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.
We’re already getting excited about the festive season as next week we’re going to the after-hours Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Disney World! Despite the Florida sun we’ll be enjoying snow on Main Street, singing carols, and munching holiday treats. We’ll then have our first US Christmas in Austin, Texas!
All these travel gift ideas help travelers 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 travelers 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.
A tiny, practical, and inexpensive gift. We use combination locks to secure our backpack zips and keep the contents safe. A must for every traveler.
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 Kitdine bottles look great with wide openings and anti-leak caps.
Field Notes are my favorite notebooks for travel as they are slim, light and well-constructed.
I’m a fan of SanDisk Extreme cards, which are fast and reliable but not too expensive.
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.
Another solid toiletry product to get around airline restrictions and avoid leaks. I love Lush Shampoo Bars, which work as shampoo and soap, last ages, are vegan and eco-friendly, and smell lovely.
They make fantastic small and inexpensive gifts for people who travel.
Buy at Lush.
A normal towel is bulky and heavy, so a travel towel is a must for budget travelers 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.
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.
Solid perfume is much more practical than liquid scents for travelers and makes a great gift. Pacifica solid perfumes are popular and come in a range of scents like Tahitian Gardenia—perfect for a tropical holiday.
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.
A sarong is one of the most recommended items by experienced travelers. It’s lightweight but multi-purpose and can be used as a beach cover-up, towel, skirt, scarf, picnic blanket, makeshift curtain and more.
Their medium crew socks keep our feet cozy and warm in cold weather and the liner socks work well for warm weather. They come in a range of colors and designs.
A headlamp or torch comes in useful for many travel situations—in dorm rooms when you don’t want to wake your neighbors, 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 eight years and are still going strong. Buy on Amazon US or Amazon UK.
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.
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.
A Clever Travel Companion tank top is 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 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 wide range of colors, and the pocket is big enough for an iPhone and passport. It’s on my wishlist for this year.
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. 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.
While we were testing them on a trip across Europe, Simon wore his for nine days without washing it, and I still didn’t think it smelled! Available for men and women in a range of styles.
Buy on Amazon US.
Simon’s new 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!
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.
Icebreaker makes clothes from merino wool, which is non-itchy, warm, and odor-resistant. We love their long-sleeve tops for cold weather—they kept us toasty in Iceland this year. They add warmth without taking up too much space in our bags and can be worn multiple times without washing.
The perfect travel trousers, Bluffworks pants 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 (including every day of our six-day Dales Way hike), horse riding, and to weddings. Simon likes the Originals, but they also come in Chino and Gramercy (suit pant) styles. Read our Bluffworks review for more details.
Buy at Bluffworks.
This year Simon started traveling with a Bluffworks Meridian travel shirt and can’t believe it took him so long to get rid of his old wrinkly long sleeve shirt. The Meridian 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.
Buy at Bluffworks.
I couldn’t live without my Kindle Paperwhite and I have my eye on the new version which is waterproof (yay, pool reading!).
Our favorite purchase of the 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.
Buy from Apple.
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.
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.
Buy from Tieks.
I have traveled with the Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack for years. It fits the carry-on requirements for almost every airline, so I can take it on the plane and avoid checked baggage fees. It’s durable but light and comfortable to carry.
The Tortuga Setout is Simon’s new favorite travel backpack. It’s the maximum size allowed on most planes and has plenty of space for all his stuff.
It’s comfortable to carry, looks stylish and is made from high-quality materials. See our Tortuga Setout review for more details.
Buy on the Tortuga website.
This year Simon upgraded his look 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. It looks fantastic and can be worn with everything—it was ideal for spring in Italy and Paris.
Buy on the Bluffworks website.
For traveling 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 revolutionized Simon’s illustrations and using apps like the powerful Procreate, he has done some of his best work ever.
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.
You could also gift an Amazon Kindle book or paperback (if they still prefer paper). For ideas for travel lovers, see these posts about my favorite books:
- 20 Best Coffee Table Travel Books to Inspire Wanderlust
- 10 Travel Memoirs to Inspire Your Next Trip
- 15 Fascinating Books to Read Before Visiting Japan
- 12 Books to Read Before Visiting South Africa
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:
- Yoga with Adriene – My absolute favorite 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 favorite way to travel.
- Netflix – Stream TV and films.
- Amazon – Books, clothes, travel gear, music, films, and more.
- Uber – Taxi rides around the world.
Do you have any other travel gift ideas? 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 2018.
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