If you have an avid traveler in your life, your know that they’re a special breed. And shopping for birthday gifts, holidays, and special occasions can be daunting. So to help you out, I’ve gathered over 25 of the most useful or treasured gifts for travelers of all different types. Most of these are items that I use myself and find indispensable for a life on the road, or even just for a quick weekend trip.
For the international jetsetter
For a frequent traveler, life’s all about being comfortable, connected, and having something to do when you hit travel road bumps.
Super soft infinity scarf: I literally never get on a long flight without this. It’s soft, warm, and large so it can wrap around my shoulders in a pinch as well. Get it here.
External battery/portable power bank: this one is compact and fairly light, allows you to charge two devices at once, and you can get several phone charges out of it before needing to re-charge the bank. Having one of these has saved me multiple times, whether for international travel (all those photos drain your phone battery!) or simple domestic travel (allowed me to take a critical conference call last week when my battery was down to 14%).
Skyroam Mobile Hotspot: trying to find good wifi internationally (or, let’s face it, sometimes in the U.S.) can be an exercise in frustration. So smart travelers bring their own. Get it here.
Travel pillow runners-up: I’ve used both of these, they’re great quality and work well. Just depends on the type of sleeper you are, or if you have extra room for the memory foam pillow.
For a side-sleeper, inflatable huggable pillow
A carry-on to last years: I had the worst luck with luggage, whether cheap or expensive, for years. After doing a ton of research I finally got this TravelPro carry-on and it has been amazing. It’s super roomy (I’ve done two and a half weeks in Europe, including dress clothes), durable, easy to handle, and is expandable for when I go nuts on souvenirs and want to check it back home. If you want more details, I rave about it more here. Get it here.
Foldable duffel bag: want to travel super light but also know you’ll be doing some shopping? A foldable duffel has been my solution on many trips. When not filled, it’s feather-light and folds up to take up almost no room, but if you need an extra bag (like when I accidentally bought 8 kilograms of ceramics in Istanbul), you now have one at your disposal. Get it here, multiple colors available.
Bag Bungee: Sometimes wrangling multiple bags is just the worst (and really bad for your neck and shoulders). This allows you to connect a duffel or smaller carry-on to your rolling bag in a pinch. Get it here.
TSA-compliant corkscrew: hey, a girl’s gotta have priorities. I cannot TELL you the number of corkscrews that I’ve bought in a pinch overseas and then accidentally forgotten were in my bag and since they have that tiiiiiiny dull knife, have been confiscated. This one is TSA approved, so you can carry it on. One word of warning, you may still get your bag searched because of it, but you CAN take it through. Get it here.
Quirky giraffe-print scarf: this isn’t as warm as the infinity scarf recommended above, but it’s super cute, lightweight, and comes in several color combinations. If you want something fun and lighter, this is my go-to. Good for covering your shoulders and head in religious sites as well. Get it here.
Tieks gift card: definitely a splurge, but these flats have become my most-used travel shoes, particularly for airports and airplanes. The rubber cushioned sole is a lifesaver, they never rub or cut into my heels, and fold up to avoid taking up space. Not only do at least one pair of these come on every trip, but there’s almost always a pair in my purse at all times as well. There are probably a hundred different colors and patterns available here.
Kindle Paperwhite: a.k.a. #1 most necessary travel companion ever! I don’t go ANYWHERE without this baby (seriously, I’ve taken it to my dentist when I wasn’t sure about the wait). It’s lightweight, not backlit (a must for my eyes; the most recent versions include a built-in light though), and holds hundreds of books so that I can entertain myself anytime, anywhere. My mom got me my first one for my birthday back in 2011 and it’s been my security blanket ever since. Get it here; there are multiple versions so see what’s best for you.
Or if your loved one already has a Kindle, consider a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Unlimited reading and listening for $9.99 a month, which becomes quite a steal if they’re a prolific reader like I am!
For the photographer or nostalgic
Scratch-off world map: what better way to remember your favorite trips? I love mine, and I specifically love the bright colors and gold on this one. Get it here.
