After over twelve years of traveling around the world we’ve learned a few things about travel gear – what works well and what really doesn’t and gets left behind. To help you choose the best travel gifts (you know, the ones that will actually get used), we’ve put together some of our favorite and most practical travel gear in this Ultimate Traveler Gift Guide.
If you’re looking to buy travel gifts for an outdoor, adventurous, green or curious traveler in your life (or perhaps you are gearing up yourself), look no further. Our goal with these travel gift recommendations is to equip you to travel well, as well as with organization and flexibility.
Note: Some of these links are affiliate links. Some are not. If you click through on an affiliate link, we’ll get a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting us in sharing stories from around the world!
Update: This post was originally published on November 30, 2016 and updated on November 10, 2019.
The Ultimate Traveler Gift Guide
Travel Gifts for Outdoor Adventurers
These gift ideas are for the outdoor adventurer who enjoys immersing him or herself into nature with long hikes or treks, but wants to be comfortable and have versatile gear. We’ve been using the items recommended below for years and have taken them on some pretty serious hikes and multi-day treks.
Whether you plan to go out kayaking, traveling by zodiac boat in Antarctica, or hiking during unpredictable weather, the peace of mind that a dry sack brings is well worth the additional weight and bulk. We often use a big dry sack for our DSLR camera and lenses, while a small one is useful for keeping smartphones and other valuables dry and secure.
I’ve tried all different kind of hiking socks, including some inexpensive knock-offs, and Smartwool hiking socks are by far my favorite. I give a lot of credit to these socks for the fact that I did not get any blisters when walking six hundred miles along the Camino de Santiago. They not only provide good support and cushion, but the wool blend keeps you warm when it’s cold and also is somehow rather light and breathable when it’s warm. They may seem like expensive socks at first, but they are worth it as they will last years even with extensive use and wear and tear.
With a set of pliers, several knives, multiple types of screwdrivers and a bottle opener, our Leatherman Multitool has gotten us out of many situations — e.g., fixing windshield wipers and lights on a car in the middle of the night in Kyrgyzstan. It is also essential for picnics and make-shift eating on the road (you know, when you have a ripe avocado on a bus in Uganda that you want to eat). Pair this with a spork or camping silverware and you’ll really be all set for picnics. Note: Be sure not to leave this in your carry-on bag if you are flying. We’ve learned this lesson the hard way.
Highly recommended on most treks, especially for downhill sections. We’ve now started taking this set of travel-friendly collapsible walking sticks on most trips we take that include a hike. On the times we’ve forgotten to pack them we’ve missed them. This pair is light, easy to pack, and quick to put together when you’re on the trail.
Travel Gifts for Eco and Green Travelers
Here are a few practical gift and gear ideas for eco-conscious and sustainable travelers who want to reduce their environmental footprint when they travel. Many of these gifts speak to trying to eliminate single-use plastic as much as possible.
We highly recommend traveling with a refillable water bottle to reduce plastic bottle waste when you travel, whether you’re headed into the mountains or walking across cities. I like this style of water bottle as I can attach it easily to a pack or strap with a carabiner (we recommend a carabiner with a simple lock) to secure it. Once you start using a refillable water bottle it becomes second nature to always have one with you.
If you are going to be traveling to a place that doesn’t have easy access to filtered and drinkable water then consider getting this Grayl Ultralight water bottle that has a filter built right into it so that it automatically purifies and cleans the water.
For trips to remote areas without easy access to clean water, consider pairing this with a SteriPen to clean water using ultraviolet technology. You can also use the the Tap app to find water refill stations around the world.
These reusable coffee cups are made from bamboo and are colorful, light and easy to carry with you. Not to mention, you won’t have to worry about a disposable paper coffee cup leaking on you again. Some cafes even offer a discount these days if you bring your own coffee cup with you.
This is a new addition to our standard travel gear as we try to reduce the amount of plastic utensils we use when we travel (or at home). We like this bamboo kit one because it is super light to carry and has a plastic case. We found that the case comes in quite handy for when you have take-out sushi and you want a container to mix your wasabi with soy sauce. Add a reusable straw to make your kit complete!
Skip the small plastic toiletry bottles at hotels and bring your own favorite shampoos, creams and other toiletries in these nifty refillable travel bottles. Your hair and skin will be thankful, and it will avoid all that plastic bottle waste. They are TSA-approved, meaning that you can take them on board with you in your carry on luggage anywhere in the world.
Avoid using plastic bags at the grocery store and look stylish with these Legal Nomads Food Map Tote Bags. Perfect for your friends who are environmentally conscious and big foodie travelers. You can take your pick of food maps from Italy, Mexico, Japan, Portugal, Vietnam or Thailand. These bags are sturdy and strong so you can also use them to carry things if you run out of space in your luggage.
Think about gifting a group of trees to be planted instead of buying new items. Planting trees and reforestation efforts are proven to help reduce carbon in our environment, as well as a host of other benefits like preventing desertification, mud slides, cleaner air, and much more. With the Trillion Tree Campaign by Plant for the Planet organization you can select where in the world you’d like trees to be planted, from Ethiopia to Ireland, and how many you’d like to plant. There is also information on the survival rate of trees in that area and the local organization doing the planting. The price per tree varies based on the location. In the near future you should be able to see a satellite map of where the trees you purchased have been planted. We’ve been buying trees this via the cool app as an informal offset for our flights. Find us on the app at Uncornered Market and add to the forest!
