Are you trying to conceive of the perfect travel gift for your friend, husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend, or family member? As a traveler myself (extensive foreign travel), I’ve got travel gift ideas in all price ranges for your giftee whether they prefer useful travel gifts or fun travel gifts. For a gift out of your price range, find other friends or family members who can share the cost with you.
Feel free to pick out a gift for yourself, too, if you see something you really love. :) And, be sure to comment below if there’s something else you think should be on this list.
And, hey, I don’t know why some links have a strikethrough, but they still work! And, if you click on them, this blog may earn a tiny commission from your purchase at no cost to you.
A Gift Basket or Gift Bag for the Traveler
Men and women generally love a bag or basket with a few gifts, so I’ve included items that can be combined and total less than $50 along with some more expensive items. I suggest selecting one or two larger items and a variety of small things. For example, a useful or photography item combined with chocolates and other sweets are always a huge hit. This way you get to a nice package of fun travel gifts.
If you prefer a large variety of small gifts that your traveler won’t have to carry around for the entirety of a long trip (or simply decide to leave at home) I suggest hydrating items. The air on flights is quite dry, so here are some items to include in travel-size containers as much as possible.
Super Useful Travel Gifts
I find that useful travel gifts are those that are most likely to actually travel with me, whether it makes my travels either easier or more enjoyable before, during, or after my trip.
I bought these over a year ago, and love them so much I’ve now convinced a friend she needs this set of 3 Eagle Creek Specter packing cubes, too. You can go the cheaper route and use gallon (large) sized Ziploc bags, but they aren’t quite as good because they can tear and it is difficult to pack things into the bottom corners. Upon her return from Europe, my friend told me, “I don’t know how I ever traveled without these”. So, try them out! If they don’t work for you, you can always return them (check the return policy).
This is my favorite type of packing cube since they are very lightweight, pack tiny when empty, are easy to clean (wash in soapy water and rinse), and the ripstop material prevents any small tears from growing. I pack all my underwear in the smallest bag, my shirts, and shorts in the medium bag, and my pants and sweater in the largest bag. Or, sometimes I’ll use the smallest bag for spare camera items, like a phone tripod, and toss it into my backpack for a day hike.
This is a trick! Help your loved one find the cheapest international flights! Get them a membership to Scott’s Cheap Flights. It’s about $40 a year and well worth it! Also, send them the link to my blog post about how to use this and other resources (many free!!).
My electronic travel scale is one of my best purchases ever for travel. It’s very small and inexpensive (around $10). Now I’m a million times less stressed when packing, since I know I won’t have any problem during my flight check-in for having an overweight carry-on bag! Just put the strap through your bags’ handle, turn on the device, and lift. Press the button once to switch between pounds and kilograms. Your giftee will thank you forever!
Water Bottle and Travel Mug
I’m always recommending the Platypus water bottle for most trips since it packs flat when empty and fits in the seatback in front of you on a plane. For road trips, an insulated water bottle keeps water cold and reduces trash as opposed to buying bottles of water.
I carry a water bottle on every flight because invariably I’m thirsty before drinks are provided or between meal times. Also, I make an effort to keep thoroughly hydrated on flights so that I am forced to walk around (getting up to use the toilet) every few hours avoiding any blood clot issues that can arise from long periods of sitting.
An insulated travel coffee mug is key for road trips! Many coffee shops even give a discount if you bring in your own cup. I prefer a mug without a handle for packability, but there are tons to choose from!
A Pen for Writing
Every traveler needs a pen for completing the customs form when landing in a foreign country. Often we end up asking to borrow a pen from our seat neighbor or a flight attendant. However, having your very own pen is so great, since later in the trip invariably a traveler needs to write down a name, mark a location on a map, or whatever. Most things can be done on a phone or with an app, but a pen is old school, and there is no battery to die!
Energy & Power
When a traveler is out and about all day taking photos and video, using the smartphone’s camera, map apps and everything else battery invariably runs low. I carry a powerbank at all times. The worst is being near days end and wanting to take a few more photos, but having to save battery to use my map app to return to my hotel.
