Giving gifts is an art: you have to know someone well enough to know what they like, what they already have, and what will make them feel special. Travel gifts ideas are even harder because you throw in complications like having limited space in your suitcase and recipients who would (often) rather have experiences than things. This year’s guide to unique travel gifts attempts to balance everything and stay on a budget.
So without further ado, here are my recommendations on gifts for people who love to travel.
This round-up is one of my favorite posts to write every year and I’m happy to say that everything is truly something I own and recommend (or really want to try). Several of these recommendations include affiliate links. Shopping through these links is one of the easiest ways you can support their work — and it’s the same exact cost as buying directly. Thanks for clicking!
Unique Travel Gifts – What’s On My List This Year
|Tieks Ballet Flats
Is it an impulse purchase if you’ve been eyeing the same product for years? Tieks have a great reputation for being comfortable walking shoes — and they’re stylish enough to wear all over the world. I’m all about a classic black to go with everything from a little black dress to skinny jeans.
I know I’m not the only traveler who journals along the way. These notebooks are easy to stash in any carry-on and downright beautiful. Plus at $12 for a 4-pack, you can hand one out to everyone in your family.
|In-Flight Foot Rest
Dustin from Running with Miles recommends this foot rest, which looks small enough to realistically pack on your trips. I get so uncomfortable on long flights (doesn’t everyone?) and this looks like it might actually help me “stretch out” and get some rest. I’ll definitely be trying it on my overnight flight from Sri Lanka to Tokyo.
|Lump of Coal
The Adventure Project is selling charcoal soap with an incredible cause behind it. For each bar of soap, they’ll donate a new stove to a woman in Kenya so that she know longer has to use a charcoal stove (which is terrible for your lungs). Since charcoal soap clarifies and detoxifies your soap without leaving it dry, it’s a win-win for everyone.
Unique Travel Gifts – Clothing and Accessories
The best travel gifts are ones that you can use in everyday life, too. I love Fitbits to keep track of steps while traveling (it’s easy to hit 15,000 in a city like London) and the bangle straps make them look like jewelry or watches instead of those ugly rubber bands.
Smartwool keeps your hands warm and dry without being bulky, which is why I love it on gloves just as much as socks. These HyFi training gloves offer great dexterity (a must-have for winter sightDOING) and are touch screen compatible so you can you your GPS or phone camera on the go.
|The Perfect Shirt for Flying
When is it worth splurging on a shirt? When it’s so comfortable, breathable, and just the right amount of warmth that you sleep like a baby on your overnight flight. These “Happiest Tees” come with a variety of locations to fit the personality of your favorite traveler.
Let me be honest: I hate wearing hats. But I’m going to Namibia in 2018 and not only does every safari operator say to pack a hat, but so does my mom. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that my mom is usually right. This lightweight hat also has a sweat band and UPF 50 protection.
Unique Travel Gifts – Practical Ideas
Know someone who’s a minimalist (that’s me!)? You’re better off making sure the gifts you use are things they actually need.
Insurance is the world’s least sexy gift, but it’s an awesome idea because it can save a traveler a ton of money. It’s also one of those things many travelers know they need yet still don’t buy. I use RoamRight and trust them fully.
Related Post: Do You Need Travel Insurance?
Do you know what a VPN is? It’s super important because it protects and encrypts your personal and financial information whenever you’re using public wi-fi (which travelers do often). An annual subscription is just $60, a great gift pricepoint.
If you know a traveler who constantly uses their electronics, portable chargers are a lifesaver. Buy one with enough juice to be useful (but not so much that the battery is heavy). I like the Anker PowerCore 10000 which is fast, light, and compact.
Here’s the thing with packing cubes: before you have them, you wonder if it’s really worth the money for a little piece of fabric with a zipper. Then, once you have them, you can’t imagine packing without them. eBags packing cubes are great and have free returns so there’s no risk in trying.
Related Post: Using Packing Cubes to Stay Organized on Vacation
Toothbrushes get nasty quickly when you brush your teeth in the morning, throw the brush in your bag, and let it sit around all day before you make it to the next hotel. I swear Steripods work, or at least they make your brush smell and taste fresh!
Do you need more practical gift ideas? Shop everything that’s in my suitcase — if it makes my packing list, it’s definitely useful.
Unique Travel Gifts – for the Person Who Has Everything
It can be impossible finding a gift for someone who already has everything, but here are a few travel gifts ideas to inspire you.
|Urban Adventures Gift Certificates
Out of all the companies I’ve tried, Urban Adventures is the one that consistently offers tours around the world that are truly unique. They get hands-on, stay local, and have fun twists. Send a gift card for a certain dollar amount or choose a specific tour.
Birchbox subscriptions (starting with just 3 months) come with 5 high-quality beauty products you’ve never heard of. The samples are the perfect size for traveling and might introduce someone to a brand new favorite product.
|Airport Lounge Passes
You can buy lounge passes on eBay and then pass them on to your favorite traveler. I would never pay the full $50 entry fee, but it’s not hard to get value from a half-off pass. Grab a free drink, snacks, wi-fi, space to spread out, and a bottle of water to make your next trip less stressful.
|Ancestry.com DNA Kit
Help someone inspire a trip to their motherland after they dig into their ancestry. I’d start with the DNA kit to get a good idea of your heritage, but the family tree membership is a cool service, too.
Related Post: Przemysl Poland – An Unexpected Surprise
Everyone has a map, but most of them are pretty generic. This handmade artwork is perfect if you need a gift for couples. (Hint: keep it in mind for traveling newlyweds, too).
Unique Travel Gifts – for Adventurers
SightDOING takes me outside often, which means I need the right gear.
Dry bags take “waterproof” to maximum level. I’ve kept expensive cameras dry during whitewater rafting and clothing dry during thunderstorms when backcountry camping. Sea to Summit dry sacks offer a thinner (but still effective) material which is great for traveling.
|National Parks Pass
For $80, you can give the gift of unlimited national parks entry all year long. It’s the perfect gift for anyone who loves the outdoors because it encourages you to check out all your local sites and plan a trip to others throughout the country. Want something smaller? Check if your state parks have something similar.
|Sawyer Water Filter
After using a Steripen for years, I finally upgraded to a Sawyer water filter which is way better technology for a fraction of the price. Use it like a straw to drink tap water all over the world, even where it’s unsafe normally. It’s also fine for streams and rivers.
Every year, I share my gift giving ideas — but I rarely hear what’s on your own wishlist. Let me know in the comments so I can write a letter to Santa!
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