It’s that time of year again, shoppers wandering malls looking for the perfect gift for the traveler in their lives. I’ve seen some cool products in my travels this year, and my readers also gave me a few ideas of their favorite things. You’ll find items at a range of price levels, some practical and others for a laugh. And just maybe you’ll find something in these 25 gifts for travelers that you’ll want yourself.
For the person that has a “bucket list” this map will help keep track of travels in a fun piece of art. It’s like a lotto ticket without prizes!
Originally a backpacking tool for drinking from river water, this water bottle allows you to drink tap water wherever you go. Even in Europe, occasionally there are suspicious taps and creaky plumbing. I particularly like the idea of saving all the many plastic bottles I go through in Asia.
No offense to Starbucks, but its hard to find a good cup of coffee outside of Italy. This simple set up has a pour-over filter that goes directly into a thermal cup. Add your favorite Italian coffee like Illy, and you’ve got a stellar gift for the on-the-go coffee snob.
I don’t know what it is but I never have a cup when I need one. So many hotels either forget or have super thin plastic cups. Reusable, collapsible, including a lid and a strap to connect it to your bag. You can store snacks in it too. So many uses!
I always bring wine and olive oil back from Europe, usually wrapped in a plastic bag and dirty clothes to avoid breakage. A better solution is bubble wrap. These bags are reusable and waterproof, just in case.
I always used to travel with a stack of books but that makes little sense for ultralight packing. A Kindle is a good solution but audiobooks for a phone add no weight at all. Audible lets you listen to whatever you want and makes a nice gift subscription.
PBS host Kathy McCabe loves Italy (almost) as much as I do, and writes a magazine covering destinations and culture. A gift subscription can fuel travel dreams for the Italophile in your life.
I was dreaming of this camera last Christmas but didn’t get it…so I bought it for myself in January. This is the Roll Royce of compact cameras, with a price tag to match. It does much more than I understand, but the auto settings are easy and the photos are impressive. The newest version, VI, is over $1000, but the older versions are less and take equally beautiful pictures.
These wool shoes are my favorite new pair for travel, beloved by my tour clients as well. They are light and have a comfortable footbed. Because they are made of wool, they are warm and soft, and can be worn without socks. They wash up nicely and shape to your foot.
Travel Power Strip – $15
I am cursed to always stay in hotels rooms with a single outlet that is located behind furniture in an awkward corner of the room. A power strip with a long cord solves it, and this compact one also has USB ports. Toss in a plug adapter for international travelers.
If I could require my tour clients to bring one thing, it would be trekking poles. Particularly in places like Sicily with uneven streets and rustic archaeological parks, these have saved many travelers from falling. Those that bring these always rave about them. Carbon poles are lightweight and collapsible, fitting into any backpack.
You’ve probably read my raves about the benefits of compression socks. This is a fab gift for any traveler. Most socks on the market are plain and boring, but Sockwell makes them in pretty patterns for a bit of travel style. They’re also higher quality last longer.
I cant say I’ve used this neck support, but I see them all the time on the airplane and people seem to love them and happily snore away on long flights. Apparently it’s a scientifically proven design, although I find that claim suspicious. It’s basically a fuzzy, stiff wrap that you can adjust to make your head comfortable. What I like about this is that it is light enough and flat enough to not weigh your bag down after the flight.
This is another item that would never work for me and my ridiculously long legs, but I saw someone use it on a recent flight. This sling attaches to the tray table and suspends legs like a footrest. Keeping legs elevated improves circulation and avoids cramped or twitchy legs, and this does the trick.
Confession time: I don’t often wear a money belt…instead I tend to hide stuff in my bra all the time. Apparently other people must do it too, and Eagle Creek has improved on it. This little pouch is the size of a credit card and can strap onto your bra in a variety of ways. Genius! No more coins or credit card numbers imprinted into my flesh!
Normally I suggest you bring your own, cheap undies from home, which you can toss if you have to. But I recently tried out a pair of these scandalously expensive travel undies and I can say that they are worth it. They wash up wonderfully and dry fast, but I also like the fit. The weird fabric is breathable and stretchy, surprisingly comfy. Can’t vouch for the men’s version, but I imagine they are also great.
Planes are sooooo cold, and the blankets are just too thin. But bring a blanket from home just for the flight makes little sense. Someone figured out how to make a blanket multi useful, as a wrap, jacket or scarf! Not only do you stay cozy but look chic at the same time.
This is a tip from a reader, a personal oven for your hotel room! This little insulated pouch has a hot plate inside that slowly heats things up over an hour or so. It weighs little and would be great for the shoestring traveler, especially solo travelers.
Another reader recommendation, a white noise machine to help you drift off to sleep even in construction zones. It’s tiny and light. Use it at home before your trip and on the road you’ll swear you were in your own bed.
Ok, this is probably something nobody really needs, but I have one and enjoy it immensely. This pocket projector attaches to a laptop or phone and can project large enough to cover your hotel room wall. I use mine to do slide presentations to my groups and, later, to watch movies in my room. It really is tiny and light, well worth the space for business travelers that like to unwind with a show.
I always imagined that someday we’d live like the Jetsons, with cool hologram phones and teleportation. It’s a little disappointing that it hasn’t happened, but these electronic photo frames are a step in the right direction. Display a selection of your travel pics from your phone or computer. This particular brand responds to the Alexa, and also has a setting to turn on only when someone is in the room.
If you’re shopping for an ultralight traveler, these little toiletries are as light as you can go. I had a good laugh over this version for men, which is clever enough to include bathroom deodorizer in the kit. Thank you, whoever you are that thought of this!
One of the most common complaints I get from travelers is the lack of wash cloths outside of the US in hotel rooms. And it’s true, most places don’t offer them. Bring your own with you, but make it microfiber so that it will dry quickly. These are also good for cleaning eyeglasses and electronics screens.
You didn’t really think I would write a boring list, did you? Got a white elephant party coming up? Or maybe you drew the name of your stiff lawyer cousin that travels often and laughs rarely? Here are some gag travel gifts that will get a laugh, but are actually useful too.
Hotel safes are the most common place that people lose things. They forget to retrieve their stuff when they leave the room. Here’s a safe that stays in your bag. A “dirty” pair of men’s undies which are actually a pocket for valuables that you keep in your luggage. Few thieves will bother to steal that. Eeew!
Here’s another alternative to a money belt, a belly belt. Fanny packs are coming back into style, unfortunately, but here’s one that will make everyone smile or grimace. You can choose hairy or smooth, or pick that six-pack you’ve always wanted. Either way, I doubt any thieves are going to touch THAT.
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