical, and inexpensive gift. We use combination locks to secure our backpack zips and keep the contents safe. A must for every traveller.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Travel-Size Toiletry Bottles

Every carry-on traveller needs toiletry bottles under 100ml/3oz that meet with airline regulations and can be taken on planes. They allow you to pack your favourite product without having to carry a large container. These Kitdine bottles look great with wide openings and anti-leak caps.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Field Notes Notebooks

We usually avoid travelling with heavy paper, but sometimes you want a real notebook rather than using your phone (like I did on safari in Africa). Field Notes are my favourite notebooks for travel as they are slim, light and well-constructed. 

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.


Solid Lotion

There are only so many toiletry bottles you can fit in your airline-compliant ziplock bag, so if your loved one is a beauty product junky, the answer is solid toiletries.

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.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Lush Shampoo Bar

Lush shampoo bars - great gifts for travellers.

Another solid toiletry product to get around airline restrictions and avoid leaks. We love Lush Shampoo Bars, which work as shampoo and soap, last ages, are vegan and eco-friendly, and smell lovely.

Buy at Lush.

Travel Towel

A normal towel is bulky and heavy, so a travel towel is a must for budget travellers staying in accommodation where towels aren’t provided. We also use ours for the beach and sweaty yoga classes. They are light, compact, and quick-drying.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Foldable Water Bottle

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, durable, can be flattened or rolled when empty, has a flip top cap, and can be clipped to a bag.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

SD Card

You can never have enough storage space for travel photos, so SD cards are ideal for photography fans as they are useful and tiny. Just make sure you find out what type of card their camera takes. I’m a fan of SanDisk Extreme cards, which are fast and reliable but not too expensive.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Solid Perfume

Solid perfume is much more practical than liquid scents for travellers and makes a great gift. Pacifica solid perfumes are popular and come in a range of scents like Brazilian Mango Grapefruit—perfect for a tropical holiday.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light Book

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 travelling for a week or a year, to hot or cold climates, alone or with kids.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Packable Daypack

Packable daypacks are useful if you want to travel with just one bag but don’t want to use your main luggage when you are out exploring. We tried a variety of backpacks and our favourite (and cheapest!) is the Gonex Ultralight Travel Backpack. It’s compact, light, durable, and surprisingly roomy. 

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Packable Tote Bag

Packable tote bags make good gifts for travellers 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.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.


A sarong is one of the most recommended items by experienced travellers. It’s lightweight but multi-purpose and can be used as a beach cover-up, towel, skirt, scarf, picnic blanket, makeshift curtain and more.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

SmartWool Socks

SmartWool makes our favourite travel socks. They are made from merino wool, which is naturally odour-resistant and quick-drying. Their medium crew socks keep our feet cosy and warm in cold weather, the liner socks work well for warm weather, and the ultralight running socks keep my feet comfortable and dry on runs.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

USB Travel Power Adapter

A travel power adapter is essential for every traveller to allow them to use different plugs around the world. A USB version is best as you can charge three or more devices at once.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.


A headlamp or torch comes in useful for many travel situations—in dorm rooms when you don’t want to wake your neighbours, in countries with frequent power cuts, when camping, in places with limited street lighting, and even when visiting caves. Our Petzl headlamps have lasted us over seven years and are still going strong. Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Portable Charger

Portable battery chargers are incredibly useful travel gifts for anyone who travels with a phone. 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. 

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.



A merino wool Buff is lightweight, tiny, and multi-purpose—perfect for carry-on travellers. It’s super soft and works as a scarf, hat, headband, bandana, or to protect your face from dust in the desert.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Clever Travel Companion Tank Top

Clever Travel Companion tank tops are a great alternative to money belts for storing passports, cards and cash. 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 traveller.

Buy from Clever Travel Companion or on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Yoga Paws

My favourite purchase this year! Even the lightest yoga mat weighs 1kg, so Yoga Paws, which are little yoga mats for your hands and feet, are the perfect solution for travel. They prevent slippage when practising 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. 

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

AeroPress Coffee Maker

Perfect for coffee lovers, the AeroPress is the best travel coffee maker and makes incredibly smooth and flavourful coffee. It’s compact, lightweight, durable, and easy to use and clean. Simon won’t travel without it—it has saved him from awful instant on many occasions. 

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Toiletry Bag

The best toiletry bags are light yet durable, have a few pockets for organisation, and a hanger for when there’s nowhere to put it. The Sea to Summit TravellingLight Hanging Toiletry Bag meets all these criteria.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Eagle Creek Etools Organizer Pro

A great present for anyone, like us, who travels with too many electronics. The Etools Organizer Pro keeps our cables, chargers, and accessories organised, accessible, and protected.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Manduka EKO Superlite Travel Yoga Mat

This is the top yoga mat recommended by travel yogis as it’s relatively light, grippy, and folds up to fit in any bag.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Packing Cubes

Every experienced traveller we know adores packing cubes. They are the secret to travelling 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 organised and easy to find in your bag.

We love Eagle Creek’s compression packing cubes—Simon uses the regular large compression cube, and I have the ultralight Specter compression cubes. Highly recommended for any traveller!

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Ably T-shirt

Ably t-shirtThese magic t-shirts are perfect for travel. Ably t-shirts are made from 100% cotton, so they are soft and breathable, but they repel odours and liquids and can be worn multiple times without washing.

While we were testing them on our trip across Europe, Simon wore his for nine days without washing it, and I still didn’t think it smelled! 