For an overnight trip without power or a day that includes shooting video, I take a powerbank with at least 20,000mAh. For a day of wandering without much video, a smaller powerbank is fine– I ration my cell phone battery and keep the power bank for the end of the day to ensure I can recharge and find my way back to my hotel easily.
Phone Charging Cable Cord
I’ve found that power plugs are sometimes far from the desk or bed, so I now carry a 6-foot cord. It is life-changing even at home or when visiting family! (Spare bedrooms are the worst since the owner never stays in them and doesn’t realize how inconveniently some things are placed.)
Travel Plug Adaptor – Include with Gifts for Someone Going Abroad
This is a gift often needed by someone going abroad. Countries vary in electrical plug and voltage. This is how you convert your American laptop cord or phone charger so that it functions in South Africa, for example.
Buy the smallest electrical power adaptor for the country or region needed. I prefer one with 2 USB ports and 1-2 plugs whenever it’s available. This way I can simultaneously charge my camera batteries, phone, and Kindle.
I never carry an adaptor for Africa when I visit Asia and avoid heavy all-in-1 adaptors. For round-the-world (RTW) travelers, I suggest buying a small adaptor for each region. Just make sure your phone and power bank are fully charged when you arrive in the second and subsequent regions, so you have a day to find the new adaptor (or trade with someone in your hostel). Many Superhost Airbnb’s will have travel adaptors on-hand for borrowing. You can always communicate with them in advance and ask.
Safety and Security
These safety and security gifts are useful for everyone.
Door Blocker Alarm
Small and lightweight, this device is placed just inside a hotel room door. The shrieking crazy loud alarm goes off if the door opens far enough and hits the pad. The noise will scare the crap out of you and anyone else nearby, including the intruder (hopefully). Note: test the alarm at a time and location where you won’t awaken anyone. The door blocker alarm is around $10.
Whether it’s for finding the bathroom in an unfamiliar hotel room, dark walk home from a restaurant or a night hike, a headlamp is super useful and a safety device. The Black Diamond Spot is fantastic since it is long lasting and lightweight, as are other headlamps by Black Diamond and Petzl, two very well known outdoors brands.
This is the item many people think they’ll never need, but once they have it they use it all the time. It’s great for road trips in case you’re stuck on the side of the road at night or simply finding whatever fell into that dark space between the seats.
I recommend paying the extra few dollars for a well-known high-quality and reliable brand of headlamp since it must work in any situation. I consider this a safety item and keep one in my earthquake emergency kit at home, too.
For your giftee’s next trip, buy them a SIM card in advance. It may take a bit of research, but it is super useful having cell phone service upon landing in a new place. It can be confusing trying to figure out exactly what is needed while in the hustle and bustle of an airport. Also, your giftee can message home right away letting family and friends know they’ve arrived safely, and communicate directly with accommodation for airport transportation.
Passport Cover with RFID Protection
Passport covers can be as simple as a clear plastic cover to something fancy that holds additional items and is RFID blocking. Read the reviews and ensure it’s easy to remove the passport from the cover as many customs desks require this when passing through. Also, ensure it’s not too bulky or heavy. Otherwise, your favorite traveler may decide to leave it at home.
RFID Credit Card Protectors
I personally don’t want the bulk and weight of a big RFID wallet, so I prefer the little credit card sleeves or a minimalist RFID wallet. By reducing the bulk I can keep my money in my front pants pocket or inside jacket pocket when in crowded areas. This minimizes the chance I will be pick-pocketed from a purse or back pocket.
Portable safe security systems come in both hard case and bag format. I prefer the bag version since it packs flat when empty.
Lockable Backpack and Purse
Pacsafe makes a portable safe and many other bag types, including backpacks and purses. These should be highly considered for visits to places with a high risk of pick-pockets or when the bag might be out of sight, such as on bus rides when luggage is put on the roof of the bus or in a luggage compartment. The bag can be locked and the entire bag is covered in a layer of mesh that is very difficult to cut through.
