Last updated: September 27, 2023
A comprehensive guide to the best gifts for travelers, written by a world traveler.
Every year, my mom asks me, “what do you want for your birthday?” She asks, knowing that I’m a frequent traveler and live most of my life out of a backpack or suitcase, hopping from plane to train, traveling from country to country.
Travelers tend to value experiences more than material items (e.g. ziplining in Costa Rica or eating gelato in Italy).
However, most of us can’t afford to buy our best friend a full vacation, which is why I put together this list of the best gifts that travelers will actually use.
Finding the perfect gift for the traveler in your life is about balancing usability with meaning. It’s ideal to give something that won’t weigh a traveler down or be forgotten about in a closet at home.
Gifts for travelers should be fun and special but also practical for a more nomadic lifestyle.
My rule of thumb when buying gifts for travelers is to find something that makes them feel free. Encouraging freedom means giving gifts that are lightweight, increase efficiency, or give that little push to help someone live their travel dreams.
Travel gifts also need to be durable, dependable, and make it through airport security.
This gift list will help you find the best travel gifts for friends, family, colleagues, or partners who love traveling.
Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.
Table of Contents
Best Stocking Stuffer Travel Gifts
Wild Socks by Crazy Dog T-Shirts
My favorite gift for travelers who have a sense of humor is fun socks. These aren’t your grandma’s socks, though.
Crazy Dog socks come in vibrant colors and with silly prints ranging from bananas to awesome opossums.
My adult friends always laugh when they receive socks with funny sayings like “Swearing helps” or “Give no f*cks.”
Travel Cutlery Set
Last year, my best friend got me a backpacking spork, and I have gotten so much use out of this perfect stocking stuffer.
It’s something that I can appreciate while eating lunch at work or while eating a parfait at the airport.
Carrying a set of reusable cutlery in carry-on bags also helps travelers cut back on single-use plastics.
You can even personalize this Etsy set with your friend’s name.
Self-Care Face Mask
If you’re looking for gifts travelers will love, remember the importance of pampering.
My favorite thing to do after returning home from a long trip is to relax in an Epsom salt bath with a face mask and candles.
The benefit of face masks over mud masks is that they hardly add any weight to a bag and can pass through airport security if your traveling loved one wants to relax in a hotel room.
More times than not, the restroom at a park or trailhead doesn’t have a handwashing station—or they do, but it’s missing soap.
Whether your loved one is road tripping across their home state or flying across the world, carrying soap leaves in a travel bag or purse gives them the basic luxury of washing their hands whenever and wherever.
This is especially relevant for reducing the spread of diseases while traveling. Plus, these make a great stocking stuffer!
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Laundry Detergent Leaves
While we’re on the subject of soap, let’s talk about laundry.
For the love of good-smelling clothes, it doesn’t hurt to get your traveling friend a pack of pocket-sized dry laundry detergent leaves.
Sea to Summit detergent is biodegradable and phosphate free. They won’t push the weight limit for backpackers, and they’re less messy than traditional detergents.
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Drop one of these golfball-sized fellas into someone’s stocking, and you won’t have to rub their feet after a long day at Disneyland.
This ball is made of solid rubber. It’s gentle on tender spots and strong enough to work deep knots.
Best Travel Gift Ideas Under $50
Sleep Mask & Ear Plugs
Sleep is always crucial, no matter if your loved one travels for fun or goes away for business travel.
Give frequent travelers the gift of improved sleep. Over the years, I’ve used complimentary in-flight eye masks, but they lay flat on my eyelashes and often let light in from the corners.
The Alaska Bear eye mask is soft and contoured for eye comfort without light leaks. It comes with a carrying pouch and earplugs.
Waterproof Phone Pouch
If the traveler in your life is taking off on a beach vacation or plays water sports, give them a waterproof pouch for their phone.
This pouch not only protects from accidents, but it can take underwater pictures too. The Pelican phone pouch also floats, setting it apart from cheaper comparisons.
Travel Charm Keyring
Personalized keyrings are fun travel gifts, especially if you’re looking to get something inexpensive for a big group of travel friends.
