The Ultimate Gift Guide for Travelers (2023)
If you have an avid traveler in your life, you 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.
Almost all of these are items I’ve purchased myself and find indispensable for a life on the road, or even just for a quick weekend trip.
Just a note before we dive in—I don’t work directly with any of these brands, but I may make a small affiliate commission from any Amazon sales that come through clicks from my links (which I greatly appreciate, and at no extra cost to you). All opinions are, as always, completely my own!
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25+ awesome ideas for gifts for travelers
For the jetsetter
For a frequent traveler, life’s all about being comfortable, connected, and finding ways to smooth out the inevitable travel road bumps.
Apple AirTag: This is my new obsession! I got one right before my recent trip to Greece and sure enough, they lost my bag between Naxos and Athens…but I was able to tell them exactly where it was, and know when it had been found. Whether you’re checking a bag or just want to keep track of important items in case they’re lost or stolen, AirTags absolutely pay for themselves eventually.
A great cross-body purse: I have written an ode to my all-time fave, and I love it because it’s cute but most importantly it can take about anything. It’s water-resistant, strong fabric, holds a ton…I’ve taken it to dinner at a top-100 restaurant in the world, and taken it hiking in the rain. The strap is comfortable and it packs flat in my suitcase when necessary.
BUT sometimes it’s out of stock or hard to find, so this one is very similar and super cute.
External battery/portable power bank: This Anker one is the best I’ve found, compact and fairly light. You can charge two devices at once, and they charge extremely quickly and don’t drain the power bank fast.
Having one of these has saved me multiple times, whether for international travel (all that photography drains your phone battery!) or simple domestic travel (allowed me to take a critical conference call last week when my battery was down to 14%).
I also recently found this small cordless Anker charger that plugs right into my phone and am LOVING it.
Universal plug adapter: Gone are the days of having to buy a new adapter each time you travel somewhere different. This all-in-one works in over 150 countries, so covers the majority of the globe, and has USB plugs on the side. It’s so much easier to keep track of than a set of different plug adapters, and also handy when you’re visiting different regions in one trip (like the UK and France, for instance).
This one goes a step further, allowing you to charge two different three-prong items (like a computer) and two USBs, with different attachments for various regions.
TRTL travel pillow: This one can be controversial, and isn’t for everyone. But as a side-sleeper and very poor sleeper, I’ve tried every kind of travel pillow out there and this is hands-down my go-to.
The only drawback is that it can get a little warm (which for me on international flights is okay since I’m always cold), but if you have a hot-flasher in your life it might be a bit warm—in which case I have a couple alternate recommendations below. Get it here.
In-flight bluetooth transmitter: This cool little gadget lets you connect your personal bluetooth headphones to the in-flight TV screens rather than needing the crappy wired ones they provide (or needing to bring your own).
So much more comfortable, and you don’t accidentally garrote yourself getting up to go to the bathroom…
A carry-on suitcase that lasts 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. I have a whole post about why it’s the best all-purpose suitcase.
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 this exact model is out of stock, this one is the newer model.
Portable bluetooth speaker: Having my music with me is a must at this point, and this speaker (part of the JBL series, which is great overall) is the perfect balance of tiny and light (for easy packing) while packing a punch on sound when needed.
Whether you just want to listen to music in your hotel room without shaking the walls, or want to blast music from a boat while everyone splashes in the ocean around you, this speaker has got your back.
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.
Portable espresso machine: Haha, you KNOW I love my coffee, and I am always so sad when I can’t get a good cup while on the road (something especially common when I travel for work in remote places). Enter this tiny espresso machine, which makes a surprisingly good cup!
It doesn’t need batteries or power from anything, but is completely manual. It DOES need boiling water so you still need to be able to provide that somehow. This one uses the Nespresso pods, but there’s a model that uses loose espresso. But whether you’re in a small hotel in the boonies, camping, or in places where coffee isn’t the norm, this guy has got your back.
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 (but if you’re sneaking other stuff *cough deodorant* then pull it out ahead of time).
Quirky animal-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.
Rothy’s gift card: I am obsessed with these shoes! I have like…10 pairs now? And wear them seriously everywhere. I love that they’re machine washable and so comfy. They’re not totally perfect, but I haven’t found a pair of shoes yet that is. These are my go-to for walking around and looking chic.
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) but has a built-in light if you need it, and holds thousands 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!
Adorable cord wranglers: If you know someone with a weakness for adorable animal-themed things, this is a perfect little surprise. These small clamshell organizers help separate your cords and keep them from tangling, and have friendly animal faces for whimsy.
Small pouches for organization: Over the years, I’ve found that the only way to keep my giant purse from becoming a disaster is to keep a few small (cute) pouches in there. For instance, I separate my cords into one, various pills (Excedrin, ibuprofen, etc.) and cuticle trimmers into another, and then can actually find things when I need them.