Adorable travel journal: yes, it would make more sense to journal on my laptop, but there is something so much more meaningful about having a handwritten record of my travels! The last time I ran out of journal pages, I happened upon this adorable notebook on Amazon and fell in love. There are several different versions, all of them super cute, and the size is perfect for travel. Get it here.
Free Shutterfly photo book: these are my everything, because I totally hate scrapbooking and am too lazy to do it anyway. Shutterfly makes it easy to create a book (they’ll even do it for you if you don’t care), and you can customize as little or as much as you want. Browse their selection here, and consider gifting a book (or creating your own for them).
Go Pro Hero: yes, this is a super high-ticket item. Not sure I love anyone enough to give them something this expensive 🙂 But if you’re looking for something special and your traveler already has a “real” camera, I’ve found the GoPro to be a great complement. It’s waterproof and pretty hardy, so can handle certain kinds of shooting that a nice camera isn’t as equipped for, and is easy to pop on a selfie stick for a 360-degree view. You might also consider an older model, which get great reviews and seem to last a long time—and aren’t as expensive. This is the 5 (the 6 just came out), but I have the 3 and it’s a great camera. Get the Hero5 here or browse others.
8 GB memory card: ahh, I remember the days of having multiple memory cards, and having to ration out shots or switch cards mid-trip. But even the most avid photographer will take some time to fill up the 8GB version, and at less than $20 it’s a steal. I got it a few years ago for a trip to New Zealand and have never come close to filling it up on a single trip. Get it here.
For the safety-minded
Portable carbon monoxide detector: these can literally save lives. Not only can this detect the odorless, colorless gas that can kill, it also functions as a smoke alarm, fire alarm, etc. With a 10-year battery and digital display, this should be a part of every trip. Get it here.
RFID-blocking wallet or purse: sometimes technology is our friend, and sometimes it’s the criminals’ friend. This can protect you from a particular type of theft called RFID skimming, where pickpockets can scan the radio frequency that many new credit cards, passports, drivers licenses, and other forms of ID and payment come with now. There are tons of options out there, but here’s a good women’s wallet option and a good men’s wallet option.
LifeStraw 2-Stage Filtration Bottle: let’s face it, you can’t always trust the water. Perfect for hikers, anyone traveling to destinations without absolutely pristine water systems. This BPA-free bottle has a two-stage filtration system is guaranteed to filter out 99.9999% of water-borne bacterias, parasites, etc. Get it here.
Toothbrush sanitizer: because nothing says love like a toothbrush sanitizer. But for realsies, my toothbrush gets so gross while I travel because it feels like it never gets dry and so just gets…moldy smelling. A few years ago I got this little baby, which uses ultraviolet light to kill 99.9% of germs (and doubles as your toothbrush holder). Get it here.
For the outdoors lover
Merino wool neck gaiter: before my trip to Norway last January, I’d never even heard of a neck gaiter. Now I can’t live without it. It’s important that you get one that’s merino wool because it breathes and doesn’t collect moisture, which is super important when it’s really cold (and you’re being active). Minus33 is affordable and high-quality, this was a lifesaver in the Arctic. Get it here.
Quality thermals: similar to the gaiter, I really didn’t have decent outdoors winter gear until my Norway trip, and now I totally get why people talk about nice thermals and are willing to shell out for quality. I decided to invest in one nice one from Ibex (get it here) and then supplemented with some fleece-lined tights. I literally wore this thermal shirt for three days (and one night) straight and it didn’t stink or get gross at all. Merino wool FTW. Good ones are expensive, which is why it’s a nice gift to get someone.
For the minimalist
Sometimes the best gift can’t be kept. My parents wanted to do something for each of their kids with the small inheritance they got from my grandma, and for me they knew that there wasn’t really an item that I needed at the time. So they got me and my dad a trip to Israel and Jordan, which was absolutely amazing.
So whether it’s skydiving, the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, or a luxurious stay at an overwater villa, think about an experience that would be really special to them, and make that your gift.
I really struggle with finding the perfect gift most of the time, so would love to hear from you—what other gifts for travelers have you found to be special?? Let me know in the comments!