Travel Size Watercolor Palette
The Winsor and Newton Cotman pocket watercolor palette changed the way I paint.
Usually, I leave my art supplies at home because they’re too bulky, but with this mini palette, I can drop it into my carry-on luggage and paint anywhere.
The palette is about the size of a large cell phone, and the travel paintbrush has an internal water compartment. It all folds down into a convenient carrying case.
This is the convenience gift of the century for traveling artists.
Microfiber Travel Towel
At first, I was skeptical about trying a microfiber travel towel because I don’t like the clingy feeling of microfiber cleaning cloths. But these travel towels are not clingy!
I’ve had no issues with sand, dirt, pine needles, and general crud sticking to my towel.
Gift your beach babe, Parisian hostel hopping, or gym rat loved one a lightweight, quick-drying towel.
Bar Shampoo and Conditioner
Alright, it’s time to get down to business: who here has been stopped at TSA for packing too many liquids in your luggage?
Pouring shampoo and conditioner into tiny travel bottles that always leak is a thing of the past. /liv/ Nature shampoo and conditioner bars actually work and come in TSA-friendly tins.
Not only does this gift make packing easier, but it’s also more environmentally friendly than those tiny single-use plastic shampoo bottles in hotels.
Self-discovery and storytelling are quintessential aspects of traveling. The best gifts for travelers keep this in mind.
Every traveler needs a trusted journal where they can jot down thoughts, brainstorm future travels, and vent about the monkey who stole their phone.
I received my first Zequenz Classic 360 notebook as a present, and after it was full, I purchased a new one.
As a traveling writer and artist, I love this journal because it can be rolled up to fit in a purse or lay open without the pages turning on their own.
While I prefer blank paper, this journal style also comes with grid paper or ruled paper.
Cell Phone Camera Clip-On Lens
I first learned about lenses for phone cameras from a photography professor whose son switched to phone photography.
There are three clip-on lenses for 15x macro, 180° fisheye, and 0.6x wide angle. For context, my Google Pixel 6 has a 20x macro and 0.7 wide angle function built into the camera, but it doesn’t have a fisheye setting.
This kit is best suited for someone who wants to upgrade their phone camera without dropping a thousand dollars on the newest phone.
Best Travel Gifts Ideas under $100
Polaroid cameras are no longer a thing of the past!
Travel lovers of all ages can print pictures on the go with the Fujifilm Instax Mini. I have a friend who documents her travels with one special polaroid picture per day.
Interested in travel gifts for a photographer? Add a pop of color and personality to a loved one’s camera with a vintage camera strap.
Camera Cleaning Kit
Camera cleaning kits are another piece of camera gear that your photographer friend will use time and time again.
Travel Hotel Sheet or Sleeping Bag Liner
Travel hotel sheets and sleeping bag liners are essentially thin sleeping bags made out of bed sheets.
If you know someone who sleeps in hotels often, a travel sheet offers extra protection from whatever lingering germs in their hotel room would light up under ultraviolet light. Yuck.
For your loved ones who prefer camping, hotel sheets or liners protect the inside of their sleeping bag from dirty feet and stinky armpits after a long day of hiking.
BeFree Water Filter Bottle
BeFree filter bottle carries one liter of water, the same as a trusty old Nalgene water bottle.
It’s BPA-free, collapsible, easy to pack, and can help your friend avoid water-borne illnesses while traveling.
Exercise Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are a lightweight gym on the go. Most travelers I’ve met have trouble maintaining an exercise regimen while traveling long-term.
A set of non-slip resistance bands and a foldable yoga mat will keep the traveler in your life fit and toned on their next big trip.
Best Travel Gift Ideas for Her
Hidden Pocket Infinity Scarf
Seriously, why are scarf pockets not more common? The patterns on these infinity scarves are so much fun, and now I don’t have to hide things in my bra.
Pacsafe RFID Cross Body Bag or Travel Purse
Before learning about PacSafe, I used a system of safety pins to “secure” the zipper on my purse while traveling. This year I learned about the anti-theft security zippers on PacSafe bags, and I’m hooked.
