Last Updated: November 8, 2018
Buying gifts for travelers can be tricky. Because there are the nomadic/minimalist travelers, like me, who nearly break out in hives at the thought of yet another item they’ll only end up giving away because they like to travel light and have no permanent home in which to store belongings. Then there are the luxury travelers who, and I’m totally guessing here, want to carry their fine China set with them in First Class. Regardless of what type of traveler you’re shopping for, I’m going to make the huge assumption that most travelers (and most people in general) always appreciate a practical gift.
So I’ve put together a list of practical gifts for travelers. (And yes, this blog post is just a thinly veiled hint hint at what I want you to get me for Christmas. There, you caught me.)
*Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I may get a commission if you purchase something after clicking them.
I know, I know, no one actually uses these–but hear me out! In October I read an article about a woman who was denied access to her flight because her passport was bent and had a little water damage. That definitely made me think twice about stuffing my passport into my pocket. I’d really like a passport cover for my next trip (ahem, hint hint).
You’re laughing, aren’t you? I too thought packing cubes were a joke—before I actually used them. As a one-bag/carry-on only enthusiast, I’m always looking for ways to optimize space. I know it seems hard to believe, but yes, using packing cubes does indeed help you pack more into a small space.
There’s a couple of reasons for this. One, it helps compress your items. Two, it helps things stay organized so you can arrange them better, like a well-played game of Tetris (I am horrible at Tetris, by the way). I use packing cubes from Tom Bihn (Tom Bihn company provided me with these packing cubes last year for free in exchange for an honest review. I still use them because I genuinely love them, and no, that is not an affiliate link.)
If you’re looking for gifts for someone going travelling, you can’t go wrong with something as practical as a set of packing cubes!
Timbuk2 Aviator Backpack
I. Am. In. Love with this backpack. For the past two years I’ve been searching for the “perfect” bag for one-bag travel, and folks, call me crazy, but I think I’ve found it. I intend to write a full post proclaiming my love for the Timbuk2 Aviator (and no, I was not compensated in any way to write about Timbuk2). This stylish and well-designed backpack carries “only” 30L, and everyone—including the salesperson at Timbuk2 in San Francisco!—told me I was insane for thinking I could pack five weeks in Paris into one Aviator. But guess what? I did it. And it was glorious. It’s the perfect backpack for these reasons: It comes with a padded hip belt, which means my shoulders no longer ache. I seriously damaged them carrying a 45L backpack with no hip belt through South America for almost five months. It has a sternum strap for added stability and comfort. It has a padded laptop sleeve on the part of the backpack that goes against your back (extra security). It opens clamshell style (the best way to pack, in my opinion). It’s the perfect size for my body type and size; I’m 5’3″ and weigh 112 pounds. If you’ve got a traveler who’s as much of a bag fiend as I am, definitely get them the Timbuk2 Aviator. They will not be disappointed.
SCOTTeVest Pickpocket-Proof 18-Pocket Jacket
My dad got me a SCOTTeVEST one year for Christmas, and they are genius pieces of clothing for travelers! This jacket has 18 pockets, which is perfect if you like to pack carry-on only, because you can fit a lot of items into the jacket itself.
Anker Portable Cell Phone Battery Charger
If you’re like me and a dead cell phone sends you into a panic attack, you need this. While traveling alone, if your cell phone dies, you’re lost. There’s no way to navigate using Google Maps or call/text for help. I mean, I guess you could ask a person for help, but that sounds like nonsense and who really does that anymore?
I use this Anker portable charger. It works great! It charges way faster than a regular cord in the wall, and it charges my iPhone 5S to 100% and still has some juice left. The best part? It’s about the size of a lipstick case, so it doesn’t take up much space in your bag. Not only do these portable chargers make great gifts for travelers, I think they also are great stocking stuffers for anyone who has a cell phone (which is basically everyone).
This is an app that lets anyone track you (with your permission). Okay, that sounds creepy, but I promise you it’s actually not. It’s a safety app. Before I left for Paris, my dad set me and my whole family up on this app. You can create a family circle, and set up notifications to know when someone leaves a certain place and arrives at a certain place. Since I was traveling in Paris alone, my dad wanted to make sure he could find me if anything went wrong. He set up a parameter around my apartment in Paris, so he was alerted every time I left my apartment and every time I returned. This proved extremely useful on two occasions: When the Paris terror attacks happened on Nov. 13, he was able to see that I was safe inside my apartment away from the bombings and shootings. And second, when my apartment was burglarized on Thanksgiving Day, I was able to form a timeline of events for the police who were trying to put together a timeline for their investigation; they needed to know when I had left the apartment, so they could try to figure out at what time the burglars broke in. I highly, highly recommend Life360.
Life360 is FREE, but there is a paid Premium version (which my dad bought) that gives you extra features such as the ability to set up unlimited “Places” which sends notifications when someone enters and leaves a certain area and gives you access to your extended history (all the places you’ve been and at what time and date).
What better way to say, “I care,” than to continuously stalk someone via an app? Jokes aside, I think every traveler should use this app with a trusted family member or a friend.
Wireless Portable Security Camera
While we’re on the topic of safety, I want to bring up security cameras. Ever since my apartment in Paris was broken into and my MacBook was stolen, I now travel with a Wi-Fi security camera (two, actuallly). Sure, that may be an overreaction, but that’s pretty normal after something like that happens. Regardless, if you’re traveling for long periods of time and have a home to look after, it’s a very good idea to have a cloud camera like this set up. Zmodo’s app will alert you every time it detects motion. If I’d had a security camera in my Paris studio when the burglary happened, I at least would’ve been able to get footage of the thieves and give that to the police.
My biggest expenses while in Peru and France were language courses. Once you’re in-country, classes at local schools can be extremely expensive. To give you an idea, I spent about $360USD for one week of 15 hours in a group French class in Paris. A smarter way to take classes is to opt for online courses or tutoring. I’ve really been wanting to try Verbling.
Verbling has high-quality teachers teaching online group classes or tutoring lessons. You can actually watch classes for free, but if you want to actually join a class or do private tutoring, you need to pay–but the prices are very reasonable. A monthly subscription to Verbling starts at just $19 to join 10 classes per month. Private tutoring prices vary depending on which teacher you select and how many lessons you buy. One lesson costs around $25 (they last one hour), but if you buy in bulk, the hourly price will decrease. Also, Verbling is offering free Swedish lessons to help Syrian refugees get jobs in Sweden. A company with heart? They’ve got my approval.
The book lover in me is disgusted I would ever suggest you buy this, but I have a confession to make: For the past year and a half, I have read almost all my books on a Kindle. GASP! It’s true, the Kindle is so much easier to schlep across South America than, say, 20 books. And I can read it in the SUNLIGHT, people! And leave searchable highlights and notes.
Look, I love the scent of musty old books just as much as the next bibliophile, but I must admit: I am a Kindle convert. Definitely get one for the traveler in your life.
The Kindle Paperwhite is awesome because it has a built-in light, allowing you to read it in the dark in a pinch.
What do you think of these practical gifts for travelers? Is there anything you’d add?
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