Scarf with Hidden Pocket
Everyone is trying to come up with ways to avoid being pick-pocketed. The infinity scarf with a hidden pocket may be one of the more ingenious concepts. It looks like a normal scarf and a woman in one of my Facebook groups highly recommended it and wore it daily throughout her trip to London and Amsterdam. It is ideal for cooler climates.
Photography & Video
Tiny Portable Photo Printer
The HP Sprocket is easy to use and prints tiny 2″ x 3″ photos on sticky paper. This is perfect for scrapbooking or sharing photos with new friends. It’s also lightweight compared to similar portable printers, and has Bluetooth connectivity for printing straight from a phone.
Flying Camera Drone
Drones have come down a lot in price in recent years. They’ve also decreased in size and weight and are now the size of a water bottle when folded. Have a look at the DJI Spark and other DJI foldable drones. It’s really fun taking aerial photos and video. Just make sure you know the rules and regulations for the place you’ll be flying. They are forever changing. I also have a drone buying guide here.
For anyone who has ever wanted a selfie from a distance, these little tripods are wonderful. I have one myself and it goes everywhere with me since it’s very lightweight and small. Some even come with a remote. I’ve been known to use mine as a selfie stick to put a little extra distance between the camera and my face.
Phone Camera Lenses
If I’m going on a shorter trip and want to save space and weight in my bag, I pack my 4-in-1 Olloclip for my Phone. There are lots of lenses for every phone. I recommend avoiding the ‘clothes pin’ type attachments since they tend to shift around after a few minutes of use. There are many high-quality brands which attach securely, including Moment.
Camera for Travel
Sometimes a new camera is needed for a trip. I get it. I bought my first DSLR when planning my trip to Mongolia because I knew I’d want the best features available. Here is my travel camera comparison chart, which gives information regarding weight, sensor size, and everything else you should prioritize when camera shopping, whether it’s a snap-and-shoot or a DSLR. And, you can never go wrong with a GoPro for the ultralight packer.
A note for beginner photographers: I hate to break it to you, but no camera will make you a better photographer. A photographer must understand the functionality of their camera in terms of light, focus, and speed. So, take a short course when you get your new camera and you’ll do great! Even a 2-hour course will help a lot, which is what I started with years ago. (I can take great photos with my iPhone 4 and 5, as well as with my fancy DSLR.)
If your giftee is a serious photographer, please see my entire photography gear list here.
Fun Travel Gifts for Enjoyment and Comfort
These fun travel gifts are among my favorite items. Some are meant to travel the world and others are really great for things like trip planning or recalling fun times.
Scratch Off Travel Map
Scratch off travel maps are fantastic for tracking where you’ve been. Like a photo book or charm bracelet, this is a fun way to see remember trips and also serves as wall decor. Click here for prices.
eReader – Kindle Paperwhite
With space to load thousands of books to read or listen to (compatible with Audible) and half the weight of an average paperback book, the Kindle Paperwhite is the perfect gift that will last years. The screen has adjustable backlighting, so it’s easy to read even in dimly lit places like a plane or hotel room with poor lighting or on the beach since the screen has no glare. It’s even waterproof. The battery life lasts weeks or even a month depending on usage. I love my Kindle and get books from Amazon (paid) and my library (free). Click for current pricing.
DNA Testing Kit for Ancestry
Many people are fascinated by their heritage and would love to know more. A DNA testing kit may offer additional insight into family history. Or, it may lead to future trip planning!
I’ve written up tours around the world that look really cool. Click here and find one that’ll appeal to your giftee. You’ll find tours that range from a few hours to multiple days.
If you want something quick and easy, Get Your Guide offers many tours all over the world. Perhaps your giftee is headed to Barcelona, Spain, and would appreciate a 3-hour food tour or a Skip-the-Line ticket into a major tourist attraction. Or, maybe they’re going to Uganda to see mountain gorillas, in which case you can gift them an 8-day tour. Get them a gift card and let them choose their own tour. This way they get exactly what they want!