I like this Pacsafe purse in particular because it expands to just the right size for carrying a journal or a book.
Looking for more anti-theft bags? Read our guide to the best travel purses.
Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
If the outdoorsy traveler in your life is always cold, consider buying her a Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket.
This puffer has 60g of PrimaLoft recycled insulation and a recycled polyester shell.
She can cram it into an already bulging backpack, fold it into the compression pouch, and use it as a travel pillow on the plane.
Whether the traveler in your life is hanging out on the beach or dressing up for a night out, these pants will be at the top of her packing list.
The Brooklyn Ankle cut fit the classic style of many European countries with the comfort of leggings and light material for summer travels.
These are my favorite travel pants because they are easy to pair with any shirt and can be dressed or down. Versatility is key when it comes to travel.
Vivaia shoes are made of recycled plastic water bottles and hold up to daily wear at the beach or walking through cobblestone streets.
If you know your friend’s shoe size, this can be a great gift for the traveler who still likes to look nice while traveling.
Best Travel Gift Ideas for Him
Cocktail Mix Kit
Alright, this is one of the best travel gifts for dads, hubbies, and swanky people who like to mix their own drinks.
Each box contains the dry ingredients and mixing tools for making cocktails, meaning they can pass through airport security.
Make sure the gift recipient knows that they will have to procure the alcohol and tonic from a flight attendant or bring it to the campsite.
The Cocktail Box Co has several different recipe boxes, so you can give several to the same person or buy them as individual gifts for different friends.
This mini razor and leather pouch is a classy gift for family members who love to travel.
Hanging Toiletry Bag
If the man in your life doesn’t have a leather toiletry bag, gift him the KomalC hanging travel kit.
This buffalo leather shave kit has a surprising amount of storage space. It can be hung next to the bathroom sink to avoid pooling water and dirty countertops.
By unfolding it, your giftee can see everything and is less likely to lose small items at the bottom of the bag.
Travel Security Money Belt
Money belts are an excellent alternative to fanny packs and purses. The Jasgood money belt has an anti-theft pocket for hiding cash from pickpockets at densely packed tourist destinations.
Another practical present for the outdoorsy traveler in your life is a waterproof headlamp.
Hands-free headlamps are more versatile than flashlights and won’t drain phone battery, which is important on long trips.
While traveling in Costa Rica, I used my headlamp for a nighttime hot springs tour. It was perfect until I dropped it in the water, which is why I now recommend going for the Ghost Bird Seiker waterproof headlamp.
As a bonus, one percent of Ghost Bird profits goes to the World Owl Trust.
Best Travel Gift Ideas for Couples
Airbnb Gift Cards
Send your favorite couple on vacation by paying for their accommodation away from home. Airbnbs are all over the world and range from luxurious to rustic.
Maybe the travel duo already has their accommodation covered—no problem! Airbnb users can book experiences like cooking classes and kayaking tours as well.
Travel Challenges Card Game
Are your friends adventure travelers? Pick up a deck of Couples Edition adventure traveler cards.
Each card has instructions for travel challenges tailored toward meeting locals, exploring the city, and creating unique memories.
Ticket Stub Organizer
I don’t know about your friends, but mine have old concert ticket stubs, movie tickets, and boarding passes coming out of their ears.
Just the Ticket is like a hybrid scrapbook—trading card organizer. Each ticket has its own slot and a few lines to write memories.
If you want to make an extra special gift for your partner, surprise them with tickets for an upcoming travel experience or show.
One of my favorite gifts from a sorority sister in college was an assortment of dried mandarin and mango slices and artisan hot chocolate mix.
The dried fruit went straight into my travel backpack for my next trip through airport security.
Other easy-to-pack travel treats include nuts and candies. Bonus points if you find your friend a snack with sentimental value.
Best Gifts for Someone Traveling Abroad
Universal Outlet Adaptor
When a friend goes abroad for the first time, I casually ask if they have an outlet adaptor.