Follow One Girl, Whole World on Pinterest for more tips & inspiration!
For the armchair traveler or culture lover
“Capital Cities: A Journey Around the World Through 118 Capital Cities“ is a stunning hardcover photography / travel coffee table book exploring capital cities around the world. Each city’s spread in the 258-page hardcover book explores unique facets of beauty, culture, history, and lifestyle through photography and short anecdotes.
It’s an “ode to capital cities” rather than a travel guide, and makes a unique gift that also supports the 60+ travel writers and photographers that worked together to create it. You can also learn more about the book and its creation here!
For the business traveler
Many of the jetsetter essentials above are also my go-to items for business travel (the carry-on suitcase, external battery charger, Kindle, Rothys, scarves, and more). But here are a few additional things that I’ve found suit some of the specifics of work travel a bit better…these gift ideas for travelers of the business variety can give you an edge!
“Personal item” tote / laptop bag: It is shocking to me how hard it is to find a “personal item” carry-on that works for work travel. Since I’m always traveling carry-on only, I have my carry-on rolling suitcase and then have to have a combination purse/laptop bag that does everything I need.
My beloved Jenni Chan tote has been hard to find, though I adore it. It has long enough straps for comfortable carrying (critical!), a laptop sleeve, and plenty of room and pockets leftover for all my other stuff (cords, glasses, chapstick, notebook, etc.). Since then, Baggalini has become a go-to, with similar specs and awesome quality.
Tiny rolling carry-on suitcase: I absolutely adore the carry-on suitcase I mentioned earlier in this post and take it almost everywhere. But what I found was, since I’m a light packer in general, I don’t have a prayer of filling it up for a simple overnight business trip.
I’m often flying from Louisville to Chicago for just one night, so don’t need too much. Plus I’m on an itty-bitty crappy plane with no overhead space and was always having to gate-check my bag. So I finally found (and fell in love with) this even smaller rolling TravelPro suitcase. It even fits under your seat on some planes, in a pinch.
For the photographer or nostalgic
This digital photo frame: It’s so funny to me that digital photo frames are back in style, and they’re actually GOOD (they were garbage back in the early 2000s).
We recently got this one for my parents, and it’s pretty awesome…there’s an app so all of us can upload or swap out photos whenever we want to keep it fresh, and it’s really easy to use. My mom is in love!
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.
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.
A Shutterfly gift certificate: Shutterfly photo books 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.
A gift certificate that lets them order a cool canvas or print from their travels, create their own book, or even something cool like a mug or puzzle, is a unique and thoughtful gift for travelers wanting a special memory of their trips!
Go Pro Hero: Yes, this is a splurge. Not sure I love anyone enough to give them something this expensive 🙂 But if you’re looking for a special gift for travelers who are more adventurous, I’ve found the GoPro (or a knock-off) 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. You can browse different Hero models here.
Yoozon selfie stick & tripod with bluetooth remote: I’ll preface this by saying I hate selfie sticks. But sometimes being a solo traveler is tough…not the least of which when you’re going somewhere absolutely amazing and you aren’t sure how you’ll capture it with just regular selfies. So this selfie stick is the perfect gift for travelers flying solo.
I bought it for my trip to Iceland, and it takes up almost no space, allows you to take awesome far-away selfies that don’t look like selfies, and also set up a small tripod using the remote to capture the perfect moment.
For the safety-minded
I feel like my mom maybe wrote this part of the traveler gift guide 🙂 But sometimes the best gifts are the ones that say “please stay safe and healthy!”.
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.
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.
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 bacteria, parasites, etc.
Or, if this takes up too much space for packing, you can go with just the straw itself, which is super cool.
For the active traveler or outdoors lover
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.
Quality thermals and underlayers: 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 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. Here’s a great one.
Merino wool gloves: I initially found these gloves in New Zealand in a desperate moment, but have used them for years now for all my active winter trips plus running outside during the winter. They’re lightweight and also touchscreen-compatible. I LURVE them.
You can also get them directly from Icebreakers here since they often go in and out of stock on Amazon (and the price is consistently good on Icebreakers website). Plus Icebreakers has lots of different items and is a reliable, quality brand for this type of gear.
Gifts for travelers who have everything…or 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. There are many places I find unique experiences, including GetYourGuide activities and tours, as well as Viator.
A Kindle and the Kindle Unlimited subscription (or Audible subscription) are also really great gifts for travelers who don’t just want more *stuff*, but enables them to have unlimited entertainment without weighing them down on the road.
And if they don’t already have an airline lounge membership, Clear or TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, or other memberships that help make the traveling life smoother, those make amazing gifts for travelers of all different types!
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!
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