After a trip it’s always fun gathering photos and other material collected into a photo album and getting prints of photos from Shutterfly. It’s a great way to beat back the post-travel blues that hit some travelers.
I have not tried this travel pillow myself since I don’t pack things that will only be used once during a trip (on the flight). However, it gets recommended a lot in Facebook travel groups, so I feel comfortable passing the recommendation on to you.
The pillow I take camping and on trips where I’m concerned about pillow quality is the Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight pillow. It’s super lightweight, comfortable, blows up in 5 breaths— I just got it a few months ago and love it! It’s worth every penny for me! I’ve tried others and they make a lot of noise when I roll over, which wakes me up.
Silk Scarf for Travel
A wonderful world map print scarf is fun and useful. I use my scarf to cover my shoulders in churches and temples. It’s great for extra warmth on a cold day. It’s also been known to double as a skirt on a warm evening out grabbing a drink with friends and as a towel at the beach. Silk scarves are best since they dry quickly and are super lightweight! An alternative to this is a sarong, which is worn by both men and women in countries like Myanmar, Thailand, and Indonesia.
Genius invention! Instead of packing an entire yoga mat, just take yoga paws for hands and feet. They save a ton of space and weight. For knees, a traveler can always borrow a pillow from a bed if the ground is hard.
Many people love their charm bracelets. Get him or her started with a few charms or beads from places already visited or on their bucket list. Charms can be added over time as a record-keeping device.
A Travel Journal
A journal is a wonderful way to look back on your travels and recall experiences. Whether it’s a 5-year diary where you write one line a day or a journal for extensive writing, this is a great gift for many people of all ages! I loved writing in my travel journal as a kid, and I always see adult travelers writing or drawing in theirs. I even met one woman sticking tiny photos from a portable printer and doing small watercolor paintings in hers using portable water brush pens.
Travel Planning and Communication
Point It Books and Cards, Phrasebooks
There are books and cards available where you just point at what you want when trying to communicate with people who speak other languages. Phrasebooks come in all forms. I generally prefer the Lonely Planet phrasebooks which are small enough to fit in my back pocket. Lonely Planet’s Fast Talk phrasebooks include less information but are smaller.
Figure out your giftee’s preference and get them the book for their next trip. Again, this is one of those things that people don’t realize how great it is until they have it. (Tourists and locals alike were always borrowing my phrasebook in Mongolia.)
Guidebooks and Maps
Every country and major city has a guidebook written for it as well as maps. There are also language phrasebooks, which can earn you local friends since they also like checking out the English words. In my travels, I have found these invaluable for planning, during a trip, and even remembering all the places I visited after my trip. (I write on my books and maps, circling everywhere I visit.)
I generally purchase either a Rough Guide or Lonely Planet guidebook, whichever was published most recently. Insight Guides are wonderful but very heavy, so I get those from my local library.
Help your giftee get a free library card. Find the library closest to their home and find out what is needed to obtain a card. It can often be done online or in just a few minutes at the library. Many libraries have phone apps like Hoopla and Overdrive where you can obtain audio books, videos, music, Kindle books and much more for free. Every traveler should have a library card for trip planning (and food planning with cookbooks). Also, you can check out the physical book from the library and take it on your trip with you.
Amazon Prime is fantastic for travelers. It includes fast shipping for last-minute purchases. It also includes videos and music and books which can be downloaded. The services are included with the annual subscription of about $100 (students get a discount and a 6-month free trial). Other services for purchase are Kindle Unlimited, which gives unlimited reading and listening of books on the Kindle app for phone or eReader.
Chocolate and Sweets (or Salty)
Select a few gourmet chocolate or snacks for your gift bag. This might be considered an unusual gift for travellers, but it’s perfect for immediate gratification and is always a huge hit with my friends and family!