Buy on Amazon US.


Billabong Submersibles Shorts

Simon’s new favourite 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!

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK

External Hard Drive

Backing up your data is essential if you travel with a laptop. We love the Seagate Backup Plus Slim external hard drive, which is small, light, and sturdy.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Ride-On Suitcase for Kids

Kids can travel carry-on only too, and the Trunki ride-on suitcase makes it easy and fun. Kids can pull it themselves or ride on it and be pulled. It works as a toy to keep kids entertained as well as storage for their stuff.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Icebreaker Long-Sleeve Top

Icebreaker makes clothes from merino wool, which is non-itchy, warm, and odour-resistant. We love their long-sleeve tops for cold weather. They add warmth without taking up too much space in our bags and can be worn multiple times without washing.

Buy for men on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Buy for women on Amazon US or Amazon UK

Bluffworks Travel Pants

Bluffs review- best travel trousers

The perfect travel trousers, Bluffs combine the performance of technical travel clothing with a smart look. They are lightweight, wrinkle-resistant, quick-drying, and have hidden zippered pockets for security. They are very versatile—Simon has worn his hiking, horse riding, and to weddings. Unfortunately, they are only available for men. Read our Bluffworks review for more details. 

Buy at Bluffworks.


Kindle Paperwhite

An e-reader is indispensable for travelling bookworms as you can travel with thousands of books on a device smaller than one paperback. I couldn’t live without my Kindle Paperwhite. 

The new Kindle Oasis looks amazing—it’s waterproof (yay, pool reading!), lighter, and has a larger screen, but it’s double the price. 

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Ultralight Waterproof Jacket

Ultralight waterproofs are perfect for travel—they are incredibly light and pack up into a tiny package. The Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket is one of the smallest on the market but will still keep you dry.

Buy for men on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Buy for women on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Tieks Ballet Flats

Lilac Tieks and box

My absolute favourite 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. 

Buy from Tieks.

Packable Down Jacket

Packable down (or synthetic down) jackets are the best way to keep warm and still pack light. They pack down small so don’t take up much space in your luggage. Perfect for multi-climate trips. 

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

iPad Mini

Most travellers don’t need a laptop these days. The iPad Mini is small and light and ideal for travel planning, checking emails, watching videos, and even occasional reading. We loved ours until Simon upgraded to an iPad Pro (see below).

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Carry-On Size Backpack

Every carry-on traveller needs a bag that airlines will allow on board. I love the Osprey Farpoint 40, which easily fits the requirements for almost every airline.

Simon travels with the Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack, which is the most spacious carry-on backpack, but he has never had a problem taking it on planes, even on budget airlines like Ryanair. 

Buy the Osprey Farpoint 40 on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Buy the Outbreaker from Tortuga.

Carry-On Size Suitcase

If you are buying for someone who prefers wheels, the Osprey Ozone 22″ gets excellent reviews and is lightweight but rugged.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.


iPad Pro

For travelling artists, we recommend the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. The touch-sensitive screen replicates drawing on paper, without having to carry around notepads and pencils. It has revolutionised Simon’s illustrations and using apps like the powerful Procreate, he has done some of his best work ever.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Mirrorless Camera

For photography enthusiasts, mirrorless cameras are the perfect compromise between size and quality. They are much smaller than DSLR cameras but still take excellent shots. I love my Olympus OM-D E-M5.

Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Digital Gifts for Travellers

The best gifts for world travellers won’t take up any space in their luggage. Buy them a gift card for one of these:

  • Yoga with Adriene – My absolute favourite online yoga classes which have enabled me to practice anywhere in the world.  
  • Trusted Housesitters membership – To find housesitting opportunities around the world.
  • Backblaze – Unlimited cloud backup to keep data secure.
  • Airbnb – Rooms and apartments around the world. Our favourite way to travel.
  • Netflix – Stream TV and films.
  • Amazon – Books, music, films, and more.
  • iTunes – Travel apps, music, and more.

You could also gift an Amazon Kindle book or paperback (if they still prefer paper). For ideas for travel lovers see our favourite travel memoirs,  books about Japan and about South Africa.  

Do you have any other travel gift ideas? Leave a comment and let us know. 

This post was originally published in November 2016 and was updated in November 2017. 

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  1. The Trunki is neat but not a great choice as your one carry on item for kids. It’s bulky, heavy and awkward to carry so kids small enough to ride it can’t manage it themselves. The inside is an unusual shape which makes packing anything but clothes in it a pain. Overall, I’d not bother although we have been given one and use it occasionally. A final downer is that the age range it works for seems to be pretty limited and it only rolls well in really flat surfaces. I think it’s lovely, but only if you’ve got a suitcase and a he car! Oh, and some of them have stickers instead of printed features and they come off after a trip or 2


    • That’s good to know Betts. It was recommended to us by a travelling family but it sounds like it might only work in certain situations. They are cute though!


  2. Hello Erin,

    Great list of essential products you have mentioned above!
    As a technology Geek, i never forget to keep SD card, hard drive and my Camera with me. BTW, I am using Canon EOS 700D.


  3. Thank you Erin for the great post!

    Your content is always insightful and your site is so very nicely done.
    Love the negative space utilization, attention to detail and consistently good formatting.

    Happiest of holidays to you and Simon.



  4. Thanks simon and erin for the suggested items. I bought the family the headlamps and we use them all the time. Kids love them (7 & 5) it came in handy when we got stuck biking and it got dark fast in NC. Keep it coming!


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