Travel Gifts for the Intermediate Traveler

In my last post, I wrote about some travel gift ideas for beginner travelers, today I have some ideas about gifts for the Intermediate Traveler. What is an Intermediate Traveler? Someone that’s been a few places and knows their way around an airport. They may not be hanging with the swank group in the Elite Lounge, but they have all of the basic gear required to live out of a bag for a while. I know a good number of people like that, like myself for instance.

One approach is to upgrade the travel gear they already have. Otherwise, the best place to start is by thinking about what the hobbies, habits or rituals of the particular gift recipient are. Once you have an idea, then find a gift that will make that part of their life a little nicer on the road. I still preach Quality over Quantity. Shoddy and cheap things have no place in a bag that has few items. You need things that are durable and reliable in a travel bag.

I’ve decided to give suggestions based on personality type or interest. You may or may not know anyone exactly like this…but you might.

The “I Need Coffee Right Now! Nownownow!” Guy- You may know (or possibly be) someone like this. The person that gets up first and is waiting for the doors of the breakfast room to open. The person that is a little touchy until they have that first cup. I suggest giving this kind of person a nice travel cup and coil water heater, along with some instant coffee, like Starbucks Via. You must get the dual voltage water coil, or it will blow up in Europe! This little gift will take very little space, and the titanium mug I recommend weighs only 3oz. For such a small investment in weight and space, the quality of life improvement is worth it. This is also a nice gift for someone who loves tea and would enjoy a cup before bed. This is a ritual of mine at home and bringing this set makes the hotel room feel more cozy.

Packable Duffel Bag

The Shopper- Shopping is something that I tend to discourage, only because your time is precious and you need to see and experience all you can in your travels. But I know that shopping is a pleasure for many and bringing home a little something-something is important. The best way to equip a shopper in your life is by giving them a packable spare bag. They can take it over in their carry-on, fill it with treasures and check it on the way home. There are many sizes and versions, from backpacks to duffel bags, pick the size based on the shopping habits of the recipient, or maybe based on the amount of souvenirs you are hoping they will bring you back.

Travel Watercolor Set

The Artist- If you know a sketcher or painter, a little travel set of watercolors is a thoughtful travel gift. I recently found these excellent travel watercolor brushes, something that any painter would like. Add to those a pad of watercolor paper in postcard form and who knows, maybe you’ll get a painting in the mail.

Travel Wine Glasses

The Wine Enthusiast- As a wine drinker, it is important that I always be prepared! Most bottle openers are confiscated at the security line, I think I’ve lost about 20. This bottle opener is TSA approved and does the trick. A real wine snob will scoff at drinking wine out of a plastic cup (I’m fine with just the bottle) so give them the luxury of wine glasses to-go. It’s always good to encourage friends to bring wine back from exotic trips, give them some travel sleeves for the bottles so that they will make it back.

Olloclip Smartphone Lenses

The iPhone Photographer- I don’t bother bringing my beautiful DSLR camera with me on my travels anymore, it weighs too much. The quality of smartphone cameras is so good that it’s kind of a thing to do all of your photos that way. If you have an Instagram addict in your life, get them some fun travel gear that does NOT include the dreaded selfie stick! I received a fun Tripod for Christmas that has bendy legs and can be attached to almost anything. It comes with a remote for taking self portraits that don’t have a pole or arm in them.

Phone photography is a hobby of mine too, and I’d like some new toys to experiment with on the road next year. My travel gift wish list this Christmas will have the Olloclip on it, it has a fisheye, wide-angle and 2 macro lenses that clip on over the phone’s camera. I got to play with this in Turkey last year and it was a hoot, it’s super easy to use and produces great effects. Wantwantwant. My Instagram feed will be so much more fun!

The Knitter- The folks over at Tom Bihn have cornered the market on sensible containment solutions for the knitter. I did mention that I have a Tom Bihn problem, didn’t I? Well, I have a knitting problem too. So many bags! So much yarn! You don’t want to see my basement. Anyway, that’s another story. The point is, the knitting gear they make is so very well designed and is perfect for the knitting wanderer. I bring a Yarn Stuff Sack with me, it has a loop for feeding yarn through and a clip that attaches to a loop inside my bag. No more messy yarn balls. And their organizing pouches are made to fit knitting needles of all sizes. Interchangeable circular needles are a very nice gift and travel well, they are available in basic cheap form and dreamy luxury form. If you are shopping for a traveling knitter and have no idea what I’m talking about, just trust me, these are great gifts.

That Person Who is Always Cold- I’m from Southern California originally, so having grown up with temps no lower that 55 degrees I’m cold all the time. Being cold while traveling is miserable. A nice, practical cashmere sweater is always a good travel gift, for men or women. I’ve decided to also ask Santa for a pair of cashmere-lined leather gloves. Apparently, leather gloves work with touchscreen phones, an important detail for me. Frequent air travelers would probably appreciate having their own travel blanket, a furry soft one, rather than the cheap, paper thin one that the airplane offers.

Travel Cutlery Set- TSA Approved!

The Budget Traveler- There are travelers who travel on less than a shoestring because they must, and others who do it as a challenge. The hardcore budget vagabond will probably be staying in hostels, so getting them a Sleep Sack is smart since most hostels do not automatically provide sheets. They also don’t provide towels, so a Travel Towel is important. Travel Towels are also a great idea for the traveler that prefers really cheap hotels, since many of the basic ones don’t have decent towels, and most cheapies won’t have a good hairdryer. This towel is great for long hair like mine. All types of travelers on a budget will probably picnic rather than eat in restaurants, so get them some Travel Cutlery for a high class picnic. Adding some of the plastic wine glasses suggested above would be a nice “Uptown Hobo” sort of touch. All of these things can also be bought from
Do you have something on your travel wish list? It would be fun to compile a community list! Comment here or on Facebook. Happy shopping!

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Sarah Murdoch is a tour guide and guidebook writer for Rick Steves Europe. Her blog, Adventures with Sarah, focuses on packing tips, travel stories and advice for planning the best trip possible.

12 replies on “Travel Gifts for the Intermediate Traveler”

  1. This bottle opener is TSA approved

    Note that this will only help you on the way to Europe. Each country – and indeed each airport – has it’s own rules. I had a cork screw similar to that one confiscated in Istanbul – even if it had gone through Copenhagen and Heathrow 🙁

  2. I love the fact that you include links to the items on Amazon. There are some really good ideas here and I’ll be including many of them on my Amazon Wish List that I share with my family for gift ideas. I just love your blog and your talks at Rick Steves travel festivals! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

    1. I’m glad it’s helpful, that way you know exactly what I’m talking about. And I’m so happy to hear you enjoy my work! I’ll be speaking at the big festival in two weeks, come say hi if you’re there 🙂

  3. “As a wine drinker, it is important that I always be prepared! Most bottle openers are confiscated at the security line, I think I’ve lost about 20. This bottle opener is TSA approved and does the trick.”

    There’s nothing clickable here in your post – no link. Help!

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