This is one of those lightweight gifts to take abroad that won’t add unnecessary clutter to their suitcase. Outlet adaptors are easy to forget about but essential.
The second question that I ask when a friend travels abroad for the first time is, “do you have a passport holder?”
My sister bought me a passport holder before my first study abroad trip to India. It was a meaningful gift that I still take with me around the world.
Plus, the RFID-safe material blocks potential thieves from scanning the cards inside.
Eurail Global Pass
If you know someone planning a trip to Europe, consider gifting them a Eurail Global Pass.
Eurail passes are essentially an open-ended train ticket. The pass-holder can hop on and off of trains across Europe over a predetermined period of time.
Eurail isn’t the cheapest option for booking train tickets, but it’s the easiest.
A traveler with a Eurail pass can book a last-minute seat or miss their train and catch the next one. It’s essentially a priority pass to the European rail system.
This is what I would buy my graduating senior who is backpacking across Europe.
Scratch Off Map
Every traveler needs this scratch-off map to showcase where they’ve been and discover where they’ll go next.
If you’re looking for slightly less practical travel-themed gifts, maps are easy-to-hang dorm decor and interesting backgrounds for Zoom meetings.
Also, scratch-off maps don’t require push pins, making them safer for small kids and less destructive to walls if the giftee lives in an apartment.
Read our guide to the best US national park scratch-off maps.
PacSafe Camera Bag: Anti-Theft Daypack
For someone able to fork out the money for high-quality photography travel gear, check out the PacSafe CamSafe X25 pack. This backpack is worth every penny.
My favorite part is the anti-theft zippers that latch together and can be locked for extra security while walking in crowded touristy areas.
The front of the bag and the straps are constructed with slash-resistant material. Inside is an RFID-safe pocket to protect from unwanted credit card scanning, and the bottom half of the bag opens separately for equipment-only access.
It also has a water bottle pocket, extra padding, hip and sternum straps, and a rain cover.
Thin Fanny Pack
Venture’s slim pouch is large enough to carry a phone, money, keys, and passport but thin enough to conceal it under a t-shirt, button-down, or skirt before letting loose at the dance club.
Fashion tip: this year, many of my European friends are wearing their fanny packs as a crossbody bag (from shoulder to hip instead of around their waist) during the day.
Is your friend more outdoorsy? Read our guide to the best hiking fanny packs.
Best Gifts for Someone Who Travels a lot for Work
Packing cubes are a hot item among travelers right now because they help keep things organized and reduce wrinkles.
I use packing cubes to compress my clothes while backpacking and replace the need for a laundry bag.
My friend backpacked in Malaysia last month and got caught in a rainstorm that soaked through her outer bag, which is why I recommend the waterproof Veken set.
I don’t know why it took so long for packing cubes to become a mainstream item, but your traveling friends and family will thank you for this time-saving gift.
We tested the best packing cubes on the market and assembled a guide to choosing your best fit. Read about our eight favorite packing cube brands.
A simple leather laptop sleeve makes an elegant graduation gift for your favorite traveler.
With this Allinside laptop sleeve, you’ll help them feel and look professional at business meetings around the world.
Lumbar Support Cushion
If your parents complain of lower back pain while traveling, save their asses—or rather, their backs—with a lumbar support cushion.
Folding Yoga Mat
One of the trickiest things about frequent travel is maintaining an exercise and mindfulness routine.
Traditional yoga mats are difficult to travel with, and no one wants to touch hotel floors.
The Gaiam folding yoga mat doesn’t have much cushion, but it does have the grip necessary for downward dog. Plus, it folds up to the size of a small laptop for frequent travelers.
Mini Travel Steamer
A mini steamer is one of those gifts for travelers who need to pack light but still want to look their best in business meetings. Steamers remove wrinkles and even some stains.
Travel Backpacking Pack
Speak to your budget backpacker friend’s heart with a new backpack.
For a beginner traveler, I recommend the Coofay XL backpack.