Practical Travel Gifts and Luggage
Here’s the gear that we’ve been using for years and years. In fact, some of these items have been with us for over ten years and we’re still using them on every trip. They are that useful.
Although we still have backpacks, we find ourselves using our wheeled luggage more frequently these days. These Eagle Creek bags are sturdy (the wheels even survive our cobblestoned street in Berlin), have strong zippers, fit in a ton (perhaps too much) stuff, and look good. Dan uses the 34-inch bag while I use the 26-inch. There is also a carry-on version at 20-inches that I am currently eying. These aren’t the cheapest of bags, but they do last. We’ve put them through a lot of wear and tear and they are still in good shape.
We are always looking for laptop bags that are comfortable enough to be used as a daypack. One of the things we liked about this Lance Executive Daypack is that the structure and organization of it allows you to pack in a lot of stuff — including a laptop and all its accessories — into a pretty small-sized bag. It’s compact and often meets the “personal item” requirements for airlines. Additionally, it has a wide waist strap to make it more comfortable for long urban walks. If you’re traveling by air, the laptop compartment can unzip to go flat on the x-ray conveyer belt so that you don’t have to take your laptop out separately (TSA approved). Disclosure: This was provided to us for testing and we’re still using it 3 years later.
These Eagle Creek packing cubes help keep us sane and organized on the road. We use different packing cubes of different colors for specific items — one for underwear and socks, another for clothing, while another holds all of our technical gear. This means we always know where exactly to go in our bag to find exactly what we need. Whenever people ask for packing advice, packing cubes are always at the top of the list.
Although earplugs might not be the sexiest gift to give someone, we’ve long been advocates for earplugs as a good night’s sleep on the road is golden, like a gift. Recently, we switched to these silicone earplugs for the Camino de Santiago and have never looked back. Whether you are sleeping in a crowded albergue or in a hotel on a loud city street, these silicone earplugs can create quiet in the midst of a snoring dormitory or urban noise storm. A good night’s sleep is so worth the expenses and effort of carrying earplugs.
This is a new addition to our packing gear. Laundry is a reality of travel, and often we don’t have access to laundromats or laundry service. So, we find ourselves using the bathroom sink or shower to wash the essentials. This Scrubba Wash Bag Mini makes that whole process a bit easier, thorough and more efficient. It also uses less water. So, if you know someone who often finds themselves washing socks out in the kitchen sink or in a stream when trekking, this is the gift for him or her. Disclosure: This was provided to us for testing
For years when we were fully nomadic I would read Kindle books on my iPhone. A few years ago, however, Dan and I both purchased Kindle Paperwhites and love it. I wish I had been smart enough to get it earlier. Not only is it super light and compact (it fits perfectly in my small purse I carry everywhere), but the battery power lasts forever. The readability is great, and because it uses front light (vs back light) and it doesn’t use blue light, it won’t tire your eyes or keep you up at night like many other devices. Also recommended is one of these snazzy covers to protect the screen.
These gluten-free cards developed by our friend, Jodi Ettenberg, are the perfect gift for friends or family who have celiac disease or a gluten allergy. As an avid traveler and foodie with celiac disease, she knows firsthand how challenging it can be to communicate “gluten free” in different languages in a way that restaurants truly understand. Her gluten free restaurant cards currently cover a variety of countries, from Italy to Mexico to Japan. You can find the full collection here.
Travel Gifts of Tours and Experiences
Although we’ve shared lots of recommended gear and stuff to give to travelers above, often the best gift you can give someone is that of an experience. Studies show that experiences provide more satisfaction and happiness than stuff. Here are a few of the tours and travel service providers we recommend and use ourselves.
Context Travel offers walking tours that are more like walking seminars. The groups are intimate with a maximum of six people and are led by a docent, usually a PhD or expert in a field relevant to the destination. We’ve taken several Context tours in different cities — Cartagena, Colombia and in Berlin, a city we thought we knew well but realized on the tours how much more we had to learn. Additionally, we worked with Context to develop a Deep Travel tour in Berlin called Cooking Across Borders.
Contextual storytelling makes a difference in the world of travel experience by deepening and changing our relationship with the places we visit. If you use this link you’ll get 10% off any Context tours.
We’ve seen firsthand the life-changing power of travel, especially for young people. So if you’re wondering what to get the traveler who cares and has it all already, give the gift of travel to disadvantaged youth in the United States. The reality is that there are a lot of youth who don’t have access to international travel opportunities and this is something that FLYTE, an NGO started by Nomadic Matt is working to change. Each year they sponsor international education trips for American high school students in disadvantaged communities. Already they have sent more than 50 students on four transformative trips to Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador, and Guatemala. Each one of them returns with their own unique story about how their journey changed their life. This year were able to send another group of students by sending Envision Academy to Colombia! And, this is only the beginning.
So, consider giving the gift of travel on behalf of the traveler in your life by contributing to FLYTE. This contribution will help sponsor a group of students on their first international trip and changing how they see themselves, the world, and their place in the world. Donate now and get involved!
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.