The Coofay has all of the essentials, like compression straps, zipper pockets, and even a shoe compartment. It doesn’t have a hip belt, but it does have a sternum strap.
If your loved one is ready for an upgrade, I suggest investing in the Osprey Fairview or Farpoint packs (women’s and men’s versions).
These Osprey backpacks are pricier, but they’ll last for years and years to come.
The 40L versions of the Fairview and Farpoint have external stuff pockets, a 16-inch laptop pocket, and hip belt pockets.
Hip belts are super important once someone’s getting serious about traveling because they take a lot of weight off of the shoulders on longer trips.
These Osprey bags are also water-resistant, and the backpack straps stow away.
Looking for more backpack options for an outdoorsy traveler? Read our guide to the best hiking backpacks for women.
SHOP FAIRVIEW WOMEN’S:
SHOP FARPOINT MEN’S:
Best Travel Accessory Gifts
You know that friend whose couch is hidden under a pile of blankets?
The Pavilia travel blanket is my favorite travel gift idea. It’s fuzzy like the blankets back home but compresses into a pillow the size of a standard airplane tray table.
Travel Neck Pillow
What I love most about this travel neck pillow is its adjustable shape.
This is the perfect travel gift for anyone who wants to avoid falling asleep on their seatmate’s shoulder—I am, of course, not speaking from experience *cough, cough*.
Searching for the best gift ideas for parents and grandparents? Compression socks promote blood flow from the feet upward to reduce swelling after long flights.
Suitcase and Shoe Deodorizers
You know that friend with the stinky feet? Kindly Amazon this gift to their doorstep.
But seriously, Marsheepy deodorizer bags use charcoal and bamboo to absorb and eliminate odors. They work in shoes, backpacks, suitcases, even cars, and around the house.
Simply recharge the deodorizers in the sun once a month, and they will last for about two years.
The best part is that once your friend is done with them, the contents are compostable.
First Aid Kit
I am definitely that mom friend who gives first aid kits as holiday gifts. This ultralight medical kit weighs only 0.5 oz, making it an easy safety accessory to toss into any suitcase or backpack.
If you like going the extra mile, I always add Benadryl and menstruation pads (highly absorbent for serious wounds and surprise periods) before wrapping this gift.
Best Travel Gadgets & Tech Gifts
Noise Canceling Headphones
Using advanced noise canceling technology, Bose makes it possible for your favorite world travelers to sleep on the plane despite crying babies.
Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Good sound quality is worth investing in. The JBL Flip 4 isn’t cheap, but it will survive accidental lake dives—oops—and it has a battery life of 12 hours.
Tech Accessories Organization Bag
Having a dedicated bag for organizing tech accessories makes all the difference when traveling with videography and photography equipment.
Portable chargers are travel essentials. If your favorite traveler doesn’t have a portable charger, give them one this holiday season.
I like the INIU power bank because it’s small enough to carry in a purse, and it can charge multiple phones before needing to be recharged.
INIU has two USB ports and one USB C port, compatible with new smartphones.
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The MOFT Invisible Laptop stand is a cool travel gift for digital nomads and business travelers.
Raising the laptop closer to eye level prevents remote workers from staring down all day, thus reducing neck pain.
Unlike bulky laptop stands that are intended for home offices, MOFT’s invisible stand adheres to the bottom of any size laptop, weighs 3oz, and folds down to 1/9” in width.
I prefer this laptop stand as a travel gift because it takes up minimal space in a carry-on bag and can be set up on a tray table for watching movies.
Have you ever been charged a hefty fee for an overweight bag? Trust me, it stings. But it’s not like you can stuff a whole bathroom scale in your suitcase when you’re traveling abroad.
This convenient luggage scale is pocket-sized and super lightweight, so travelers can take it anywhere and always know when their bag is too heavy–before getting gouged at the check-in counter.
Best Luxury Travel Gifts
Swiss Gear Carry-On Suitcase
I recommend Swiss Gear for luxury suitcases. My favorite is the soft 21” expandable carry-on roller because it meets the dimension requirements for most major international airlines.
Airport Lounge Access
Offer to upgrade a loved one’s plane ticket or share your airline points for access to airport lounges.
I am obsessed with this luxury experience, and it would be the ultimate surprise for a budget backpacker.
To arrange access to airport lounges, you’ll have to know which airlines the giftee plans to fly through.
Upgrading tickets for lounge access can be expensive, so be prepared to pay big money for this luxury present.
Yeti Travel Mug
Looking for a great gift for traveling coffee addicts? Encourage sustainability and style with a double-wall insulated Yeti travel mug.
Yeti fits in cupholders, and double wall insulation keeps drinks cold or hot.
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Another way to boost frequent flyer comfort for your short friends is with a foot hammock that attaches to the seat back. The sleepy ride hammock is 7 oz and buckles to the seatback.
Best Unique Travel Gifts
Necklace With Photo Projection
Custom photo projection necklaces are an excellent gift for moms (including dog moms) who miss their families while racking up frequent flyer points.
Unlike lockets, these necklaces are discrete, and no one will know that she has a secret picture unless she shows them.
Monogrammed Duffel Bag
Personalized or monogrammed items are a fun gift to remind travelers that their friends and family back home are thinking of them.
It also helps distinguish their bag on the luggage carousel.
Looking for more duffel bag options? Read our guide to the best waterproof duffel bags.
Personalized Leather Luggage Tag
Leather luggage tags are an inexpensive but unique gift for frequent travelers. Leather looks better and is more reliable than those pesky paper tags that crinkle, fade, and fall off.
With this personalized luggage tag, your traveling loved one will be able to spot their stuff at baggage claim instantly.
International Snack Subscription Box
Universal Yums sends tasty international treats in a monthly subscription box.
Grandkids can taste snacks from around the world, and college students can have international travel-themed movie nights.
In a pandemic-stricken world, it can be difficult to find gifts for people who like to travel but are still stuck at home. Now they can get their international travel “fix” delivered right to their door.
ID and Medical Bracelet
On the topic of safety, I wear a medical bracelet while traveling or hiking in the backcountry. ID bracelets are personal items, best for gifting to family members.
Medical bracelets usually don’t make the “Best Travel Accessories” list. However, they can save lives by providing first responders with the wearer’s name, date of birth, emergency contact information, current medications, and blood type.
For someone traveling outside of their home country, be sure to include the correct international country code in front of their emergency contact’s phone number.
Best Travel Books to Give as Gifts
Kindles are one of the best travel gift ideas for saving bookworms from the heartache of choosing which book to pack. With 16GB of storage, they can now pack their whole library.
Make this the absolute best gift by pre-downloading one of the following titles.
The Best American Travel Writing Series
Inspire future trips with an anthology of the best international travel essays by American authors.
This is the perfect gift for long-haul flights, bedtime dreaming, and displaying as a coffee table book.
I’m currently learning about Siberian history and culture through an intriguing essay in the 2010 edition.
The Island of Sea Women: A Novel
The Island of Sea Women is an epic feminine multigenerational tale about two best friends growing up in the 20th century on Jeju.
Jeju is a Korean island where women traditionally support their families by free diving to unfathomable depths.
As the girls become women, their friendship is strained by Japanese colonialism, wars, familial disputes, and shifting traditions.
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding
Kristin Newman’s travel memoir is the best gift for Eat, Pray, Love groupies.
Like Gilbert, Newman is a comedic, reflective, kickass solo traveling woman who will make your friend want to board a plane tomorrow.
The Lonely Planet Travel Guides
Lonely Planet travel guides make perfect gifts for someone who likes to study up on travel destinations ahead of time. They make an excellent coffee table book for travelers while they’re (briefly) at home.
You can choose from hundreds of travel guides that provide information on lodging, transportation, culture, and cuisine based on location and type of travel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jodelle Marx is an artist and writer, adventure seeker, and collaborator. She hikes, swims, chases after her dog, and hums off tune. When Jodelle is not nerding out about traveling, she is probably working on a community project or performing spoken word poetry.
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